Well, today was the trial at the club where we train. I planned to use it as a benchmark for where we're at and what we need to work on this winter IF we are to set a goal of getting our UDX in 2010.
For some reason he has never done well in this building, even though we train here regularly. And, today was no exception. A couple things were clear today - he continues to be very stressed in trial situations and has trouble focusing on the job at hand. In five years of training, we've just not been able to overcome the fears he has of performing in the ring, which manifests itself mostly in his slowing down - I mean really slowing down in everything he does.
Heeling and signals - We had some lagging on the heeling. The first two signals (down and sit) were good, but then he missed the come signal, so NQ right off the bat. I thought he was looking at me - but it just must not have registered with him. So, after NQing I decided to see how much training I could do in the ring - without being excused : )
Scent discrimination (Articles) was next - I'm not sure how long it would have taken him to pick up the correct article, but I had decided to interrupt any uneccesary delay by giving him a second command. So, on his second circle around the pile, when he stopped to look over in the other ring, I gave him the second command to 'find it.' He then quickly found it and picked it up. The same thing happened on the second article. I could have let him continue circling until he finally found it, but since he had already NQd, I wanted to take advantage of trying to correct this problem in the ring.
On the directed retrieve (glove) exercise we had the #2 glove. His pivot was off and he ended up looking at the #1 glove so I waited until he straightened up his sit and looked at the #2 glove before I sent him. That was a little iffy as to whether or not it would have been an NQ.
The moving stand was good - until the call to heel. He got distracted and stopped before he got to me, so I had to give him a second command to finish the heel. That was one I hadn't seen before.
The last exercise was the directed jumping. This was the only exercise that I saw some - however slight - improvement. And, that was on the go out part of it. He went straight and did not turn around until I gave him the command. Previously he would go about three-fourths of the way out then he would start anticipating and begin turning around before I gave the command. Not today - he kept going! The sits were extremely slow again, but both jumps were good.
So, now I'm in a bit of a quandry as to what our 2010 goal will be. I think I will need to sleep on it for a few days : ) If I could get the performances in the ring that I get in training I would be a lot more inclined to keep going with him. I'm doubtful though that we will ever really overcome his stress at trials. However, on the other hand, he really appears to enjoy training - and I do too - so maybe we will just continue to train through the winter and decide what to do next spring!