There was a fun match this morning at one of the clubs where we train occasionally. The last time we attended a fun match at this club, Jackson was really, really stressed and did not do well at all. It's the club where they do a lot of agility and Jackson is very worried about the agility equipment and the environment in general. So, when I think back to our last fun match at that club about three months ago, I am really happy with how things went today. He was still pretty worried, but was able to work through it in both Open and Utility classes.
We arrived about a half hour prior to the start time. He was the second dog in the Open ring. We walked around for awhile and did some warm up exercises to get him used to the noise and activity in the building. However, I could tell he was worried and having trouble focusing on me. The way he takes treats is always a good barameter of his level of stress. And, today he was taking the treats slowly - he wasn't going after them like he usually does in practice.
The Open exercises went well. He stayed with me pretty much on the heeling, although I was helping him with verbal encouragement. His drop on recall was good. His dumbbell retrieves were also good - good speed and good fronts and finishes. And, his broad jump was good. I did notice some anticipation on two or three of the exercises. He will sometimes start up when he hears the judge say 'forward' instead of waiting for my signal, and he started the broad jump before I gave the command. I'm going to have to pay closer attention to that in training and work on him waiting longer for my signal. Anticipation means he knows what he's supposed to do so I don't want to give a correction for it, but yet I don't want to see it in a trial, as that would be an NQ. Overall, I was happy with the Open exercises. I had decided to treat it more like a practice rather than a formal trial-like setting, so I was 'helping' him quite a bit, trying to make it fun and build confidence.
The Utility exercises were okay. He was stressed about the judge in this ring. He usually doesn't worry too much about the judge, but for some reason he wanted to keep his eye on this particular judge. First exercise was the directed retrieve. He retrieved the correct glove but was slow coming back and kept looking around like he thought something was going to get him. The stand for exam was fine, and the directed jumping was fair. His go outs were not quite far enough but his jumps were good. Scent discrimination (articles) was where we ran into a bit of a problem. The first article was good, but then he had a problem with the second article. He was working the pile, but kept passing by the correct article. Rather than let him continue longer, I went in and pointed out the correct article. The last exercise, heeling and signals, was good.
Overall, if I were grading on a curve (comparing it to past fun matches), I would say it went well - but with lots of room for improvement : ) I have continued doing mostly fun stuff the past week in training and not asking so much for formal fronts, finishes, etc. I think that's helping because I did see a glimmer of some of the behavioral changes we've been working on coming through, even with the stress.
We're finally getting a real break in the weather this next week, which means more outdoor work in different locations this next week. And, I'm hoping to start my five-a-day challenge soon. I'll post more about that, when we get started : )