Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Forever Clueless

After a two week break, Perri and I were back in our Open Fundamentals class tonight.   Tonight was one of those nights where I felt a mixture of Left Behind and Just Right.  

Left Behind in that every dog fetches a dumbbell but Perri... doesn't.  When we were doing the drop on recall I chose to just do a plain recall to build confidence instead.  Oh well.  There is no time limit.

But the spot where I felt Just Right was a wake up call for me.  Now, I often wonder when my head will get screwed on right.  Tonight we divided the room in to spaces with ring gating.  There was a working dog performing the recalls and drop on recall exercises.  And there was the rest of us, practicing sit and down stays.  We started leaving our dog so that they were facing the working dog and us handlers had our backs to that dog.  We moved on to leaving our dogs and dogs and facing away from the dog.  Perri is good at this stuff.  We've got this stuff.

Insensitive handler.  Clueless.  When we moved our dogs so that their backs were facing the working dog, Perri broke her sit stay.  To be honest I was a little stung and shocked.  Perri broke her stay!  Why?!  I reacted instantly as I had been trained to react in Ogre Obedience Class, "No!" and put Perri back in her sit.
But, in this training center, we think about the Why's of things.  And we move forward accordingly.  We do not just tell our dogs "You will do this or ELSE."  And I love that.  Remember when Perri flunked out in NoviceA because of that horrifying line of Open dogs?  Remember when she google-eyed that terrifying newfoundland in CDSP obedience?  Remember when she struggled through agility class because there were three hulking german shepherds in that class and it was all Too Much?  Now do I have a clue?  Perri is habitually unsettled by other dogs, and leaving her in a stay with a dog running behind her back...well, that was just Too Much.  My classmate immediately (and kindly.) said, "Don't scold her, this is hard for her with that dog behind her.  Stay closer".  So I did.  She would look over her shoulder at the working dog and the second she would refocus on me I showered her with treats and "Good Stay".  Our teacher praised me for staying closer and supporting Perri (I flat out admitted that it wasn't my idea.  I was way too clueless to think of that.)

When I left her in a down stay she actually barked, putting a voice to her concerns.  That's a new one.

So tonight in class it was Just Right.  Perri was working through something that really freaked her out, building confidence.  Building trust.  "I will reward you and support you if you do this for me.  That dog will not come to you, it will not touch you.  Just stay and good things will happen for you."
That right there.  For Perri, that is what we need more than the dumbbell or the drop or agility tunnels or teeter performance.  Unlocking that confidence block will unlock Perri.

When it was our turn to do the recall, I did two straight fun recalls (my teacher suggested this after I told her I didn't think that Perri would do the DOR.) .  Perri's DOR is shaky at best, and if I was asking her to do a job next to a scary line of dogs, I wanted that job to be something that she is fairly solid on.  And she stayed, recalled and fronted beautifully and fast.  Good poodle.  


  1. Good Perri! And good you for seeing it, understanding, and responding appropriately (and good classmate for suggesting it!).

    It was a bumpy class for us too. Stays and jumps are a real weak spot for Pongu -- no surprise there, they've been weak spots for over a year now -- and I'm starting to wonder if we'll EVER be ready for Open. Trialing in CDSP Open next spring is now feeling a little over-optimistic (although if we do still suck then, I'll just enter in Novice C to support the program and the hosting club, since I want to see CDSP prosper).

    I don't know. There are signs of progress but also signs of stalling out and backsliding for us, so I'm going through one of those chronic Moment of Doubt thingys. I really wish they still did weekly run-through nights at the club; I think being able to work on Perri and Pongu's specific issues over and over in that setting might help. (Or hurt. What do I know?)

  2. I just love the atmosphere and group at that club a whole lot.

    It's easy to feel discouraged. I am still coming to terms with wondering if Perri will EVER be able to do AKC Obedience. And I know that is silly. Of course she will. Just...not yet. (But WHENNNNN, my mind wonders.)
    It's hard to have THAT feeling and wonder how on earth it could ever come to pass that yes, our dogs will be able to do what we want them to.
    Open is a hefty goal, even in a dog friendly venue like CDSP. If he's not ready by spring that's okay, he will be some day.

    As an outsider who only sees him at trials and training clubs, I have definitely seen tremendous upward progress with Pongu.
    I also wish that they did run throughs frequently. Or even a monthly public fun match. I know they are restructuring their obedience program, so I hope that they do so with the need for matches / run thrus in mind because I sure would like that type of opportunity for my dog(s).