Don't forget to Break!
Our world seems so focused on goals and achieving them, that we sometimes forget to enjoy the journey. I'm personally very much driven by goals and find myself lost and without focus in my training if I don't have something to work towards.
COVID lockdowns this past year were pretty tough since every goal I had made had to be put on hold. Tana was only 3 Qs away from her Scent Work Master Elite title in March and I had a plan on how to get the last few Qs before summer hit. We also were on a roll and were scheduled for 2 NW3 trials where I could get the last title I needed to move into Elite NACSW trials. Both of those big goals got shut down (again, and again it seemed!).
Instead of being discouraged, I used our new time at home to work on skills and clean up our training. Things that got sloppy while we were trialing so much needed fine-tuning and clarity for both of us. After feeling lost in May, Tana and I got our act together and started training daily. It was a joy to feel like we could work on something. Then, trials started popping up. What joy! It felt like all our training was working towards something!
A clean detective run in July, then we earned our NW3 Elite title (and 1st place overall, pronounced 5/6 runs) in August. We trialed again in October, our first Elite trial in Colorado (1st place overall, pronounced 3/4 runs), and detective & a master level trial in California (High Combined & 2nd place in the detective run).
What isn't really visible in those photos is the time off we took in August. Between the NW3 and the Elite trial, Tana and I did ZERO scent work training. We took it off. We instead worked on fitness and fun.
At the NW3 trial, I saw my dog that was not as sharp as she usually is. She was a little slow to make decisions, and not as resilient with the environment as I usually expect her to be. So instead of doubling down to train harder, we played. We did nothing. We enjoyed the pool and enjoyed each other. We started back to training in September feeling fresh and ready to play with some new ideas!
October was full of trials - Elite in Colorado, and 2 weekends of AKC in California. Tana did fantastic in all three weekends! But by the last weekend, I saw that she struggled in Detective and I started to see the same lack of sharpness that I saw in Colorado's NW3. We had 3 weekends in a row of travel and competing and I think she was tired on top of some training issues that I think were going on.
SO, we take the next few weeks off. She gets to be a dog, run around and chase birds, jump in the pool, and bug Samantha. We will get back to training some skills and working on my own skills after Thanksgiving, just in time for our 2nd Elite trial in California!
Don't be afraid to take a little time off from training. It doesn't interfere with getting to your goals if you are smart and can use your time wisely. Something I learned when I was young and learning the piano - Practice perfectly. Meaning - don't waste your time practicing and working on your goals if your heart and mind aren't focused. Enjoy the journey (and the achievements!)