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Being Present

Posted on 11/10/10 16 Comments

Tony Robbins talks about being present for your spouse or kids. This is something I am guilty of with John, I know I need to work on it. You know what I mean. You are hammering away at the computer and your mate is trying to have a conversation with you that you are absentmindedly agreeing with everything he says until you realize he has stopped talking and is now just staring at you. I am sure you have been there? Hopefully? Surely it can’t just be me, even though John acts like no one else has these moments:).

So what about when you go out to train your dog are you really present then? Do you go out with a plan or just wing it? Winging it can occasionally result is something worthwhile but rarely. If you keep a training journal you will find more of your sessions are purpose driven and you will feel like you accomplished a lot more when you are finished.

It is not the hours of training that brings the excellence it is focused, purposeful training that leads you to excellence. What about when you are in a class. Likely you rush home from work, grab a pop tart and your dog and you are out the door.

Once you get to class you do as your told and in between you share some laughs with your fellow students. Sound familiar? It is unlikely you are getting the most out of your training dollars.  Right now think of your last private lesson or group class. What did the teacher teach? What lesson was she or he hoping to give you? I don’t me what was the sequence did you run, because that you can remember without necessarily learning from it. You have to memorize it to run it, but that doesn’t mean you learned anything.

Think about it and decide if you are really present for your dog the way you could be.

Love the autumn and I love this picture of Buzzy as a youngster enjoying the fall leaves. What a crack up.

Today I am grateful for the patience of John Blenkey:).


  1. Jason says:
    Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 11:34pm

    During competition season I was running through routines and having only moderately effective practice. I was lost in the future moments. Putting the struggle of that moment into my future.

    The past few weeks I have gone out with my dogs with a focus on basic movements. I’ve had so much fun. Things seemed to slow down and we could build on little successes instead of struggling through complex tricks and transitions.

    We’ve had flow and creativity and connection during the short training sessions. And I am once again present to the joy of playing frisbee and learning new tricks with my dogs.


  2. Alfhild Winder says:
    Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 12:57pm

    Susan, thanks for the “being present” post. I certainly can use the reminder.

    Has anyone on this list come up with a good but simple way to keep training records?

    I approach each session with about three behaviors in mind. I warm up with play, do a few reps of the behaviors and end with play or a behavior the dog loves. In other words, I’m “winging it.” I’m ready to change this ineffective habit but need a bit of guidance.


  3. Jennifer S says:
    Monday, November 15, 2010 at 10:18pm

    I recently came to the realization that there are certain days when it is better to not train. When I am distracted by work and not focused on the dogs the best thing for me and my dogs is to go on a nice long walk. I would rather miss a day of training than risk ruining our relationship.


    • Sarah B. says:
      Monday, November 22, 2010 at 12:21pm

      I’m currently not a dog owner but am currently a horseback rider/trainer. With my past dogs I never really thought about a day being ‘bad for training’ since for the most part we didn’t compete and ‘training’ was just day to day life making and keeping them as enjoyable pets and activity partners.

      With the horses though there have very definetely been days when I show up at the farm pull the horse out and just know that based on {fill in the blank reason here} riding this horse on this day will end badly. Rather than saddle up and tough it out we would spend time grooming, hand grazing, maybe light lunging, basically anything that wasn’t going to cause us to but heads over behaviors.

      Most of the time that ‘mental health break’ made the next ride so much easier. Never once have I regretted a decision to not saddle up and force the issue. Now ignoring that feeling and riding anyway…well those are the days I have regrets.


  4. Sue Bricker says:
    Friday, November 12, 2010 at 5:26pm

    Hi. You don’t know me. I’m not a student of yours. I have never attended a “Say Yes!” camp or seminar. I don’t train with any of your wonderful “disciples” (written with much regard, respect, and admiration). So, you might ask “why am I writing to you?” Sometimes, I feel that you just have to reach out and make a connection.

    I wanted to let you know how impressed I am with you as a business woman, as a wonderful agility team mate (with your wonderful dogs), as an inspiration to so many individuals, as a deeply thoughtful athlete, as a successful dog trainer, and as a dedicated teacher. You might ask “how is it possible to have formed an opinion without having met you?”.

    The world is so small, really. I am an agility enthusiast. I read agility books and articles, watch videos, take classes and private lessons, and compete at trials. So, I’ve seen you compete, I’ve seen your students compete, I’ve seen your students teach and present workshops and seminars, I have been on your mailing list and have read your wonderful posts (so thoughtful, so informative, so honest). But it was your recent collaboration with John Cullen that moved me to write this note. I think it is a brilliant collaboration; on many levels. Yes, it’s a great business move. But it’s also so revealing and honest and thoughtful. I have been following the posts, have been to the Cognitive-Edge site, and have purchased the newly offered package. I was influenced. Again … I say, “brilliant”.

    So, basically I want to say “Well done”, “Great job”, “Kudos to you” and “Thank you”.

    A long time ago, I coached a variety of high school and junior high school teams (girls field hockey, girls lacrosse, and girls basketball). At one point, I wondered if I had “made a difference”. Had I influenced my students in any way (hopefully in a positive way). I’ve long since changed professions and only infrequently think back to those days. But when I do, I still wonder if I made a difference. You don’t have to wonder. You have a legion of students, and me, who have been influenced by you.


    • Susan says:
      Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 4:58pm

      @Sue, Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a wonderful comment, it touched my heart. I hope we do meet some day.


  5. Caroline McKinney says:
    Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 6:46pm

    Funny that you should mention mates at this point. As I was reading your list of accomplishments (Not on this blog)–all you have done this year–I thought that there was one thing you had left off of that list. That is– maintaining a relationship. That takes work and is often left off the “to do” list. But you seem to have done that in spite of your very busy schedule.

    I have a friend who sometimes speaks of not going to some dog event because she has a “marriage maintenance” weekend. I love that phrase.

    I am working on key phrases for me for working with my dog. Focus, connect, Slow Down Time. I think that is sort of “be present”. But I am going to add BE PRESENT to my list because I think that says it. And if I manage to be really in the present, I think that is when time slows down.


  6. Jodi Altman says:
    Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 6:31pm

    Hey! How’d you find out about my pop tarts?


  7. Gale says:
    Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 3:50am

    My hubby and I started to have this issue, and we made a point to do something together every day, and it became something we both looked forward to, and that was to play a game every night, scrabble, crib, pente, mille bornes…. and it made us so much closer. I was lucky to have a man who did obedience and agility with me, and who helped me in my business too.

    He was wonderful, and it will be 3 years in April since he went up to dog heaven to play with all our 4 legged friends waiting at Rainbow bridge, and I still miss him every minute of every day.

    Find the time for your mate, even if its just a few minutes to rub his head or whatever, because when they are gone, it’s too late.


  8. diana henry says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 11:52pm

    In our busy lives today, being present is one of our biggest challenges.
    We spend our time planning how to manage the time we have available that always seems to be less time than a time, not so long ago, when we spent a great deal of time wishing time would go faster (how many more days to my birthday Mum?)…
    When we’re not planning ahead, we’re reflecting on the ways time could have been better spent…
    Being in the Now takes a lot of focus & effort to not be distracted by all the things around us that threaten to steal ‘our time’… to stop & smell the roses, walk the dogs, read to the kids, eat a meal together or just smile back at the dog sitting watching you, wagging his tail & clearly saying “isn’t life just great-wanna spend some nowtime with me?!!”


  9. Kathleen Smith says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 5:02pm

    Can we get more help on organizing a training journal? Right now, my training sessions are driven by skills maintenance and by issues that come up in trials. What format do you or others use that is helpful in record keeping?


  10. Blaze says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 11:11am

    I know what you mean, Kristi, and I think you’re on the right track. What you’re doing is different, and it makes others uncomfortable. But the more you connect with your dog and feel genuine gratitude for all you have and are learning, the clearer your smile (and success) will become. They’ll soon start commenting on the sudden improvements in your dog. And then you’ll smile even more.


  11. Mary Lou Hanlon says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 11:02am

    Susan, you are hardly alone! Oh my, am I guilty of the human thing. Yes, I am sorry to say that my Gregg probably has a similar complaint as John.

    When practicing/training/competing, my challenge is keeping active attention on my dog at all times. I’m not talking seeing them out of the corner of my eye but that real eye to eye connection. I am getting better but still needs mega improvement.

    Love the picture of Buzzy! For a moment I thought you got another red dog!
    Happy Hurdling
    Mary Lou


  12. Kristi says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 10:07am

    I’ve been noticing lately that when I am in my “Ideal Performance State” for class, knowing what I want to get out of it, in the moment, and really able to focus on what the coach is taking us through, after class I tend to get questions about ‘what’s wrong?’, ‘why weren’t you smiling?’, and ‘why weren’t you having fun?’. No big deal, because I can honestly answer that I was having a blast and simply concentrating hard. I know I’m smiling at my dog, because I’m aware of it and because she reads my face a lot and she’s happy and with me and doing well.

    Maybe I need to practice listening with a smile on my face?? My ‘concentrating’ expression may be a little intense? Maybe just give other folks a chance to catch up and realize that the changes in my facial expression have something to do with the improvements in my relationship with my dog and the successes they’ve noticed us having together?


  13. Shelley says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:09am

    Always present with dogs , just humans that ‘don’t do dogs’ that I struggle with!!!


  14. Laura says:
    Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 4:14am

    Don’t know how you do it Susan but you always seem to know what issues I’m having and blog about it just when I need it! I am especially guilty of this but am making a concerted effort to change, in fact I just started training journals this week.


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