Jackson was entered in a UKC (United Kennel Club) trial this past weekend. When we achieved our primary goal of the AKC udx title earlier this year I wanted to continue training and decided to train for the UKC ud title. I wanted to have more fun in training, practice some skills and see if training and trialing with no pressure would improve our ring performance.
Well, the answer is 'no.' It did not improve our performance in the ring. We have incorporated a lot more fun and games in our training sessions and done some fun activities outside of obedience training, but it hasn't transferred to lessening the ring stress for him. Which leaves me pondering whether or not I want to go back into the ring with him. ( I know he doesn't want to go back!)
He did hold it together the first day (three-day trial) enough to qualify and get his first ud leg. It wasn't pretty and he was stressed. I don't know what was so different for him the next two days, but he was too stressed to hold it together. He was just too worried to pay attention to me and focus on the job at hand so missed the signal exercise and the directed jumping. What I was most pleased with all weekend was his getting the glove (directed retrieve) exercise correct each day. This is the exercise that is quite different from AKC utility and something new that we have been training for quite a bit.
Ring stress is something we have dealt with from the very beginning of his obedience career and have never really been able to overcome. We've worked through the stress to qualify for the titles, but it has not been the picture of performance that judges are looking for in the ring. As I look back on our training and trialing, I don't know what I could/should have done differently to help him - or, maybe nothing would have made a difference. He is what he is.
So, I'm thinking maybe it is time to retire him from the ring. Doesn't mean we won't keep training and doing fun things - such as tracking, learning tricks, doing school demos, and such - but entering another trial is questionable at this time.
What would you do?