It never works for me.
Chris Zink (Coaching The Canine Athlete) says she gives her dogs a month off once a year. She feels it is mentally and physically helpful and they come back recharged and ready to tackle whatever performance venue she is pursuing. I always think that sounds like such a great idea until I try to do it. Then it just doesn't happen.
The reason I'm writing about this now is because I actually did go for six days last week without training. It took my father's funeral to make it happen. There have been very few times in my life when I didn't feel like training my dog and that was one of them. But after the funeral and all its draining social demands were over, wanting to work with Phoenix came back like an almost physical need.
Apparently, I am addicted to training. Like a junkie, I crave the rush I get from interacting and communicating (or trying to communicate) with another species. Take that away from me for a couple of days and I start going through withdrawals.
There are times of the year when I train harder than others but in reality, I train year 'round. I love to show and can't justify mailing entries if I'm not consistently preparing my dog and me to be ready. No, I'm not talking about hour-long sessions at the club building every day. I try to go to the building at least once a week but most of the time, we just train at home most evenings, after work or after supper, for 10 minutes or 20 minutes or whatever we feel like.
One thing I've learned is if I'm feeling worn out, frazzled, drained, annoyed or just plain crabby, DON'T TRAIN THE DOG! Those are the nights we sit in the recliner and drink cocoa. In other words, there are times when you SHOULDN'T train and it's good thing to recognize them. If I want my dog to be bright, energetic and creative, I need to be, too.
This is a slower time of year. The holidays bring a ton of other demands on my time, plus with a foot of snow outside, going out to the back yard to train isn't going to happen. In fact, right now I'm missing the first session of an Open/Utility proofing class because it's snowing, not a blizzard, but hard enough to make me reluctant to drive the 50 mile round trip to and from Iowa City for class.
So Phoenix and I worked finishes (doG, we're going to be working finishes until we're both old and gray) and signals in the living room, then Jamie joined us for stays. Apparently that took every ounce of energy both dogs possessed because now they are crashed out by my feet, sound asleep. Or maybe that's because we had some friends over last night and both boys were up late and stayed VERY busy keeping track of A) people and B) plates of food.
For me, the bottom line is I enjoy training very much. Even when we're having a problem with something, I still enjoy interacting with my dog and trying to resolve the issue. Training has never been something I feel I have to do. It's something I need to do, like eating or sleeping.
Yep. Addiction. There's probably a 12-step program out there for me.
What about you? Do you schedule "time off" from training for your dogs?