Balancing it All – Training for Titles with Limited Time

This blog is written by guest writer – Trisha


As I write this it’s the first week back at school. Last weekend I stewarded at the local obedience trial, did an obedience match, and presented a group award for my kennel club’s conformation show. Next week agility class starts, I have an ORT 10 hours (one way!) away, and I’m preparing for my breed’s national show where my other dog is entered for her first TDX test (another 10+ hours away!).

One of the questions I see pop up on a regular basis on the dog groups I’m part of is how do you balance it all? I have two dogs actively showing/training for a total of 4 sports, plus I’m a full time microbiology PhD student still in classes, teaching every semester, and conducting my own research. Einstein, my retired obedience dog, is playing around in nose work and Ros, is training for her UD, TDX, and playing in agility, but not yet ready to trial. Ros has earned her CD, CDX, and TD while I’ve been a grad student.

So how do I balance competing with being busy? Below are somethings that I’ve come up with in the past 2 years switching from a normal 9-5 to the life of a grad student.

Plan your time wisely
I usually have some idea of what nights of the week I need to do what homework. I know which nights I have class or other time commitments. With tracking I need to balance this with the weather and ageing times. Also depending on the weather, I may need to plan to use a shared indoor space and need to plan around other activities planned there. By Sunday I usually have a rough idea of what I will do when. Late Monday I might run to the kennel club after classes there are done to do some obedience work, Tuesday I’ll stop and lay track on my way home, Wednesday might just be shot because of homework, etc. I try to plan out what day/time I will work on each dog’s sport. If it’s nice out I get more of a chance to work in my back yard. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get it done Just because I have an idea of what I’m doing when doesn’t mean it gets done. Maybe some housework gets in the way, maybe the weather doesn’t cooperate, or maybe I have a test that week. Maybe I’m having a really bad day and training just isn’t in the cards. My dogs may get some time throwing the ball in the back yard, but that may all they get for a night, or even a stretch of time. There are some times that there isn’t any training for a two week stretch, so I make sure they get some activity time with me without training work. The dogs will wait.

Make realistic goals and don’t be afraid to change them
Going into the Pembroke nationals this spring I had 3 goals – get Ros ready to show for her TDX, UD, and maybe even Novice agility. I got one of those done. I have her entered for her TDX. Maybe. I might end up pulling her. Utility was simply a no go. We haven’t had enough time and she’s not ready. Agility – well, she still doesn’t weave. I haven’t even attempted to teach it.

Training smart and support networks
This one is important in its own way. We often hear “train smart, not hard” but doing that is sometimes hard to figure out! The best way to manage to achieve titles on limited time is simply to find the best knowledge sources that you can to improve your training. Surround yourself with amazing trainers (either in person or online) and your training will improve as a result. Also important are the people who help hold down the fort while I’m off training or trialing. Whether it’s a partner, a roomie, or even a friend who helps around the house, takes care of dogs that stay home, or even provides that comfort when something goes wrong, these support networks help make it all possible.

By planning ahead and not being (too) upset if things don’t work out as I had planned, I’ve been able to do some pretty good work with my limited free time. Things aren’t going as fast as they would have if I was still in Chicago working in person with Margaret for hours each week, but we’re making do. If I’m lucky enough, Ros will have made progress towards both her CT and OTCH while I’m still in grad school. Those are the long term goals. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, but we’re sure going to aim for it.

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