Top tips for overcoming common struggles
It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re competing by video, it’s easy to just start over every time there is a mistake. But that can be demotivating for both teammates. Sometimes the best things come out of spontaneity!
Be sure the person filming you knows to orient the camera in landscape rather than portrait mode. In Freestyle, the judge needs to see a large area of the ring space as you move around the ring, not just you and your dog. And if you’re doing any distance work, it’s important to see the connection between you and your dog, rather than having to choose between one or the other.
Flow: exhibitors struggle with flow in both Rally-FrEe and Musical Freestyle. Knowing your part so there are not unnecessary stops and starts will increase flow. Cueing early, before you pause for the dog to execute, will allow the dog to go into the behavior without stopping or pausing, and provide good flow from one movement to the next.
Eliminate hand cues, especially small ones you don’t even know you are making. Focus on removing hand cues in your training early in the training process. Use a target stick instead of hand cues as you teach a behavior; it’s easier to eliminate the target stick. Say the cue word before you use a hand cue or target stick. Video yourself so you can catch those hand cues you don’t even know you are doing.
In Rally-FrEe, eliminating those hand cues as stated above can mean a big increase in scores! That goes for big, obvious body cues as well!
In Rally-FrEe, exhibitors sometimes try to add pizzazz to Free Choice behaviors by combining multiple behaviors or chaining them one after the other. The more cues you have to use, the higher the chance that something will break down. Choose Free Choice behaviors that are short and sweet, and you know your dog will do them well, rather than feeling pressured to think of something brand new.
Choose solid, easy behaviors over complex behaviors that your dog doesn’t have complete understanding of. You’ll probably earn more points for well-executed, less challenging tricks than poorly-executed, difficult ones.
Often, less is more. When interpreting a song with lyrics, your judge either needs to be familiar with the song or the lyrics need to be very clear. Work to interpret the genre or mood of the music. If trying to match lyrics, choosing a few appropriate and key moments will usually make for a more interesting performance than trying to interpret too much of the lyrics literally. Think in sequences to phrases of music rather than behavior to lyrics.
The judges can help you reach your goals and perfect your performances!