I am in the midst of reading a book on developing mental toughness in the human athlete and I read a chapter that really stuck with me. Not only did it provoke a thought dialogue for myself and how I perform in the activities and sports I partake in, but it also got me thinking about dog training and even canine resistance training. This absolutely rings true for anyone training dogs, NOT just canine resistance training.
"Lack of motivation is a sign of over training"
Read that again...... over training is NOT the cause of decreased motivation---but is a sign.
It is common to hear dog trainers make a huge fuss about creating motivation and drive in their dogs in order for the dogs to perform well in their chosen sports. Trainers have developed "systems" and strategies to specifically work on this one aspect. If a dog fails to get motivated by hot dogs, we then up the stakes, and now we are boiling chicken to provide extra motivation. When that stuffless fleece toy is no longer effective, we head to the nearest pet store or online site to get more high value toys and rewards......all in hopes of keeping that motivation. Let's face it----motivation drives success! It takes a highly motivated dog to pull 10,000lbs on a rail system. It takes a driven, motivated dog to scale a wall about 12 feet high for a toy. To stay in a pristine focused heel position under heavy distraction takes serious motivation! See where I am going with this?
But what happens if and when we have a dog that was SOOOO drivey and into the sport, but all of sudden, it's like they are bored or less enthused? Do we have a shitty dog? Should we move onto the next one and blame genetics? What if your dog no longer bounces around and tap dances at the site of their harness, or their favorite toy does not elicit the same excitability?
Over training can be a real problem, not just in human athletes, but in our canine friends as well. It is when training ,both demand and volume, becomes too intense to allow adequate recovery, thus decreasing performance and enthusiasm. The last time I checked, dogs cant speak English---so it is up to us to be able to do what is best for them in regards to their physical and mental well being. When we hear the word "recovery", we often think physical, but mental development is crucial. No dog is going to hurl themselves through the air, over obstacles to bite a decoy in a suit, if they are not mentally confident. I've never met a dog who will leap 10 feet into a body of water without fear of the consequence that isn't mentally resilient. When talking about CRT, specifically, the program works on both mental and physical aspects. It is important to have strong, well rounded equal parts. A strong mind=a strong body. You have all heard that saying before I am sure. When it comes to dogs, it is no different.
Low motivation can also be caused by too much competitive pressure. When all the sights are on "winning" and performing well, there is an intense amount of pressure that comes with that---and again, dog's can't speak English, but they can feel that heat. One of the best things you can do if you start to notice low motivation in your dog and his or her performance, is simply allow more recovery, taking into account mental and physical aspects. Deload weeks, active rest and recovery days, and plain days off are JUST as valuable as your week 6 sessions.
The point of this article is not to convince you to not train intensely or with purpose with your dog, but rather allow for adequate recovery in between. My mentor once told me "there is no such thing as over training, but only under recovery".
Think about it.