Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Trial disaster

Kili attended her first full weekend trial in mid-August. It was a complete disaster. Almost a complete disaster. There was fault all around... both mine and hers, but mostly mine.

First of all I shouldn't have entered her in so many runs (though to be fair that ended up being a bit of a saving grace because it allowed us to pull things together and not have a complete failure on the weekend). I thought that since she trains at this location and has had a successful (evening) trial there that there would be no major environmental issues to work around. But I was very wrong.

Love the running dog walk!
On Saturday we arrived and got settled. It was a nice cool weekend which is perfect for the dogs. I had taken her out to the empty hockey arena by our house before leaving and tried to run her hard to take the edge off. She ran a bit, but not as much as I would have liked. Our first run was in a game called "Gamblers". I thought it would be the perfect first run because you make your own course for the first 40 seconds, and then you have a distance portion you have to do. I wasn't expecting the distance work to happen, but figured it would be good to warm up on a course of my own choosing. She took the first jump and then just went and did whatever obstacles she wanted, and then ran around the ring like a mad dog. Not good, but shame on me for not finding a better way to exercise her that morning, right?

Took her for a jog on the road with me to burn some energy. Brought her back for her second run... even worse. It's the first run in the video I'm going to post. She left the ring, wouldn't recall, and was actually excused from the ring (you'll hear the judge say "She's done. Go get her"... yeah, easy to say, hard to do... I had to just stand with her until someone clued in that I needed my leash). I was beyond frustrated. I took her to a nearby ravine and walked her off leash for awhile trying to decide what to do... just call it quits for the day or go back for her last run? I finally decided to go back for the last run. My decision process was basically that I didn't want to bring her back the next day to the same thing... so if we couldn't pull it together in this third run I would just scratch her from Sunday's trial and stay home.

In her final run she did much better. Perhaps because I didn't have anyone videoing it. She was extremely slow as she must have been exhausted by that point, but she stayed with me and would have Q'd if she hadn't been so slow (we had 2 time faults). I felt better and thought maybe it was just an exercise issue and an overexcitement issue.

She looks so good when she's on....
Sunday morning I took her to the dog park for an hour long hike where she ran and played with another dog the entire time. Her first run on Sunday is the second run in the video. She stayed with me for the most part... except that she had seen where I hid the jackpot and left to go find it. But at least it was for, what I consider, a conscious and thoughtful reason, and she came back when called. It was not great, but it was okay. Afterwards I thought about the trial to that point trying to figure out why my dog was acting like this. And I realized something important. My dog may have been stressed and distracted... and I was doing everything in my power to calm her, keep her focused on me, and babysit her through the obstacles. But that's not how our team works. That isn't how we run. I don't try to slow her down except on rare occasion where I really need her to collect. I don't beg for her attention. And I certainly don't babysit her as she does each obstacle. Our game is fast and she stays engaged with me because I keep moving forward.

Pretty sure this is during one of her moments of madness....
After this epiphany I tried an experiment in Steeplechase. I made up my own short course and my intention was so just focus on running my dog the way I run my dog. Well, it was great. She was focused, she was engaged, she was fast. So I pulled my idiot self together for her Jumper's run and boy did she fly. I miscued her and caused her a refusal on a jump, otherwise she would have Q'd. It was fast, it was focused, it was us, and we were both happier for it.

Since then we've just been taking it easy and learning from mistakes. If nothing else I am happy that we were able to pull things together as the trial progressed so that we weren't both completely frustrated at the end. I am also focusing on the positives. She only missed her weave pole entry once and she completed her weave poles every single time. Being the newest and, arguably, one of the most difficult obstacles I was very pleased. I may try entering her in a trial in November or December, but I will likely enter her in only one FEO run on the Saturday and then the Jumpers run on Sunday. Thanksgiving weekend we're going to stop by a trial just to play in the environment. We've been having frustrations with getting to class due to my work schedule which isn't helping us. At home she's been training like a champ, so we just need to focus on tuning out the distractions in class and trials. It's important to remind myself that she's just a baby dog still and she has so much learning and maturing still to do!

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