Stressed out? Feeling drained and tired? Schutzhund losing its appeal? Even the best Schutzhund trainers and handlers find themselves in the doldrums now and then. The demands of training are high, and we begin to feel overwhelmed. Or perhaps things just aren't going right, leaving us frustrated, disheartened, and doubting our commitment and involvement in this sport. Sometimes we just need a little infusion of Schutzhund inspiration! So how do we beat the IPO blues?
Take a Break
Sometimes, you really do need a break. Both you and your dog need rest days in order to recoup, recover, and recharge. It could be a day, a weekend, a whole week, even a month. Take time off from the demands of Schutzhund, and you will be refreshed and rejuvenated when you return. Handlers often remark that the dog's performance seems so much better after having a little break.
Axel at the beach, enjoying a little R&R. Photo: Carissa Kuehn.
Get Inspired by Media
Podcast Interviews: Head over to HighInTrial.com and listen to the Podcast interviews with some of the influential and well-known people in the sport. Take notes, and be inspired by the ones who have walked this path before you.
Training Videos: Give yourself a personal mini-seminar in your living room with top trainers like Dave Kroyer, Michael Ellis, Ivan Balabanov, and more! Browse Youtube for training videos from those who do well within the sport of Schutzhund and have the results to back up the videos. It's encouraging to see different ways of training a particular exercise. That doesn't mean you need to rush out and put everything you saw into practice! Watch, take notes, reflect, and then maybe implement one change for a period of several weeks before changing something else.
Performance Videos: Watch some of the top performances from the latest national or international events, and be inspired!
Appreciate the Beauty and Awesomeness of the Sport
Photos: Check out awesome photos of Schutzhund, like Brian Aghajani's galleries of the Schutzhund events. He captures truly inspiring moments, memorializing raw power or harmony in one shot. He also has a blog on his site with inspirational stories about some of the great people in the sport.
Inspirational Projects: Check out BJ Spanos' The Sport of Schutzhund: A Photographic Essay. This is an outstanding and beautiful collection of Schutzhund photos that tell the wonderful story of the sport, while capturing the essence of the working dog.
Go to a Seminar - Without Your Dog
Not only will it be cheaper, but it will be less stressful; you can just sit and absorb information without having to worry about handling your canine. Look for seminars coming up in your area (check the IPO Training groups on Facebook, as many seminars get posted there), or check with nearby clubs directly to see if they have any upcoming events.
Seminars provide a wonderful opportunity to build your supportive community, to be recharged as you learn and discuss new ideas. You come away from a good seminar feeling inspired. But as mentioned before, don't rush out and put everything you saw into practice at once! Give yourself a chance to reflect and let things sink in, and then maybe implement one change for a period of several weeks before changing something else.
Take a Break, and Do Something Fun
I feel so strongly about taking a break that I mention it twice. Burnout is very real. Active learning is fun, but the sustained focus required by it and the energy devoted to accurately performing tasks is draining to the brain. The brain needs a chance to reboot and recharge. Additionally, over-training is not only mentally exhausting, but can be physically damaging as well if the dog's body never has a chance to rest and repair. Overworked dogs can quickly become injured dogs.
So take a break, and go do something fun with your dog. Give him a day or two of rest, and then go for a nice hike, or for a swim in the river, or romp in the snow. Take him out and just let him be a dog, and enjoy his company. That's what this sport is really about: enjoying the beautiful relationship you have with your dog. At the end of the day, this is what you always have. Let us do our best to build it, and to cherish it.
Cherish your relationship with your IPO dog. Handler and dog: Teresa Cowart with Chaos. Photo: Brian Aghajani.
Have you received a recent infusion of Schutzhund inspiration? What inspired or encouraged you? Leave a comment below!
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