As we celebrate ringing in the new year, it got me thinking about how we celebrate our “end line” routine, whether it’s agility, obedience, nosework or another sport.

We spend a lot of time training our start line routine and deciding what works best before we cross that line to achieve our best start and results.

Do you put as much thought into your end line routine?

As we know, all our runs are not clean or perfect. It’s easy to be discouraged or disappointed when it doesn’t go as well as we thought. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to qualify – the money and time spent or maybe the difficulty of getting into trials.

We have to remember we have a teammate – one who does not think the way we do after completing a run, routine, or search. Dogs don’t know if they got a pass or fail or how many points they lost or earned. Nor do they care! They just know they were having fun, performing what they were trained to do and doing it as part of their bond with us.

I visited a local agility trial today and saw so many great runs – some with errors but everyone I saw exited the ring with pure joy and celebration with their dog!

I always admire handlers where this is as natural as any behavior shared with their dogs. Just as we need to stay connected with our teammate before and during our run, we also need to stay conneced and reinforce them at the end for playing the game regardless of the outcome. Being PRESENT every time we are actively training or competing with our dogs is one of the most important aspects of developing our bond with each other.

Using a Nosework example, the more time I spend reinforcing my dog after his run, the more motivated he is for the game verses trying to rev him up at the start. I’m building value for the game with his biggest motivator – personal play! We build value for the search/sport every time we exit the “ring” when we praise and celebrate with our dog.

So remember, planning and focusing on your end line routine is just as important as your start line routine!

Happy New Year!