November 4, 2021

Episode 294: Interview with Kathy Keats on Dogs, Sport, and Life

In this episode (54:21)

In this episode, Jennifer, Sarah and Esteban talk with Kathy Keats about dogs, sport, and life.

You Will Learn

  • Why mindset is important for beginners.
  • How handlers can improve their mindset.
  • What it means to be “in the zone”.
  • Why handlers underperform at big events.
  • How to separate your agility results from your self-worth.


(upbeat music) - Welcome to "Bad Dog Agility", a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals, whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster, or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard. We'll bring you training tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? - I'm ready. - I'm ready. - I'm ready. - The

show starts with your hosts, Jennifer, Esteban, and Sarah. - I'm Jennifer. - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah, and this is episode 294. Today's podcast is brought to you by the Westminster Kennel Club. - The Westminster Kennel Club has announced the ninth annual Masters Agility Championship will be held on January 22nd, 2022 at Pier 36 in New York City. I've personally competed at Westminster twice, and I loved

it. Running in the nationally televised finals is one of my favorite agility memories. You know, I didn't win, but I know someone who did. - While it was incredibly exciting to win the 16 inch division three times and be the overall winner, it's not just the wins that make it so exciting. It's being in the city, running on those courses under the lights. It's just truly a great

event. So for 2022, your dog will need a mop title to enter the regular class or a pop title to enter the preferred class. They must have the appropriate title at the time of entry. Entries are limited to 350 dogs and will be first received, and entries open on November 17th at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time. Typically Westminster fills on the first day, so you want to be mindful

of the opening date. - Westminster is going to make a $5,000 donation in the name of the Masters Agility Champion to the AKC Agility Training Club of their choice or the AKC Humane Fund. $1,000 donations will be made in the name of the highest scoring all-American dog, as well as each of the four remaining first place dogs in their height classes. Per New York City regulations, everyone in

attendance must be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to enter the venue. Entries close December 22nd, and check out our show notes page for a link to the premium and all the details. - Westminster puts on a fantastic trial, and if you're thinking about doing it, I highly recommend the junior. - Today's podcast is also brought to you by and the Teeter TeachIt, an easy to use tool

that controls the amount of tip on your teeter so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to for the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys. Use discount code BDA10 to get 10% off your order. That's Today, we have a very special guest on the podcast. We are joined by Kathy Keats, long-time competitor and new podcaster. Welcome to the

podcast, Kathy. - Thanks so much, I'm so excited to be here with y'all. - So tell us a little bit about your new podcast. We were tipped off by some of our students that there was a new agility focused podcast out there, and your podcast really focuses on an area of agility that I think is really important for a lot of people. So tell us a little bit

about that. - Well, one of the things is my background is in elite sport. And dog agility is still relatively a young sport compared to so many other things. And one of the things I felt was lacking was the idea of the sport sciences coming into dog agility, particularly for the handler. There's a lot of material and so many great trainers have developed a lot of methodology for

the dogs, but quite often there's not methodology for the handler other than here's just how to go handle this course, so. I've been really fortunate because I've been at a high level in three completely different disciplines, plus I've coached at the international level as well as competing there. So it's interesting how when you have kind of this broader perspective of the different sports sciences and how to bring

them into dog agility. I thought that would be a really valuable podcast for people because then they could start to understand why they're having training problems, what they could do better to prepare for competition. I mean, so many people, they do great in training and then they can't get it together in competition. And the funny thing is some of it is mental game, and certainly that's kind of

what I'm known for. But there's this element of it that goes beyond mental game, where they come to me and they say, "I think I've got a mental game problem." And when we talk about it, we discover that they actually haven't prepared from a training perspective, going through the principles of training for competition, which is different than the principles of building a skill. So that's why I thought

it would be helpful for a lot of people. - So you view this not as just mental game, you are actually coming at this from a slightly, you know, more broad perspective of sports science. - Yeah, exactly. 'Cause when you're coaching, you're coaching the whole person or the whole team. So there's an element of mental game that goes along with that, and there's an element of prep that

goes along with that. So a lot of top competitors, they kind of cycle through their training throughout the year, and they do certain things a bit differently when they're getting ready for a big event, for example, compared to when they're training a youngster and just getting it ready for their first trial. And a lot of people don't understand those subtle differences, and they don't also understand why when

a certain mistake keeps cropping up, they don't know how to analyze it to see is this a habit that I have, is this the actual skill that's a problem, is it my mental game and my focus is wrong? So there's all these more subtle elements about training and mental game that I think really need to be addressed. - I've had the opportunity to listen to the first two

episodes. I definitely plan on listening to the rest as well, as soon as I can find a few minutes. The podcast is great. I really enjoyed the first two episodes. And for our listeners, the name of the podcast is "The Kathy Keat Show". And I love your tagline, it's dogs, sport, and life. And you know, I'm one of those people that's been saying for a very long time

that dog agility is a sport that you and your dog are athletes. And thinking of yourself that way, though, I think causes I don't want to say conflict, but some people are very uncomfortable with that idea, right? That there are people who strongly feel that dog agility is a hobby, and they make a distinction between hobby and sport. You were a basketball player. I was a basketball player.

I loved playing basketball, high school, growing up, you know. As a swimmer in college and I've been around sports a long time, and even afterwards, even in medical school and all that, I was competing out in leagues, in intramural leagues, and things like that, as long as my knees would hold up. Unfortunately that time has passed, and I miss the sport terribly. And so I think, for example,

you know, basketball can definitely be a passion, both a hobby and a sport if you're out there playing competitively, semi competitively, pick up games. So what are your thoughts on this issue as it relates to dog agility? - I think that's a fabulous question because one of the reasons I added the word life onto my tagline is exactly that reason. A lot of people think of sport and

they immediately start thinking of, you know, being competitive, and cutthroat, and all of these other things. And I probably, in many ways, my philosophy probably leans a bit more towards Eastern philosophy than Western philosophy, in that anything that you do is really a vehicle to growth. And one of the things that's really important to understand is most competitors where they actually run into trouble is if you have

little demons that are driving you to be better, they can take you quite far, but the problem is right when you're getting near the pinnacle of what you want. Those little demons reach up, grab you by the throat, and say, "You can't have it," if you don't deal with kind of these inner issues of insecurity and self-confidence and so on. And it's interesting in Eastern philosophy because whether

it's a hobby or whether it's a ceremony like the tea ceremony, they're always aiming on process and mastery. So they're thinking about the growth of the person in terms of that. And one of the things I think about dog agility is nobody wants to go out and, you know, not do a good job with their dogs. They want to go out and, you know, improve, and be better,

and all that. And that doesn't mean that you're in any way, shape, or form necessarily thinking about winning and losing. But it's about being the best you can be and getting the best you can out of your dog. So there's this element of understanding that learning how to be part of the process and just be very present in what you're doing is a big part of anything. It's

a part of excellence, certainly, but it's even a part of enjoyment because nobody enjoys going out and everything being a disaster all the time, even if it is a hobby. So it's really important to understand that some of what holds us back, whether it's a hobby or a sport, tends to be internal and it tends to be, you know, whether it's insecurities we have and things like that.

But ultimately, the more we deal with those things, the better we get at almost everything we do, because we just don't get in our own way. The issue for most people is they're not willing to look at those issues, unless they've got something that matters to them. And quite often the thing that matters to them is their dog. And so they're willing to grow 'cause they want to

be better for their dogs. So that's kind of how I would separate out the idea of sport. I was tell people, read "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" again if they've forgotten reading that in high school, because it talks about how excellence is really a process about just being curious and passionate about what you're doing. And we can do that in a hobby or in a sport, and it doesn't have

to be about winning and losing. - That's so interesting. And I think that's very well put. When I think about people who are coming into dog agility, you know, there are certainly people like you, and me, and Jenn, we've all done sports before, but then there are also folks who did not compete in sports. And this is kind of the first time they've been in that competitive setting,

they're having some success or they're interested in having some success. As far as clients, where are you finding more of your clientele coming from? Like which group or do you work with people from both groups? - It's actually surprising that it's both groups that I work with a lot. I work with a ton of elite athletes, as well as people who are doing it as a hobby. So

I work at both ends of the spectrum. And it's really funny because, ultimately, many of the issues end up becoming the same. So they end up being issues of either learning how to get your ego out of it, learning how to deal with insecurities, and fears, and take risks, understand how to deal with failure. So, you know, ultimately, we're all human. And so any growth that we do,

whether our goals are winning or making teams, or whether our goals are just to be the best we can be for our dogs. And when I say the best we can be, I mean just trying to, you know, be a good team and pull out the potential of the dog. Ultimately, we all have very similar roadblocks because we're human. They just manifest in different ways. - That's amazing.

That you said something in the very first episode that I really loved because I think you hit the nail on the head. And you described how people tend to think about these aspects of agility, the sport psychology aspects of agility when they get to a certain level. So they start in agility, they're doing it, as Esteban said, as a hobby, just for fun. They say they don't care

about the results, although I would question that for most people, 'cause like you said, it's not fun doing poorly. And then as they, you know, they get like the dog that's really amazing, they start to win, they start to do better, and now they want to add in the sports psychology piece. And you talked about how that's just not the most efficient way of doing this. So tell

us about that 'cause I thought that was such a key insight. - Well, it's funny. Any of us who've ever started something new, right? We go in and we get excited about it. And one of the things about when you add the sports psychology element into it, you end up progressing faster because you just, you know, how you probably all remember going through your very first dog class,

or maybe you don't. But if you remember going to your very first dog class, you know, you were nervous going in to the class, 'cause, you know, you didn't know what your dog was going to do. And all of us deal with uncertainty all the time in our lives, but the more you can learn to deal with uncertainty, the more when you're first learning something, the more you

can get that ego out of the way, the more you can learn how to focus better and what to focus on, the more you can clean out your mind so that you don't have all kinds of baggage going on in your head that you can just focus on what's in front of you, and you're not worried about someone else that's doing better in class than you are, or

that maybe the teacher said something and you took it personally. You know, so there's all these elements of it. I can remember one of my things when I was coming through basketball, my background, I'd had a very difficult childhood coming up, and not to get into too much information, but I was dealing with a lot of like anger. And the whole reason that basketball was what was keeping

me on the rails. But as a result, I had a lot of issues with I couldn't take criticism well, because if I wasn't being a good basketball player, I was worthless, in my own mind. And so what happens is then people can't learn, they can't take on board because they've got too many shields up and layers up trying to protect themselves, instead of just being able to honestly

take feedback on as something the instructor is doing to try and help. So even these little pieces they can help you not only just be more open to feedback, they can help you learn faster because then you also learn about visualization and how that can help speed up your skill development. And there's just so many pieces that are helpful at the beginning so that you can kind of

take the lumps and bumps. When you're an experienced sport competitor, you're used to taking the lumps and bumps, but to the point, not everyone has been in sport before, so they're not used to putting their self-worth on performance basically. And that's a huge step for a lot of people who've never competed before. And that's something that if they can start dealing with early, and also the coaches can

help them start dealing with early. Then it's not all of a sudden, now, again, they're at the point where they want to start being successful and those little demons are starting to reach up, and grab at them, and pull them back, 'cause they've already started dealing with it when it was easier. - Right. So like the recommendation for all beginners is to really put this into their training

from the very beginning. - A hundred percent. - And that's exactly what I was thinking and why I'm so excited about your podcast is I think so much of the issue of bringing in mental management, starts at the top and works the way down to the students. So if a student comes into class, they're going to do what their coach, what their instructor recommends. And so if this

idea of mental management is not integrated into their training, they can go two, three, four years without knowing that it's even a thing. And then by the time they get to a point where they need it, they've missed that boat. And I think a lot of it is having access. So that's why I'm so excited about your podcast. Now I can send it out to all the students.

But I also think the issue, and I'm going to call myself out here, is that a lot of times the instructors or coaches, it might not be a huge weakness for them, and therefore it's not something that comes to the forefront as something that needs to be taught. So for me, I think my mental management, while it is not great, it's okay. And it's not something I think

about teaching. It's not something I think about talking. Certainly I'm not qualified to teach much about it, the talking about it, and therefore it becomes a hole in the students. So having a reference, having a resource is going to be excellent. We've been fortunate enough at IncrediPAWS, you came out to our place and taught for us, which is super exciting. And so right away, as soon as you

left, we're all gung ho about, yeah, we're going to work on this, and then it fades away and it trickles away, just like you comment that new things are fun and exciting, but it's the maintenance aspect, and having the resource and the ability to constantly revisit it. And so I think, I'm feeling called out here that I need to integrate more of this to my students, especially the

newer students who don't know that it's something to address or the ones who are having problems, and then, you know, realizing, well, we've waited too long. So having this podcast will be awesome to be able to stay on top of things and get all those tips and reminders from you. So I'm very excited for that purpose. - Well, thank you, that, you know, something I want to jump

in and say there is a lot of people don't understand mindset because it is a skill like anything else. So just like I don't practice my weave poles for five months, mindset is something a lot of people label themselves and give themselves an identity. So we have a belief system, and we really work hard unintentionally to make that belief system come true. So I'm no good. So then

I do things to sabotage myself, and prove to myself that I'm no good. And people think that's a fixed trait, but it's not. Mindset is a skill, and it is something that can be developed with practice like anything else, because what happens with mindset is this belief system we have. I actually had a student call me out the other day, which was awesome, because we're all human. Like

we all make mistakes. We all get into patterns that maybe we don't realize we're slipping into. Like life goes sideways. Like life happens, right? So it's easy for us to start slipping into something if we aren't getting called out on it, or getting coached consistently on it. And, or we don't have the tools to pull ourselves out of it. But it is something you practice, 'cause very often

I'll see on sort of social media, someone will say something about mindset, and invariably, you get a comment underneath it. Someone will say, "But it's hard to do that." Well, yeah, it is hard. No one ever said that when you have a great mindset or a great mental game that it gets easier. Nobody ever said it makes the nerves go away or the fear go away. What it

does is it teaches you how to manage it, and how to catch it before it turns into you revving the engine and creating a spiral or a problem. And so a lot of people think it's a fixed trait, but the amazing thing is something called neuroplasticity, which is when you're rehearsing the right things, you actually, literally pound a new path through your brain so that the neural path

for the good thinking or the empowering thinking is now the worn pathway, and the negative thinking becomes an overgrown pathway, and less easy to go down that path. And that's what's so important about the idea of it's not just, well, be positive. (laughs) It's the idea of there's actual skills and techniques that you use to try and stay on that path. - Right, I think that's absolutely true

coming from the medical side, the physiology side. I think everyone can relate to the example of learning how to ride a bicycle, or how to drive, maybe doing your first Front Cross, right? The first couple of times are going to be very slow and clunky, but eventually you're going to reach a point after hundreds or thousands of drives, and rides, and repetitions of the Front Cross where it's

just automated, it's automatic. You do it without thinking. And that's, I think, a great example of how the brain really shapes itself to give you that path of least resistance, right? I love how you put that, the word worn path there. You also mentioned something else that I want to talk about a little bit more, because this is one of the big things that I see with the

people that we work with in our training academy, our VIP members, where people have a hard time distinguishing the outcomes from their own self-worth, right? So, you know, they train really hard. We're working with them very closely for several months to get ready for a big event, you know, USDAA just happened. And so maybe they go and, you know, some of our members do very well, but then

there's the group that don't do well, right? And they're devastated, and they come back, and they say, and they're very honest. And I think it's great that they're being just honest with themselves, that they say, you know, "I feel like a failure," you know, "I'm a failure because X, Y, and Z "happened at this event." So they're coming at it from that way instead of saying, you know,

"I'm still a good dog trainer. "My dog is still a good agility dog, "and then we just made these mistakes," or "this was the outcome this weekend." Right? And I think there's a big difference in those two views. Can you talk a little bit about that? - Oh, can I ever talk about that? (laughing) Not only from, you know, a professional standpoint, but having gone through it personally,

and we probably all go through that at some stage as we go through our careers. It's almost like the cycle of life in a way, and why life is part of the tag of my podcast is it is a process that we go through because for so many of us, and it's particularly difficult when people have come into it for the first time. And it's maybe the first

thing they've ever really done for themselves, that can be very difficult because now they're finally doing something that makes them feel good about themselves and, you know, their self-worth and everything else. And it's almost like it is a part of the cycle most of us go through at some stage that it becomes a part of our self-worth. And each time we go through that cycle, I think we

get a little bit better at letting go of it and realizing it. One of the things about having a long career is when you first start something, the roller coaster is really high and low, right? Because we have no experience at it. And the longer we do something, the more those bumps kind of start to level out because you've had the big high, you've had the big low.

And then instead of it looking like a mountain range where you're standing at the bottom of the mountain, it's like being at a plane, you know, at 30,000 feet looking at the mountain range, it just looks kind of bumpy. And you said something that's exactly right. It's teaching the students right from the beginning in our language, and what they're saying in the language that you're kind of allowing

in class, and what they're saying to themselves that what happened has nothing to do with a fixed trait of theirs. It simply has to do with skills that can be improved, and things that can be changed. And when they talk about it in terms of this needs to be improved, and what you want to do is create distance, or separation, or objectiveness to what they're looking at. So

what you do is you change the language, and you don't say, "I'm a failure." You say, "No, what it is is that skill needs improving." So you try and create that separation first of all in their mind. The other thing you can do are some simple things like if you were paying, if you were the coach and I was paying you to give you advice, what would you

say to yourself? So again, I'm trying to create stepping out of the emotional situation and looking into it. A third thing to understand is sometimes people think it's not okay to feel disappointment, but don't equate it to being a failure, because you will, no matter how good your mindset is, you're going to have disappointments. There's going to be times you're sad, angry, upset, disappointed, whatever the case may

be. And we have to learn to sit with those emotions and understand that those emotions are just chemicals, but we can change the chemicals that are running through our system, if we choose to by learning how to trigger different emotional chemicals in our body. And what's interesting is if we learn how to trigger different emotions, it only takes 90 seconds for the limbic system to clear out the

chemicals that are in your body and replace them with new chemicals. So if you choose to stay angry, mad, sad, disappointed for longer than 90 seconds, it's a choice you're making. And that's okay. I used to joke about and I still do it sometimes, allow myself a five minute pity party after something goes wrong. (laughs) And then I say, you know, okay, now it's time to shake myself

off, put on my big girl pants and get on with it kind of thing. So this idea of self-worth, I think as coaches, we have to keep encouraging them to understand there's going to be ups and downs no matter how good you are. We've all seen some of the best in the world have a dog's breakfast of a run. We've all seen it. Like, you know, nobody is

impervious to having bad runs. It's not a reflection of yourself worth. And the thing you have to ask yourself or challenge people on is, you know, when you start saying things like I'm a failure to yourself, you're really engaging in self abuse, and that's not okay. So it's helping them understand how to change their language, how to reframe the situation for themselves. And also in whatever ways you

can as a coach to help encourage their ability to deal with adversity, which will help improve their self-worth as well, because they'll realize that they can handle these things and it will make them feel stronger as well. - That's very well said. I want to ask you about one other thing related to that. So I think there's an increasing awareness of exactly what we're talking about here in

the agility community. And so I find that the next thing that people are telling themselves is, "Oh, I'm letting my dog down. "I'm letting my dog down. "I'm letting my dog down." And to me, it seems like you're still in that space. You're like, "Okay, you know, I'm not saying I'm terrible "and my dog's terrible, "but now I'm letting my dog down." But I feel like that's the

new way of saying the same thing. I don't know, what are your thoughts on that? When you hear that from people, "I'm letting my dog down," and they're really fixated on that. - Well, you know, there's a sheepdog book called "Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men" by the late Donald McCaig. And in it, he goes to Scotland. And I'm just going off here for a sec to tell this. He's

talking to an old shepherd, who's trained dozens, upon dozens, and dozens of dogs. And this old shepherd says, "Sometimes I think dog training is all regrets." And I thought that was such a great line. And the reason I bring it up is because we all wish with each dog that we had, that we knew then what we know now. We always think that. So all you can do

is it's your path with your dog. If you love that dog, and you're trying, you know, to learn as much as you can, every dog is a new adventure. It's almost like as a dog trainer, you relearn how to train a dog with each new dog, because each new dog presents different challenges. So there's no trainer in this world who doesn't make mistakes with every dog. As you

get better at it, what happens is as you're falling off the cliff, you catch yourself a little bit sooner (laughs) so you can clamber back up. But you know, that process of learning about dog training is nothing about letting a dog down. If you were fully present and you made a mistake, you made a mistake, that's it. That's all it was. The dog, if you're continuing to keep

it enthusiastic about its work, you've never let the dog down. You need to make sure that you're separating that stuff out. It's just, kind of like you said, it's almost like a side door into being able to self abuse. - Right. - Just finding a different way of doing it to blame myself. Now, we always have to take responsibility as dog trainers, of course, but that's not an

empowering place to be when you're blaming yourself like that. What you should be doing is instead of putting blame, looking for solutions. - Right. - So as soon as you start blaming yourself, just think of how can I make this better? How can I fix this? And just shift your thinking in that way. 'Cause that's empowering thinking, 'cause it helps you do actionable things afterwards. - Yeah, one

of the things that I like to tell people is, you know, if you think about it logically, the best place to have problems is with the human, because it's the easiest to communicate with, you have the most control, right? So like if you're the problem, great. That means that you have the opportunity to be the solution, right? That's so much easier than when the problem is, you know,

with the dog or with, you know, lack of understanding and things like that. Like take control. - Well, the other thing I think people have to be careful of, when they say, "I'm letting my dog down," they're labeling themselves, and they're creating a fixed trade again that can't be changed. And that's what I'm always trying to avoid is trying to help people... Language, like words matter. Words have

power. So I'm always trying to make sure that people are reframing things in the way they're talking about it, 'cause even if they say it and they don't believe it the first time, messages have three things. One is the authority figure that they come from. Two is the frequency with which they're said. And the third thing is the emotion that's attached to that message. So every time they

repeat themselves, "I'm letting my dog down," they're maybe not saying they may not see themselves as an authoritative figure, but they're repeating it to themselves, which makes that message stronger, and they're attaching a negative emotion to it. And negative emotions are more powerful and have more impact on us than positive emotions do. So they're really driving that belief system or that message into their belief system. And the

problem is we absolutely have to be the gatekeepers of the messages that we take on as true. So I just, I almost have rules with my people where, you know, I can get, like, if it's a one-off comment. You know, it sort of comes out okay, fine. But if it comes out a second time, I'm all over them. (laughing) Because you just don't want to keep allowing those

messages to get reinforced and to build those neural pathways because it's not empowering thinking. - Yeah, I think that is very good stuff. You're giving us the listeners so much great information, great tips. And I want to kind of take a step back. I want to bring Jennifer in on this, like everything we've been talking about, I think it's such a huge part, and in my opinion, maybe

the biggest part of the mental side of dog agility today. But when I was first starting, maybe 15, 20 years ago, the side that was so big was kind of that visualization piece. And the three of us here are big proponents of visualization. You know, we take our members through all of that, and we help people with that a lot. But are you familiar with the zone? Was

that a 80s, 90s? I figured if you were a basketball player, you would know about people being in the zone. The guy when he's in the zone, she's in the zone, you know. Cheryl Miller, you know, scoring a hundred points in a game. They can't miss. That it's unconscious, they're not even thinking about it. They're shooting lights out. And so it was this idea, the mental game was

this idea back then of chasing the zone, trying to be in the zone, meditating to put yourself in the zone, right? Eating the right foods so you would be in the zone. It was all about zone, zone, zone, and Michael Jordan. Basketball, right? And so that was, yeah, that was the mental game back then. And so all this other stuff that we're talking about now, I think is

more important. Do you address that kind of performance side? And actually here, let me start with Jenn. So Jenn, big competitions, the biggest stages. When I think about Jennifer, this is just, my plug for Jennifer is that she is one of the greatest clutch handlers in all of dog agility, definitely here in the United States. I think she's top. We have so many handlers over the years, outstanding

handlers, outstanding dogs. They've done very well. They do well at the tryout events or at this event. But when they get to whatever the ultimate event is for them, they tend to underperform a little bit, right? And Jennifer is not like that, right? I feel like Jennifer performs on level, if not over performing. You know, she's just really clutch. That's another phrase. In Houston, the city where we're

at, the Houston Rockets, we call that Clutch City back when we won the championships, you know, back in the 90s. So we are called Clutch City. We have it on all our shirts. So it's this idea of being clutch. Kids when they're gaming today on the PlayStation, they've adopted that language, it's called, you know, clutching or clutching up where they win the game. In spite of their teammates

all having been knocked out, they're able to win it for their team. And so in dog agility, we can have that as well, right? Where you turn in a clutch performance. So Jenn, what do you think, just very quickly, separates you? You're going to have to rise above, I know you're a very humble person, the humility, and talk about, like, what about this idea of like the zone

and like mental side? What do you think? I just want to hear your thoughts, and then I want to hear what Kathy thinks about that. - Well, I certainly appreciate all the kind words, and I'm very proud that I've done a lot with a lot of different dogs. So I do think that like being able to repeat those performances and do it over and over again, is kind

of a testament to my effort as both a handler and I guess the mental game. But what I will say is as Kathy is talking, I'm feeling so called out. I'm feeling like, oh, I need to work on that. Okay, and all I'm thinking is like, okay, when this podcast is over, I need to sign up for some mental management. But I will be the first one to

say I don't feel like I am great at the mental aspect because I learned this sport so young and grew up in it, that it just was part of what I did, part of who I was, part of what I learned. And it wasn't a, for me, I never felt like there was a conscious effort and a conscious choice to work on that aspect. And that's why I

tell people all the time, like, I'm not a great one. So many of the things that happen on and off the course, getting in the zone, right? I mean, I just grew up in it. I mean, I got my first title when I was like six years old. And so now years later, I feel like it's a huge disadvantage for me sometimes to work with people who are

new to sports, right? You mentioned that people that never did sports and are coming in dog agility and this idea of being put on the, you know, put in the limelight. I mean, I was on the world team at 17, you know. I wasn't even legal and I was on the world team having to cook through all these emotions. So I just kind of like learned and gathered

them. And I know I did when I was young. I remember at the time Lanny Bassham was very popular and with winning in mind. And my mom would drive me to Julie Cos, making me listen to his book on tape. And I don't want to say I didn't put any effort in, but I don't remember learning. I don't remember working on it. So I think what gives me

that advantage is starting at it really young, but it then becomes a real disadvantage now because my ability to help my students, and work with my students, or listeners, or whatever is hard. So, you know, what gives me the edge? I think, honestly, learning and doing it at such a young age. But now as an instructor, as a coach, I think it's a disadvantage for me. - You

know, what you said is actually amazing because you've touched on so many cool points there. One of the things is most agility people come in as adult learners, which is a completely different mind space than learning as a child. Because when you're a child, you don't have the same layers of failure over top of things. You'd have all the support when you do make a mistake, the ego

is not as involved. So, I mean, you look at so many of the greats, like you talk about in terms of sport, you know, Tiger Williams started like in his playpen watching his dad golf. So he basically was having visualization, baby clubs put in his hand from day one. So there's this element of learning as a child that certainly Tiger Williams, Tiger Woods, sorry. But anyway, you knew

who I was talking about. So there is this element of starting young. But the other piece of that that's very interesting is the 10,000 hours or 10 years to mastery element of that as well. Because being able to get in the zone is largely the ability that so many of the skills are so automated and so natural like breathing to you that you're not thinking about, okay, I

have to do this Dipsy doodle cross over here, and that doodle do-da-lee cross over there. And their minds are so full of not only the technicality of trying to golf with keep your elbow in and then duff. But also the idea of the, because those skills aren't automated enough and they're not simple enough for where they're at, their minds are too full of stuff. And the other problem

with adult learners is they very often are trying to do it right, as opposed to with kids, they learn very much in a sense of play. So there's a lot of experimenting allowed with that. There's a lot of testing things out, there's that childlike, just joy of trying stuff and not really caring, right? So a lot of adults are in this issue. And particularly again, women tend to

be a little worse than men, from the perspective that either they didn't have a sport background or women just generally, and I'm generalizing here, but they generally have a tendency to blame themselves a bit more than men do because culturally of the way things develop. So what's interesting is you have people who are adults trying to learn, trying to do it right. And that just immediately puts judgment

on any little mistake, even if it's not a catastrophic mistake on course, like the turn is a bit wide. They instantly, their mind stops because they start judging it. So you have all these things like ego getting involved, and they don't have the level of mastery necessarily going back to the 10,000 hours that allows for complete immersion in the activity. Because mastery means that I don't have to

think about the mechanics of it, I can just do. Just like we drive a car, we're not thinking about where does my foot have to go on the gas, and the brake, and how do I steer. And we've just been driving for so long, we can just focus on where we're going. But if you ever drove in the UK, all of a sudden you're back to having to

think mechanically quite a bit. And all of a sudden driving is not so simple anymore. So until the skills get really developed, or at least they keep working with skills that they know that they own, their minds get too involved with, A, being right, and, B, thinking too mechanically. And that's why it's so difficult for so many people to get in the zone and, or using the mental

game to help themselves deal with that, I'm worried about judging everything or being right and all that kind of stuff. So there's so many elements of what you said there, Jenn, that come into play when you're talking about adult learners versus someone who's learned it from childhood. That's just such a great point. Sorry, I went all over the map there, but (indistinct) for things. - No, that's wonderful.

You know, it's the one, it made me think just now about-- - It could make you think of Isaac and water polo. - No, I thought about that through this whole podcast, but no, it made me think about, do you remember when Isaac would play video? We're big gamers. We have four PlayStations in the house, so the whole family can play together. And so we play a lot

together, and we, you know, the adults also play. But he would lay upside down so that he was looking at the TV and it's upside down and playing, right? Which I couldn't possibly do because then left is right and right is left and all of that, right? And we'd be like, what are you doing? Sit upright. Like you can't possibly-- - Play the best he possibly can but

he wanted to experiment and try things, and then I just feel like listening to what you just said that-- - Who's the better game, right? - Right. You know, and they would try, these kids would try and they would do dumb things, and they would try and blow you off the cliffs. And, you know, occasionally it would lose the game for you, right? Because they would be doing

something dumb and you're like, "No, stick to your bread and butter." But then, you know, a year later, all the adults, we just play the same way. We tried to optimize our efficiency, but then because we never took the risk, we don't have the same skillset as the kids. So the kids are by far, like our daughter is 11, after it was very clear after just several months

that she was going to be better than us. So now she doesn't play with us every night, but whenever she plays, we always win. Like she showed up yesterday, she hadn't played in I don't know how long, and we won just like three games in a row. There was three adults and then this 11 year old, and she was just carrying the team. And, you know, because she

was willing to take those chances, there was a joy to the game, and I felt like listening now that as a parent, I was beating that joy out of them. And so now I'm thinking, I'm like, Jenn, I'm like, oh God, I'm taking notes here. I need to look back and think about the feedbacks that I give people, you know, which I feel like are very clinical and

analytical. That's kind of my thing, right? And you know, we do all our feedback on formerly the coaches, I now with the new OnForm app. But, you know, with arrows, and slow motion, and side-by-side, you know, we're very technical. And yeah, I wonder if I'm doing it all wrong, go ahead. - Well, you can see I've got a fiddle for those of you who aren't obviously watching this,

you're listening. I have a fiddle in the background here, and I also am a amateur musician. I sound much better after a few glasses of wine, but anyway, one of the things that's really fascinating about music is there's a technical element to playing instruments well. But even those of us who've been in agility a long time know that what used to be wrong is now right and what's

right is now wrong, and like the whole thing circles around, right? - Absolutely. - So when you start to hammer into someone that there's a right way and a wrong way to do something, you're potentially not only sort of putting judgment into what they're doing, but you are sort of squashing their element of experimentation. And one of the things that is really difficult about being a high performer

is there certainly is an element of analysis that has to happen in practice to get better. I mean, there's no question. But the problem is there's an element of play and letting go that has nothing to do with the analytical side of things in good performance. So mastery and even sport, or music, or anything else, you have to be able to access that creative side of things to

reach mastery. So, you know, for example, you're running the course and agility, your dog does something you totally don't expect, but they save your butt, they go over the jump, you're in a completely wrong spot than you thought you were going to be. There's an element of spontaneous creativity that needs to happen, that some people could be watching and not even realize that wasn't the plan, right? But

because your mind is free and you're just completely reacting to what's in front of you instead of thinking, or judging, or analyzing, you're free to perform. And that's very much what happens to someone who's a clutch performer. They're able to be just in that moment and just completely focused on answering every question of the dog. And that's it. If there's maybe a thing about that dog, let's say

it's maybe got a slight tendency towards refusing, yes, we all know we're supposed to train the dog so it doesn't refuse. Truth is, if that's the weakness in the dog, it will always going to be an element. If you're a good teammate, you've got to pay attention to that. So you have maybe your performance key that you know that you're always focused on because that's the time quite

often the top performer will kick themselves, as they know they've got a dog who's got a slight weakness, we say committing, and they leave too soon and the dog pulls off. Then the handler's gonna kick themselves all over the place because they knew better, and they let sort of the rush or the competition of the excitement of it make them move out of their game. But the top

competitors say that's kind of the analytical part in the sense of I know the strengths and weaknesses of this team, and I know what I have to do to perform well, and make sure this dog gets all the information it needs. But there's also the sideline of when things inevitably go sideways, top performers can pull out of that dive and survive it. And that's because of the creative

element of it. So it's, you really as a coach, need to allow for an element of experimentation and craziness, because that's what develops that ability to create on the fly, the way a musician does when they're soloing. My fiddle teacher, he's really funny. He says, when he listens to people soloing, he loves hearing it when they're on the edge, and you don't know where it's going to go,

or if they're going to make it, because they're pushing their skills. But when he says when someone's playing a solo safe, it doesn't kind of excite him as a musician because there's not that stretching happening. So in practice, if you can create ways of creating an element of experimenting. So you're a basketball player, Esteban. So, you know, remember the old game of horse? - Of course. We still

play it today. - We still play it, yeah. With the kids. - So do it in agility. So what you do is you say, okay, first person has to pick a five obstacle sequence, and they have to do it with their dog. And then everyone else has to do it as well, who follows. - I love that. - And they all have to go clean, and they have

to do it the same way the leader did it. If the leader doesn't go clean, it moves on to the next leader, and anyone who doesn't go clean gets a letter. And of course, the first one is H, the next one is H-O which means... And the next one is H-O-R. (laughing) - Right. - So eventually, you know, they end up being a horse or whatever. So it's

a fun game. And it forces people out of their comfort zone 'cause then they have to handle things they're not necessarily used to doing. And what's really funny is most people try and do everything really nice at first, so that everyone's able to go clean, and then you're forever everyone's going clean, and no one's getting letters. And then finally people start pushing themselves to try and, you know,

make it tricky enough that they're going to start trying to make, do things that other people will push them. So they make those mistakes, right? So that's just one example of the way you can kind of gamify things to help people not think so hard about getting it right, and just trying to survive. - I think I have my lesson plan for next week. - I know, that

sounds like so much fun. My mind was spinning. I was already thinking about ways to adapt it. (laughs) - It would have been perfect. We just got done doing an entire six week session where each week we presented a different mental challenge. So it's a mental management session, and we didn't do that, but that would have been so good to do. - Yeah, well, you know, and there's

so many things you can do that way that are really a ton of fun and it just moves them out of judging everything all the time and it gets them into performing. And that's, if they can feel that shift, then it's easier to get to it in a competition when you need it. And it allows that sort of flexibility to be able to react when things do go

a little bit sideways and you need to change the plan, because we all know you can walk a course as many times as you like, but you won't end up running the course the way you walk it, you'll end up running the course the way it feels. So your goal is to try and get your walkthrough as close to how it will feel as possible to make that

walkthrough usable. - It's so interesting. Just everything that you're saying is so interesting, but the experimenting part, I find so intriguing, because, and as it pertains to going back to kind of the kids, but my seven-year old ran his dog this week and he's just getting started in agility. And we worked the plan and we worked the Front, and then he got out there, and he didn't do

the Front. And like, from the sidelines, I wanted to holler like, "Front Cross, "you forgot the Front Cross." And I obviously didn't, but he just like went one more jump and realized, "Oh, I'm supposed to be on the other side," and like threw in a Blind Cross and kept going. And it's just that difference between just letting him figure out, letting him experiment, no judgment. He didn't care,

he didn't know what was really happening. You know, he's seven. And as an adult, I feel like if I was running it, and I didn't make that Front Cross, I would instantly panic. I would be like, "I didn't make the Front. "Oh my God, what am I going to do?" And then two obstacles later, you know, there's the mistake. So I'm finding that concept as you're talking about

to be very interesting, so. - Well, another one I do, I have a short course that I do that's a lot about prep. And another fun one to do is just do a fairly short, fairly simple sequence depending on the level of your handlers. And this is something you can do with beginners as well. So it's maybe only four obstacles long or five obstacles along with a beginner,

and maybe it's a bit longer with your more experienced group. Don't let them walk it. They can only look at it from the outside, and then everyone runs it. And what ends up happening is, you know, they're all like, "I didn't walk it for 10 minutes." You know, dah, dah, dah. (laughs) It forces them to just let go and feel it, just run, just do it. 'Cause if

your skills are strong enough, I mean, we don't have to rehearse driving before we drive. Because at the end of the day, dogs can only turn left, turn right, or go straight. There's only so many directions that things can go. So if you end up keeping things simple at first, and let them just feel like just run and just do what feels like it should come out right

now. And you keep it simple at first, then they start to kind of let go of that a little bit more. Don't give them any direction to say walk it or don't walk it. Look at it from the outside and then just go. - That was one of the challenges we did in class last week actually. - Perfect, yeah, that's exactly right. - Well, thank you so much,

Kathy, for joining us on the podcast. This has been an amazing talk. I've enjoyed it very much. I'm certainly going to stay on with you for a few minutes afterwards and talk about my son and water polo, for sure. So do you ever take on clients that are not dog agility, or from other dogs sports, or just not even in the dog world at all? - Yeah, I

do. I primarily with the dog sports have dealt to this point with agility, obedience, and sheep herding. But I also take on even business clients who are building online businesses and stuff like that as well. - Oh, wow, interesting. - Yeah. - Interesting. And where can people find you if they want to work on their mental game? They know they have some of these issues that you discussed

here on the podcast today, where can they find you? - So my main site is, and you can contact me through that site as well, and that's the best place to get me. And I do private coaching as well as I run courses throughout the year on various elements of either mental game or training to excel. - All right, and we will put that link in the

show notes page, and it's Kathy with a K, K-A-T-H-Y, Keats, K-E-A-T-S. And do you offer both personal individualized coaching? Do you offer courses that people can take that aren't necessarily as personalized? What are some of your offerings? - Yeah, so I do private coaching where you can either do a one-off call, or you can do monthly coaching program with me over either one month or a period of

time. I have four main programs. One is called The Momentum Habit, and that's about building habits that help automate your success and have to reduce the need for willpower to make it happen. I do a course called How Winners Think, which is primarily around mental game. And then I have another one called Train to Excel, which applies the principles of training to dog sport. - And that's it

for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsors, the Westminster Kennel Club, and Happy training. (upbeat music) - Thank you for listening to "Bad Dog Agility". We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information, updates, and links to all our socials, just check out our website, If you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the BDA community.

Until next time. Take care.

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