Thursday, September 12, 2013

Novice A Handler FOREVER

I really, really, really thought we had a chance at Novice this time 'round.   Truly.   Perri's last three matches were good, her practices have been good.   (I say 'good', not 'splendid' or 'fantastic', but 'good.')
But today?   She really did not seem much improved at all.   It was hot and humid for sure.  Our ringtime was just as the Open dogs were lined up for group stays on the literal opposite side of the ring gate not two feet from us.  So Perri's entire ringtime, there were dogs and lots of them in the opposite ring.

 Perri is shy of other dogs at times.  She has been attacked with no physical damage but three different dogs within the last year.   She has worked in a ring adjacent to other dogs and been distracted by them for sure, but more and more she seems to be able to work through that.   But those dogs were CLOSE.  A big group of them, just sitting there.   And it rattled her, big time.

The Heel on Lead she struggled with.  She was wide on the first leg to stay away from the Open dogs  and as I remember, just laggy in general the rest of the time with moments of actual heeling.   I was told by someone at ringside that she kept glancing at the Open dogs and looked very worried.
Figure 8 was actually pretty okay.  I think we had one tight lead but we got both sits and she was tuned into me.  Perhaps she felt insulated in the middle of the ring and safe being asked to do something that she knew how to do, I don't know.
Heel Free was bad.   I said "Perri" and signaled for her to heel, a big no no.  That's a verbal and signal and not allowed.   She was wide and laggy again and got stress sniffy about half way through, I was walking by myself.  I gave her a verbal "Perri Heel!" because Hey, Why Not. and she did catch up to me but the damage was done.
Stand for Exam was fine.  Not a paw moved.  I walked out too far and the judge told me to "Get back here" (kindly.)  I was an absolute wreck by that point.
Recall she stayed and then recalled briskly when I asked her to but paused to stare at a ringside dog and tail wag a little before looking up at me and NOT fronting.
Group Stays was actually just us but they were fantastic.   Not a twitch or movement out of place.

Our score sheet showed 15 points lost on the Heel on Lead, 1 point lost on the SFE, 5 lost on the Recall and NQ on the Heel Free.
Oops.  At least the judge was really nice to us.  She told me, "You'll get there."

I am having a lot of (possibly absurd) Feelings like: I have no business in Novice or Obedience.  My dog is too young.  I rushed my poor girl into this, again.  Her heel is not solid enough.  I can't do this again for another three years with her, or ever.  I should have started with CDSP.  I wish I wasn't entered the next three days because how could we hope to qualify.  No one's dog NQ's this much in Novice, they just get it right the first time.  Where is the dog that came to the matches with me?  I better bring hot dogs tomorrow.  I really really just suck in all ways.  And so do my dogs, we should probably just give up on dog sports and go back to hiking ONLY.  And most importantly, I'm glad I didn't cry even though I really really freaking wanted to.  I kind of still do.

So I bought myself a peanut butter pumpkin and came home and let my girl play in her pool and with her ball.   She dug a little hole and got all dirty and that made me smile.   Then I remembered that as much as I love her and as silly as she is, we had this same moment three months ago and it is tough to feel like we haven't progressed at all past that point (even though I thought we really really had.)

And then she dug a hole.   And had to get The Hose, precious.

So I am collecting myself mentally for tomorrow because when you enter shows with reckless abandon like I do, you really must have thicker skin than I am having right now.   I am not sure why I feel so rotten.  Perhaps because I felt so helpless out there, to not even be able to tell her she was a Good Girl when she came back to position after being scared.  I want to Let Go.  All of my better runs/courses/etc with my dogs have come when I am completely at ease and not expecting a whole lot, or if I am doing something that I have done before and am not nervous about.   Novice does not fit that criteria in any way, so I will just have to do my best tomorrow.

I did get to meet OTCH Rugby the Maltese of Leash Free Living and was totally floored that him and his handler were at the trial!  Hello, Blog People that I admire suddenly being in real life (and seeing me do terribly in the ring.)    And when I got home Fifty Acres and a Poodle by Jeanne Marie Laskas was waiting for me in the mailbox.   So I'm just going to go curl up with a glass of wine and that book and try to enjoy this.  Because this is my journey with my first Novice dog and even though there may or may not be tears brimming in my eyes, I am learning and improving every day, and someday I will smile fondly when I think of these September afternoons.  For better or for worse.  It's either that or give up, and I'm not gonna give up.


  1. Aw man, I'm so sorry! Go read "Sometimes Everything Just Sucks" again and remember that this too shall pass.

    And you know what, if the rest of the weekend isn't so great, maybe CDSP WOULD be a better place to start. You can talk to your dog, you can encourage her, you can make the ring a happy fun place again. It's only two months away, that's a perfect amount of time to practice and get ready for it (does Perri have a Recall Over Jump? If not: two weeks to train it!).

    You'll get better, your dog will get better, you will get the ribbons and letters in time.

    One thing I wanted to say to Sabine in class yesterday (but didn't because who am I to talk, I am the not-even-in-Novice-A-yet student) was that yes, failing in the ring can make a fearful dog more afraid... but it can ALSO make a fearful dog more confident when he learns over repeated exposures that failure is not a bad thing, and actually I don't care, and if he DOES do well then it will be a huge party of proudness and love, but if he doesn't then I will still love him (mostly) and it is not that big a deal.

    Failure is okay. You have to tell your dog that failure is okay. Because we are all gonna fail, and fail mightily, on the way up. Just remember to lean forward so that you fail in the right direction. :)

    1. I really think that CDSP will be our next step and a great way to measure our forward progress in two months, and also a gentler way to build confidence for Perri.

      Time, time, it all takes time. :)

      I definitely agree with you. The hard thing about AKC Obedience is that if that dog is frightened or stressing in the ring, you cannot comfort them or encourage them or give them a "good girl!", you just have to let them drown. So in that sense, the AKC Ob ring is best left to I am finally admitting :)
      But there are so many more places to put our dogs in the ring and help them to grow, and I intend to take advantage of that!

      Failing is how I learn, for sure!

  2. p.s. I really love that Hellhound doodle.