These days, positivity, compliments and praise are given and wanted in abundance. While these are good things, too much will start to cripple your growth as a handler.
To this point, there is a phrase that is very apt: “Accept both compliments and criticism. It takes both sun and rain to make a flower grow.”
In developing greater Junior skills, one of the most important things is the critique — both the receiving and giving. Certainly, your trainers use this somehow, since it is an important component of training. However, you can really hone your skills by taking the comments and critiques of dog enthusiasts in our sport.
Many times, I would get feedback from a person who was watching ringside. I may or may not have known the person, but I really tried to listen to what he or she had to say. Even someone who knows nothing about handling can make a comment like, “You really look like a team out there!” or “He got kind of distracted on you.” I can get an image of what is standing out to someone and work on the image that I am trying to project. Listening to others’ thoughts is a huge advantage in perfecting one’s performance.
Sometimes you might not always agree with the advice given. For instance, one of my trainers once told me that when a judge tells me to go to the opposite corner and present my dog, I should go around, turn the dog back into me (showing the non-show side), then turn the dog back around (showing the show side), and after this, finish it off by looking at the judge. All of this was to happen rather quickly, giving the judge a complete view of the whole dog.
When I thought about this, I really didn’t agree. Despite this, I tried it out anyway to honor my trainer, knowing that she has a lot of great ideas and maybe this just might be another.
After testing this for a while, I still didn’t feel comfortable doing it. I never did it in the ring, but practicing this maneuver proved to be a beneficial training technique that made my dog think and act faster, while giving me hand skills that I really needed to improve on.
Eventually, we saw improvements in time, execution and presentation that might not have happened unless we gave it a try. This unusual idea, which I was very opposed to, turned out to be very helpful in other ways, and remains one of my favorite training tools.
Never take a critique as an insult. When anyone gives you advice, accept it as a gift, because people who are willing to take a chance on offending you with their critique are few and far between. A critique is meant for your good. It may not be easy to be scrutinized, but it will give you an opportunity to make advancements. If you have ignored critiques before, the good news is that you can always listen to the next one!
You can also make huge gains by watching other handlers, and critiquing their performance in your own mind. Find the mistakes and form solutions. This will help you get better as a handler yourself.
Make sure you have someone take a video of your performance. This is one of the best tools! Are you able to vividly remember everything that took place? Probably not. So, if you ask your parent or trainer to film your performance, it can help tremendously with your analysis. Before your parent or trainer points out some of your mistakes caught in the video, first try to point them out yourself. It has been my experience that mistakes I discovered by myself get ingrained in my mind faster and get fixed more easily than if I hear them from someone else first.
Go over the video with a parent or friend who was watching. This can help you see details other people notice that you might not have paid attention to. Go over the positives and negatives of a performance and learn from both.
No matter what, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the critique. In Proverbs there is a verse, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Until next time …