I haven't posted much as it has been a crazy few weeks with teaching and training and therapy for Missy Nia, but there couldn't be a better time then after a great 3 day agility show. I saw many students making bold decisions and handling courses as they do at home. Some of the dogs that we have added some heat to in class were better prepared for the stresses of the show.
Mental prep was a huge part of playing the game this weekend. Conflicts and course lag time with such large height classes made many of us put in the effort to get focused before our runs.
Those of you reading this may have spent the weekend with me and my 2 dogs that ran. A bit uncharacteristic weekend for me that's for sure. I made the decision to play with Shianne. A dog that almost died of cancer last August and doesn't do well in high stress situations. Weaves are her "stress point", but we spent the last 4 weeks retraining and it was a huge success! Shianne came out on course with confidence and speed and great understanding. Old dogs can learn new tricks! What also was different this weekend was my young dogs behavior.
As I previously discussed rehearsal of behaviors, Tugger had the unfortunate opportunity to rehearse zooming 2 weeks ago at Wine Country. So it was no surprise (ok, maybe it was a surprise on my FIRST run) that Tug would repeat the behavior and the behavior continued to grow. Not a good thing! It was very discouraging as I put in the time to train from the start. What decision do I make while he continues to struggle on course? How do I handle the many students and fellow agility competitors watching the teacher's dog run amuck in the ring? And how do I mentally focus and be there for Shianne when I've just been completely embarrassed on course?
There is no simple answer as I think every person handles things differently, but the main thing that needed to happen was what was best for my dogs and my feelings be put aside. I spent last night looking at my runs and seeing first if there was something that may be triggering the behavior- stress? over arousal? lack of information on course? I couldn't find anything. Was it simply because he is a 2 yr old intact Vizsla. (If you know the breed, you know they are NOT an easy breed to work with) That would be a very good excuse to use and allow myself to let things go. Did I consider that? I would be lying if I said no. But I realized that I have expectations that are above just making up an excuse and letting it go.
What I did know is that he does not get adequate training time. In fact he rarely gets trained. He gets 5 min here and there before classes. So to expect brilliance of 20 obstacles in a new environment with alot of pressure I think is unfair simply because I have not built the value for the teamwork needed on course yet. That's an easy thing to fix, but what do I do while the show is still on? I chose not to rehearse the behavior again that day at the show. Not an easy decision to not run. Today, my decision was to work him in the practice area and see what I got. I also wanted to have success as pulling a baby dog out the of the ring is not going to make the game any more fun. I found a nice loop and off we went. Tugger was able to get reinforcement for working with me and he was a happy dog.
So now I have had time to come up with a game plan. No matter what you have in the ring, there is always an opportunity to train. I won't quit, I won't be angry or upset, and I won't allow what others say get me down. What matters most is the training and time you give to your teammate and my biggest lesson this weekend was that I simply did not do that.
The good news is- Tuggers still sleeping on the bed tonight, he's still wrestling with his sisters and doing it all again tomorrow (with more structure and 1 on 1 time with me.)
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is come up with an excuse or a reason to make things seem like it's ok, the hardest thing to do is accept and acknowledge the mistakes or that you may have not done what was needed in your training and make the decision to put forth the effort to change what you don't like on course or in daily life.