Trialing can be stressful. Correction… Trialing IS stressful. If we are doing something that we care about, and we have spent months preparing for the event, we are bound to feel pressure on the start line. If you have trialed, you know the feeling of butterflies as you step to the line. There is one thing you can do to help you be successful!
Your Biology is Working Against You
Have you ever heard of “Tunnel Vision”? When you are in a heightened state of arousal or stress, your senses will constrict. To some extent, this can help you focus although with vision, it means that your ability to see beyond what is directly in front of you is diminished. And we wonder why it’s hard to remember what hides we have found!
I was doing a little reading on the topic and it turns out that researchers at Johns Hopkins did a bit of research on stressed individuals. When peripheral vision constricted and the individual focused on one thing, auditory acuity decreased. When the individual focused on auditory cues, visual performance decreased. So basically, a stressed individual cannot biologically focus on more than one of their senses. (Dr. Rich Gasaway).
So basically, when you are stressed, your biology not only limits what you can perceive, but you will also struggle to focus on more than one thing at a time.
Your best defense is a good offense
Because you are likely to only be able to focus on one thing at a time, the best way to maximize your success in searching is to proactively pick ONE THING that you plan to prioritize. That ONE THING might vary depending on your personal dog or level.
For instance, if your dog is subtle and you are just starting your trial journey, you might be best to focus on just looking for a change of behavior. Or…. If your dog is at the NW3 level and your dog has a tendency towards high arousal, your priority might be to pay attention to whether or not your dog is actively searching so that you don’t miss any hides.
If you plan on focusing on ONE thing, you will have a basic plan. A basic plan can help you to lower your arousal.
We all know that telling someone to relax NEVER actually helps them to relax. (If you doubt that, try seeing what happens the next time you are in an argument with someone!). So it would make sense that telling ourselves to relax isn’t going to help either.
Feeling more prepared, even if it’s just a little, can help to settle nerves. The trouble is, if we try to control everything, we really won’t be all that successful…. but since we CAN focus on ONE thing, we can start to get success rolling if we pick ONE THING to focus on.
At your next trial, if you are nervous, try to pick ONE thing to focus on!
This is such a wonderful and pertinent article!! This is exactly what happens to me, when I am in a trial, no matter what venue, I get tunnel vision, alot of the time, dont even know where the judge even is. I will definitely be trying these tips.
This was super interesting! I am so bad at remembering heights I found! Yet I don’t feel like I’m super nervous when I go in to search, I trust my dog 100%. Huh this is telling me something else though.