When you have lost faith in each other

I love Vini to bits, she is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had and when working, nothing holds her back. She has the perfect qualities for being a succesful dog, she wants to please you but is yet very self-confident.

I loved all training sessions with all the great trainers in the world and I was trying hard to be the perfect handler for her. Puppy training, basic training, advanced training, she was always my star – so smart, and with real eager to work. Because of her, I wanted to become even better!

I got so much great input on how to change my handling to become even a better handler. I tried for years to improve as it takes time to change old habits. I focused on me and what I could do to improve and finally things were now becoming a unconscious act from my side. But on this journey, the focus had been on me.. how can I do better, what I should do better, and not on our teamwork..

One day I realised, we do not have a teamwork – we were two independent souls running a course (and often not the same course 😜) – I had lost faith in us, and the same had Vini. Every time I went into the “me-mode” – focusing on what I was to do, what arm, leg, body movement, etc. to use – we got disconnected. Vini’s response to this was to take the lead and do what she thought was the right thing to do – funny enough, it almost always includes a tunnel 😉

I had a choice, should I continue trying to improve my handling skills or should I improve our collaboration? I chose the latter – to me having fun with my best 4-legged friend on the course is what matters to the most to me, not the results or looking great when handling my dog!

It has been a hard journey – changing habits again! I had to acknowledge every time I lost eye contact with Vini when e.g. turning around, we got disconnected. I had to find other ways of cueing e.g. a turn. I spent a lot of time watching other great handlers technique and got inspired on what I could do. I also decided to take private lessons as I then had another pair of eyes watching me and what I do instead of me multitasking by both handling and same time evaluating what I am doing – best decision I’ve ever made!! Not saying I can’t multitask, but the feedback and support has been exactly what I needed!

To improve our connection, I had to change focus from my handling to improving Vini’s skills. By that I mean not relying on my handling skills and right timing, but training Vini’s skills to independently do things – e.g. not relying on me being on the right place at the right time when sending her to the weaves, but being able to send her from any spot and let her figure out how to do it correct.

By improving Vini’s skills, the pressure on my timing and me being at the right spot has lowered, wherefore I can now better focus on Vini and what she is to do.

You don’t get the faith back easily, it requires hard work, trust and letting go of any expectations. It’s not easy, and definitely not easy to explain to other people – especially sports people, who wants to win – that your goal is “just” teamwork. I often tend to fall back into the “me-mode” and immediately we get disconnected but getting better at not doing that.

In our training, we have improved greatly! I am so pleased with our progress – we are not there yet, but getting closer to becoming a real team. I therefore decided to sign Vini up for the national team, but at the first tryout weekend a month ago, Vini behaved weirdly – she was tired, got easily distracted, and knocked several bars 😞 Next day I wanted to make an appointment to get her examined, as when she is behaving like this, she is usually injured. But next day her season had started and that was apparently the cause of her behaviour.

This weekend we had our second tryouts. Vini is still marked by her season as for the last week her focus has only been on food. She has even figured out how to get access to the bin 😳 she has never been as “hungry” as she is now and she was sleeping a lot. So I didn’t know what to expect this weekend as she didn’t have the energy to be “spontaneous” on the course. While running the course she was sooo sweet – she did everything I asked her to do – and she did it immediately!!! I usually have to tell her very well in advance what she is to do in order for her to react, but now she reacted immediately – so of course the timing was not right – resulting in minor errors in otherwise great runs, that regretfully caused eliminations. But I let go and decided that she wasn’t to know as I wanted to show her how much more fun it is to be a team. Despite no results I yet feel we were a success! My goal for this weekend was to be there for her and show her how much faith I have in her! Now hoping that she had fun too and is getting faith back in me too ❤️

Next weekend it is the WAO, but not sure what to expect – the old Vini or the new alert Vini – but no matter what, I will show her, I have faith in her! She deserves it ❤️