This is a Real Gem

Posted on 11/07/10 28 Comments

Full disclosure today folks. You get to see vintage video of me 40 pounds overweight, in desperate need of a haircut and the most hideous looking, over sized, shocking blue outfit I have ever owned. I bet you can’t wait eh?

John Cullen’s “Pre Competition Routine for Big Events” program is in full swing. Actually you only have 5 days left to decide if you want to buy it or not before the price goes up (and his “bundle” goes away). So to help sway your decision (I think each and everyone of you should join us) I am pulling out the big guns – throwing all ego aside and letting you see some vintage Susan Garrett in the name of education.

You get to see what happens when you give no thought to a pre-competiton routine and you find yourself in a National Championship finals. You end up over handling, running to try to prevent losing rather than running to win, trying to control every step your dog takes. You handle cautiously, making no moves that your frantic mind may decide is risky. You stop trusting the dog and yell out cues your dog has never heard before (I did in this clip but you can’t hear it).

Simple things that your dog has done successfully her entire life (a down on the table) you can’t trust her to do during this run so you end up Β putting a hand in front of her face and repeat the word “down” as many times as humanly possible during the five seconds it takes for the judge to count you down.

You are running with all the wrong things in you head; don’t let your dog down, don’t miss this chance to win it all, don’t make a bad decision. This doesn’t haven’t be a Nationals finals run. I have seen this sceanario over and over again when I go to kennel club trials and someone has a “double q” on the line. The truth is, the kennel club scenario is far more damaging because you rehearse those feelings and doubts a lot more often having kennel club events almost every weekend.

But the truth is this can be anyone stepping into any class from Novice to Masters if their head isn’t occupying the right space.

This video may be fun to watch but unbearable to have the starring role. At the end of a run like this one your elation is as much to be out of the pressure cooker as it is a celebration of your success.

So quick recap; have more fun, be more relaxed, practice with purpose which will allow you to learn more while in front of your instructor one on one or in a class setting, execute more consistently in the ring and ultimately become the best partner you can be for you dog.

Okay you need to take the next step. Allow John Cullen and I to coach you through the details of your own pre competition routine, just follow the link to John’s site. ( By the way for all of you that have already bought the program, John will be sending you a link so you can get my ebook “Without Pressure We Get No Diamonds” as well.

Today I am grateful for my great, great girl Stoni for allowing me to be who I was in 1996, while I was learning to become who I am in 2010.


  1. Mary says:
    Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 12:48pm

    Thank you Susan! I knew by revisiting your blog, emphasis Mental Prep category, you’d give me (and thus my dogs) just what I need for my Rally Trial this weekend. Thank you for sharing and always being honest and real and always an inspiration! ~Mary


  2. June says:
    Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 6:45am

    I have just tried to sign up for the John Cullen and your e course but entry has not closed. Do you plan to rerun this course for anyone who has missed out for this?


  3. Helen Verte says:
    Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 8:15pm

    I enjoyed watching you and Stoni, and especially loved the dance you had with her after the last jump. My favorite thing of all is watching a handler celebrate with her dog after a run no matter the outcome. The near dance you had with the judge after the weaves was also endearing. πŸ™‚ And I watched you and Encore run that course on live stream, and was thrilled with the way you worked together under all that pressure. I kept asking myself that question during those finals, “How do those handlers manage under all that pressure?”

    Well, seeing how you ironed out your handling skills using the same techniques you are offering us is pretty awe inspiring, and I’m really looking forward to this on-line mental preparation class where I am sure I will find the answer to my question.


  4. Beth says:
    Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 4:51pm

    This post hit home with me. This weekend I was signed up for two days of AKC trialing. I haven’t attended AKC agility for more than 6 months; have been doing more USDAA this year.

    Yesterday I was nervous and ran with more concern about getting everything just right, just get through the runs. Well, we had one handling mistake in both JWW and Standard. I came home disappointed with myself since we’ve been doing so well in USDAA.

    Last evening I saw your post, watched your video a few times and realized I did exactly what you spoke about — instead of running with purpose, power and trusting my dog and our skills, I essentially wimped out!

    Today, I took that knowledge and decided to run with strength and confidence . . . we ended up earning a QQ, placing first in both JWW and Standard and earning 80 MACH points!

    So I certainly benefited from your sharing your experience by showing the video footage from 1996 and 2010. Thanks!!


  5. Nat says:
    Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 10:33am

    Another great post and video, I loved watching Stoni’s run!


  6. Ninette says:
    Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 6:27am

    Thanks for sharing, Susan!


  7. Mary M says:
    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 10:04pm

    Yep Susan, you have convinced me again πŸ˜‰ Signed up and watched the first video, will be implementing the steps while preparing to head to SY this Dec.

    Figured I could try out the methods with training in mind for my young girl, while my dog who has been competing is laid up with injury.

    Have a baseline to evaluate from as well, because I can use the last SY camp I attended and compare metal notes about things after using this method πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing this,


  8. Laurie Dana says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:44pm

    Wow! This was such an amazing thing for you to share!!

    Awesome! Thank you!


  9. James says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 5:48pm

    Susan, absolutely one of the best things I have seen! So helpful thank you and John Cullen!


  10. Karen says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 4:43pm

    Last fall I was struggling in the ring. I was getting encouragement from my friends & coach and everything they said in offering words of advice seemed to make sense (e.g. ‘all it takes is hard work’, ‘you have to push hard to get your front crosses in’, ‘fight for the Q’) – *my* assumption was I just wasn’t trying hard enough in the ring. Funny how when I tried harder, the worse my performance became – the final blow was when I had to face that fact that I was trying so hard, I was hardly moving at all. After much research, I came to the conclusion that I lacked the mental preparation to run my dogs in a competition.

    So I did my homework, developed a routine on dealing with the mental aspect of trialing and we became very successful. But recently (the past 5 months), we’ve not been as successful. The culmination was a week ago standing in the middle of the ring screaming for my dog to come as he took an off course jump. Once again I had lost all touch with my mental game. I was embarrassed & devastated at how far removed from the calm, confident handler I was just a few short months ago. At that moment, I vowed to put myself back into my routine.

    Imagine how thrilled I was when your newsletter arrived in my inbox πŸ™‚ This is EXACTLY what I need to help me be the best teammate I can be for my dogs and to help me enjoy running with them in competition. Thank you SO much for your help and willingness to share with all of us.


  11. Terri says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 3:56pm

    I am now with my second agility dog…a BC, usually, I run shelties. I could SO relate to the panic I saw with Stoni! I get out there and this dog is so fast and so high pitch, barking, running… He’s a GREAT DOG, but I panic so much trying to ‘catch up’ that I find myself screaming at him. Recently I was so panic-stricken when he took off out of the ring, I grabbed him by the ruff, got reprimanded and ended up physically sick for a week about ‘losing it’—truly trying to decide if I should just Quit agility, altogether…since I didn’t have ‘the right self-control’ for it.
    Anything that will help me to control the panic and work to the dog has got to be a blessing!!!!
    Thanks so much for a program to help!


  12. Angela M says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 3:04pm

    Love reading the comments…unruly hair and agility go hand in hand lol! As someone who has a limited budget, I am saving up for the reliable recall course. I have to set my priorities and my dogs reliably coming to me when I call is number one on the list. I’ve been working on my recall with hints I can glean from the blogs. Proofing the simple stuff like sits, that has been an ah ha moment for me…(watching the video of Susan standing on her head.)My dog’s don’t really know what I want lol!
    I would hope that agility trainers/coaches take the mental game course and educate their students. Sadly I think there are a lot of folks “Teaching” agility, charging an arm and a leg and giving very little in the way of real training. Thank goodness we have Susan.


  13. Gale says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 2:51pm

    I used to be very nervous appearing in front of people, but I spoke to a former PM I had known as a child, and he gave me great advice. I was able to get in front of 400 people in an auditorium and teach without faltering or being nervous, and I have carried this to the obedience and agility rings. I don’t see people around me; it’s me and my dog. We do some stretching and a bit of a walk/run before or after the poop required before going into the ring, and then I concentrate on the sequence to be run (after the walkthrough), and then we head to the ring. I cannot rev up my dogs or they are goofy and don’t do their stuff. I put them in a sit before the start line, go as far as I can where they can see me and the path I took, and then I just call their name and they take every obstacle in sequence up to me, and then we go and finish the run. At the end there is a Yea! from me and then back to the tent for their favourite treat…. a brussels sprout.

    I don’t have border collies or super fast dogs; we finish before time and rarely have I had a course fault, but I doubt I will ever be on the national team.

    I enjoy the time I have with my Cavaliers and in the ring, be it obedience or agility, and my dogs tails are always wagging and they have fun too.

    I try to do the best and expect the same from my dogs, and if we did the best we could, then it was a great day.


    • Alison says:
      Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:59pm

      “I cannot rev up my dogs or they are goofy and don’t do their stuff. ”

      It sounds a bit like you could get more out of your dogs? Perhaps this would be stepping out of your comfort zone? Go on, be daring, and have a go! πŸ˜€


      • Gale says:
        Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 1:17am

        I do a On your mark, get set, and their names to get their speed up. I am not as young as many of you, but the twins get going and male ring crew have…. fill in the blanks yourself LOL

  14. Karey says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 12:32pm

    What a difference in the two videos!!!!

    Your workshop on Mental Game really helped me and made a big difference. I’m very excited to work through John’s program. I have just started, but can already see that is going to be a huge help in my continued journey! Thank you!


  15. Pam Coblyn says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 12:02pm

    Wow, does this video blogpost have me all fired up. I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your reference to Secretariat and horse racing.

    When Secretariat lost a close race after winning the Triple Crown, fans got to see what a great heart he had in defeat. Fans didn’t focus on the finish line…they focused on Secretariat’s brilliant competitiveness, the athletic performance and the “try” these horses displayed.

    Your talk about TRUSTING your dog is so inspirational. Did anyone ever doubt Secretariat wouldn’t try as hard as he could to win?

    Thanks for bringing this whole mental game out into the open!


  16. Patty Warren says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 11:21am

    I am totally loving this program Susan and I am so excited about it. I’d been working hard on my mental game but this is really going to be helpful for me—and not only in agility.

    Thanks for continually providing me with inspiration!


  17. Sharon says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 10:07am


    I’ve been trying to get more background on Mr. Cullen before considering the program. I can’t find anything about him on the program site, Wikipedia, Google, etc., unless he’s the JC that used to be a pro hockey player. Could you link us to more info on him: his own accomplishments and/or accomplishments of people he has coached?



    • Katie says:
      Monday, November 8, 2010 at 11:11am

      Yes, he has quite a nice “pedigree”.

      From Wikipedia: John Cullen (born August 2, 1964) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey centre who played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hartford Whalers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. He was a standout player for Boston University and is the school’s all-time leading scorer. After the Buffalo Sabres selected him in the 1986 NHL Supplemental Draft but chose not to offer him a contract, Cullen signed with the Flint Spirits of the International Hockey League (IHL) for the 1987–88 season where he was named the IHL’s co-Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player after leading the league in scoring.

      His career was halted in 1997 when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He attempted a brief comeback in 1998 after an 18-month battle with the disease, for which the NHL awarded him the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, before retiring to serve as an assistant coach for a year with the Lightning. Cullen played in two NHL All-Star Games in his career.


    • John Cullen says:
      Monday, November 8, 2010 at 1:37pm

      Hi Sharon,

      You can find my bio at

      Let me know if you have any more questions, I’d be happy to answer them. You can also find some testimonials from agility handlers at


      • Nancy says:
        Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 4:28pm

        How much of your program is applicable for obedience only competitiors? Thanks for the information.

  18. A&J says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 9:40am

    I think this is incredibly valuable to enjoying the game and being in the moment with your dog, not only in agility but every day … great big thanks.


  19. Karin Roelofsma says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 9:38am

    well, i bought the JC program and can’t wait for the e-book…


  20. Tracey says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:44am

    Thanks for this Susan, love your S.A shirt in the clip and hope perhaps we will be blessed by you visiting S.A sometime.


  21. veronica says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 7:02am

    Comparing those 2 videos.
    I thought both dogs performed really well despite how many years betweeen. What stood out was what a lack of confidence or self doubt can do to impede a really well trained dog in the ring( referring to Stoni).
    But just look at the energised reaction of handler(Susan) and dog(Stoni), at the end of the run.
    The other revealed a very fine tuned dog( Encore)and a confident accomplished handler( Susan).
    Just lovely…well done and congratulations.
    Who knows…theres hope for us yet,not to loose sight of our goals.


  22. Kathryn says:
    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 1:05am

    Wow. Watching the two runs was really something. So much has changed: the handling, the confidence level, the equipment specs (gah to the giant frame and skinny weaves!), and your obvious level of relaxation and enjoyment.

    Having just watched your interview with Helen, though, I must say it’s nice to see that some things haven’t changed: fourteen years later and you’re still in desperate need of a haircut. : )

    Stoni was the first superstar I encountered when I started out, and she remains among my favourite agility dogs of all time. (Oddly enough, the majority of my favourite agility dogs of all time have lived at either your house or mine. Hmm.)


  23. Shelley says:
    Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 11:08pm

    It is so rare to find someone like you – so willing to share your mistakes with us all. So willing to share everything – thankyou for helping me in ways you will not even be aware of.


Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

slide one
slide two