I can't speak for Jackson, but I think the trials this past weekend were a real confidence builder for both of us. Recently, Susan Garrett posted on her dog training blog about the need to rehearse success to build confidence. So, that was our goal last weekend. I felt we needed to get back into the ring to try to find some success in doing the utility exercises under stress/with distractions. We had not been in a trial since last February - a trial where I discovered we had a lot of things that needed work, to put it mildly : )
I'm happy to report that we did find some success. Actually, I would have been happy to have just seen a lot of improvement, even if we didn't qualify. Needless to say though, I was thrilled when we qualified on Sunday and got our first UD leg! And, a First place no less - not because of our score, but we were the only one out of seven entered that qualified.
Overall, it was a great weekend. The trials were in Loveland, Colorado, which is quite a ways from where we live so I didn't know anyone at the trials. However, we met a lot of really nice people and found the show site and the judges to be super. (The reason we went so far for the trials is because we love the mountains and usually make a trek to Colorado each year anyway to get our 'fix' of mountains, so decided to combine the trip with a trial this time.)
There were two trials over the weekend. We NQ'd on the first trial because he did not go all the way down on the 'down' signal - he just sat. It was one of those, "He's never done that before" moments. He has missed the signal on occasion, but he's always gone completely down when he's started it. The rest of the exercises were pretty solid on the basics. He lost a lot of points both days though on lack of briskness, slow sits, crooked sits and some lagging , which was pretty much as I expected. Even though in practice we can get some speed and some good heeling without the lagging, everything really slows down under the stress of a trial.
I posted a couple short clips of the moving stand exercise and the directed retrieve (glove) exercise.
So, now we have a better idea of where we are, as far as progress we've made in performing the exercises. And, we know we need a lot of work to keep improving. It's really the same things we've been working on in the last few months - the basics (attention, heeling), building confidence and having fun! Maybe the briskness will come with the confidence : )