Brain in the Game
Mental Management training is as much a part of everyday life, as it is sports.
Some local K9 Nose Work folks have recently gotten into Mental Management training, and I can see why — in all other dog sports, you can normally see the mistakes as they’re happening; however, in the upper levels of K9 Nose Work, you’ll spend the entire day agonizing over whether you or your dog screwed up in some way (btw, the dog never screws up). Often, you’ll know — you’ll hear the dreaded “No”, from the Judge, signaling that you won’t title (and get your shiny ribbon); but, sometimes you don’t know if something was missed, so you sweat A LOT.
Unfortunately, with my busy schedule, I haven’t had a chance to fit in one of Nancy Reyes’ (our local guru in Chicago) seminars, so I’ve largely been on my own. I did download this book and listen to it on Audible: The Art of Mental Training by DC Gonzalez
While it’s certainly no replacement to a day or two with Nancy, it has helped give me some insight that I’ve been able to apply, immediately, to all of my clients (whether a “Nose Work” team, or an “At Home” pet).
Letting go of the guilt
One of the reasons I got into dog training was because of bad advice — some trainers thought that dogs “needed a heavier hand”.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s all their fault — we didn’t sufficiently socialize our dog, which led to some problems (he’ll always be territorial of our house, but we have a crate for that). If we had regular visitors, then I might be able to work on that; but, we don’t — so, it’s not a big issue. With age, and long term exposure, a certain amount of mellowness has come. He’s more forgiving of ‘stuff’ than he’s ever been.
For a long time, I was hung up on how we had failed our dogs, in one sense or another. There’s always a better way to train a behavior, or handle a situation. The problem is that when you’re “in the thick of it”, you don’t always make the best decisions. Things will spiral out of control — and, the next thing you know, you’ve got a ‘situation’ on your hands.
This is where the book helped me.
I realized that guilt was hampering my forward motion: I would often get stuck in it, and the assorted nasty mental states that come with it. We’ve all made mistakes, but the best we can do for ourselves (and, more importantly, our dogs) is to learn, and MOVE ON!
Yes, we screw up. We’re human!
Though the book was very much about “staying in the moment”, and “keeping a positive mental outlook”, it also talked about how to deal with events when they go wrong — we will frequently get sucked into the awful vortex of utter crappiness, and NO GOOD can come, from that!
I’m not talking about forgetting that the events ever occurred, but resolving to do better next time. I can honestly tell you that every mistake that we made with our next dog was a completely different mistake (I know, “not a great testimonial”, but it’s true)!
I continue to learn, grow and expand my knowledge base, so that I can help my students and the people who call me, distraught, over the events that somehow unfolded without / beyond their control.
To you, all of you, I’m telling you to “let go of the guilt”.
You’ll be able to move forward.
I’m not promising that it will instantly be better (it may get worse before it gets better) — but, you’ll grow through it, and LEARN!