Is it getting better, or do you feel the same?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend today.  We are all changing our handling to some degree or another, and we are all trying to get better.

But – how do you know you are getting better?

I can probably count the number of “perfect” runs I’ve had in my agility career on one hand.  At least one of them was 2012 Steeplechase finals with Ky.  We couldn’t have gone one step faster.  Yet, we did not win – we were one dog off the podium.  It doesn’t make it a less perfect run, it just means there were dogs there that were faster on that course than we were.  Were the dogs that placed above us “perfect?”  I don’t recall offhand – maybe, and maybe not.  Sometimes there’s just more speed to burn.

I’ve had that speed to burn with Ten, she had her own complexities in the prime of her agility career, but sheer speed was never a problem. We could make mistakes and still win local shows, at Regionals, and some rounds at Nationals over the years.  I can’t say that many of those runs with the hardware and the cash associated were error free.  I just had a remarkably talented, driven, dog who was trained well enough.  Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t.

So, how do I quantify if I’m getting “better.”  I don’t feel it can be based on something as arbitrary as wins, because those are out of our hands.  We can only run as well as we are capable of.  The nature of sports is that sometimes your perfect run is not a medal run.

Ky has been a remarkably consistent and forgiving partner over the years.  Ten has been a remarkably talented and *fast* partner over the years.  Rave is showing himself to be quite speedy but maybe not as consistent as either of the girls.  How does that influence what I should be doing?

I’ll be trying to be consistent with Rave so he can be consistent for me.  I’ll not be fighting harder for tighter turns, because I have those.  I’ll not be worrying about speed, because I have that.  I’ll continue to worry about how to make myself easier for him to read so he can focus more on his work and we can grow towards consistency together.

How will I know that I’m succeeding?  I will count the perfect runs.  If I could not have cued it better, could not have stayed on play more faithfully, not provided better information for my dog, it’s a success, win or lose.