I attended a day-long canine agility seminar recently with one of my dogs. I’ve been running agility with my dogs for a couple of years and occasionally compete in trials.
As I prepared to run a course the instructor had set up, I stood on the start line with my dog and mentally checked off the things I wanted to attend to as we ran: Draw the line. Remember to push out hard at that corner so she takes the outside obstacle. Keep the talking to a minimum. And for goodness sake, Tammy, try to remember to rock backward slightly if you see her heading for the dogwalk instead of the tunnel on that discrimination! You always forget to do that!
We had a mediocre run. Not awful, but nothing to write home about.
The instructor, Lynn, said, “I know your head is filled with the things we’ve been working on today. Too filled. You weren’t at all connected to your dog. Here’s what I want you to do — try to empty your head, feel your dog in your heart, and run the course again.”
I returned to the start line, bent down to look into Missy’s eyes and cupped her sweet little face in my hands. I closed my eyes for a second and just felt the connection with her. I mentally pushed away all the clutter of the morning’s lessons. I said to her, “Ready to have some fun?” She was.
As we ran, I thought only of staying connected with her, not of all the things I wanted her — and me — to do. Our run was smooth, flowing, and far better than the prior one. Missy danced happily at my feet, ready to claim her reward treats.
Resolving conflict is like this. We can carry around all the techniques and tools we want, but if we fail to make a real connection with our dance partner or to be fully present in the moment because we’re stuck inside our own heads, we won’t do our best work.
Photo credit: Jo-Ann Gerde