unsettling, guilt, obsession

There are a few reasons I don’t want to have a child. Aside from the feeling that I really don’t want one, at all, there’s also the notion of me as a parent. It would be scary. Imagine if my child had a learning disability of some kind. Oh, the hours I would spend researching it. The seminars I would go to. The methods I would employ to try and improve my child. Imagine if my child was smart! The piano lessons, language learning, book reading, writing encouraging. I don’t think I would be very good at just letting my kid be a kid. I would want my kid to be awesome.

And so it is, instead, this falls to my dogs.

Often in training, we have a great time together – especially Loki and I. He is the most fun to train, even when things aren’t working in the moment and I get a little frustrated, I can appreciate that he’s trying really hard and that he’s going so fast and putting everything he has into what we’re doing. And that he’s still a baby.

But sometimes a problem will pop up. And it will settle in my stomach like a stone weight. And it will feel tight and twisty and anxious. And then I will want to obsessively work on this problem until it goes away, even if my dog is maybe tired and my ankle is sprained, and I’m metaphorically flogging a dead horse. And I’ll try everything I can to not work on the problem but it’s always there, hanging around in the back of my mind, reminding me that it’s a problem that needs to be fixed. I’ll make plans before I fall asleep about how to tackle this problem. Do I do jump grids? Do I do more of the same sequence but adjust my handling? Do I set up a particular scenario with just one bar and try and proof it? Then I have a plan. And as I’m drifting off I remind myself over and over in my mind what I decided so that I don’t wake up having forgotten. And then I wake up, happy with my plan – my plan to give my dog a break, or my plan to only do this one little thing, or my plan to only work on one jump… and I look at Loki who wants to go and work, so we go out, and soon enough the plan is out the window because we were having too much fun, getting too close to success, so close to a breakthrough.

And then I am overcome with a sense of guilt that I couldn’t even stick to one stupid plan… that my dog is puffed again… that I got too intense for my intense little BC… that I forgot that he’s not a machine, he’s a dog.


I know that sometimes this drive to solve problems makes me a better dog trainer. I see a problem and I can come up with 15 ways to try solve it. Of course if none of them work almost instantly, they have no worth continuing so I’ll try something else, which in itself is a problem because an idea might need more than one session to work… But it’s also so damaging. This obsessing, this guilt that follows. I’d like to be able to say: “Well Em, just don’t worry about the problems.” or, “Just stick to your plan” but I’m really not that good. If I have a way to solve a problem and make a plan and the plan is WORKING, of course I want to continue along that path, to see how it unfolds. Or, if the plan is NEARLY working, then I want to continue to tweak it in the moment, to see what happens with each gradual change. It doesn’t make sense to me to just stop no matter where we are in the process, otherwise how can I evaluate that solution’s success?

At the moment our issue is doing the dogwalk backwards (eg. running the opposite way to the way we’ve been training this whole time). It’s not a big deal. It’ll come. It’ll be fine. I know this. But I still can’t help obsessing over it, wanting to do it all the time, to fix it, to try things to make it work…. when maybe, all it needs is time and practise.


9 thoughts on “unsettling, guilt, obsession

  1. iffebim says:

    I don’t know if that is helpful but here is what I do.
    I set the tiniest little goals for one session. So small that it is nearly impossible not to meet them. But big enough that they are an improvement to before. Eg, right now we are redoing our teeter because Fusion got spooked and then he was afraid and so on…so my goal would be to do 3 low teeters with 2o2o. Next session, 3 low teeters with 2o2o and one of them I am moving forward just 20cm to see whether he holds criteria. Next session, 4 low teeters. And so on. It really makes a huge difference for myself if I can go in and be think, I set a goal and we met it and tomorrow or the day after we will set another goal and meet it. There was a great podcast at Bad Dog Agility to this topic – I think it was named Feeling Overwhelmed or something.

    • Em says:

      I don’t know if I’d have enough self control!!! I think I’d be so excited about the success that I’d either want to keep replicating it, or see how I can challenge him next! I’ll see if I can find that podcast. 🙂

  2. Penny says:

    Hahaha whatever the part of the brain is that make people like that… well ours must be a carbon copy. I loved your description of how it sits there and is almost impossible to ignore. Damn, so right.

    It sucks at times, but is an amazing resource other times, I plan on finding ways to use it for good instead of evil 😉

    P.S. I used the word evil for comic effect

    • Em says:

      Ok, although I haven’t quit completely with Lu, I’ve certainly stopped caring. I rarely train her at the moment and I certainly don’t care if something isn’t going right. So I guess being able to channel my obsessions into Loki has been very beneficial in a way for Lu and I think that if she really didn’t enjoy agility, I’d be able to quit with her now.
      You might be right about competitiveness but I think there’s also a bit of perfectionism for myself in there. Depends what I’m obsessing over. When it was Lu’s speed – yep, competitiveness. When it’s Loki’s dog walk it’s more a matter of process, like we have to ‘finish’ this obstacle & it has to be good so that I know I’ve done it right, kind of thing.

  3. Oh I know just what you mean! The sick feeling in stomach, can’t shake it, thinking about it all the way to work, trying to get myself thinking positive, but finding my way back into gloom… and thinking up 15 solutions to the problem: which one should I take?
    Especially with Java I can really get out of whack worrying about running contacts, cik&cap, jumping form… there’s just no end to things I can get worked up about.

    • Em says:

      Yep. I used to obsess with Lu but it’s all about loki now. And it’s funny because it seems all I need is proof that everything is going to work & be ok and I’ll breathe and relax, even if it’s not perfect yet. Eg. I’ve been stressing because we started trying to do the DW the opposite direction and it wasn’t great so I got all stressy about it. Yesterday we did another session & he started adjusting in that direction & looking much less anxious. He’s lost a lot of his separation but I’m not nearly as worried about that as I was about ALL the pieces not working. But it’s the lead up to the ‘there, see? Everything’s going to be fine’ moment that gets me!

      • I know, I had just such a session with RC target recently… sometimes all it takes is one bad session (in which I changed a lot of things for Java and she reverted back to stopping) and it can totally shake my confidence. I think I don’t trust the target training as much as I did Silvia’s method, so it’s easy to get all weird about it.

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