A small group of us that train together rented ring time at a training facility that we have only been in once for a fun match. We thought this would give us an opportunity to train our dogs in a new, unfamiliar building. There were five of us so we set up two ring areas to practice open and utility. There was a lot of agility equipment around the edges and the rings were divided by agility jumps instead of ring gates, so it was a really unique type of setting. Especially stressful for Jackson since he has this irrational fear of agility equipment - but good practice for him to work under stress.
We first warmed up with some heeling and signals with multiple dogs working in the ring at the same time. Good practice for working with distractions and dogs needing to pay attention to their handler, not the other handlers' signals or to what the dog next to them is doing. He was anticipating and occasionally reacting to other handlers' signals. Good practice for him because he needs to learn to focus on me even when he is stressed.
We then practiced some utility exercises.
Go outs - He was not overly confident. I put a treat out for the first go out. He did that one fine. The next couple go outs though were off to the side, so I did a few from a shorter distance, and I put out another treat. This straightened up his go outs some. His jumps were good.
Gloves - He was fine with the gloves - except for the #3 glove, which was in the corner where the agility tunnel was. He headed the right way but hesitated when he saw the tunnel, but with some encouragement, he went to it and picked it up. Did it again and he was fine the second time.
Articles - The first article was good - slow, but he went right to work and got the correct article. On the second article, he started circling the pile. When he started on his second circle around the pile, I went right in and tossed the article out of the pile and took him to it. I was a little surprised that he started circling (I had hoped we were over that hurdle), but was glad for the opportunity to make the correction here instead of seeing him do it in a trial. The next two articles were perfect. He went right to the correct article both times and even trotted back.
The Open ring was a lot harder for him because he was really stressed by the 'look' of that ring - agility equipment all around edges of that ring. We started out with the drop on recall. His recall was slow, but his drop was fine.
Then we went to the broad jump. I don't know if it was the stripes painted on the boards, or the position of the jump, or just the ring set up in general, but he did not want to take the jump. In practice, he has never refused to take the jump so I know something about this jump really stressed him. We shortened it and I put the lead on him and ran over it with him a couple times. Finally got him so he would take the jump. Added the fourth board back in and did a couple formal jumps that were good.
Heel off lead/figure 8 - He stayed in pretty good heel position even though he was stressed. Lagged some though at particular areas of the ring.
Retrieve over High - Slow pick up, but his return over the high was good and his front was good.
Retrieve on Flat - Good retrieve and return.
Overall - This was an excellent training experience for Jackson. He was really stressed by the new location, with all it's 'scary' distractions. But, this is what he needs - to build confidence and learn to work through the stress - and know that he will survive! I was seeing the same behavior and attitude that I get when we go to a trial, so it was good to be able to train through it.
Since we were all experiencing some distraction problems with our dogs, we thought this was a good training experience, and have scheduled another training session at this facility next week. I will be interested to see if he will be more relaxed and if there is improvement in his performance of the exercises.