Clean Run - November 2012 - (Page 12)
I love the sport of agility. I love the challenge of a difficult course, teaching new behaviors to my dog, and the time spent with friends and students training and trialing. Unfortunately, as with any sport, there is a darker side. Anyone who has spent time at an agility trial has certainly seen or heard examples of poor sportsmanship, criticism, and negative remarks from some competitors. It is easy to get caught up in the drama of discussing how a fellow competitor may be “ruining” their dog, how horrible their training is, or how badly they handle. And it can certainly affect a competitor’s performance when she knows that she is being judged by others while in the ring. There have been times in my own agility experience, when these judgments became so overwhelming I considered leaving the sport. Instead of loving the challenges of the course and spending time with friends, I was afraid to make mistakes in the ring and I avoided people at trials. I no longer looked forward to my weekends, and I did not know how to go about making changes. One day as I was packing for a trial, I stopped by my bookcase and looked for something to read that might help me stay focused and keep the weekend a positive experience. The first book I grabbed was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The Four Agreements are agreements that you can try to follow to improve your life experience. They are a code of conduct to aspire to so you can change the way you think, act, and the way you affect others. As I read the book, I could not help but notice just how appropriate the message was for the dog sport world. I started underlining sentences and making notes in the margin of my book. I bought the audio disc to listen to in my car on the way to trials.
This article should give you a basic understanding of some simple ideas from the book to start with. I hope this motivates you to make positive changes in your own agility experience and to read the book for yourself.
We Are All Domesticated
Don Miguel believes that we are all domesticated in much the same way as our four-legged teammates. We are rewarded when we do something right, and punished when we do something wrong. We are accepted when we do something that our friends agree with, and shunned when we go against their beliefs. We like it when the group is happy with us and soon behave in ways to get their attention. We dislike it when the group ignores us or even worse, when they talk about us behind our back, and we begin to behave in ways that may not be true to our nature so we fit in. This fear of rejection soon becomes the fear of not being good enough; to avoid being rejected, we become someone we are not, a copy of someone else’s beliefs and ideals. This domestication is so strong, we eventually don’t even need the group to approve or disapprove—we punish ourselves when we don’t follow the rules of the group. We carry the guilt, shame, and the blame for not fitting in. We tell ourselves, “I am not good enough, I will never fit in.” These beliefs become so strong that even later when we are exposed to new ideas or new training methods, we dismiss them without ever knowing whether we would have benefited from them. Any desire to change a belief is often met with a funny feeling in your gut that stops you. This feeling is fear. We feel a sense of belonging and we fear losing that by challenging the beliefs of the group. It is our own fault when we do not fit in. We were not good enough, our dogs weren’t fast enough, or we didn’t handle the course the way we should have. We failed as trainers or as handlers. We fault a run and we beat up on ourselves repeatedly. Ruiz says, “A human is the only animal that will punish themselves a hundred times for the same mistake.” How many times have we driven home from an event and felt horribly about how badly we had done? We run the conversation to ourselves in our mind, “My training was bad, my handling inadequate, and I was far too out of shape to run the dogs I have. I had not put enough effort into my training. The training I had done was on all of the wrong things. Why on earth would anyone ever pay me to teach them how to run a dog?” The list goes on and on. Ruiz states, “During this process of domestication, we form an idea of what perfection is in order to try to be good enough. We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody.” When we cannot live up to that image, we become frustrated and insecure. We are so afraid someone will notice our imperfections, that we judge others and focus on their imperfections to feel better. We sit ringside and critique others, and it makes us feel less ﬂawed. We criticize their clothes, their handling techniques, their dogs, their beliefs. There is the potential to change these beliefs. By recognizing the ways that we reinforce the negative agreements, and by becoming aware of how damaging they are, we can take the first steps toward a new way of thinking. We can become free from the judgments of others and cease to make those judgments of others as well. There are many agreements that we have made in our lives, but you only need four to help you break through to a new way of thinking and a new way of living.
Clean Run | November 12
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run - November 2012
Clean Run - November 2012
Editorializing: Sportsmanship Is Not Just About Being Nice
Tip of the Month
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Agility...
The Four Agreements
Power Paws Drills: Working Opposites
Training with the Stars: Jeannette Hutchison
What’s in Your Toolbox?
Being a Good Student, Part 1
Tips for Weave Pole Entries
Not a Practice Dog Anymore
The 2-Minute Warm-up
The Worrier: Solutions for the Dog That Is Worried or Afraid
What Is a Ketschker Turn?
Agility Mind Gym: Persistence and Determination
Building Blocks: Building a Better Lead-out
Clean Run - November 2012