As I started my agility training about five years ago, I knew I wanted to learn the mechanics of the game. I wanted to know what the best methods are to show your dog a turn. I wanted to know how to dance with my dog and get him around the course as fast as possible. As this knowledge journey unfolded before me, I never realized there was a broader subject that was holding me back. I feel like this is such an “ah ha” moment for me that I want to share my journey and experiences. I hope this will resonate and help at least one of my blog readers.
Four years ago, I went to Washington and meet Daisy Peel. I’ve followed Daisy for several years now. I’ve brought her to Las Vegas for seminars. I’ve taken probably five or six of Daisy’s on line classes. My favorite Daisy classes are the foundation classes. I’m a sucker for the basics. I really feel a connection with Daisy. She has always seemed to understand me. I’ve called her from my hotel room the evening after a show and we’ve discussed start lines. She has encouraged me and shown me how to grow in the sport of agility. I consider her to be a pivotal role in my agility journey and my coach.
Daisy’s accomplishments include representing the United States on the World Team four times. Her dogs Solar and Jester have won the AKC National Championships at the 26 inch height three times. Daisy is an amazing agility handler and can out run the best of them. Have you seen Solar’s running contacts? Check out Solar’s running contacts here. What an amazing run!
Today, I’m excited to share her thoughts on a few burning questions. I always find it interesting to hear how successful agility handlers view the journey and deal with adversity. I found it very interesting that both Daisy and Yale had similar answers in that they are always trying to improve their game and rise to the challenge. Successful competitors, no matter what the sport, embrace the challenge and rise to meet it. Another similarity is that they both love their respected game and always remember why they have chosen the sport. Interestingly, if they determine there is a problem, they both do something about it immediately. Successful competitors have similar thought processes.
Here is my interview with Daisy.
Michelle: When you haven’t been successful at something in the agility ring on a regular basis how do you handle it? This could be broken start lines, popping out at the 10th pole or not being able to complete a front cross in time.
Daisy: I consider myself to be somebody who is always looking for solutions to problems. So, if it’s been a while since I’ve been successful at something, whether it’s agility, or anything in life, I’m likely to find a way to change that. I think it’s important not to spend too much time spinning your wheels, obsessing on a problem. If you’ve got a problem, it’s important to identify it, and immediately set about finding solutions to it.
Michelle: Start lines and I have had a love hate relationship. I hope to not take my next agility dog in the ring until I have a solid start line. I don’t want to play the start line dance again. While I was obsessing on start lines with Link, I couldn’t focus on anything else. I now feel like this mental clutter was holding me back.
Daisy: I think it’s pretty normal to have a particular issue that is your “big issue” with a dog – an issue that you vow to never have again. And, you probably won’t, because it’s an issue you’ve spent time thinking about, and problem solving. But no dog is perfect, and no handler or trainer or person is perfect. So, it’s likely that every dog you have will have some “thing” – something you didn’t see coming, and something that you’ll need to seek out solutions for. That’s part of the learning process, part of the self improvement process that agility, like so many things, allows us to engage in. It’s important that no matter what that “one big thing” might be with your dog, that you don’t allow it to consume all of your relationship with that dog. My first competitive dog, Fly, had pretty terrible contacts. I guess I didn’t know enough to obsess on it or to constantly be trying to fix his contacts. There was a particular way I could get him to do his contacts, I figured out what that was, and then moved on. There were other things I wanted to learn, other problems I wanted to move beyond. I couldn’t let that one thing hold me back.
With Juno, her “big thing” is not wanting to do agility in the competitive environment. I don’t obsess on it any more. I’ll continue to enter her now and again, to see where we are as a team. And I continue to train her at home, in my arena, because she’s a blast to train and play with. But, and it took me a long time to come to it, the solution for her “big thing” was to find something ELSE that we COULD do together as a team. Now I have sheep
Michelle: I was trying to find someway to overcome this worrying. Regarding start lines I trained to the max hoping that if I trained it would help me to stop worrying. It worked to some degree but not fully. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this.
Daisy: My thoughts on worrying? My guess is that if it wasn’t a start line, it’d be something else. We are like dog with bones, we like to have something to worry about. In the absence of something serious to worry about (like, where our next drink of water or our next bite of food will come from), as humans, we will likely FIND something to worry about. It’s important to keep our dog training problems in perspective. It’s something that is happening that you’re not too keen on – so you need to find ways to step around it, or overcome it. But worrying is just spinning your wheels.
Michelle: Let’s talk about super meaningful runs. When the run has significant meaning, the last Q needed for a MACH or a title, how do you handle it?
Daisy: At this point, I wish ALL runs were like those significant runs. Those are the most fun runs for me. There’s a little more adrenaline, I’m a little more nervous, and I LOVE it. It’s important to recognize that all runs ARE significant, though – each one as important as the last one, or the next one. Each run contributes to the pile of moments that you have with your dog, and those moments amount to a journey you’ve taken. No journey is worth taking if there aren’t a few bumps in the road, and the bigger the bumps, the more worthwhile the journey typically is.
Michelle: Should you run cautiously if you only need this last Q for your MACH?
Daisy: That’s a personal question, really. I don’t think so, though, no. Again, keep it in perspective. This is something you do for FUN. So, you should run in a way that will maximize your ability to enjoy the activity!
Michelle: A question many competitors locally have asked me about is how to keep their mind in the game at Nationals. How do you walk a course hours earlier and then get your head in the game when it is your turn?
Daisy: It’s important for me to make sure that as time passes throughout the day, I don’t do things to fatigue my eyes or my brain. Taking some time to be in a quiet place, and maybe even to close my eyes, is important. There’s a lot of stimulus input at those big shows, and it’s important I think, to be able to clear your mind. I don’t usually have a problem getting in to the game, that’s the FUN part!
Michelle: People often take seminars or classes and learn new skills. However, people do not put their new skill to the test at the trial. What tips do you have to help people move from the seminar/class setting to the agility show ring?
Daisy: Maybe I’m just overly pragmatic, but I just can’t imagine spending the time or money to learn a new skill and then NOT use it in the agility ring. Life is too short and my dollars are too important! I encourage people to take the long view – you can spend hundreds of dollars going in to the ring and letting your dog break a sit stay over and over again, or you can sacrifice a few dollars to take your dog out of the ring if he breaks his sit stay. That’s just one example. I’d much rather spend my trial dollars pushing my own limits, as well as the limits of my dog, in terms of skill and knowledge, than to just do the same thing over and over again. But that’s just me! I think most people avoid trying new things out for fear of failure – but the truth is, in avoiding something new for fear of failure, you’ve already failed. And in trying, whether or not you succeed, you’ve already won
Michelle: Let’s talk about goal setting. Is it important for an agility competitor to set goals?
Daisy: I do think it’s important to go through the process of setting goals. In my Clear Mind class, it’s not so much about what your goals are, it’s the process of SETTING them that is important. Learning how to be self aware without being self judgmental, learning how to talk to yourself in a way that helps you solve problems and improve, rather than holding yourself back, and learning how to be more in control of your attitude toward how things are going are all part and parcel of the goal setting process. Like many things, whether or not you REACH the goals is almost irrelevant, so long as you are progressing TOWARD them.
Michelle: How do you define success?
Daisy: I can tell you more easily how I do NOT define success than how I DO define it. Ribbons and trophies are one way of defining success. Fancy cars and big houses and money are another way of defining success. But with respect to dog training and dog agility, success to me is more about self-improvement. Am I better off at the end of a session with my dog than at the beginning? Am I a better trainer? A better handler? A better person? If the answer is yes, and if it is yes more than it is no, then I am successful.
Ah yeah! I love some of the little nuggets of information she gave us. “I think most people avoid trying new things out for fear of failure – but the truth is, in avoiding something new for fear of failure, you’ve already failed. And in trying, whether or not you succeed, you’ve already won :)” This reminds me of my all time favorite quote. In college, they used to put these quotes on the bathroom stalls. One day I read a quote that has stuck with me ever since “you miss 100% of the shots you never take” by Wayne Gretzky. How will you know if you have the skills if you never try them in a competition. Dare greatly and take a chance once you push yourself to greater performances your comfort zone will be broadened.
My motto for this blog is this: Believe in yourself. Believe in your dog. Be awesome and dare greatly. Always strive to test your skills and to improve yourself. Be awesome and successful. Being awesome is defined however you like. I like Daisy’s definition of success. It is simple and easily attainable while allowing for self growth. She suggests asking yourself “Am I better off at the end of a session with my dog than at the beginning? Am I a better trainer? A better handler? A better person? If the answer is yes, and if it is yes more than it is no, then I am successful.”
Thanks for the insight Daisy! I hope you’ll join us on the blog again sometime. If you are interested in any of Daisy’s classes check them out here at my affiliate link. If you don’t have access to a world class trainer taking classes on line is the next best thing.