Today is the Agility Bloggers Event day and agility bloggers are posting on the subject "If I knew then what I know now...."
Thinking about what I would like to "talk" about really was interesting because gosh I realized how much my doggies, mentors, friends, instructors, students and other bloggers have taught me over the last few years. I could talk about how over the last two years I have learned that the most important skills for agility have nothing to do with any equipment....I could talk about how my view of rewards has changed, I could talk about how my view of success and our goals have changed and how that has affected our first few trials....I could talk about how profoundly my view of what being a good learner means, wow, so much has changed in my training and in how I approach my life because of my last few years of dog training-looking back I am really pretty proud of how far I have come since I was a preteen training my first dog Abby, a West Highland White terrier who was my first heart dog.
What I decided I wanted to share was a HUGE concept that has made such a difference in my life and training. I have fought against this step and fiercely resisted taking the step of BECOMING A PLANNER!!!! HORRORS!!! I always wanted to see myself as a free spirit, but as I got my fifth dog and my third cat in addition to my two kids at home, -- knowing I was not going to have much luck finding more hours in the day.....I have come to the realization of what the saying meant "The hurried I go, the behinder I get" -Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland- IT'S TRUE. I knew I needed to make my hours work better for me. I really wanted to make my training more efficient so I could actually spend my time training, get the training I needed to get done done, and so my dogs and I enjoyed it more. I really do not want to spend all day training, I like to get in there, have a good time, accomplish what we need and stop.
We all know people who work and work, they train and train-they really work hard and seem to put in a lot of time, but gosh it seems they never have that much to show for what they have done, they always look close but their performances are never really solid looking. I really feel like before I had Cricket I was one of these trainers, I had great ideas and I knew where I wanted to go but I always felt like I was spinning my wheels and did not feel focused, I really felt that I should be getting much more accomplished considering the time I was putting in.
"Time flies. It's up to you to be the navigator." -Robert Orben Hummm, at a certain point I decided stop fighting becoming a planner -to try to not just dive in to our training-but to be smart and plan.
What I found out was that by taking out time to sit and think of a plan for my training I got a lot of benefits
1. I found my training more effective because I reviewed materials for what I wanted to train-I go and look up articles I remember reading and wanted to try things from. As I am reviewing the materials I often find out that while I remembered the basics I might have forgot key steps or ideas ;-).
2. I make much better use of my time when I walk out onto the training field or step into the park I have a plan and I know what I want to do. I am much less likely to be tempted by others to sit and talk during my whole training time (something I used to do ALL the time) I train way less and I get much more accomplished without being tempted to skip steps to save time. I have enough time to go through all the steps, I know my plan and I know where we are going.
3. THE BIGGEST PAYOFF--My dogs have a much higher level of motivation-when I am ready to go and confident of what we are doing we can jump right into the game-this makes their mama (me) much more fun and much more in the moment,I do not end up leaving them hanging sitting around finding their own fun while I figure out what I need to do-or while I am talking to other people and just hanging out.
4. I am much less likely to get frustrated or feel lost, I sort of know where I am going and I am much more likely to follow all the steps in training and I just feel more confidence in picking a path....even when it might feel like we are a little stuck, with a plan it is easier to just go ahead and try to work through it rather then just getting stuck and staying there.
5. When I do need help, I am much more aware of what we have addressed and what is going on, my mind is organized which makes it easier to look for an answer in articles, videos, blogs, or to ask people I respect. I can focus in on what it is we need much quicker.
Planning does not have to be really long or involved-I usually keep a training log so I can see what we have worked on and what we have not worked on. I try to sit down for a few minutes and just think about what I want to work on the next day, which gives me the opportunity to go through my materials and review anything that might help-articles, notes, videos, course maps or sequences. It is one of those things that the more I do it the more second nature it becomes. It is also getting so much easier to walk out onto a course someone else has set up and pick out little parts I can make into a sequence that will fit into what we need to train-Love that.
My favorite way of logging training now days is using Google Docs. This is sort of impossible to explain on a blog but play with google docs and you can figure it out. On google docs you can make up a form-you can make it a simple form that you just click off different elements of training that you do. I put all sorts of obstacles and then what elements I train for each one. You send the form to yourself and if you have an iphone when you open it you can choose the option at the bottom of the screen from where there is the square with the arrow shooting out of it, choose the option that says ADD TO HOME SCREEN. This will give you your very own phone app to keep track of your training. When you fill out the form and click submit it will send it to Google Docs where it makes a spread sheet that you can keep track of what you are and are not training. Say you want to make sure you do some quick review on the chute or the dog walk entrance about every month-as you scan your little spread sheet you notice that it has been awhile-on the spread sheet it is easy to note that and add it into your training plan before you see it at a trial and kick yourself for not doing that training in awhile. ;-)
Here is a screen shot of just the first page of mine.
The google docs is a free program and is fun to play with, email if you are playing and have a question or if you come up with a really cool way to use it for your own training.
Check out some other bloggers post for bloggers action day at http://dog-agility-blog-events.posterous.com/pages/2012-march-if-i-knew-then-what-i-know-now