Posted by: allstaragility | February 20, 2012

Agility…easy as ABCD!

It isn’t uncommon for us, our friends, students and fellow competitors to get discourage from time to time.  We may lose our way on the journey we have chosen to take with our dogs,  forget where we are going and come across road blocks.   Just like an agility ring has 4 corners, I believe there are 4 cornerstones that define the experience we have in that ring.  OK, so maybe it isn’t as “easy” as ABCD, but it will hopefully help you remember each one and how important they are in our foundation.

A= Attitude

Certainly, attitude determines altitude!  It is about so much more than having a “positive” attitude (although that helps).   Karl A. Menninger sums it up best:

 “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts…. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”

Our attitude not only has an effect on ourselves, but impacts those around us.  Have you ever been to a trial where a prominent figure is in a foul mood?  Puts a damper on the atmosphere, doesn’t it?  Don’t become a victim of negativity- rise above it.  Surround yourself with people who are positive and caring.  Celebrate the success of others, lend a hand when needed, and find joy in the little things.   Make it a goal to smile at your dog and be thankful before every run.   When you put yourself in a positive place, wonderful things can happen!

B= Beliefs

There are many aspects to this cornerstone.  As defined, it is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.  In general, they describe your character and constitution.

Beliefs include the methods you employ when training your dog.  It is your handling system; how you communicate with your dog.  Beliefs are your routines, teamwork and performance criteria.  Examples include warm-up and start-line rituals,  having faith and trust in your partner and setting certain standards of performance.  If you use mental management techniques, this is also a part of your belief system.

The more certain you are in your beliefs, the harder you work to develop and hone them, the stronger this will make your foundation.

C= Confidence

It isn’t about thinking that you can, it is about knowing that you can!  Lacking confidence in yourself or your dog is the undoing of many agility teams.   It is the reason more people don’t compete in our sport and why some will never realize their full potential.  Agility is humbling.  It requires a pretty healthy self-image to walk into a ring and publicly display your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Having confidence isn’t about winning or losing or what others think about you.  It is about taking challenges head-on and knowing you will conquer!  Confidence is also self-prophesying.  If you keep saying you can’t,  guess what?  You’re right!   While you can generate a certain amount of confidence from within, you will only build upon it through positive experiences and self-affirmation.

Also, think how confidence (or lack of) can affect your dog.  If you don’t have faith in  yourself, your dog will certainly pick up on it and either shrink within themselves or take over control.  Become a confident, proactive partner and your team will be better for it!

D= Determination

Your aspirations (no matter how high they might be) will never come to fruition if you don’t have the fire and drive to reach out and grab them.   Determination is the ability to concentrate on your objective and resolve to achieve it, no matter what.  I love this quote from the late Coach John Wooden on the subject of determination:

     “The road to real achievement is bumpy and long, but you do not give up.  You may have setbacks, you may have to start over.  You may have to change your method.  You may have to go around, or over, or under.  You may have to back up and get another start.  But you do not quit.  You stay the course.”

Determination is the art of being able to constantly review the progress towards your goals, make adjustments and re-attack.   It is stick-to-itiveness, never giving up or considering failure as an option.   After all, it is the “umph” added to try that creates triumph!

So, there you have it!  Whenever you are feeling defeated, or things just aren’t going your way, remember to take a hard look at the 4 cornerstones of agility.  There is a good chance that you just need to make some adjustments to the foundation to build higher and higher upon it and reach for those stars!


  1. Great, thought-provoking post!

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