Saturday, January 18, 2014

Obedience Crossroad

Perri and I did an Obedience match today.  Novice, of course.  I thought that I might see some improvement in her heeling.  After all, she heeled very nicely at the CDSP trial and has been doing pretty well in class and also the Rally ring.

She was a bit of a disaster.  Just before we went in she would not do her "sit pretty" trick, not a good sign.  She was stressing.  The training center is a bit cramped and noisy, there was a mirror on the wall, a wolfhound in the room.  All the normal things that bind Perri's mind up did exactly that today.

The heel free she lagged and did not sit at her halts.  The pretty turns that I have been seeing in classes were nonexistent.  The figure 8 she goosed the ring steward (sigh.) and lagged, although on the second go around she did a nicer job.  The stand for exam I had to re-cue her to stand since she was staring in horror at the steward table ("MY GOD THEY ARE LOOKING AT ME!") but she stayed solid and did not move even a foot.  The heel free was better.  I got a little more dance and connection from her though I had to clap my hands and encourage her to stay with me.  The recall was the only thing that I really liked.  She stayed put and when I called her she thundered toward me with enthusiasm and sat squarely at front with a smile on her face.  She finished promptly and sat straight at heel with a dual verbal/hand cue.  We had two minutes for our ring time so I wanted to retry the Figure 8.  I tried it off leash but she went for another steward sniff and was not heeling with me whatsoever so I put it back on.  Even then she was a bit of a mess.  Her group stays were completely solid.  There were several dogs sitting up and breaking during the long down and even then she held her stays.  This is definitely Perri's strong area.

I feel very discouraged.

The club people were very kind and welcoming and I would certainly do another match here.  I probably will.  I feel like Perri has not improved one little ounce since September.  I feel like I did not support her out there.  I feel like Obedience is so hard and we will never ever "get it".

But then, it was only a match.  I am not planning on trialing AKC Novice again anytime soon... I cannot imagine ever being trial ready for AKC Novice and today's experience only solidified that fact in my mind.  I will continue to do matches and the odd CDSP trial because it is Good For Us.  My discouragement runs deeper, to the point where I want to pull out of Open class and just take a step back.  Perri is so behind with the exercises as it is.  It would only be right for a dog who needs to become confident picking up balls of paper to take some time to catch up to dogs who will pick up a dumbbell, right?  It would only be right for a dog who needs to build confidence doing a plain verbal "down" to catch up to dogs who will happily do a drop on recall, right?

I have continued Open class with Perri to challenge ourselves as a team and to get a foundation hold on the Open exercises, while continuing to work on the Novice exercises (and we do that in class.  The class has vastly improved Perri's "non-stress" heeling.)  But now I am seriously asking myself if it is time to pull out of class and work on what we have learned at our own pace.  Decisions, decisions.


  1. Aw man, that is such a bummer.

    I've actually been thinking of switching from Heavenly Heeling (which I think might be too basic for us) and back into Open, not because Pongu's actually ready to do the exercises but so that I can get more practice teaching them properly. At present I'm still waffling about that because this month's so busy and I'm debating whether to just do an online version at FDSA, buuuuutt... anyway, this blog post isn't for me to talk about my problems. ;)

    Have you considered doing a match and just rewarding Perri for much much easier stuff instead of trying to do a formal run-through? Just go in there, ask for eye contact and some stuff she absolutely for sure knows how to do (a little straight Heeling, a couple of Sits, maybe a Down if she's looking/acting confident), and reward bountifully. Maybe just practice going into the ring, REWARD!!, 10 seconds of Heeling, REWARD!!, leave the ring, REWARD!!

    Or treat it like a CDSP runthrough instead of an AKC runthrough, since she does just fine in CDSP, and up your reward schedule to reflect the amount of effort it takes her to concentrate in an environment that involves a lot of her triggers.

    (p.s. grateful for the venue description as I've been thinking of doing matches there too!)

  2. It was mostly a bummer because I really thought , REALLY thought, that she was further along with braveness than falling apart after two steps of a heel pattern. :(

    Problem sharing and discussion is always welcome here at this dog blog!
    And here I am almost thinking that Perri and I may pull from Open and get into Novice/HH or just go for NoseWork and practice heeling etc at home or Petsmart.
    I just don't even know.

    You are right about that and at the next match I will be very heavy handed with support that is for absolute sure. I should have realized when she wouldn't do Sit Pretty that I was in trouble. I forgot her sheepie tug toy which almost always lightens her mood and I would have liked to just play in the ring with her and that but I FORGOT IT. AGGGGH.
    When we did that at K9Jym she broke right through her stress and was SO good. That was her best match ever when I brought her squeaky ball into the ring and let her blow off some stress in between exercises.

    Great venue for matches that is for sure - and if I can get her to work there I wil know that we have really Gotten Somewhere.
    I can't do their Feb match but am hoping to do one of the March matches.