The fun match at the club yesterday was another opportunity to practice utility exercises in a distracting environment. Lots of people, dogs, noise, etc., which proved to be quite stressful for Jackson. I tried to relax in the ring - even had treats - but he still had problems focusing on what he was supposed to be doing. After most run-throughs were done we went to an empty ring and a training friend called some heeling/signal patterns for us. He did much better. Maybe he was getting more used to the distractions, and things were quieting down. I'm thinking perhaps I should bring him in earlier at the trial so he can have more time to adjust to the building noise and activity.
We were back out to the club this afternoon doing run-throughs with a couple training friends. He did much better today. He paid attention and did all the exercises satisfactorily. This was encouraging. I'm trying something new with the articles to try to break through his avoidance/circling behavior that occurs when he is stressed. If he circles the pile more than twice, I just go in calmly and bring him out and restart the exercise. Then he usually goes back to the pile and picks the correct article up right away. Hoping he learns to go to the pile and not be afraid to pick up the article and bring it back.
We have three more days this week to practice until the trials Saturday and Sunday!