Sunday, October 4, 2009

A character-building experience!

This weekend of trials was a real character-building experience for Jackson, and a learning experience for me. I had fun, but Jackson was a nervous wreck! I have mentioned previously about his irrational fear of agility equipment. Well, I did not know until we arrived at the trial site that they were also holding an agility trial in the same building - across the aisle from the obedience rings. Now, if you've ever been to an indoor agility trial in a horse arena, you know the air is filled with dust and the noise is bouncing off the walls. Add to that Jackson's fear of agility and you have a recipe for an 'interesting' weekend.

In a recent post, I wrote about adding more distractions to the exercises, especially the scent discrimination exercise. Little did I know that we would be facing the 'mother' of all distractions this weekend! Having said that, I thought, " Oh well, we're here now so let's see what we can learn from this."

Both days he was very, very stressed. So stressed he was trembling most of the time and I was afraid he was going to have a panic attack! Aside from that, I was pleased with the fact that he was able to hold it together enough to do most of the exercises. He didn't qualify either day, but I know now which exercises he is really solid on and which ones he had trouble working through.

The moving stand and the directed retrieve (gloves) were very solid both days. His heeling and signals were good today, however, he NQd Saturday because he didn't go all the way down on the down signal.

The scent discrimination (articles) exercise was really difficult for him both days. Saturday he circled the pile 8 - 10 times before he finally picked up the correct article, so he passed that day. Today he started his circling routine, but came back to me without the article. NQ.

The directed jumping was interesting. Both days he did the first go-out and jump fine. But the second time out he didn't go far enough. It seems that it's the more complicated exercises where he has to 'think' and make decisions when he's away from me that give him the most problems when he's stressed.

Overall, I'm thinking that after this weekend's trial, the next trial should be a 'walk in the park' for Jackson : ) Here's a video of Jackson's heeling and signal exercise today. Some lagging on the heeling, but a lot less than I expected considering how stressed he was.

Lessons learned this weekend:
1) Always find out as much as you can about a trial - before you enter. Jackson needs to be in a less stressful setting if he's going to be able to perform the exercises.
2) On the other hand - if you find yourself in an unexpected situation, know that there are some valueable experiences you can take away from it that will help you in future training.
3) Nerves - It's not me! It really is the dog.
4) You always meet new people, make new friends, and catch up with those you've met previously. There's a lot of down time at a trial, so visiting with people sure makes the time go faster and makes the day more enjoyable :) That's a big part of why I enjoy going to trials. And, I love the camaraderie of the Utility A folks!

Now, for the news about Jolee. Jolee qualified today in Novice B. She now has her CD (Companion Dog) title! Here's a picture of Jolee and me with the judge.

CH Robindanes She's So Fine CD CGC aka Jolee


Lindsay said...

Congratulations on Jolee's CD! And poor Jackson with his fear of agility things! That would be incredibly tough. Not only is the equipment loud, but the dogs and handlers can be quite loud and distracting as well.

MurphyDog said...

Poor Jackson! Sounds like a bit of a stressful weekend. Mom wants to know if you've ever tried "Rescue Remedy" with him? Her old doggie used to get very anxious when the gardeners came to mow the lawn, and a few drops of Rescue Remedy always calmed her down right away with no drowsiness.

just a thought
wags, wiggles & slobbers

Honey the Great Dane said...

Oh, poor Jackson!! I thought he did incredibly well, considering how stressed he was! (I could see him yawning in the video!) Our agility classes have been in an indoor horse arena so I know EXACTLY what you mean about the echoing noise (it's so bad my husband has refused to come back to classes with us!).

It's such a shame - I wish there was some way you could desensitise/counter-condition him to these events as that is the only thing holding him back...he's so good otherwise!

Congrats with Jolee - what a great achievement! :-)


M.T. said...

CONGRATS to Jolee!!! And your "lessons learned" from Jackson's trial is just spot on!

Jennifer H. said...

That is fascinating about Jackson's fear of agility equipment! I didn't know that about him. Poor guy. Although it sounds like you came away with some great insights and that's always a good thing. And WOO-HOO...congrats to you and Jolee! So very excited for you.

The PR Gang said...

Congratulations Jolee!
Considering the "mother of distractions" Jackson certainly held it together very well. Hang in there big guy!
I love how you always get some positive feedback from every experience and more importantly, write it down. It's a great way to keep track of things and figure out why some things work and some don't. Good for you!