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New Year's Resolutions, Agility-Style!

The start of a new year is a good time to set agility-related goals. By Brenna Fender

New Year's resolutions can serve as goals for your upcoming training and competition year. January is a good time for reevaluation of your training program. 

A training session without a predetermined plan is often inefficient. An agility career without precise goals may also flounder. Broad aspirations for earning placements, titles, and championships are fine, but often success comes from focusing on the specific steps you need to reach those big goals. What are the skills you and your dog must obtain to complete each step?  

Is a faster dogwalk your goal for 2015? Photo courtesy of Karen Moureaux,

Focusing your efforts on process-oriented goals (like training those skills) and on accomplishments that are handler-based (staying out of your dog's way at the weave poles, for example, or cuing in a timely fashion) will give you more control over your feeling of success in agility. Our dogs are living beings, not robots on remote control. They will present us with challenges and surprise us with unexpected reactions and behaviors. If your only measures of success are qualifying scores or new titles, you might find yourself disappointed more often than you'd like. If your goals are based on things you have direct control over (like maintaining a positive attitude despite the fact that your dog did the same tunnel 17 times on a run), you may find yourself more satisfied with your agility career than you would be otherwise. In addition, you will be more likely to achieve your external goals (like finishing your championship) because you will carry less stress with you into the ring. Your dog will definitely like your happy attitude!

A written list of your goals will help you stay organized during 2014. Plus, research shows that the subconscious mind often believes things said aloud as fact. Instead of talking yourself into failure, state your goals positively and read them out loud for the greatest chance of success. 

Review your goals regularly. For maximum success, display your goals in places that you will frequently see them, like on your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. 

As the year progresses, focus on your achievements, not your failures. Errors or interruptions as you move forward to reach your goals can be dealt with by revamping your training plans, but don't dwell on the mistakes. Replay successful moments in your head to boost your confidence.

Some competitors shared their USDAA goals with us on USDAA's facebook page. Read them and get inspired:

Cassie Hartman: Finish Aubie's PDCH, Remington's AD, and debut my new Border Collie, Kippy!

Jan K. Mayr: My goal is to finish Seeker's Silver ADCH and his PDCH. 

Sharon Gutierrez: My goal is to qualify to run in all games at the [2015 Cynosport World Games] in Tennessee!

My own goal is to finish preparing my young Border Collie for Starters and make her USDAA debut. What are your agility resolutions? 

Happy New Year!

Brenna Fender is the editor of and the Associate Managing Editor of Clean Run magazine. She can be reached at


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