Lights, Camera, ACTION! As we dawn the annual canine ‘Oscars’, Crufts is seen my the dog world as the pinnacle of the dog world. The glamour, glitz and glory!
Held in high esteem, it is revered and feared in equal measures!
For many, when they get their puppy/dog, they lay awake at night dreaming of stepping foot onto the hallowed Green.
Just to have the honour, is perceived as mystical. Memories are made, dreams are realised and champions are crowned.
As a competitor, coach, mentor, teacher and judge, I have seen Crufts from all angles and thought it would be a good time to put pen to paper, or in this case, fingertip to keyboard…. to offer some insight and advice.
I can recall vividly, stumbling across ‘Crufts’ on the television, by sheer accident and being glued to it for the total time it was on. I can still remember the heartfelt disappointment, when I tuned in the following week to watch the ‘Coverage’ only to be bitterly disappointed it wasnt on! Little did I realise all that Crufts was. But a seed was sown.
When I got my first ‘proper’ competition dog, I set about planning my route to ‘Crufts’. I trained morning, noon and night… my single mindedness and blinkered outlook, meant that I climbed the ladder of progression leading to that inevitable day, when all the hours, days, weeks, months and years of work all came together, and I found myself stepping foot onto the main ring at Crufts. An accumulation of a dream that started way before that moment, and one that seemed like Everest itself, to climb. But there I was, at the summit of the mountain looking back. Yet I was too overwhelmed and in awe of the occasion to truly absorb the moment. I was worrying about all that could go wrong, rather then focusing on what I had achieved.
My first experience of Crufts, left me with mixed emotions, because I had spent years working toward something, that when I reached it, I actually didn’t enjoy. I was so wrapped up in nerves and anxiety, that I failed to see the glory that was in front of me. I missed the moment. It was a steep learning curve, and has subsequently allowed me to help so many others in all dogs sports, including Obedience, Agility, Working Trials, IPO, HWTM… to fulfil their dreams and master their mental game. I learnt the lessons needed to help others.
On subsequent appearances, I took a moment to saviour the experience and relish my time on the Green, with a dog that I had a deep and intense bond with. A dog that had grown with me, and for me, that made dreams come true. It was this journey that truly taught me the importance of mental composure, being present and harnessing the power of your mind.
I have also been being the scenes, as a coach/teacher and mentor, nurturing people from humble beginnings to top honours, from the dog that was thrown out of 3 clubs before I met them for reactive behaviour, who ultimately went on to win at Crufts… to being part of a history making international competition, flying a team from across the world to compete at Crufts, not once bit twice. Two different countries, two different stories. To those who I have seen raise and select their pup from birth, from a homebred litter to qualifying for the Obedience Championship. I have also been a judge, and assisting in various roles as an official, and seen the nerves up close and personal.
All of these perspectives have given me a deeper understanding of the validity of a strong mental game, preparation, planning and delivering under pressure. Crufts is the ultimate test of all of these! It is the thing of legends, titles and tiaras. For many, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Or the possibility of greatness. Either way, having some simple yet effective pointers to steer you along can be just what you need, to execute that well rehearsed plan!
Here are some tips to mentally help you be your best.
- Be present. This is easier said then done, when you are faced with a fire hose of emotions, all rushing towards you at once, but take a moment to stop and take in all the glory. This is the accumulation of those hours or training, dedication and commitment, this is what you have been working for, so enjoy!
- Game time, means game face. Get in the zone. Those moments before you compete, are your chance to gather your thoughts and centred yourself. This is your time to shine, so bring it! Don’t be afraid! Chest out, eyes bright and dazzle them! You’ve earned the right to do so!
- Hydrate yourself, but beware of caffeine! For me, I get buzzed up in competition, so I know to avoid too much caffeine, I know that the atmosphere will give me an ‘edge’, however ensure you are well hydrated so that you can think clearly and function! This is applicable to food too, Crufts is intense, but can be a marathon not a sprint! Ensure you have supplies on hand to keep your energy up
- Trust your dog, trust your training and trust yourself. If you haven’t trained it, it is too late. There is no point worrying about it, let it go, and focus on what you can do. Because by doing so, you’ll realise you have so many weapons in your artillery!
- Stay in the moment, there is no point thinking of the second step if you haven’t got through the first. Just focus on whats in front of you, one thing at a time.
- Take time the night before to ensure you are packed and ready to go, this alleviates any last minutes stresses. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
- Remember cues, words and signals! Have cards to prompt you, or a friend to remind you. The dog will only do what you ask, so ensure you let them know!
- Take a time out for you. Go for a walk, go to the toilet, or go for a breath of fresh air. Take a moment to re-group if needed!
- For supporters, coaches, mentors.. The time directly after they have finished, is not the time to give a critique or feedback, good or bad. Pick your moment! Allow at least 15-30mins before you approach and discuss.
- Have fun! This is so crucial! This is a game we play, for our ego… with our friend/family that happens to have four legs, and fur! Don’t lose sight of that!
I look forward to catching up with you all at Crufts, best of luck to all those competing, judging, stewarding or involved! Have a fantastic time!
My book will be officially launched at Crufts, which details my journey in the world of dog sports! Great stories, tips and ideas from my perspective…..
I shall be signing books on Sunday, 10th March at Hall 1 stand 70 Performancedog.co.uk, signing books.. time to be confirmed. Unfortunately due to Crufts restrictions, I wont be able to live stream or video the draw for the winners of the book give aways, however I shall post to my facebook page on the day!
If you still want to win, a one of two, free signed copies of my book, ‘Pathway to Positivity’, go to my facebook page and share the video!
See you at Crufts, and may the best dog win! Either way, you still take them home!