Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bystander Busybodies ...

Heard the adage "if you can't say anything nice say nothing at all"?

Pretty much the way my family worked, at least in public and I had no idea how grateful to be for that education until I started dog sports. I know inappropriate nosy comments happened at horse shows I attended as a youth but somehow I obliviously sailed through most of them. That was  probably a good thing as showing horse was very stressful at times for me. It would not have helped my zen approach to have been worrying about the things people said. As an instructor, adult and friend I am much more aware of them now. I care less personally, and hear more.

When I first started agiliting (why isn't that a "real word yet?) I heard comments in passing but knowing no one I assumed people were asking for feedback or good friends with the people offering thoughts out loud. Sometimes I'd drive home and reflect on a comment that seemed mean spirited rather than constructive and what the person's motivation for making it might be. Rarely could I figure it out. So I went with trying to be helpful.

As I taught more and worked with more diverse groups of people, developing a little more self confidence and assurance, I developed a mantra for dealing with difficult people. I embraced the concept "it's not personal". Sitting at hospital bedside's advocating HARD for loved ones I was careful to separate the person in front of me from my frustration. Doing so forced me to realize all the times people likely don't acknowledge it's not personal.  Issues in other people aren't about me. They are about them. I mean that with no attempt to deny responsibility for errors. In fact now I find it easier to accept responsibility for errors I make. My mistakes aren't personal; nor an attempt to sabotage anyone. The reverse is likely also often true.

However, and it's a BIG however, the nasty snarky comments that are not my issue, nor personal (they are often freely dispensed over the course of a day) are still thoughtless and often cruel. They are disrespectful and  hurtful and often cause pain.

As a person who may want to help someone THINK before you speak.


If it isn't any  (or even better ALL) of the above. Stop. Re-think. Re-phrase. Or walk away.

If you are on the receiving end of a comment you have a few choices  Some apply best if you know likely "hot zones" others work anytime anywhere. Test em. Comment if you have other great strategies to try.

  • ignore the comments (so easy to say and hard to do)
  • plug in earphones so you can be occupied
  • solicit a friend to chat to you if you pass through a "hot spot" of comments
  • line up a distraction for them before you enter the ring - have someone distract them during or after your run 
  • pre-empt them - that is if you get asked "what did you think?" answer " I really loved X Y and Z" 
  • try honesty "I'd rather debrief with my coach - thanks" " I need time to process" "I suspect my goals for the run were different than yours would be" 
  • put yourself in their shoes - what might their motivation be?


You got this. I know it.


Monday, December 29, 2014

A Treatise on Fenzing ...

It's true.
I fenze now. That is to say,  I teach online classes through Fenzi Dog Sport Academy.

I fenze in the morning, at noon and at night. It's pretty consuming this fenzing stuff. If I'm not responding to student's homework assignments. thoughts or questions I am reading, researching, hunting for notes I've made from conferences and workshops years ago or I'm writing lectures, proofreading lectures, and differentiating lectures.

If I'm not doing any of that actively some fenzing is happening in the inner recesses of my brain. My learning makes me sure I know that even when I am not aware. In my non-dog, non-animal life (you probably didn't even know I had one of those did you?) I have done years, decades actually,  of work with teachers and students around a wide range of things including anxiety reduction, goal setting, planning,  changing negative patterns, brain research as it applies to those topics and improving teaching skills. Guess what? All of that applies to the horse and dog world if horses and dogs are in work or being shown or trained.



There are times our brain is our worst partner. And often that response from our brain is a learned response so simply wishing we didn't think that way is going to change exactly nothing. We have to unlearn and relearn healthier approaches. And guess what? It looks like not only am I successful in teaching that kind of thing in a classroom setting. My online students are also seeing success already. Just 5 weeks into the first ever class of it's kind at Fenzi Dog Sport Academy they are self reporting happy runs, relaxed drives to events, and reaching stepping stones in planning and goals.

I am as proud of them as I am of my physical, sitting in a desk, playing in a hall, working in an arena, in front of me students. Fenzing is intense work on both sides of the screen. Students have to make a commitment to be proactive and ask the questions, try the homework so they can ask the questions, not be shy about sharing the blips as well as the successes. They have to be strong self advocates to make the most of the class it seems. And instructors? Well they have to be passionate about their subject. Care about their students enough to be gentle if an assignment is off track (so so hard online sometimes - I am by nature very direct - luckily for me and my students usually kind and direct) Able to redirect and re-engage when things go amuk. A little bit of mind reading also helps.



One challenge I have is my natural brevity. By nature and experience I believe in letting people work things out themselves. So my comments often add a bit, make a suggestion but aren't not nearly the length the student's reflections are. I hope they don't feel ripped off- I am happy to answer with more detail - but I don't want to bore anybody either. Always this balance that is life. The other challenge for me is the bronze level students. They audit the course and don't participate but I want to know! Are they having the same success as the golds? Do they have questions they wish they could ask? Am I meeting their needs? Sigh, every once in awhile a little bit of feedback gets to me and I am grateful for it (and thrilled by how positive it is) but I wish there were more silvers and more general questions. Our class discussion forum is fun  - and I'm grateful to those who participate there as well as in their own thread. Fenzi school is a time suck no matter which side of the screen you are on it seems. When I'm a gold student I can rarely keep up with my own work let alone other threads. As an instructor I keep up with my students (barely sometimes) but there is so much more I want to do. Sigh. Reality check.



I love fenzing though. It's like having 14 in depth private lessons on the go at any time. Fourteen! No wonder I fenze morning, noon and night! On both sides of the screen I love being able to fenze when it suits me. Online learning is not for everyone. And I truly don't believe it replaces face to face interactions but the right course at the right time is SO MUCH GOOD.



I was very very honoured to be asked to teach for Denise Fenzi. The moment I first read her blog and thought OH MY someone, in a different sport mind you, but SOMEONE thinks like me ... it was eye opening, affirming and gave me strength and courage to stick to my guns, (Which, given Sally, is likely either a very good, or bad, thing) It was this specific blog that made me go AHHHH . I too had read Control Unleashed and thought - ahhh so good, thanks for clarifying my thinking (Shaping Success had the same effect in many ways - from a different direction). When Denise asked me my background in the "head stuff" and how I connected it all  in person for my students I realized fenzing it would be very possible. We talked about doing a silver only version and it's a possibility for some courses  going forward but for this introductory course doing it in sync with the other classes has worked beautifully. I am very grateful to my golds for giving their all to making it work for them! And to Denise of course for making it possible to get my message out there!!

heart full of



as always!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Why lie ?

Huge question - way beyond the scope of this little blog. Here is a little dog to look at while I think about what I mean,




Let me try again

Why do we lie to ourselves about our dogs and our training?

I hear the lies pretty frequently

My dog isn't fat (or thin)
My dog is fit
My dog is happy
My dog isn't stressed
My dog is friendly - that's why they look out of control
My dog isn't in pain
My dog doesn't mind the kids lying on her

whatever - the impact on me is always the same



sigh.....

Is it our human spirit that makes us believe the best about the things we love?
Do we hate to admit to weakness so we just don't?

The one currently making me reflect on this is concept is the notion that a dog bolting around a ring out of control is happy, having fun and wants to be doing those behaviours. Seriously. I don't get it.

Not at all. Sally was wild as a young dog at trials and what information I took from that was she didn't have enough information to be trialing. I tested it occasionally and even qed here and there - but our tests were few and far between and I never left the ring after a 50 fault (or more) run thinking "well at least she had fun". Adding an obstacle or two or hitting the wrong end of a tunnel is NOT what I am referring to. What I mean are those runs where the dog opts out. Only occasionally, and by mistake it seems, do elements of the requisite course happen.

If your dog is stressed, unhappy running a full course, leaving you often on course, (or the flip side- walking a course at snail speed) please be honest with yourself. Lie all you want to anybody else but in your heart accept that your dog is expressing stress in a keyed up over threshold way that works for them.  Develop a plan to work on it. Test your plan but stop with the glittery excuses and understand that this too,with the right help and approach, will pass.


Honesty really is the best policy.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Weather Outside is Frightful ...Let Us Learn, Let Us Learn, Let us Learn

I am a teacher.

I am a teacher because I love learning.

I sure didn't love school as a student. (Let me be honest - there are things about the institution of school I am not to fond of as an educator either.)

DABAD topic of the day:  Continuing Education
tons of blogs way better than this on this topic at the link here

and onwards we will go

My biggest single thought on this? DO IT! Never stop learning.
Know your dog area well? Super cool - great for you -  go find something else to learn.






How should you learn it?

Take in person classes - find somebody positive, somebody fun, somebody you want to learn from.

Take online classes - my go to academy is Fenzi Academy -  the next session of classes actually starts today - GO SIGN UP

Join an online community - FB has some neat training groups, Susan Garrett is opening her Handling 360 course this week, there are cool yahoo groups so many - find your niche - meet some like minded folks interested in what you want to learn

READ - lots ... ebook, print book, articles ... whatever turns your crank

My mind is on the mind game stuff at the moment so here are a few suggestions:

 Not Just About the Ribbons
Trials Without Tribulations (at $15 it's a GREAT ebook buy at the moment)
something by Lanny Bassham



talk about your learning ...share your wisdom.. find something new to do

Brody and I just played through the list of Novice Tricks ... at the age of 13.5 Brody knew way more tricks than needed to send off for a title! Little superstar ... now that's motivated me to actually train some new tricks to Sally and try Dora with a few too

Short - sweet, and to the point huh? Busy busy days around here ;)  more soon!




Saturday, November 15, 2014

it just makes my heart hurt ...

I err on the side of caution. This I know. I laugh at myself sometimes.

"I'd love to enter the trial in a month but Sally was sore a year ago at that time so I won't."

"I volunteered to work and Sally will be too stiff if she sits in a crate for the day - even if it would be after her classes"

"Oh Harri horse looks a little stiff, we'll go for a walking hack instead of the ring work we had planned."

"Oh you didn't leap up when I put my shoes on, perhaps you aren't in the right head space to learn something new - lets reinforce what you do know"



and so on ...

That said I am pretty sure my animal gang would pick playing  training here over some of the other options. Many years of listening when I see an animal in discomfort have left me with some doozy statements that rattle around my head at times.

"He's old, I want to show. What if he is never sound again?"

"She's not really lame, just uncomfortable"

"Do you think it's painful? Couldn't it just be mechanical?" (and the answer to that - no matter the species in sudden onset change of gait is a BIG RESOUNDING NO)

and so on and so on ... right down to "I can't see it" (umm playing ostrich helps no one here)

I am sorry if it was the only show you had planned. I'm upset for you if it is the only show you can get to in two months. I understand the devastation of withdrawing if it's a title on the line. Really, truly, I am and I do.

Seriously though there are so many reasons to respect what your animal's body is saying and NOT trial or show if you suspect or see pain or discomfort anywhere.
1. Your animal partner plays the competitive version of your sport for you. They would have just as much fun playing at home when conditions were perfect and you were in the best mood. We have a HUGE responsibility to consider their interests. And I'm going to take that further and add ahead of our own. That's right. We control what we do as a team therefore the onus is on us to make the experience as positive, stress free and painless as possible for the animal half of the team. (If we can do it for us too all the better!) They TRUST you to make the right call for them.
2. You may make things much much worse by pushing through it, whatever "it" is. That is not OK. (be grateful that's as much as I'm saying on this one)
3. If your animal is painful they cannot be themselves. Maybe they will be worse; maybe they will be better but either way it's not a true testament to the state of your partnership.
4. People who are new to a sport, or young, are looking around and up to everybody. What kind of example does it set if you will show a sore or sick friend? Don't be bitching to me about them or anybody else when they bring their dog with worms or that was exposed to kennel cough, or their lame horse to the next show if you are demonstrating less egregious examples of trialing animals not in top form.


I had a nice conclusion written up - I erased it to leave you this thought. If it feels at all wrong, At all like you are pushing it, if somebody else can see your dog or horse is not Quite Right if you get that sinking oh dear feeling .. even if things are  not absolutely clearly WRONG please let them stay home and recover well and wholly. Please. You make my heart hurt when you don't.



At the very least think about it.




Sunday, November 09, 2014

Stress and Nerves

In an A HA moment of epic proportions  I may have tripped across a key to success (for dog sports and beyond) that I have never articulated before even as I live it. My theory? People who are holistic in their approach - seeing the interconnections between play, training and competing in dog land are better able to set goals that are achievable and make sense in terms of team development and will therefore be better able to be successful in the long run. How's that as a run on sentence? Awesome eh?. Bear with me, bare with me? Whatever... too busy thinking to check which is right here!



My working theory is largely developed from Face Book posts and conversations with a wide number of people in a bunch of different sports. So it probably has little, or maybe even no merit. But it's got my brain working. So maybe it will trigger some thought for you that will make sense; or help you think through your attitude in times or triumph or despair. (Let's be real - if you stick with a sport long enough - either showing or training you will likely get both ends of the spectrum!)


.
It seems that people who see their world in segments are less likely to be able to see the big picture and the value that can come from errors and mistakes, Their goals are tied to specific events and frustration with themselves and their partner builds with each failure to achieve whatever their goal is. 


Each mistake or frustration leads to another and the cycle of stress and unhappiness continues to spiral down down down .. the flames get higher and higher and people give up. Either on themselves, the sport or their partner - all of which SUCK.

Big picture people get that a mistake is a chance to learn. A show is a place to test yourself. An imperfect partner is teaching you more than a perfect partner ever could.

and there you have it - random musings as I try to avoid thinking about the coming winter! 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

eight years later ...

just a little over 8 years later and Sally celebrated her anniversary here by running with 10 other dogs ... she got a turkey neck... it was, in Sally terms, a very good anniversary.



It's impossible to imagine it was just eight years ago, and impossible to imagine it was only eight years ago that I first met Sally. The Thursday before Thanksgiving weekend she had been adopted into a fabulous home to be a second dog to a lovely couple. Their house was in behind Toronto's Seneca College and they were so excited to meet Sally. I quite honestly can't remember if I dropped her off or not. I suspect I did as I was so excited for Sally (Daisy at the time) and optimistic that this quiet little puppy would be a great fit for this amazing couple.


By Monday the adopters were hysterical. The puppy wouldn't eat, or play, or do any normal puppy things. They were terrified she was going to die. They begged the rescue I worked with to take her back. Instantly. Faster than instantly actually. I remember having to put them off an hour or two to finish some Thanksgiving something then driving up fully expecting to talk them through feeding little puppies. One look at Sally and I knew she was coming home for vetting the next day if she made it through the night. I was sure the puppy was dying.

I hugged them and thanked them for caring enough to do what had to be done and alked out the door, unknowingly starting a journey I had couldn't imagine.

Sally came to school with me - hidden in a crate under my desk I seriously thought about how I could go on leave to care for her. I took her to the vet after work and she thought the puppy was dying. My orders? Take her home and do what we did best. Give her palliative supportive care and report in daily.

Luckily my immediate supervisor had a huge heart - and loved dogs (in fact he had adopted William Wallace, another sad sack puppy, from me a few years previously). Sally was at work every day until after our Christmas holiday. Just over two months under my desk in a little bed.  She ate home cooked meals every two hours, around the clock for two weeks then gradually I started extending the night time hours - eventually getting her to 6 hours at night.

She was always so brave. She was always happy to see people and she was a total heart thief. It was a few weeks in that Big T announced the puppy would be known as Sally, would live, and was staying with us. He felt strongly that knowing she was loved was going to be what pulled her through. It seems he was right.

Much of her journey after she made the one year mark is in this blog. Life with Sally is not easy. But it is always adventurous.  That she has made the 8 year mark is simply astounding. Sally is Sally. Will always be Sally. Such a special girl.