Plan For Your Own Success

Create a Training Plan

  • Know the Rules and the specific exercises of the competition you plan to enter.

  • Have an honest discussion with yourself – “what are my dog’s biggest weaknesses?”

  • It’s critical to identify what your dog can’t do.

  • Then decide how to go about lifting your dog’s performance in these exercises.

  • Get help if you’re a bit lost at this point.

  • Your Club or Trainer can be a good starting place to get advice.

  • Concentrate on your weaknesses, don’t keep practicing exercises you can already do well.

Handler Issues…

  • Handlers need to consider how they are going to ‘train’ themselves.

  • Trials are won and lost on the quality of the handler's skill exhibited on Trial day.

  • Success on Trial day comes from controlling your nerves and not unsettling your dog.

  • Being nervous is normal. Nerves should make you concentrate and help bring out your best performance on the day.

  • Nerves should never bring you undone. Allowing these feelings to influence your performance is poor Trial preparation.

How to Keep your Nerves in Check…

  1. When you have complete confidence in your dog, you’re much more likely to be settled and in control.

  2. So thorough Trial preparation for your dog is essential.

  3. If nerves play a part in your life, in the weeks leading upto the Trial, practice deep breathing techniques, yoga, Tai Chi or any other natural method to calm your mind. A calm mind will help you concentrate on the job at hand.

  4. I practice visualisation. It sounds crazy, but it works for me. I go to different ovals and open areas, put a starting post in the ground and practice visualisation. You'll never know if you don’t give it a go!

Visualisation begins at the starting post with my dog in a sit position.

  1. Looking straight ahead, I visualise the ‘ring’ where we will be performing.

  2. Because I've been using a camcorder to record my training sessions, it’s easy to visualise how we will move around the ring and more importantly, what it looks like to the Judge.

  3. The camcorder gives me the confidence to know that our work is at a high standard.

  4. I tell myself: "this is my ring, I own this ring, I'm on home turf!".

  5. Now, I have no fear of the Judge or what he/she will say.

  6. I visualise giving the best performance that my training preparation will allow.

  7. I want my performance to set a high standard, one that every other competitor has to deal with.

  8. Then I start my obedience routine......

How Do I Define Success?

  • I never enter a Trial with the attitude “I just want to pass”.

  • This attitude is self-defeating and probably means that you’re not ready for this Trial.

  • If things go badly in the Ring, your dog gets an unwanted Trial experience. We want the exact opposite for your dog.

  • I feel that entering a Trial when you’re ‘not ready’ is quite insulting to the Judge and reflects badly on your training Club or Group. Don’t do it! Obviously, there’s no substitute for Trial experience but there are other practical ways to get ring experience before entering a real Trial.

  • I never enter a Trial with the sole purpose of winning. This attitude leaves me open to the probability that another handler has done better preparation for this Trial. If they perform to their plan, I‘m instantly at a mental disadvantage and my performance may suffer.

  • My sole objective is to stick to the training plan and execute it to the best of my ability.

  • At the end of the day if I get on the podium, that’s an added bonus. If not, I study the video and learn from my mistakes.

  • Trial success depends on preparing yourself and your dog for the performance.

Peaking Your Dog

  • Peaking your dog for a Trial is NOT about having him picture-perfect a week before the event.

  • No dog can maintain peak Trial standard for a week.

  • By the time the Trial rolls around, your dog’s performance will be on the decline.

  • It’s a delicate balancing act.

  • Your best training performance should be about 2 days pre-Trial.

  • The difference between an expert handler and everyone else is their ability to read their dog and understand when stress or pressure is becoming too much. They adjust training accordingly to maintain a positive attitude for the work.

  • Keep a close watch on your dog as the Trial approaches. How he behaves at home is just as relevant as his performance at training when assessing stress in your dog.

Positive Mental Attitude

It’s not about whether you’ll pass, it’s about how well you’ll pass!  

Good Training

MARK MURRAY