Labor Day - can't believe it's the official end of summer. The summer has flown by and we're still training regularly, although with somewhat fuzzier goals. It was easier to stay focused when we had title goals we were working on, but I must say it's been a lot more relaxed without them.
I do have goals though. I'm working on changing the way I train with the goal of making Jackson more comfortable in the ring. He's a natural-born worrier so it's always been stressful for him to be in the ring. Now I'm wondering if my approach to training had something to do with that. Jackson was my first attempt at competitive obedience training, so when we started training I used quite a bit of 'have-to' / compulsion training, which is where my limited experience laid. However, I've really been trying hard to move away from that toward 'it's your choice' and making the correct choice the most rewarding option. (You can probably tell SG has had some influence here : )
When Jackson walked into the ring, things changed - his happy demeaner in training disappeared and he became somewhat of a zombie in the ring. Some trainers will say it's because there are no treats in the ring - but, in Jackson's case I don't think that is it. I think it had more to do with his fears - fear of distractions, fear of making a mistake, and his general lack of confidence. Anyone watching us in the ring would probably think, there's no relationship in that team. I'm left wondering if my initial training with compulsion and corrections helped set the stage for the stressful performance.
On the other hand, could he have held it together to qualify if it weren't for the 'have-to' training?
Another trainer that I follow online, Denise Fenzi, recently posted about 'fixing' a client's dog's unhappiness in the ring. First on her list of things to do was: 'remove all compulsion from training.'
That got my attention! Is it possible to get a dog to perform competitively without compulsion? It works for her dogs - but then she has high drive dogs - so would it work for Jackson?
DF also makes a point about 'work is a privilege when trained motivationally.' She recommends 'putting dogs away (in the house, in the crate, etc.) for failures of effort - dogs don't get to work who don't want to work.' Hmmmmm..... I'm thinking that may be exactly what the dog wants - to be left alone????? I guess the challenge there is to make training so exciting, they will choose the training over being in the crate.
So many theories, so many things to try - maybe something will work for us : )