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Running Agility With Confidence

by Karen Gloor

          It took a long time before I felt confident that NEA and I would have a nice, consistent run on an agility course.  During the first 1 ½ years of competition with her, she completed 1, maybe 2 courses.  Most of her time was spent running out of the ring in search of something other than the nervous, screaming maniac I had become.  In fact, someone once said to me, “I now know what the letters NEA stand for…Not Enjoying Agility.”  That hurt.

          I decided that I needed to investigate how I could change my attitude so I would have a Beagle on the line that would not only enjoy the sport, but would want to stay in the ring with me to do it.  Thus began a soul-searching period that not only helped me to relax, but gave my Beagle confidence in me, which in turn gave me confidence in her.

          What I did was realize that agility is fun.  It is what I do as a hobby, because not only do I get to spend time with my dogs, but I get to run courses and decipher challenges…make decisions that are not life or death…realize that my dog will love me no matter how well or poorly we perform.  I am a competitive person by nature so it was difficult for me to tone down my expectations, but once I realized that I was placing unrealistic expectations on me and my Beagle, it helped me to put things in perspective.

          Even so, I still had those nerves crop up before my runs.  Many people do many things to resolve the butterflies in their tummies…here are some suggestions I have received over the years:

  • Use lavender or rescue remedy to calm your nerves.

  • Sing a happy song under your breath (I have a friend who sings the “Rainbow Song”.  It really helps to calm her nerves!).

  • Do some breathing exercises.

  • Do somersaults or cartwheels (!).

  • Focus on what you want to achieve (having a happy dog, doing more than one obstacle in a row, completing the course without getting lost…etc.).

          As I stated previously, I decided that I had to make a point of remembering why I was doing agility…for fun.  I must admit that the prospect of getting that all important Q made me more nervous than I should have been.  If I didn’t Q, I felt that I had failed.  Once you have that feeling, you place more pressure on yourself and your dog to succeed, which leads to bad vibes between you and your dog on the start line.

          There is no magic cure for nerves on the start line.  All I can say is that to maintain a confidence level between you and your dog, you need to make a conscience effort to relax and realize that 99.9% of the mistakes made on the course are yours…not your dog’s!  This puts a lot of things in perspective and allows you to focus more on your handling style, while trusting your dog to do what you’re telling him.

          I must say that in a short time, the same person that told me what NEA stood for changed her tune.  She says that NEA now stands for “NOW Enjoying Agility”!  And we do…every single time I’m on the line with her I’m happy to be able to run such a fun and lovable Beagle!

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).