Saturday, March 31, 2018

I went for a walk this am. As a reward. Not for the dogs, for me.

It was a meandering walk  that covered a couple of kilometers and got some fence patched, some manure spread (our old fashioned method as we don't over-graze is kick -spreading - and no that's not an official term anywhere else!)  and checked our young trees.  The dogs ran, and smelled stuff and practiced farm parkour, and got wet  with no help from me.

I earned the reward by having the barn done by 10. Then I  helped  big T get a lovely old barn beam out of a falling building for our lovely neighbours  to use in their bathroom renovations. It was a good morning, and productive,  so a reward walk wasn't really essential but all who participated  enjoyed it.  One of us stayed home.

Thea isn't in a place where long pointless walks are her thing. She's determined and gritty and would have tried it had we asked her but she would have tired and perhaps over done it.  Considering in 22 days we reach the two year mark of the day I was sure she was dying  I don't do either of those things.  So when we got  home I sat in the sun with her for a  little. I put my phone down and  was present with her. She puttered  and sniffed and then lay down.

If we have ever worked together you might have a sense that is not often how I  spend time. You know what? It didn't kill me.  I  enjoyed it. Harbingers of spring deserve recognition and the dogs here, and people, and horses, and cats, and birds, all deserve to be appreciated for who they are.

When I first played agility so many years ago I was shocked at the way people at all levels didn't appreciate the dog they loved. They worked hard to be successful at agility but the dog was a tool to an end. (at least on the agility field)   They believed that  they had dominion and the dog did the sport because the human said so. It wasn't the way I thought  - dog sports were about team for me and  having such a variety of dogs to play with ensured that there was always someone up for nearly anything.

I have always  taken my dog into consideration - our first dog, Kelly, an Irish Setter - was amazing, and she and I spent  hours exploring the trails near our house. She's the dog who taught me the value of go no where walks .... not that we went no where - but we had no destination in mind - we just went, and went and went.

Today reminded me of her. Of us. Of the fun we had just being.  No earth shaking expectation of success, no need to prove anything - just friends, together being together for the sake of that and no more.  Love the dog you have. You might have a lovely surprise in store. If you are struggling to feel like team in the face of your challenges check out this term's FDSA course.  Sign up if you want - you might have a pleasant surprise in store!

 (Don't forget, actually you don't know this - I am also available for privates if you have a specific need!)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Taking Care of Business - you!

Self Care - what does it mean? What does it really mean? It means including you in your planning, it means being aware of keeping yourself centered and in focus. It means not running yourself ragged endlessly for other people.  It might mean saying "No" sometimes. (yah  - I am still working on that one too!)

I am being absolutely sincere - you matter, often much more than you realize. To your family, friends and animal companions  - but also to the person who was feeling down that you smiled at,  and to the person who asked you for directions and ended up being on time for the job interview (that you didn't even know you were helping them with). You mean something to the judge you thanked for the fun day or the competitor who was thrilled you noticed how lovely their dog was. You touch people regularly and odds are pretty good you have no idea of the impact of you. Sometimes a kind or thoughtful Facebook comment or emoji has a bigger impact than you realize (Which is a little amusing really as you sure feel the impact of other people don't you? I do!)

Those of you who have followed this blog for any time at all know I like quotes and while the self care world is full of trite and inane quotes that make me shout at the computer at times
 I  still curated a few to look more closely at  as  2018 gains steam. Because really - why not make this the year of YOU!!  I've also included some links to some of the things that I have that might help you with self care. Well they will help you - I have plenty of assurances from others that they do but ... imposter syndrome and all that jazz ....

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. 
– William James

Thoughts are guests in your body. They are. It's  tough concept that regularly comes up in my FDSA classes  so I get it if this makes you snort in derision. But you can learn to take control of your thoughts rather than letting them control you. One thing that many people find helpful is to pick one thought that is moderate and work on it  "irate thought - you don't belong go away!" or whatever.

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.
 – Jack Kornfield

This reminds me of the notion of charity beginning at home. If you can't be good to yourself, at least sometimes, how can you truly be good to anybody else? Easy to say - harder to do and maybe the choices you make around this are not evident to an outsider but find the little things that are affirming for you. Do them. Cherish them.  When you start to feel on edge and overloaded STOP and think of how you can show yourself a bit of love! If you missed it check out the Love the One You Are (With) ebook/workbook and the facebook page too!

Lighten up on yourself. No one is perfect. Gently accept your humanness. 
– Deborah Day

You might want to think about joining the Gratitude Project if this is hard for you. It's a pay what you can email that dozens of people have joined and are sending me lovely feedback about noticing small changes in thinking that are leading to deeper appreciation of self and the world around them. It is pay what you can and it's a full year of emails  ... the sign up is set at $60 but if you want to pay more or can only afford less (honestly less is FINE) just let me know via comment, email or FB message and we'll get you in - with great pleasure! I would love to reach 100 people with this project and it literally takes 10 seconds of your time every day. Join us!! PAY WHAT YOU CAN!

It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life. 

– Anne LaMott

That said sometimes it's ok to have a lazy day, a throw away day or otherwise let other people do the heavy lifting for a bit.    I've done my bit to help you through those rough days another way too with task card decks - the concept is you can pull a card out of a deck and get an idea to train or play or whatever you need to just get something done!  There's a specific self care deck I am particularly pleased with. 

Deck Choice

Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. 
– Steve Maraboli

So much yes from me on this one. Sometimes because of work, or family we have to do a little of this but it's OK to take a break from an exhausting friend, or even let somebody slide right out of your life.  

Self care isn't easy. It is highly personal - for me self care is not usually taking a bath with candles, wine and a trash novel - it's more likely grooming a dog,  cleaning tack, heading into the woods with dogs and camera  or writing a blog post. But that's alright - it's my self care! Its thoughtful and purposeful and recharges your inner flame. It may inspire you - it may simply mean you can cope with life for a little longer. No matter. It's important. 

Take care of you! For you and for the rest of your world too! Because you matter!!!


If you aren't Canadian you might not know the song this title refers to but I bet you've heard it!

(just in case a video would help refresh your memory!!)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

When all else fails - be kind.

I was writing a guest post this morning for a blog in Germany (how cool is that?) about 10 traits of happy trainers. You can be sure I'll share it when it goes up. But it got me thinking.

We, those of us who profess to be, or aspire to be, positive dog trainers sometimes miss one of the most important tenants of positive training. Be kind. As the Dalai Lama said,  "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."  He wasn't talking about dog training, nor am I really (though my point applies to dog training too). People who want to be seen as positive dog trainers need to get their act together when it involves dealing with humans as much as when it involves a dog (or horse).

For real. In classes, at shows, at the grocery store. There are ways to be constructive that are not hateful or judgmental or nasty. There are ways to build people up, open up discussions and help without tearing people down. Those ways aren't easy nor are they intuitive for many of us but they are possible. Ask for help if you  really can't think of a positive way to work with people.  Stop chasing them and let them live their lives unless you are asked or invited to offer your opinion. Especially when it's about something already done. Honestly. How would it now be helpful to tell me that the dogs should never have met the coyote back in 2011? Or that dogs will climb shelves to get gum? I'll be blunt. It isn't and wouldn't be kind. If you want to have a discussion about how I balance agency and freedom and keeping my dogs as safe as I can? Well that's cool and a conversation I have pretty regularly.

On social media.  The keyboard warriors who look to attack people for transgressions, or differences need to get a grip.  The European proverb comes to mind "those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". I  do things my way,  you do things your way. Sometimes we work  similarly and sometimes very differently.   Kibble? Raw? Home cooked?  Collar types?  Vaccination protocols?  Just because I thought long and hard about my choices for the dogs doesn't mean I won't respect your often different, choices. Don't presume that because Sampson had some complications from his double lumpectomy we weren't compliant with the vet. We were - but even if we hadn't been it would have been thoughtfully done and had cause.  Maybe ask instead of judge.

Leaping to assumptions makes an "ass of you and me" and is both frustrating and pointless.

Over the last few months I have watched a couple of FB sagas play out where instead of being supportive and compassionate some people jumped to presumptions that were at best unfair and thoughtless, and at worst cruel and malicious.

We all carry guilt and grief and sadness and concern. Dogs are dogs, and, in my world, have the right to be their doggy selves. We try to protect them and watch them and keep them from harm but the reality is there may be a tragedy lurking again in our lives. Would I love to wrap the dogs in bubble wrap? Sure. Is that fair to them? Sigh, Probably not.

So if you are about to preach, or judge, stop yourself. If you have a personal relationship with the person that is appropriate,  ask them if they'd like to hear feedback. (To be totally honest they have probably beaten themselves up and are feeling sad and guilty without any feedback from you AT ALL  but you can ask). If you don't know them personally but feel you must say your piece say it to a friend, privately in a message.  Start a thread asking a question on your own wall if you must to see what feelings are out there - but leave the person who is suffering ALONE if you can't be supportive and kind. Seriously.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Reasons to Record Keep

Letterman might be off air but his top ten lists provide a framework for me to highlight information I want to share with you and keep in my own brain.  Today I was reflecting on the importance of record keeping  and this top ten list took shape (This blog began over 10 years ago as a way for me to record keep along with the course maps I annotate to this day!)

Record keeping provides

10.  Accomplishment: Record keeping gives you a sense of further accomplishment - there is a pride in the act of record keeping that is worth internalizing! Yay you!

9.  Proactivity (yes I made the word up!) : Record keeping  identifies gaps and holes that you can fill in  - if you miss 4 contacts 5 sessions in a row you can see that and remedy it rather than worrying about contacts with no real sense of why you worry.

8. Connection:  Good records let you match beliefs to facts - is your front really straighter than two months ago? Check! This connection can also be a reminder that the path in dog training is not always strictly linear - it can be circuitous and wobbly.  Good records are a little like training wheels on a bike  - they can keep you moving forward and reaching outwards even when you get off kilter!

7. Efficiency: When you record keep it reduces your thinking and wondering time - should you work on weaves again? How long ago did you last train them? How did it go?  Planning is easier in the face of good record keeping.

6. Autonomy: You get to pick how, when and what you record keep. No judgement, no peanut gallery.  There are lots of different ways - and all work just fine!

5. Creative outlet who doesn't appreciate pretty systems, whiteboards and new pens?  Again though - make it work for you - no need for fancy if a + on training days is as much as you can manage right now -  the full working process that is best for you can be built gradually!

4.  Motivation: Especially if persistence is your downfall keeping records can help There are three elements of motivation that have particular application to dog training -  records can help with each one.  (Sam needs no record of his stick management program but it amuses me so I keep them occasionally!)

3.  Goal Setting help: Determining the right process or outcome goals can be tricky -  good records for training and showing will help you decide when a goal is met, or needs adjustment 

2. Time Management: for both extremes - the 3 minute trainers and hour and half trainers can see how time gets used which improves planning

1. Memories: You can treasure  your trials, triumphs and successes as long as you want  Looking back on Brody's trial note or Wyn's training records can always put a smile on my face or fill my heart a little.

So many great reasons to figure out a record keeping system that works for you. But right there is a KEY piece many people forget- your system has to work for you - if it's video, paper, audio notes, a system of symbols - whatever - it's great as long as it works for you!

If you aren't sure about your record keeping and motivation skills my No More Excuses course runs this term at FDSA   -   click HERE to register (a bronze spot is only $65 which works out to a heck of deal  when you know there are over 20 lectures already loaded!!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Teacher, Coach, Mentor Haiku ...


Your knowledge fills me
Like water in a clear pond
Giving life to me


Push me to EXCEL
No more flutters in the wind
Force my brain to work

My Mentor

I look up to you
Eyes wide open, finally
Thank you from my heart.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Teaching or coaching - how do you lay your bricks?

So - how do foundations get laid?  one brick at a time, one stone, one board. One little piece at a time is added until a whole is built.

A whole what? A whole anything- a house, a garage, a book, or blog post, a trained behaviour chain, an in ring performance  if you can name it - we can build it!. If you build it piece by piece with attention to the foundation your structure will last a long long time. and that's the goal really isn't it?

It might be information (positive training is effective because - SCIENCE or a  dog walk is  three long planks connected to each other) it might be a skill (a fold back down or a sticking the end of the teeter) or it might be mechanical (in pocket hand  let the dog come to the palm of your hand  or this is front cross foot work).

People lay their foundation of information, skill and mechanics in different ways. Some people teach themselves, others only work under tutelage. For many a mix of self directed learning (including the evaluation piece!) facilitation (getting help in the learning process and ideas about what to learn), coaching (constructive feedback from experienced eyes) and teaching (often a laid out framework of topics, feedback and information)  is the way to build foundation - which leads to success (however you define that piece!)

As a dog trainer you might realize you slide between roles as you play with train your dogs.  In a shaping session you might facilitate the correct choices  while in loose leash walking you might teach the skill. In  retrieves you might coach the dog "that's it" "get it" or what have you. As a student of anything you will likely realize that different people "teach" differently. One reason for this is that many  are actually moving between the various roles as they bring you along. Other instructors tend to work from one domain more. And that's OK too, particularly if you can identify what is happening and test filling gaps you may feel you have in different ways.

As a trainer and an educator I move fairly fluidly between the approaches. I tend to coach if I can because for me personally the conclusions I come to myself are the ones I will remember longest but there are always elements and lessons that need more formal teaching.  Some people prefer more instruction and I am happy to do that when I realize it as well.

Getting a good foundation matters. Learning what you need to create that and maintain it matters. If you use one person who moves fluidly between the formats for you; or use four people and lots of videoing as well, it doesn't matter as long as  it works for you! Don't overwhelm yourself running from flavour of the month to flavour of the month - make  plan  and be methodical but if you find yourself at odds consider coaching and learning as approaches in light of your needs and see what will contribute the most to building or maintaining your foundation,

(I need to thank both Melissa Breau for the nudge and Amy Cook for the topic! This idea may pop up in other blogs you read - let me know if you see it anywhere!) 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sometimes No needs to turn into Yes ...

I say No about 5 times a day on average

"No, I can't take that dog", "No there is no room for a kitten", "no I am sorry I am not going that way next weekend". I don't always frame it in a no ... "I'm sorry I don't know anybody willing to take your problem animal and make it theirs right now"  " I am sorry I don't know anybody with room for that animal right now".   Being me I offer what help I can - "sure post it on my FB page", "Have you looked up  (insert agency that is funded and staffed to help)", " would a list of trainers help you?" (and then the investment of time to find local good people  when the response is "yes")

I also (kind of obviously if you've followed this blog  or my FB stuff at all)  said yes a few times ...  looking around right now at least 8 times  (and it's honestly quite a lot higher than that)
Often animals come here to join our forever family and that's super - but sometimes the animal comes to find safety - and we are a  weigh station rather than a stopping point.

I'm trying very hard to find a way to say yes to a horse in need.  Not forever yes as Team Valiant is full and we are personally tapped out (a summer of specialist trips for Sally, losing Brody and Frannie, doing 4 equine dentistries (while Team Val had 3 done)  - Sam has a booked surgery in two weeks, Thea has had some blips -  the vet bills are running higher than mortgage payments have ever been!) But trying to figure out how to get him safe, assess him and see what we can do for him. He's skinny and losing weight, his farm is closing this week and he is at risk of being sent to auction - high risk actually and he lives very close to the Quebec slaughter plants so kill buyers will certainly be hanging out at the auction. Sigh

So my heart says YES and my wallet says  wish I could help but NO.
There are two component costs to horses - free horses can be very expensive - always look a free horse over very carefully - mouth and all!  Wanna know more? Read on ... if not, skip to the bottom

Let's call the first stage set up costs:

Shipping  - this dude is over 400 km away one way so is $800-$900 to get here
Vet costs - vary - but $200 for blood work deworming and vaccines is not unreasonable and may spiral up quickly if sa he needs his teeth done - not uncommon in thin horses
Stuff - grooming, blankets etc - very luckily for this fella we have stuff .. and people are generous about passing along brushes, and things that they no longer need.

so - $1100 - $1500 gets him safe

Ongoing costs actually are scarier long term   feed (hay and hard feed)  farrier, vetting   etc -  $250 - $400 per month without any labour type of cost in there ... sigh

Where we are at ... we have stuff he can use, we have pledges of  $210 in monthly sponsorship for 6-10 months set up for him  and we have $200 towards his set up  costs - generous, thoughtful wonderful people.

What's the gap?  $60 more a month would make me comfortable and $800 upfront would make it possible. It doesn't sound like much if you think of community but the reality is, right now, today, it's the difference between no and yes.

But to know me is to know I don't like asking for things ...   if you can give anything to help this chap with no name (how sad is that!) I'd love to welcome you to Love The One You Are's Gratitude Project - many of you have likely already given - we raised over a thousand dollars for Team Valiant's big fall fundraiser with it already.  If you want to make a donation to help this guy paypal agility.addict @ without spaces ...  and tell me to add that email to the project

If you don't know what to give I averaged the donations awhile ago and it came to $60   so the sign up direct link became that amount ... you can find it here  the link to course for $60 

 Thanks for thinking about it, joining the project - sharing the blog or the post over on Love the One You Are .