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Remember to Breathe

Author: Andrea Obey | Date: March 13, 2013

The first week of training class is always exciting and a little stressful at the same time.  I love to see who returns to class, and to meet the new dogs and people.  I cannot tell you how much I look forward to teaching, learning, connecting, helping and having a good time in the process. It is a very joyful part of my life.  There is so much to learn on the first day for everyone that it can be a bit overwhelming.  I frequently see the glazed-over look or the contorted look we humans make when we are really, REALLY trying to focus (it’s like we are trying to use The Force or something!) and that’s when I remember to tell everyone to just breathe and relax.  At times, I have to remind myself too.

This happens all of the time when we are working with our dogs, our kids, ourselves, our partners, our co-workers… the list is long!  We get so focused on what we are trying to do and absorb that we forget to breathe.  Whether you are a yogi or not, you need to stop, breathe and shake it off when you feel you are getting information overload.  Don’t worry about learning everything immediately!

I promise everything will get easier with time and practice, and your training is there to help you.

If you are in class or working at home with your dog remember to take breaks often. Watch for signs in your dog and yourself of stiffness or anything that seems to indicate a bit too much stress.  Give your dog a break by letting them play, mill about the house, or go sniff a tree.  Give yourself a break too, whatever that means to you.

Some tips on training and taking breaks:

  • KEEP IT SHORT.  No seriously, keep it short.  Set a timer if you have to.  When learning new behaviors it’s better to do it several times a day in short increments.  The length of time will depend on your dog, but generally 10-15 minutes is good. Some dogs may only be able to do 2-5 minutes at a time, and that is totally okay.
  • CHECK IN ON YOUR DOG. Is your dog zoning out and not really paying attention?  Does your dog have that stiff, worried look?  Then it was time to quit a few minutes ago. Is your dog still engaged with you?  Cool!  One last easy cue, give a reward, take a break. You know your dog best, so spend some time really observing how he is behaving.
  • CHECK IN ON YOURSELF.  How are you doing?  Are you tense?  Are you talking more loudly to your dog?  Are you thinking too much?  Are you hovering over your dog or standing straight and relaxed?  Are you thinking about making dinner?  Time to quit.

I am pretty certain that I speak for all of my colleagues when I say we want you to have fun, learn a lot, and have a fabulous bond with your dog(s).  This applies in and out of the classroom, whether you’ve been to several classes or none.  Give yourselves a pat on the back for all you do, have fun with your dog, be patient with your dog and yourselves, and don’t forget to breathe.

What do you do to give your dog and yourself a break during a training session? Share your ideas here.



We would now go anywhere in the greater Chicagoland area (we’d probably stop at state lines) to take these classes.

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