Let it go!

Pressure is inseparable part of every sport. It is not a big deal if we are aware of its presence and if we can control it. The thing is we often use it unintentionally or worse: we overuse it because we want to achieve something. Based on my experience I can say the worst combination is when we do both simultaneously.
If your dog is fragile and insecure he will freeze and shut down, that will lead to a detrimental influence on your relationship. On the other hand if your dog is drivey and strong you can end up with an emotional and frustrated wreck.
What do I mean when I say pressure? In this article I will not discuss corrections, physical abuse, or any form of R- training. I have never worked that way and never will. These methods are unknown to me and I do not support them.
Pressure I will write about is a
n emotional and mental push we use when training with dogs.

With Gapcio we have been in many places throughout our training journey. Unfortunately, at some point I concentrated too much on results and effect. I lost the joy of training and do did Gapcio. I overused pressure in our work. What was it like?

For Gapcio pressure is:
– too much left turns during heelwork
– too much of set-ups
work in too difficult conditions
– work when Gapcio is not in the mood
– too much focus on precision
– lack of emotions in training
– overuse of popular “zen-protocol”
– too many repetitions
– too long concentration
– asking for concentration “now and

All these elements do not seem to be a big deal. But for a fragile dog it was too much. One day Gapcio decided not work with me anymore. It was a breakthrough moment in our life. I have just begun a training course and started to work with an American trainer and Gapcio has come to the conclusion that working with me is no fun at all. When I look back, I have to say he was right. You can read here what I have changed to sort this out and what has changed in our relationship. One of the elements was to reduce the pressure. Now, our training is mostly focused on emotions and play. The moment I stopped thinking about competitions as our goal and made our work together the goal itself – everything has changed. I analyzed what was “stucking” Gapcio and what I should avoid.

What was Gapcio doing when I overused pressure? He was „stuck”, did not move, shut down, went to his own world and was unable to have any contact with me. He did not hear cues and stare at one point. I was nerve-wrecking and frustrating: why my dog does not want to work with me? Well, I did not pay attention to emotions and plan in training. Gapcio was doing his best but I wanted more and more.

Balancing between pressure and fun in my main focus right now.
– I try to work on left turns as
rarely as I can. After I do some drills I go to a large right circle to reduce pressure
– For a long time I did not do set-up. I did them only out of motion. So few steps of heeling and a stop.
– Precision is not the most
important thing for us. I care about the details but I rather compensate on precision than engagement.
– Emotions are crucial part of our training. We always start with personal play. I
truly care about Gapcio’s metal comfort.
– Zen-protocol was a bad idea for us. It is a big pressure for Gapcio and it also destroyed the trust to my hand. So it took me a while to regain it and teach Gapcio to follow my hand. Some dogs are okay with it but I have
decided not to use it in all of my dogs.
– “
Can I do it one more time?This was my typical question during seminars. I have always had a tendency to do too much. Now I have a timer, maximum time 15 minutes. If the alarm rings I simply stop. No matter what we are doing. It was a great idea and it works perfectly for us
– I try to only a few repetitions and keep the sessions short. If I want Gapcio to concentrate for a longer time I have to be sure he is ready to do it.
– Dog is not a machine. He has a right to look around and focus on environment. It is absolutely normal to pay attention unusual noise or person. I do not require Gapcio to be 1000% focus on me so he has to ignore his natural needs. If he feels insecure and is afraid of something I simply allow him to inspect it before we go to work.

On Friday my trainer asked me to do a test run. The last time I did it was about a year ago. Since then I was working only on motivation and engagement. For this test I chose an easy location and decided not to do two exercises which are undergoing some fundamental changes (go around a cone and send to a square) I also cut heeling time a little bit.  It was the best run ever! For both of us, we had so much fun! At the end I really felt that he was as strong as he was at the beginning. Such training is the best example on how emotions are crucial in our work. This run was a huge success for both of us. I do not know if we ever go to a real trial but we will definitely have fun working! Gapcio thought me that if I listen to him and let go of pressure we will make the best team possible.