Out Of Your Comfort Zone

By Patrick Shannahan

Last week in my spinning class, our instructor kept pressing us to “get out of our comfort zone” and push harder. She was encouraging us to excel to another level of fitness, something that isn’t always comfortable or fun. I actually thought that by coming to class, I was getting out of my comfort zone. But she was able to convince me that I could even work harder and become more fit.

I thought about this in relation to how we work our dogs. I see many people wanting to strive for higher levels, but afraid to get out of their comfort zones. They stick with working their dogs with things that both they and the dogs feel comfortable doing

Day in and day out, they do the same exercises and routines with their dogs. They stay in the same pasture, work the same sheep and expect the dog to do well when they go to a trial.

Many times I see people with talented young dog not progressing as well. They work hard, but they have seemed to stagnate in their training process.

But as I watch them, I notice that they are doing nothing but repeating yesterdays lesson. Actually, they are repeating the same lesson or instruction that they got months ago. They haven’t progressed. They haven’t challenged themselves.

I know it isn’t fun to “pick” on the weak points of anyone’s training or handling. It takes determination to work on phases that aren’t pleasant or comfortable. But the great trainers and handlers do just that. They look at a partnership, and challenge themselves, not on the good aspects of it, but on the vulnerable parts of the team.

But it is rare, that trials are set up for tasks that both our dogs and we are comfortable in completing. The word “trial” itself gives an indication of what is coming when we enter. It is a challenge to both us and to our dogs.

So, I am challenging you to “get out of your comfort zone” and try something more difficult. Work at a longer distance, or try using more difficult sheep. Try taking your handling or training to a much higher level. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to the level you were comfortable. But if it does work, you will have taken yourself and your dog to a level that will make you more competitive at trials.