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Trust in yourself, your dog and your training...

Every individual journey is different, and a lot of dog training is about conditioned emotional response for us and our dogs. Thinking about events in an objective way can be really helpful rather than being critical of yourself or your dog. Agility trainer Becky Sinclair thinks that finding the balance between stepping out of your comfort zone and protecting your confidence is tricky but possible!

Confidence means feeling sure of yourself and your abilities, not in an arrogant way or feeling superior to others but in a realistic way. A quiet inner knowledge that you're capable.

It means you can rely on your skills and strengths as a team to handle whatever comes up. To truly believe in ourselves and our dog and gain confidence, I believe that we need to build upon the skills and talents by learning, practicing and training.

A common issue can be that we focus so much on 'training' our dog that we forget half of the team us the handlers. It's our job to use our handling skills to guide our dog around the course and get the optimum we can from them. This will be different for each individual team.

Practice your handling without your dog
And I would say even if you distance handler, your verbals and body cue's still need to be consistent and fluid so still need work.

If you perform a handling manoeuvre are you able to repeat exactly what you just did? If you can't, it may be that you aren't fully aware of what you're doing and, therefore, you can't be consistent in your handling.

If there are gaps in your training, you won't step on the start line feeling confident so do your best to ensure you address those issues before competing.

Skills training, handling practice and course running are all things that will help you feel more confident as a team. Find someone to help you if you feel out of your depth doing this alone.

Dare to be the real you
Let others see you for who you are - mistakes, insecurities and all. Insecurities are easier to move past when we don't feel like we have to hide them. Embrace your and your dog's quirks instead of trying to be like someone else or acting in a way that's not true to you.

You are your own best friend so treat yourself well. It takes courage and confidence to get out and compete and, if you're out there doing it, you're already successful!

About the author...
Becky Sinclair
is a dog agility trainer and founder of Agility Mental Prep.

She has competed at Championship level, gone to Olympia and represented Team GB at IFCS in 2019 with her dog Who, now retired. She hopes his brother will follow in his footsteps and is back to training after time out with injury.

First published 26th April 2022

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