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I believe one of my biggest problems as a handler, is staying focused ,and being able to stay calm and think when things dont go well in training.. and tests.

I tend to get amped up,, then voice, actions, and attitude drastically changes with me. It affects the dog, most definatly in a undesirable fashion..

I watch experienced handlers that must have ice in their viens!

What helps?
 

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Valium???

JS
 

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Practice. Visualization. Breathing. Practice
 

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I believe one of my biggest problems as a handler, is staying focused ,and being able to stay calm and think when things dont go well in training.. and tests.

I tend to get amped up,, then voice, actions, and attitude drastically changes with me. It affects the dog, most definatly in a undesirable fashion..

I watch experienced handlers that must have ice in their viens!

What helps?
Just experience and realizing that every failure is a learning experience and not the end of the world, especially in training. Regarding the training surprises, my first training partner had very good dog sense and taught me from the beginning to be open and quick to understanding when to change what you are training on. Don't ever try to win the training session or worry about how your dog does on a test compared to other dogs. For example, say you set up a nice triple with the long gun retired and you are anxious to see how you dog does on the long retired, but as you run your dog he creeps a bit and dodges to miss some obvious cover enroute to the go-bird. In my early days I would let those two things slip and let him run as I focused on that long retired. My friend taught me that at that point my training object just changed, the long bird was not important compared to the creep and dodge to avoid cover.We needed to re-call the dog to work on the creep and handle into the cover, correcting as needed.

Once I started recognizing and dealing with small issues, I realized the big picture was more important overall and that helped me relax in training. I actually felt good when a training opportunity popped up unexpectedly and I was quick enough on my feet to deal with it.

John
 

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I believe one of my biggest problems as a handler, is staying focused ,and being able to stay calm and think when things dont go well in training.. and tests.

I tend to get amped up,, then voice, actions, and attitude drastically changes with me. It affects the dog, most definatly in a undesirable fashion..

I watch experienced handlers that must have ice in their viens!

What helps?
I know what you mean.....I am a newbie and ran our second Senior test....I was a mess at the line....extremely nervous. Pinned both marks and one whistled the blind.......thank's Harley for being such a good pup and not letting my nerves freak you out!!!! Less nerves on second series....passed with flying colors!
 

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I believe one of my biggest problems as a handler, is staying focused ,and being able to stay calm and think when things dont go well in training.. and tests.

I tend to get amped up,, then voice, actions, and attitude drastically changes with me. It affects the dog, most definatly in a undesirable fashion..

I watch experienced handlers that must have ice in their viens!

What helps?
It helps that you know your specific trouble area ("when things dont go well").

One thing we do for people with similar challenges is to sit down and make a flow chart. We describe the scenario and write down 1-2 short words. From there, we list the possible actions from the dog. We have one category called "everything else" and often "I'm confused!" For the "I'm confused/frustrated". For each possible action, whether it's the right response from the dog OR an error, we write down what our response will be. For "I'm confused/frustrated," it's often to call the dog back, put him up, and make a new plan OR " put the dog in a 30 second stay while reviewing notes.

Before each session or each part of the session, read the notes before getting the dog out.

Most people do NOT need this tool for long, but after using it diligently for a few weeks or months, the handler is automatically able to think through the dog options and handler response. Taking the time upfront to plan typically reduces the number of training sessions needed to accomplish the goal, decreases handler frustration, and increases the dog's performance.

When I take a lesson with my dog, before each exercise I ask the instructor what response from -me- s/he would like to see if my dog does xyz. Ideally we won't have errors, but it's better to plan ahead and know the best possible plan in case of errors.

At a seminar this weekend it was really painful to see the handler responses (and moreso, the LACK of response) to errors. They didn't have a plan ahead of time and ended up doing things that really messed the dogs up and the dogs had no clue what was going on or that undesirable things were happening.

Seriously though, the flow charts are great as a learning tool AND when working on new behaviors. I use it myself, and with students (even pet clients!). Writing it out and thinking through each steps helps many people to process the information, consider the options, and have a plan ready. It's not always easy to follow the plan, but by working ahead, you do increase the chances you will have an appropriate response!

The charts for tests are often different than in training and it's good to make that separate plan so you decrease the chance of falling into training habits or just freezing up.

This is a --really-- great question and I'm going to enjoy all the responses!
 

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It's difficult to become another person. Recognizing the problem is only the first step. Humans have just as much of a problem dealing with adrenalin as dogs. You've probably seen the effects of using more pressure on an amped dog. It usually doesn't work. Therefore, each person must find ways to cope with their own pressures.

For me, it has been a long process based on the idea that I had to change. Video tape yourself often and critique that person. Remind yourself continually that you need to change because the dog needs you. Convince yourself that the dog and you train often and are well prepared. That can be another issue, but it's not the real problem.

If you work on your anticipation (what can go wrong), by expecting things to happen and have a plan to deal with them when they happen this will often replace the unproductive thoughts of "I am loosing it again." You can't use "Well, that's just who I am" as an excuse. Resignation can become comfortable.

Several years ago at a pro trainer seminar, the presenter said "You need to walk the dog to the line like the two of you know what you are doing....and believe it". Focus on what you can do well rather that anticipating the appearance of the old you. This mental approach does not come quickly because it does take a different person than what you presently are to accomplish it. The seminar was several years ago......I'm finally beginning to understand it.

Think about the dog that "looses it often". Most trainers will try to deal with it in the context of regular training. I have found that results are more likely to happen if you change up training to make the "issue" the primary focus. Dogs as well as trainers are perfectly capable of being out of balance. What are you working on to restore the handler's balance? Do you have a plan? or is it just supposed to spontaneously correct itself?

Confidence cannot be faked. It takes time to nurture it. Most people seem to think that what they are now is what they will always be. They become resigned to it and often embrace it. Do that and you will forever be stuck with it.

Change is always difficult. If you persistently work to restore your personal balance, there will come a time in training (or tests) where you will suddenly realize, "You know? I'm feeling more comfortable" and you will know the corner has been turned.

I love this line, but it is so true...."There is either do......or not do."
 

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Great posts Red and Kwick. I wish I had thought of the notecards idea several months ago. It probably would have saved me some high BP moments with my dog. I am pretty consistent about making a plan, but having something in my pocket to look at when presented with a teaching opportunity (otherwise known as "when things go wrong") would help me take a minute, get refocused, and evaluate whether it's a "move up and simplify" issue (which I think about 90% of them are) or a "I have to fashion another approach to get this dog to do this issue."

Kwick, you are so right that it simply takes a lot of time and experience to make that confidence real.
 

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Put yourself in the stressful situation as often as you can. If you can get enough people together on wkends to simulate a trial, do it. It is expensive to learn on the line in a real test but it is the best way to learn to deal with your stress. If you can, have someone stand behind you at the line and video tape your performance so you can watch yourself in action.
 

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Recognize that it is "just a game". If the dog (or you) mess up, it's not the end of the world. (or even a good enough reason to have a bad day). Just use it as a learning experience and move on.

I was one of the worst when I first got in the game. I wanted to succeed so bad that I put so much pressure on myself that even the dog could feel it. Took a lot of fun out of it. When I finally learned to relax I enjoyed things so much more.

Look at it this way... Is it worth it to get high blood pressure for a $2 ribbon?
 

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Recognize that it is "just a game". If the dog (or you) mess up, it's not the end of the world. (or even a good enough reason to have a bad day). Just use it as a learning experience and move on.

I was one of the worst when I first got in the game. I wanted to succeed so bad that I put so much pressure on myself that even the dog could feel it. Took a lot of fun out of it. When I finally learned to relax I enjoyed things so much more.

Look at it this way... Is it worth it to get high blood pressure for a $2 ribbon?
I am in the transition stage right now with that ,I to put to much pressure on myself to the point of not being fun and confusing the hell out of my dog,but soon realized that I dont have to do this and if I cant enjoy the game I should just stay home. Dont dwell on the bad but embrace the good!
 

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I used to have note cards that I wrote each evening before a field trial, which listed what my goals for the upcoming day were. I would keep the cards with me, and read them in the truck before I got the dogs, and then again in the holding blind.

I don't use the note cards on weekends anymore, although I keep a training log with things to remember about each of my dogs.

However, at a National, I will write on my program, which I keep with me at all times, the things that I need to remember in general ... and the things that I need to remember for each specific dog. And I read my program notes when running through the holding blinds.
 

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Good points about notes, etc.

It's easy to become a spectator while you're running a dog. I learned that the hard way last year on a middle land mark; had I handled on it I probably would have passed our test, instead I just "watched the dog" do its thing instead of taking control and handling her to the mark.
 

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I believe one of my biggest problems as a handler, is staying focused ,and being able to stay calm and think when things dont go well in training.. and tests.

I tend to get amped up,, then voice, actions, and attitude drastically changes with me. It affects the dog, most definatly in a undesirable fashion..

I watch experienced handlers that must have ice in their viens!

What helps?
Mike

I think you need to not care what the observers think or say. I think you need to learn how to blot out everything except for what the dog is doing

I would start by never talking to the gallery when you are running a dog.

Not in the holding blind. Not on the line. Not at all.

​Ted
 

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Practice. Visualization. Breathing. Practice
I agree with Ted.

I spent years being an athlete up through the college ranks and readily applied visualization and breathing into becoming a focused handler. Personally, it's become to much of a good thing as I sometimes find myself being to complacent at the line.

Gooser - - Visualize yourself fly fishing on a perfect CO day right shortly before you go to the line. Take a big breath and signal for the marks. It's just the dog and you having some fun.
 

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I coach clients to create a routine that they build every day in training and carry it to the test. Just like building muscle memory. Do the same things over and over again so they become habit. In the holding blind never spend time talking to anyone. The holding blind is the time to see in you mind how the test is going to play out. Which mark you get first and what order from there. Go over the "what if" scenarios, for example, what if he doesn't get the mark i want first, what if he head swings and doesn't see the memory bird, what if a gun doesn't go off, what if their is a no bird etc. Go through the scenarios in your head before hand and create a plan for them. Visualize success by visualizing how you're going to react to the test as it comes at you....

/Paul
 

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Here is another perspective on this issue. Often times we hear the description that college football is “too fast” for most freshman (just out of high school). Then when the skilled college player that has adjusted well to college football goes to the pros, suddenly the game is too fast........again.

Using this analogy, training and testing can be just “too fast” for some handlers and they may remain kind of like the high school player that couldn't get “up to speed” for college ball.

The secret is to learn how to first play well at a slower speed and find a way to adjust. The description of new handlers' abilities can be described on a Bell shaped curve. 50% start out below average (for many different reasons). One huge contributing factor is the game is too fast. Not everyone is up to speed. Which means there must be an effort to find a way to slow things down for many. By now you are probably wondering where this is going (or not).

A couple of years ago, my “manic” pup, Daisy gave me fits in terms of not being able to handle tests. WE were not doing well. Accepting a premise in one of Lardy's articles from the Retriever Journal (testing issues), I decided to give Daisy a good chunk of time off from tests and (as he described) “ingrain new expectations”.

At that time, her skills and mind were not in sync and I decided to slow her down. I created training situations like the “Long Wait Drill”, “Hunting Tuneups”, “Don't Move Drills, etc which focused on having a dog being more responsive and do nothing for long stretches of time. Removing the “ready, set, go” aspect during regular training sessions was a critical component of the process. This fit into the idea that it is nearly impossible to change by continuing to do more of the same.

Which reminds me of a old teaching moment from long ago. A student of mine was upset about not being able to do the work. She lamented that her study time had
“max'd” out. She took very good notes in class and asked questions often. She was working but just not getting it.

So I asked her what she intended to do. Her answer was, “I will work harder and spend more time studying”. I simply asked her, “Why would you want to continue doing more of what is not working?.

Therefore, we were going to do something different....do more than “lip service” to the issue. I did not immediately recognize all the benefits of these “slowed down” sessions. I must add that “It's not the dog” had become a regular warning. During the process, I did gradually become aware of how much more I was in control of each session and especially the dogs. Every dog seemed to be paying more attention because waiting was the focus. They wanted to find out what was next and I had time to think it through. There were rewards for waiting, being quiet and paying attention. Their responsive behavior became ”I'm available when you need me.”

It was very empowering to actually feel in charge plus I had time to think and make adjustments during the sessions. The pace was slowed down enough so that new handler expectations developed. I became relaxed while working the dogs and their responses were similar.

For eighteen months, we worked on getting back up to speed in a different frame of mind. At the onset of the first test back, I felt the some of the same anxieties flooding back as we went to the line, but it wasn't the same. The game wasn't nearly as fast for either of us. We had changed.
 

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I took Ted's advice and also made cards. It helps to focus your mind to the task at hand. Over the last few years I've been fortunate enough to watch very good handlers ply their craft and one thing is always apparent to me. Slow, deliberate, methodical actions. Nothing hurried, no over the top emotions, just a steady eddie approach. While that may be easier said than done, I've tried to model my actions as such and to some degree I've had success, it helps. Comfort levels and confidence will come with experience. The only way to get experience is "Dog to the line". :razz:
 
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