We had our first trial in a while just today. And we havent been practicing, scheduling has been weird and some work changes have been making me unable to get in that second class I’ve been squeezing in. I’ve tried to practice when and where I can, but its been admittedly sporadic.
I knew this going in, but our second run today—the one I cared about, Open JWW—was a complete reversion to where we were/how we were running a year ago. And whats killing me about it is that it wasnt training-based. I can fix sucky weaves or do more contacts or handling work. But when he is just not feeling it, after I have stood on my head and jumped through the hoops and done our little routine to help him get in the game, then what?
Our first run was okay. He wasnt 100% with me, but we made it around. I made some handling mistakes that put him off kilter a bit but we survived with a wrong course and maybe a refusal. And too many attempts at the weaves. But whatever. It was neither here nor there.
Fast forward to JWW… He was completely checked out from the moment we went to the warm up jump. He would jump it listlessly then wander off instead of coming back around to me. To top it off I had grumbling not-so-nice people backing up in a line who wanted to warm up as well. We got out of there, and I began begging and pleading for him to get happy. My usual routine of happy voice/dancing around/asking for hand touches/dangling salmon in his face was to no avail. He just looked at me like I had three heads. When we went in the ring and he was totally disconnected from me, I knew it was curtains right then and there. We made it over the first two jumps, through the tunnel, over another jump, then came to a screeching halt at the weaves. Literally, a halt. With him stopped in his tracks, staring off into space at the roof. Like body snatchers had snuck into the Ex Pen and took his brain away. I made a half-hearted attempt to get him started back up again, but within a few seconds I knew he was gone. Totally and completely not there. So, I excused us. The judge said “sorry” and had a sad look on his face.
I dont know if that was the right thing to do. I really dont. Someone said I should have just skipped the weaves and kept going. Which I have done in the past. But this time he just felt dead. And at that precise moment in time I didnt see the point of forcing him to go on. He was obviously miserable.
Then the fun, fun drive home. Was it my fault? What did I do? Was it the dirt/dust/roof/heat/wind direction? Was it because I got a new Ex pen? Maybe because Phin was in the Ex Pen? Does he not like the color of the Ex Pen top I bought? Did I feed him too much? Not enough? Is he bored with the string cheese? Maybe I should have brought filet mignon? And on and on and on… Finally just I chalked it up to him not feeling well. He did get his teeth cleaned yesterday so maybe that was a bad idea to do the day before a trial. Regardless, I need to move on regarding the exact reason why.
But its tough. I have moments with him where I feel like I am training a dog through his fears/emotional reactions/motivation issues by coercing him to do something he doesn’t want to do. Is gradually conditioning a dog to do something he doesnt like because you do okay? There are days when he does want to do it, but I obviously have a hard time focusing on those days. My biggest fear is dragging a miserable dog around the course. That isnt right. And if its only fun for them some of the time, is that enough? I dont know.
He truly doesn’t seem like he feels well since we’ve been home. Keeping a close eye on him and hoping all this is some leftover soreness or agitation from the teeth cleaning. I don’t like feeling down on my Bestest Dog.