Bring your team to the next level!
1. The Potato Sack Strategy
Ever partake in a “three-legged race”, where you and your partner each put a leg in a potato sack and race to the finish line? If one partner gets out of step with the other, you both go down.
In performance, we tend to speed up! Often, it’s not that the dog is lagging, it’s that the handler is forging. In Freestyle, we may rush due to choreography that’s just a little too tight. (Did you give your dog enough time to complete the behavior before cueing the next?) In Rally-FrEe, we may think that moving quickly will motivate the dog. (But did your hustle to keep moving cause his precision to falter?)
These habits can have just as big an impact as a mis-step in a three-legged race. They’ll affect both your and your dog’s confidence, as well as your ability to work beautifully together.
How do you fix this? Be mindful of when you cue. Did you give your dog time to complete the last behavior? Be mindful of your choreography. Is there enough time to do each behavior with precision or should you cut something out?
Stay in step with your canine partner as if you are in a 3-legged race!
2. The Eyes Have It
We’ve all experienced giving a cue and having our dogs stand there, staring back at us, seemingly unresponsive. (Oh no, what now?! Maybe if I stare at you longer…
If you’ve trained your dog to look at you, then looking back at them is a cue to continue look to you! And sometimes we unknowingly lock them in place with our eyes.
When giving an “action” cue, look in the direction you want your dog to go. This will help release them and support your verbal cue!
3. What if Your Face Froze Like That?
Imagine what your face looks like when you suddenly realize you aren’t sure what comes next in your routine, or that your dog has somehow ended up completely out of place for the next behavior. How about when you find yourself on the wrong side of a sign in Rally-FrEe, or forget what the sign means?! (It’s okay, ours aren’t pretty, either.)
Your face tells your dog whether you are there to guide and support him or whether he is on his own. No matter what happens in performance, your most important job is to support your dog and maintain his confidence. Make sure your expression isn’t giving him the wrong message.
4. Become an Expert
Be an expert on your Freestyle routine or Rally-FrEe course. Experts know their topics. Would you know exactly where you are in the routine and in the ring if someone started your music somewhere in the middle? Or do you need the context of the whole routine to be able to perform it?
The time you spend practicing your routine without your dog should be equal to the time you spend training your dog. Your part should be as fluent, or even more so, than your dog’s behaviors. Knowing your routine inside-out and upside-down allows you to focus solely on guiding and supporting your dog. (And helps prevent those slack-jawed expressions we just talked about…)
The same is true in Rally-FrEe. Know the signs. Know the correct performance of the behaviors. Standing with your dog at a station is no time to realize you aren’t sure what to do!
Start learning the Rally-FrEe course from the day you receive it – just you. If you’ve trained your dog the behaviors, then it’s now up to you to provide confident and timely cues! Running the course and giving cues to your invisible dog will tell you where the holes are in your understanding of the signs. It will increase your confidence when you do bring your dog onto the course, too!
5. Be a Fortune Teller
Visualize the Perfect Outcome. Visualize you and your dog entering the ring, every move performed to the best of your and your dog’s training and ability, and then celebrating your success at the end!
Visualization can be a powerful tool in lowering stress levels and maintaining an optimistic attitude, which can result in positive outcomes. Does this sound a bit too “woo woo” for you? If all it does is lower your stress levels leading up to performance, then it’s worth trying! You may be surprised at how much more confident and relaxed you feel going into the ring. And that can only result in a better performance.