Monday, July 27, 2015

Stop. Just Stop.

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace.  ~Milan Kundera

We all love to play with train our dogs.  It is our relaxation. Our fun. 
Competing is fun. We visit with friends, cheer their successes, console them if needed. We eat junk food (ohh maybe that's just me) and laugh with friends. What do our dogs do? They, largely, nap in crates. They get out they get warmed up, they get pottied, they compete. They then often either get huge treats and praise or thrown back in their crate dependent on performance to the judging standard. (Not to the training demonstrated, far too often to my mind).

The bigger and better (and richer?) you are, the more likely you are to travel long distances to compete. Then you travel long distances to repeat it. Then again. It's intense. You are at the top. You gotta go go go right?  Prevent performance erosion. If you aren't showing you are traveling or training. But ...

Travel days are not days off for your animal partner. They just aren't. Travel is stressful for everybody. 

Days off look a little different for each depending on the animal involved around here. 

Sally's days off involve her telling me what to do. 

Sampson's involve the pond. Or mud. Or, ideally, both. 

Some dogs will want to snooze the day away. Others will want to be active. They are invited to hang out while we work or come for a walk but they aren't made to come on a day off. 

Formal cross training days, no matter how much I love them, and I do, is not a day off.  If being groomed is stressful it's not a day off either. 

A day off is doing something (or nothing) unrelated to training goals and plans and just being. We are so very very fortunate here - our dogs can be quasi feral for a day or two or three and just be. Creating that in urban centers where leashes are needed and people are scheduled strictly is much harder. 

I truly do believe that breaks in working reinforce training, freshness and the desire to play our games. When was the last time you scheduled your dog(s) a break? When my animal partners are training and showing hard I schedule pretty lengthy vacations for them. Fitness work may happen depending on the animal but that's it. Three to six weeks of holiday. Twice a year if schedule is intense. A true day off or two even in the middle of the season. 

It's just the way we roll around here. 

We all come back refreshed. 
It's important. 

Terri Guillemets asked "Is everything as urgent as your stress would imply?" Take some time. Explore the options. 

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