Saving in the Bank of Comfort…

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By Mark Laker
Do you remember the first time you stepped out of your comfort zone with your best friend (canine companion) next to you?

 

I still can, although I often try to forget it. Comfort zones are strange things, some people hate them and some people appreciate how they can help develop us to deal with many life experiences.

 

The other weird thing about comfort zones is unless you keep working on them, they fade away. Something I experienced recently with flying.

 

I’ve never been a great flyer, I don’t hate it, but its not my first choice of transport. I used to fly weekly with my job, but now its a few times a year.

 

I recently flew to Italy for the European Open. I could feel those same feelings building up inside like they were many years ago when I first took regular flights. I realised I haven’t practised being in this comfort zone for a while.

 

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The Agility Team GB handlers, preparing for next months FCI World Championships, will be working hard on their comfort zones over the next few weeks. While they’ll be preparing their physical fitness and their handling skills, their mental skills training will include pushing they comfort zones out even further.

 

Having your dog next to you in these situations can give you confidence and a distraction from the things effecting your mental game. So what ever activity you do with your dog, remember if you’re feeling ‘uncomfortable’ , on the start line (out of your comfort zone), focus on your dog, let your skills take over and your brain run on auto-pilot. Very soon another competition experience will be in the ‘Bank of Comfort’.

 

Next month I’ll be reporting from the FCI World Championships in Czech Republic.

Getting ready for the European Open Junior 2017

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 14.46.49By Mark Laker

 

In the next couple of days we leave for the first of this years international agility championships. the European Open for Juniors (EOJ) in Luxembourg.

 

This year 500 dogs and their young handlers from 24 countries will be attending these championships that continues to grow in both size and the level of competition.

 

Agility Team GB are sending a team of 24 dogs this year at all three height categories and in the two age groups, children and juniors. The Team were selected in February and have been training and preparing hard since then getting ready for these Championships.

 

You can keep up to date via the KC Facebook Group:
Agility Team GB Twitter feed @agilityteamgb
And for the first time the event is being live streamed: https://www.working-dog.com

 

After the EOJ we have a week back and then it’s off to Italy for the Adult European Open (EO). An exciting month of top agility competition.

 

I’d like to thank CSJ for all their support sponsoring the team. You’ve enabled these juniors to compete with other top handlers from around the world, gain valuable life skills and experience from an international championships and start their pathway to future top level agility competition.

 

The Big Three

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By Mark Laker
 
We’re right into the busy agility competition season now, the ‘big three’ has just been completed. These are three of the biggest competitions of the season all back-to-back one weekend after another. All the major qualifiers are there and many top handlers try to attend at least one.
I’m working towards my championship judging status at the moment, so I have been splitting my time between competing and judging. I’ve judged at two of the three and really enjoyed it. I enjoy designing courses, the challenge of building it on the day, the inevitable ‘tweaking’ that needs to be done to fit the course around unexpected obstacles e.g. drains, holes in the ground, ruts etc..  the judging part and presenting the trophies at the end.
I judged over 300 dogs yesterday; which is about normal for an agility judge
The top 20 or so were fantastic. It’s thrilling to watch these partnerships working together around challenging courses at great speed; occasionally I have to pinch myself to remind me that I’m there to judge not spectate!
We’ve got a break from competing for a couple of weeks now
I’ve got some family time planned and areas of training especially with my young dog Moog to work on. He’s coming on well, very enthusiastic and wants to do everything at top speed which is good although he does need to clear jumps not take them all out!
Meanwhile Agility Team GB are training hard for their championships next month. Both the juniors and the adult teams have held extra training session with particular focus on the traits of the international judges they will be competing under; it’s quite scary how quickly time has crept up on us this year.

“It’s all about Focus!” Mark Laker

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“Photo by Debbie Mangles-Steel (another CSJ feeder). Debbie caught this great action shot of me and Devo in the Tunbridge Wells Championship final; which unfortunately we didn’t win. ” Mark Laker
After a very exciting Performance Weekend this year’s international agility teams have been selected
This years judge AJorge Pires from Portugal set up challenging course that tested the handlers across a variety of areas needed for the international competitions. Of course our selections are not just based on one weekends performance. The five month assessment process helped us filter down to those handlers who performed well across all the areas we focused on.
You can see the full list of handlers on this years teams here

So now the hard work and the training begins. Over the coming months the Coaching Team and I will be supporting these handlers in their preparations building up to what for some will be the biggest agility championships of their agility careers.

 Meanwhile the domestic competitions are in full swing

My young dog Moog is still learning about the competing and developing his agility skills. My competition dog Devo is in good form, we’ve qualified for the Olympia semi-finals and two Championship finals; we’re having a good start to the season.
I find myself having to work extra hard at keeping to ‘the plan’ during the competition season. Its so easy to get carried away with the fun and thrill of running my dogs that I sometimes forget what my main focus areas are for this year. And when that starts I get carried away and not focused on the competitions that I really want to do well in.
Its all about focus!

Crufts & the agility competition season has well and truly started now

CruftsBy Mark Laker

Crufts was good

The agility produced some great runs which was even more exciting this year as the KC had invested in new carpet for the arena. This carpet was from the same manufacturer who supplied the Agility World Championships in 2012; one of the best surfaces the championships have been run on. So lots of happy people and non-slipping dogs which was nice to see and another example of how developments at the top of the sport filter down to the general community.

The agility competition season has well and truly started now

The weekend shows have started, the caravans are out and this weekend the sun shined too! My youngster Moog has had his first taste of the competition ring. It was very exciting for him. He is enthusiastic and finds all the movement very distracting, however, we did okay. We’ll be using the next three months as practice opportunities as we develop the competition partnership. It’s going to be fast and a lot of fun.

The Agility Team GB Coaching team are now focused on preparing for the Performance Weekend at the end of the month. This is the highlight of the squad process and a chance for the squad members to show us what they can do under international conditions. After this we announce the 2017 teams.

A busy month for Team GB

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by Mark Laker

February was a busy month for Team GB activities. The Coaching Team hosted a number of Facebook chat sessions focusing on their specialist subjects. Most of the squad joined in with questions, views and sharing experiences. It was the first time I’ve tried this and it seemed very popular.

I also held the final junior try-out day and the second squad day for the adults. I made a conscious decision at these days to scale back some of the usual activities and focus on dog/handler performance on the agility field; this was a good move, a case of less is more.

Earlier this week we announced the junior team who will be going to Luxembourg in July for the European Open for Juniors (EOJ). We have some great young handlers representing Team GB this year. Exciting times ahead.

Finally, its Crufts week. I’ll be running in the team event on Thursday with my Scunthorpe team mates trying to retain the large dog team winners title we won last year…hope I’ve done enough training!

Going or gone…

By Mark Laker
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How are the New Year resolutions going? still going …. or gone!
Last month I wrote about the importance of creating good habits that will help you achieve your goals. If you’ve created these, then I guess you’re well on your way now. If not, well its not to late to start.
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If you take the habits we do every day like cleaning teeth, tying shoe laces, getting dressed etc. we don’t actually have to think about doing them; the sub-conscious part of our brain does this automatically for us. So if we can commit the habits that are going to help us achieve our goals to our sub-conscious, then Voila it just happens….
 
To do this we need to repeat the behaviour a number of times
There are various views on how many times, ranging from 21 days through to three months. Personally I think it depends on the individual.
In last months article we talked about picking one mini-habit that will get you closer to your goal. That’s a great tip. Just pick one thing, make sure it motivates you, (something exciting and rewarding) and then do it once a day/twice a week etc..  you will soon find you’re doing this new activity without having to think, your sub-conscious will have taken over.
I hope February is kind to you.