I'm rethinking one of the training goals we were going to work on this winter. Yup, it's the increasing speed goal. I'm not sure it's attainable, and in order to avoid the frustration of not meeting that goal, I've decided to not worry about it. In a way it seems that I am giving up, but if it's not realistic then maybe I should focus on other things.
What got me thinking about it is the performance I am getting when we train in a new facility or with something different occurring, and stress becomes a factor. For example, a couple days ago we were training at the club with a few people and decided to give each other run-throughs. Not a lot of distractions, but it was a different person acting as judge and a couple dogs and handlers in the building that Jackson is not familiar with. We were doing the Open exercises. The first exercise was the retrieve on flat. I threw the dumbbell and sent him. He proceeded to walk slowly out to the dumbbell, retrieve it and walk slowly back to me. And, that was pretty much the way the rest of the exercises went. Now, in practice he can be quite animated and I was hoping this would carry over to a trial-like setting, but with the addition of a bit of stress he defaults to operating in slow motion.
I have tried about everything under the sun - and what's frustrating - it works in practice, but doesn't work when he's stressed, i.e., in a trial setting. He's just a worrier. That's his personality, and it doesn't appear that any amount of exposure to new and different settings is going to change that. He's going on six years old now, and I just don't think we've got enough training years left to change that. So, having come to that realization, I've decided to focus on the other things. Oh, I'm going to keep rewarding him for speed and attitude in practice, but I'm not going to get frustrated when I don't get it in the trial.
Having said that, there are some bright spots. His fronts are awesome. Even with the article, glove or dumbbell in his mouth, he's coming in straight and close and looking up at my face when he sits. And, his heeling has improved a lot. Even with his slowing down on retrieves in the run-throughs, he was staying with me in heeling and did especially well on the figure 8.
We're entered in a trial next weekend. I had intended to wait until spring to trial, however, I saw there was a trial about 3 hours away that is limited to working group dogs. This is a small trial in an obedience building and not being held with a conformation show, so should be a fairly calm environment. Thought I would take advantage of the setting to try for our first UDX leg. How he does at this trial may also have me rethinking our overall goal of attaining a UDX this year. We'll just have to see how things go : )