Monday, May 23, 2011

Trial weekend - leaves me pondering

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?


tervnmal said...

Hi Kathie,

I was at the same trial with you and Jackson over the weekend and I can feel your pain. It's just not fun to be in the ring with a dog who isn't happy there. And it's so frustrating when you know they enjoy their training time with you and that they can do the exercises wonderfully - but turn into a different dog at a show. Been there!

Jackson's UDX was a fabulous achievement. Maybe it's time to let him write his own ticket now? I know you do a lot of fun stuff with him aside from shows. What are things that BOTH of you really enjoy?

I hope to have another post up by tomorrow in my stress series. Wish our dogs came with an instruction manual, especially an in-depth troubleshooting chapter!

Jennifer H. said...

First off sending you and Jackson both lots of hugs Kathie. I agree with Melinda...maybe just stick with training and the other fun activities you both enjoy.

{{{{{{{Kathie & Jackson}}}}}}}

Honey the Great Dane said...

I know exactly what you're feeling as I went through all this with Honey last year and it was the main part of my reason for withdrawing from competing in dancing with Honey. I just couldn't bear to see her to "flat" & miserable when I know she can be so bouncy & happy during training. For me, my dog's enjoyment is the main thing - without that, nothing else matters. In Honey's case, I don't think it was "ring stress" as such because she has been in lots of more stressful situations and has been fine - and is still fine in the long as there are treats!! So with her, it was the stress of working without obvious reward. She just hates it and doesn't see any point. I don't even have to feed her during but I need to hold something in my hand, so she can see that she's going to get something for her troubles. I found it incredibly frustrating when I had all these other high drive dogs around me all seemingly working for "nothing" - but I've sort of come to accept Honey for what she is.

I think age plays a part too. You know, we're like that as humasn too. As we get older, we get fussier and won't exert effort as willingly unless we feel it's really worth our while. I definitely could get Honey to work more for the "fun" and pure excitement alone when she was younger but as she's gotten older, I've noticed that it's much hard to motivate her without a decent, tangible reward on offer.

Since I never cared that much about titles & stuff, it's wasn't a huge deal for us pulling out of competing and I'm glad to see that Honey is still happy to go into a "ring" situation as long as she knows she is going to be rewarded. Since competitions have the stupid rule that I can't hold treats in my hand (even without feeding), I guess Honey just isn't the type of dog for that set-up.

Since I made that decision, it's like a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders. Now I can focus on doing what makes me & Honey happy and what we value, instead of judging ourselves by others' standards. Besides, with Honey nearly 8, I know my time with her is limited and she could go anytime soon so I want to enjoy her while I can instead of making us both stressed out & miserable for some artificial rules.

I agree with the first comment - you have achieved an AMAZING amount with Jackson already so maybe it is time to let him take it easy and just enjoy training for its own sake now.


Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I'm sorry. I have no advice for you, only a cyber hug. Stress is not an easy answer and I know you've been working hard on trying to tackle it. I don't know what i would do in your situation but remain in awe of how much you have accomplished!