The Waiting Game

Posted: March 26, 2007 in Performance & Judging

Pam has a good question:  “What type of exercises do you recommend be done (if any) while waiting to go in the ring to get the dog ready?”

What do you want the warm-up to accomplish? For most of us, we need to get our dog and our self into performance mode: mentally focused and physically loose.

Last week Tom described his experience at his first fun match. He was, understandably, nervous. Instead of striding out confidently as he usually does, he moved too slow and his dog naturally assumed they were just out for a walk. Going to run-throughs and fun matches at other locations is the perfect opportunity to experiment with our warm-up technique.  

Do you have an “up” dog that you need to calm down in order to focus? Onchu, as we all know, is easily distracted so I have to keep him very busy to stay focused on me. If my attention is diverted then he starts looking for another way to amuse himself.  Once he comes out of the crate I need to be all about Onchu.

Tag is the complete opposite. I need to get Tag excited about going in the ring. Doodling works for both situations.  Doodling with turns and halts helps bring Onchu in and looking at me. Doodling with fast starts helps Tag rev up a bit.

Mentally focused is just half of our team performance. We also need to be physically loose. I know I can’t go from 0 to 60.  Even Onchu, who is young and agile, needs to move a bit to get his feet under him. At one show I somehow miscalculated and ended up ringside way too soon. My dog had been warmed up but after sitting politely at heel overlong, by the time we finally entered the ring he was sluggish and lethargic. This was the Open class and it took all the way through the heeling exercises before he got his mojo back; just in time for the retrieves. Even the judge commented he couldn’t believe the dog sailing over the high jump was the same dog I walked in with.

This is one of the reasons I recommend teaching your dog a “trick”; some movement they like to do that will loosen them up physically. Tag likes to “dance”, a simple leap in the air.  Weaving between your legs, a spin at your side, a body shake – even a short game of tug –  can help bring the physical in line with the mental. This can also be a stress reliever for both of you. I can’t help but smile everytime I watch Tag do his dance.

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