Habits are fascinating traits… So how do they work.?

By Mark Laker
I signed off last month writing about habits and said I would share some thoughts in this months article. Hopefully you’ve created a habit at reaching for the next CSJ article so you’re keeping up with my writings and were expecting this piece.

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Habits are fascinating traits

We have them, animals have them, we consciously and unconsciously create them, we find bad ones hard to break and good ones hard to create. So how do they work.?

Our brains have evolved to create habits out of repeatable tasks. For example: breathing, blinking, swallowing. We don’t have to consciously think about performing these acts they’re habits or processes that are running in our sub-consciousness all the time. This allows our conscious brain to focus on the immediate things around us that mostly related to our fight, flight or fight instincts. e.g. don’t walk out in front of that bus, don’t put your hand in the fire etc…

Other habits like smoking, drinking, gambling are difficult to break because our brain gets a shot of dopamine –  a reward-motivator, each time we perform the habit which makes us want to repeat it. The habit loop is a bit more complicated than this, but essentially we get a reward for performing the habit when we receive the cue or get the desire.
There are other types of habits that we can apply to sport, goal setting and objectives – this is where it gets interesting. Latest research shows that creating a habit to achieve something you want can be more effective than goal setting. Now before you rip up your 2019 goals, targets and objectives (what do you mean you haven’t written them yet!). I should make it clear that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating habits, it’s down to individuals.

Like blinking and breathing if we can perform a repeatable task enough times, our brains commit this to our sub-conscious and hey-presto! It’s a habit …. we don’t have to think about it any more, it just happens. Like tieing shoe-laces or riding a bike, once learnt you don’t have to re-learn it.

As an example, if we do something everyday that takes us closer to our goal e.g. 15 minutes training our dog, or 20 minutes walking, or fitness training, or researching a new training technique eventually we’ll create a goal-related daily habit.

Research has shown that your sub-conscious takes over and natural instincts start guiding you towards your goal.

I’ve been experimenting with this idea for six months and so far its working for me. I’m finding my formed habit now finds time in my schedule each day for activities that take me closer to my goals.

Habits are fascinating traits if you’re interested in finding out more about how they work and how to break them read ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg.

Have a great Xmas and New Year.

Mark
Mark Laker
Agility Team GB International Team Manager

Our brains are hard-wired to the fight/flight/freeze behaviours

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By Mark Laker
Back to Basics


‘This is a different sport to the one we play at home’ a comment I heard at the FCI Agility World Championships from a Team GB handler. It’s true that the speed, the technical challenges and the level of competition was at a different level to UK domestic agility. However the basic principle of the sport remains the same, a clear round trumps faults.

 

In our quest for speed or to master a particular skill it’s easy to forget the basics

 

Our brains are hard-wired to the fight/flight/freeze behaviours. Our sub-conscious is constantly scanning the environment to protect and motivate us. So it’s easy for our brain to interpret dogs running faster, handlers performing a new ‘sexy’ handling manoeuvre to process that to mean ‘I need to be doing that to survive (fight)‘ or ‘I don’t like/not interested in that, I’m off…’ (flight).

 

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But there is a more developed part of the human brain that processes logic, its the part that allows us to stop, stand-back and consider the bigger picture (must get a clear round). However our nature is to conform and to be part of a pack, so to process that logic isn’t the easy option.

 

How do we become aware of when our reptilian brain is ruling our developed brain?

 

There is no one answer, it depends on many influencing factors. However, a behaviour humans (and dogs) are good at is developing habits. Habits automate processes which enable us to carry out repeatable actions without thinking about them… when was the last time you thought about having to blink!

 

Maybe a way to remember the basics e.g. getting a clear round is to develop habits that build the skills required to produce clear runs.

 

I’ll write about the power of habits next month.
Mark
 
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FCI “Without doubt most exciting and fastest agility championships ever.”

By Mark Laker
‘Running at the FCI Agility World Championships was without doubt the most exciting agility I’ve ever experienced’. The reaction from one of Team GB’s handlers following this year’s competition in Sweden.
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Dave Munning’s and his Border Collie Fame came away with a Bronze medal in the individual class for large dogs, a fantastic result for Dave. After three years on the team, he achieved the result he’d been working so hard for.
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Team GB had a successful championships

This years team included many young dogs with handlers new to this level of competition. One of the team members fed back that ‘nothing can fully-prepare you for the emotions, pressure and excitement you experience when you’re stood on that start-line. There really is no other international agility competition like it’.

This year’s preparations included more focus on the team culture and building strong bonds that are essential for carrying the team on when the pressure to perform is turned up. Thanks to our sponsors, we were able to provide more team activities in our build-up this year; I’ve no doubt that this was a major contributing factor to the team winning medals at all three major international championships.

Another comment I heard from team members was ‘this is a different sport to the one we play at home. The speed, the accuracy, the technical elements are extraordinary’. We’re going to have to re-think our game’.

It’s true, I have never witnessed agility dogs competing at those speeds before neither have I seen the pace and fitness levels needed by the handlers.

It was without doubt most exciting and fastest agility championships ever.
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Mark
International Agility Team Manager

Looking back at the summer of 2018 and looking forward to the AWC in Sweden

kci_dogjumpingBy Mark Laker

The warm weather from July continued into August and as I write this evening the news is that this has been the warmest UK summer on record and we’re likely to get more in the future. That’s good news for most of us who enjoy being outside, maybe not so good for dogs and people who struggle with the heat. I notice most agility dogs are quite sensible about the heat. They go out, do their thing and get back into the shade; although we have a couple of dogs at home who love the summer and have taken every opportunity to lay out in the full heat.

One of the biggest competitions we attend during the year is the Kennel Club International Agility Festival (KCIAF) held at Rockingham Castle in August. Apparently its the biggest dog agility show in the world and certainly attracts hundreds if not thousands of visitors, agility handlers and their dogs. It’s also special because it’s sponsored by CSJ who have a big presence over the four days with a trade stand, goodies, and friendly, helpful CSJ people on hand.

IAFAgility Team GB also had a stand there…well it was an interestingly shaped gazebo placed in a prominent and convenient position near the main arena, so we had good ‘footfall’ too. I took the opportunity to talk to people about the team, how they can get involved, what international championships we attend etc. I also held a number of feedback sessions with the handlers who competed at the European competitions we attended in July. This is a good opportunity to talk about performance, what went well and thoughts for the future. One thing I’ve learn’t about this role is there are always opportunities to improve…I guess that’s true for most things in life.

Moog training

I even managed to run my youngster Moog this year. He is very enthusiastic and struggles with the excitement of a big show like the KCIAF with 17 rings and lots of agility dogs competing at once. However the ‘boy did good’, we worked well together and I felt that our partnership is beginning to come together. We are planning to attend a few competitions over the autumn and winter to continue giving him ring experience which I think he needs most of now.

I’m now focusing on preparations for the Agility World Championships in Sweden next month. The team have organised extra training over the summer, the dogs are looking fit and their performance leading up to the championships is impressive. The World Championships are one of the highlights of the year and I must say I’m really looking forward to going to Sweden. They’re are one of the most exciting teams to watch and I’m sure they’ll put on an amazing event. More about this next month.

Find out more about the AWC: http://agilitywc2018.com/

 

Strong, fit and well prepared for the challenging courses this year’s European Open

By Mark Laker

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Agility Team GB dogs and handlers looked strong, fit and well prepared for the challenging courses this years European Open (EO) presented. We came home with a silver medal in the team relay final, a class win in the medium individual agility and overall top medium dog. This was a fantastic result for the team.

This years championships attracted over 800 dogs from 37 countries. The attendance grows each year establishing the EO as one of the top FCI competitions. All the current FCI World Champions attended and the competition builds over the three days to a thrilling Sunday final.

Thanks to the ongoing support from our sponsors particularly CSJ, Streamz and First Contact, Agility Team GB were able to send one of our largest teams this year, 25 dogs across all three height categories. The team was selected from this years squad of 50 dogs who have trained and prepared together since December.

As Team Manager I’m very proud for the opportunity to work with these top handlers and support them as they compete with the best in the world. The Coaching team work tirelessly in the background helping prepare the dogs and handlers with their course skills, fitness, mental preparations, strategy and game plan. Coming home with medals and class wins makes all the preparations and practice worthwhile.

I’d like to acknowledge all the support CSJ provide the team over the course of the year. This enables us to help prepare the team and send a strong coaching team to the championships.

 

Mark Laker

Agility Team GB Team Manager

Introducing Jeannie Gee and her Amazing GeeGee Dogs

GeeGee

At nearly 30, Jeannie has a range of qualifications and experience under her belt

A Bachelor of Education specialising in Foundation Stage AND ICT in Teaching, managing her own team in ‘Commissions’ (Pensions & Insurance) and finally ‘Estimating’ (number crunching and formulas) in Underfloor Heating has all lead to a strong understanding of approaching challenges at as many different angles as possible.

Always crazy about animals, especially dogs

Jeannie grew up spending most weekends and holidays around her grandparents’ large groups of Working Labradors, Irish Water Spaniels and Springers. At a young age, she was discouraged from pursuing dog training as a career, because there was “little money in it, and no security”.   However, Jeannie did get her first dog whilst still at school, a strong but complex rescue terrier who taught Jeannie that positive reinforcement was magical. From then, she went on to trick training, obedience, flyball and agility, learning as much as she could from the dogs she encountered until 5 years ago she finally bit the bullet to become a self-employed dog trainer.

Well, that was the plan. Two and a half years ago, Jeannie was approached for a photoshoot with two of her dogs who wowed the photographer so much that she spoke to Charlotte, a friend of hers in the media.  The rest they say, is history. Jeannie’s first proper media job was a long, complex day, with her dog, Kheva, working alongside a cat she had never met. Charlotte was so impressed that now, over the past two years of working together, they have completed almost 100 projects together – working dogs, cats, chickens, parrots….. basically, any animal they can source.

Jinty on a Bus

It is a complex job, with not every dog or owner being suitable

Jeannie prides herself in being a positive only trainer and handler, even when the pressure is on, using creativity to get the job done. Her experience ranges from Christmas Dog Movies, to Food Packets, Music Videos and Hollywood movies (not released yet !). Check out just a few examples of their projects:

  • Arlas “Boot Camp Doggy”
  • PDSA “Regular Donation Ad”
  • Tom Chaplin’s “Midnight Mass” (get the tissues)
  • M&S Christmas 2017 ad
  • Tescos Christmas 2017 Ad “Snooze”
  • More Than “Bark in the Park
  • More Than “Doggyssentials”
  • Secret Life of Dogs Series 2
  • Christmas 24’s “Merry Woofmas”

Aside from TV work and training dogs, Jeanna competes and trains in agility, conformation, and obedience

In 2018 she and her dogs have won Best of Breed, Best Bitch (x3) and Best Puppy in Breed (x5). At Three Counties, they even achieved Pastoral Puppy Group Three! Also counted among their successes are winning the Special PreBeginners (obedience) Grand Final at Crufts, and winning out of PreBeginners at a subsequent show. In June 2018 they had their first agility win, taking them into Grade 2.

Jinty – JRT Cross – 7years. Kheva – Pyrenean Sheepdog – 5years. Rumour – Mini American Shepherd – 4years. Dora – English Springer Spaniel – 2years. Ditto – Pyrenean Sheepdog – 8months.

Instagram @GeeGee_Dogs

Facebook pages: 

Kheva the Pyrenean Sheepdog Of GeeGee Dogs

Put Your Paws Up Dog Training & Trained Dogs UK

Videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID00yLkTt_4&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U6AQZ0F8vo&feature=youtu.be

Kheva

Kheva