We had a fun match at the club where we train this morning. It was an opportunity to see where we are in training. There were some areas where I was pleased with his performance, and there are still areas that need work. Overall, he is still stressed in a trial-like situation even if it's just a fun match at a place he is familiar with, so he really slows down. I don't know if we're ever going to get past that, so I'm thinking I will be less frustrated with him if I just expect him to slow down - although that seems like I'm giving up to some extent : )
On his heeling and signals - he lagged at times on the heeling and he anticipated the first signal. We restarted and his signals were fine when we tried it again. He is consistently trotting in on the recall from the signals with perfect fronts, which I am very happy about. A few months ago, he was consistently walking slowly in on the recall, so maybe there is something to that muscle memory thing. Now if we can just get it working on the heeling!
Articles - he was really slow going out and getting to work on the article pile. Stress again - seems like he's avoiding the correct article because he doesn't want to put his head down and pick it up, but eventually he picks up the correct article and walks in with it. The 'judge' said she had that problem with her dog and started putting a treat in the pile and jackpotting him when he came back with the correct article. That got her dog working faster. Hmmmm... I think I'll try that next week - got nothing to lose.
Gloves - He was fine with the glove exercise, although he walked in with the glove instead of trotting in like he does in practice. Stress!!!! Moving Stand - He anticipated so we did a few fake-outs. Then, his moving stand was fine.
Go-outs/directed jumping - His go-outs were straight, however, he slowed down to a walk before he got to the gates. His sits were slow, but he did sit and his jumps were good.
So, if this had been a trial he would have NQd on the signals and moving stand. He likely would have passed on the other exercises, but with lots of points off for lack of briskness on about every exercise.
Okay - we have three days to practice before we leave for the weekend trials. Not a lot of time to fix anything. I'm going to try the treats and jackpotting with the articles. The rest of the exercises, we'll keep doing what we've been doing, working to build confidence - and if we're lucky, some muscle memory. And, hopefully he will not be so stressed at the trial that he forgets everything we've practiced!