Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Saturday's Agility Match

...or a continuation of my obsession with dog behavior. On Saturday I had planned to spend the day at the agility trial with my friend Dawn and Ghost. Since car trouble and other issues canceled those plans I took my time getting up there on Saturday. I dropped Keegan and Logan at my parents house, got some lunch and headed over to see who I could find at the trial site.

Steeler and I walked around and around the agility rings and I couldn't have asked for better behavior. We were passing within a few (2 -3) feet of other dogs and handlers and the occasional puppy. Even a dalmatian puppy, with no reaction other than occasional mild interest. We stopped at Kathy and Sandy's tent to hang out for a while and chat. I used to train with Kathy when I lived in Chelmsford so it was good to see her and chat for a while. Of course we (I) had to talk about behavior and get her take on what happened on Friday night. And now I don't really remember what was decided - if anything - other than it was good that I had a chance to work through what happened. And that I need to practice putting a leash on in the woods for no reason.

By the time the match was ready to start there wasn't anyone around that I knew - so no video this time, sorry Kim! :-) Steeler's first run was lovely. He was really focused, though the opening was jump - poles and he missed his entry. But I got him back and he handled the next few obstacles very well. Stopped on his dog walk contact and waited to be released! Then into the tunnel. He still doesn't have a full height A frame - so we skipped that, though we practiced his contact behavior. The rest of the run was fine, tunnel, teeter (wasn't exceptionally fast - but he didn't hesitate and held his contact. Table to the next series of jumps (first a 270) then over the broad jump and another jump to finish. I think I should have stopped there! BAD HANDLER for forgetting that he did that whole course with no real rewards during the run. I haven't been able to really get him to play in that environment lately. So I couldn't stop and reward him during the run. In retrospect - I should have stopped after a few obstacles and run out and gotten cookies. *sigh* Some day I will learn. I did take him out to run up and down the dirt road after we finished, and he got cookies. And we tried to play with his favorite rabbit tug - which he did a little bit, but he was far more interested in sniffing the grass than chasing his rabbit.

Runs 2 and 3 I felt were just awful. Run 2 started with him leaving to investigate the shelties walking down the side of the ring. Thankfully the snow fencing was 4 ft and he didn't think about jumping it. But I panicked, which sent him looking for something else to do, and he almost went to visit the next dog that was waiting his turn. *BIG SIG* OK so now I was in complete PANIC mode ... but he did come back and we were able to do a couple more obstacles before I left the ring. Oh and visiting the ring crew was fun for him too.

Third run - probably not as much of a disaster as the second run. Now I had ring crew guarding the exit so Steeler couldn't escape. I didn't even ask them to do that. Steeler was still really distracted and though he would come back to me I clearly wasn't doing a good job of being reinforcing enough for him.

So- plans for the next match in June??? This time I am going to stick to my plan to do 5 or 6 obstacles and then take him out and reward him for doing well. :-) Though at the moment I am vacillating between being done with dog sports, done with agility, or just doing obedience. *sigh* Sometimes I think that these ups and downs just can't be normal.

Since Julie has Tagged me to tell how my dogs came to me - you can look forward to that in another post soon!


  1. Jenn, I intended to respond to your prior post, but I guess it slipped my mind. :)

    I think you need to watch some of my very first trialing videos with Peyton...you know, the ones where he jumped in and out of the ring and barked at the photographer, the judge, the leash runner and did maybe 1 out of every 7 obstacles in no particular order. ;)

    If Steeler is 1/2 as sensitive as Peyton, I don't think that at this point you should worry about doing everything "right"...I think you should concentrate on just running and trying to have a good time with your spotty boy. If he goes off course or makes a mistake - NO BIG DEAL! Accuracy will come with experience.

    Now I know this is easier said than done, but I can see a LOT more focus with Steeler than what I had with Peyton. But I think the more you stop and try to do something again, the more likely Steeler will become concerned and start to look for other less-stressful things to do.

    Peyton is just now getting to the point where if we miss something I can bring him around and reattempt it without him getting stressed out...and even then, I try my best to not let him think that he made a mistake - and besides, most of the mistakes are mine anyway!

    I don't think you guys should give up...you guys are a great team! The ups and downs are just part of this crazy game. :)

  2. Jenn - I agree with all Kim has to say. This sport is all about ups and downs! Tess did the run around and sniff thing when we first started, and just when she started running really well, we had an incident with a piece of equipment at a trial, and Tess spent nearly a year bailing off the teeter. Talk about frustrating!!

    Now Tess is back to running well, but she still has the "Goldilocks" syndrome -- everything has to be just right. She can't be too hot or too cold, too wired or too tired. We are getting more consistency from her, but you just never know which Tess is going to show up!

    Point is, we've all been through this in some form or another. Steeler is a smart and happy boy. Just keep working with him and it will all work out. Besides, if you quit doggie sports, what would you do with your time and money?!! :)

  3. thanks for the encouragement ladies! :-) I think I have a plan of action moving forward. I am trying to line up a few people so that a friend of mine can teach a class based on Leslie McD's CU book, and we are going to try to get together more often to actually train real life stuff. I am going to watch Leslie Nelson Really Reliable Recall again and start following through with that. And Katrin's communications class has helped a lot in my agility class too. Kim - have you always been able to keep your cool when Peyton was being a wild child?