Weekend Update — DASH AKC Trial

Another trial under our belt, another weekend of agony and victory. Well ok, neither really, just a lot of mediocre honestly.

The best part was having a trial so close to home; that was really, really nice. Made things a lot more relaxing. Plus, this was the first trial I went to under Laurie’s stewardship, and it was great. Not only to have someone to give feedback, but to feel a little less like my own dingy at sea and a little more part of a supportive group. Also a lot of people came up from SD, so it was a trial with lots of familiar faces.

I really liked one of the judges. I timed a few classes on Saturday—and I was not so hot at it. The Standard class I don’t think I flubbed (plus my scribe was seasoned crusty veteran and a total riot), but when it came to timing FAST, I was a disaster. I will claim that I wasnt the complete reason for the trainwreck that was Open FAST, but lets just say I didnt help the situation either. Thankfully the judge had a sense of humor—she gave me sass, but in a good way. If she hadnt been such a good sport, I would have been completely mortified (instead of just mostly).

Overall, Forest was very good. He still gets in these situations with a ton of stimulation, and his little brain cells start to short out on him. But, he keeps his composure for the most part and at least we are getting through courses without him totally checking out on me—at least these days if I lose him, I can get him back (except for with exceptionally loud gate persons, see below).

Saturday was a long day, between me delivering coffee at 7am and being in the last class of the day—Novice FAST. Our Open STD was first. We had a rough start thanks to me—after sitting through three rounds of Excellent as timer, I still managed to start before they gave me the “Ready”. Dumb ass. They let me reset and start again. I dont remember much about the run except that he nailed his weaves on the first try (Hooray!) and then blew his contact on the Aframe. Thats okay. That is fixable for us if I just pay attention (and we are working on running contacts, so no biggie).

Open JWW was not good. The gate guy is this huge dude who screams/bellows at the top of his lungs. We actually have been around this guy before, but Saturday Forest said “No way Mom. This guy blows.” I could tell he was melting down right before we were going in. Shit. I took him out there, we made it over three jumps with his tail tucked between his legs, and he bolted past the weaves to the opposite end of the arena. He was really, really scared, stood there shaking. I just walked over and picked him up and carried him out. It took him a while to recover from that one. I felt really bad, and if I knew what his triggers were I would be more careful, but they seem pretty random. Or maybe I am just starting to catch on… I guess the two fear meltdowns we’ve had a trials both have been noise-based, so something to watch out for. Laurie also said I did the right thing by getting him out of there and not pushing him in that state. It was good to get some validation on that front too.

I elected to do FAST on Saturday only. Which in hindsight I am glad we did—not only because we got 3rd place and a Q—yay! But, because it gave me the opp to get Forest back in the ring and to fix that bailed contact. He did everything perfectly, including the send—it was Novice, so it was very easy, but I was still proud of him as distance work is not our strong suit. We went under time just about perfectly, but now that I really understand how it works, I’ll probably be more aggressive next time getting more points! So, at least we ended on a high note.

Sunday was fine too. Back into JWW first, and thankfully Mr. Town Crier was nowhere to be seen. The judge however (the one I liked) was standing—with her enormous sun hat and purple “frock” directly in the sightline from the start. He bolted straight to her, gave her a hard stare, then came back to me and we went on. Missed the first weave entry, got it, then somehow missed a fence in a pinwheel (?!?) but it was fluid and I didnt see the point of backtracking so we just went on. Again, I got back up for making the right call so that was good. Laurie did comment though that I forced him into a sit on the start and that she saw him start stressing immediately from it. Interesting, and something I obviously was not aware of.

So, onto Standard Open. I actually do have video of this, will try to sneak it in here shortly. Unfortunately the video misses the first few seconds and our start—I left him in a stand stay, not knowing if he would—but after a violent shaking episode (one of his standard stress quirks) we were off and I even got the tunnel entry I was worried about. I missed a front cross but snuck in a rear instead. Perfect table and both contact obstacles, then the weaves. The video is quite funny—you see him enter, then turn back too quickly and slam himself into that second pole. Even the judge kinda laughed and commented “That pole bit him!” It took a minute to get him rebooted, but he did like a champ, then I flubbed the pinwheel and got him to add in another jump. Then off to glare at the photographer, back on track and a finish. Whew. Somehow we Q’ed with that disaster. Yikes.

Ugh. So, I think our biggest problem at this point is just that we need to do more trials. Get him more used to the chaos, and me more able to concentrate while on course. I think my goal is 10 trials this year–so we have 5 to go. The weather will be cooling down and I think we’ll be able to do it. If I can get into Excellent JWW by the end of the year, I’ll be happy. For some reason Standard is so much more doable for us, probably because we have time to be more thoughtful about everything.

Not sure when our next outing will be, but time to start planning now! At this rate I would not be surprised if our non-Summer reared its annoying head and decided to be hot well into fall, but I hope not. Cool weather makes speedy dogs.

Quickie Update

This week has been crazy between dog stuff, work and side-work stuff and Pete leaving town, so not much time for a proper post.

Monday night was great. Forest was meellllllooooww, thanks to running his brains out the afternoon before. And he was very, very good. Our standard course we would have Q’ed for sure. Missed first weaves entry but then nailed it, and he had his super-fast-pants on. I had to actually run to keep up with him on the dog walk and he even pretty much ran down the AF which was awesome. I was very proud of him. Jumpers wasnt as pretty, but entirely my own fault. The second course had four front crosses in it and I made a total mess of it. Oh well. She tends to give us harder courses than I *think* we’ll have at the novice level, so I can only hope that we’ll have a fairly easy time once we get into the trialing phase.

New Trainer tomorrow evening, looking forward to it.

Prepping and cooking tonight so we’ll have plenty o’ time to pack for our “travel” weekend. Staying with my Dad and stepmom as our trial is way down in South San Diego. We’ll stay with them on Friday and Saturday night which will be fun. My sister will also be there, so I hope to get to have some quality family time squeezed in too. Plus my parents have a new kitty—about 4-5 months now—and he is too cute. I need my kitty fix. Not really reminding too many people down there about my trial, I don’t want to be too distracted. I know I’ll be a stress case, at least on Saturday. The only people “allowed” on Saturday are my mom, Pete, and my BFF from 6th grade who I grew up riding with. Everyone else is barred!

AND, I volunteered to set jumps on Sunday for a few classes. Agility Hell has been held off by a thread.

In Random Dog News: Connecticut Humane Society busted for shady practices, including euthanizing dogs for behavioral problems such as seperation anxiety. Both my dogs would have been toast. Eek, eek, eek.

Introducing “Forest 2.0”–aka Velcro dog! WTF?

It was an interesting night. And, once again, I proved my own theory firsthand that if I am out of sorts on agility night, that it all goes down the tubes.

I tried to take it easy yesterday, as I got home from the East Coast on Sunday evening. Tried to sleep in but my internal time clock is extra wonky between going three timezones East and Daylight Savings. Only worked for a few hours and wasn’t rushed, but also squeezed in a meet with some of my favorite couple-friends-from-out-of-town who are also preggers. I had to take the time to go see them, but Forest was cooped up in the car for quite a while between the drive and our hour-plus visit. He also was pooped from being out in the desert with Pete all weekend and hadnt done a lick of agility since last Monday. Sigh. Oh, AND, I somehow thought it was a good idea to have a glass of wine, despite the fact that I had been falling asleep on the drive down. Genius!

Actually our Standard course wasn’t half bad. A few bumbles of my own doing and a funny decision by F to come off the dogwalk 3/4 of the way down the ramp and do a 2o2o with his ass way up in the air. I pulled him off and made him come down the ramp again. Oh, and he bumped his head on one of the weave poles (not hard) and kinda surprised himself I think. Funny. Overall decent though.

Then Jumpers. Which I was so excited for as it had been a while. But, alas, I got ahead of myself. Apparently as we went on through two go-rounds, he was looking at me—really fixating on—more and more. He is usually really good about me sending him on over jumps, but by then end he was totally quitting on me. Anne finally said at the end–somewhat exasperated; “He’s looking at you! He’s looking at you instead of the jumps!”

Ugh.

In my quest to get him to pay attention to me instead of bail for things more interesting, I have now got him completely fixated on me. Gah. To his credit, I did kinda forget to feed him his dinner, though I thought the treats would be filling him up. Maybe not. Regardless, I guess its a good thing as now I know he can go to both ends of the spectrum, just how to manage it.

In light of that, we are testing out a new trainer up here this week too. My current trainer is great with foundation stuff and teaching the dogs to do each obstacle correctly. She is also good at basic handling, but I feel like once things get more complicated—esp. when it hinges on behavioral issues—she really doesn’t offer up much advice. So, I am hoping this new person can help me more in that realm. I feel I am pretty good at analyzing things before and after, but I am just not experienced enough yet to make quick decisions on my own.

I am looking for an agility mentor… any one out there?

Two steps forward…

So. Last night went better. We got to class super-early. I stopped en route and grabbed some dinner (salad in place of fried Chimichanga). Forest had his dinner in the back while I had mine. No rush, watched the Advanced class before ours. He tried to get wound up once he was done with dinner, but I just stayed calm and ignored him. Put his leash on and worked on laying on the mat in the trunk. Took it out and down to class with us, clicked him for “go to yer bed”. He seemed happy with that for the beginning as opposed to laying on dirt or wet grass.

We usually seem to do jumpers first, which is definitely our strong suit. He was great, as usual, any bobbles were entirely of my doing. He runs really fluidly and I don’t have to give him much verbal direction except when calling him back towards me. He’s getting quite good at going ahead of me. I actually realized last night that I think thats where a lot of our hang ups are occurring–at any point where there is a loss in momentum is where we tend to melt down… And, he may make me lazy as he is so good at going ahead of me, its a lot of work to get out ahead of him in front as opposed to sending him from behind. Maybe I’ll start charging myself $5 for every lazy rear cross…

Standard course was not perfect, yet it was miles ahead of two weeks ago. I think maybe he has a hard time seeing things occasionally (?) in the dark, or maybe its me who has a hard time seeing. Either way we missed a few easy, obvious entries–to the tunnel and to the teeter–but got back on track quickly.

I did notice at one point where after we kept missing the tunnel entry he scooted away and started eating grass. I think I was starting to get stressed—I always thought he didn’t care so much what I was thinking/doing/saying, but am coming to realize he really is a pretty sensitive guy. It was pretty eye opening now that I am more aware of what to look for. I calmed down, gently grabbed him and told him it was okay. I think after that we got going again.

We also were just doing the short weaves as we had a few first time Novice people joining. He missed a few times more because he hasnt figured out how to slam on the breaks yet, but was no big deal. We practiced the full 12 set at the end of class. He nailed it on the second try so we quit with that.

Also reinforced a TON throughout class, including clicking him for laying/sitting on his mat. I should have fed him less for dinner…

Overall a much more relaxing experience than last class, so that is a step in the right direction.

Tomorrow night starts our Control Unleashed session. Six weeks long, looking forward to it—I think it will be a big step in the right direction. I love my agility trainer, but she definitely does not have the time nor the training style to address individual behavioral issues. I hope this can help us work through both of our stress and focus issues. Fingers crossed.

Meltdown Take 2

It was going so well… and then.

Well as in… we made it down to class last night (which a feat within itself–leave work early, rush home to grab agile gear, toothbrush, athletic-type shoes, frozen dog treats–all while on phone w business partner ignoring real life partner; cram dog into car, jump onto toll road and I-5 South; drop and call back biz partner multiple times; make stop by tenants house to load in 50 lbs of my succulents and pots into car; stop by Mexi restaurant and accidentally order Chimichanga burrito; get to Agilitee, stuff face with deep-fried burrito while getting on athletic shoes, digging out leash and treats, forgetting poo bags; rush into class just on time). Phew. I wonder why my dog(s) may have stress issues…

So, it went really well in the beginning. We were doing a jumpers course. Which seems pretty advanced to me for us being delegated to “Pre-Novice” and all. The first go was reasonable, but the second was chock full of nasty front crosses and I would have predicted that I would have made a total hot mess of the whole thing, yet somehow we pulled it off quite well, front-dizzying crosses and all. Forest was so good, flying along, happy little guy.

Then we got to the course. I’ll spare the details save that we progressively screwed up on more and more obstacles and finally it devolved into him running away from me up the dog walk, or A-frame, and staring blankly at me. Obviously, he is not happy with me.

I am not sure what is going on, but I think its a combo of a few things;

– the stress level is not helping our cause. I need to seriously get a meditation CD or something for the drive down so I am not all wired when we get there. And I need to plan ahead better so I am ready to leave right after work and not rushing around the house like an idiot then jumping into traffic wondering what the hell I am going to eat. Pack my clothes, agility bag, snacks, etc. on Sunday night. Get it together.

– I think what might be happening on the field are two things simultaneously: One, I dont think he likes it when we mess up consecutively. Or maybe I just dont and I telegraph it to him. We get frustrated too easily. Its either gravy or ever-crescendoing disaster. Two, I am not sure if maybe we are rushing into the “whole course” thing… I havent been treating him as much on his contacts, though I have been treating him consistently on the teeter ever since we kinda skipped that whole “here’s how you ride it down all by yourself” part. Regardless, he “Sticks” on any contact obstacle. Does it, well, then stares blankly at me as I try to move him off of it and away to the next obstacle… I havent been treating him after the weaves either–at least as part of the course anyway. During practice I always do.

So, not sure how to handle exactly, but have a few ideas…

– working at home how to “break!” off of sit, down, then contact obstacles

– maybe treating randomly/intermittently during course at class (not sure about this one, need to talk over with trainer). Would treating in between obstacles and/or for moving off of obstacles help or confuse the issue?

– working on relaxing and not stressing during class

– reading Control Unleashed

Or I could just chuck it all out the window and keep slogging away at it. I dunno. I am just tired and I think Forest is too. We will be missing class in a few weeks due to my work travel. Maybe it will be good for him to have a week off instead of me rescheduling. We’ll see how the next two weeks go…

I do need to remember the good parts. Beautiful jumpers, good weaves (all 12!!!), brave teeter. And a good quote I read on the  Levels Group this AM:

“A partnership means that each is aware of what the other needs, not ‘you should keep working for me’.  (If the dog is not ‘in the game’,) the game needs to have its rules changed, so he/she can play it. A game means ‘something you enjoy playing’, I would say. A thought:  Less is more.”

Meditation tapes here we come.