Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Handling and Shoulder Dipping

I did some crazy stuff on Monday that proves that I should never be left unattended with A) Trial Premiums and B) My Checkbook.  Ever.  I entered Ein in AKC Agility.  Oh, just in FAST class (I am still avoiding the weaves and the teeter.)  But, I have to know.

That is not the point of this post.  The point is that the other thing I did?  Was that I entered him in RAE* class at a local AKC Obedience/Rally trial in May.  I said no RAE.  I said we were semi-retired.  Didn't I?  Didn't I?  I don't know what made me do it.  Maybe because I remember being at that show last year, I remembered enjoying myself.  Maybe I miss just going to AKC Ob/Rally shows.

But the biggest reason is that my guy is not done.  He can still do the work, he can still be trained and I just downright love to play rally with him.  Last night I wanted to have a little training session to continue to reinforce those awesome "moving-but-pausing-moving-stands" that we see in AKC Excellent and I was reminded of one thing that really frustrates me with Ein in Rally.  His lagging.  His trudging behind me due to anxiety.  Ein can turn on some gorgeous heeling, or...he can just not.  I was watching some of our past Rally-O videos and I see it.  Walking at least a foot behind me while I talk to him and try to get him back up with me where he belongs.

But guess what?  On every one of those videos I am the other half of the problem.  Because as I walk my shoulder is opened up to him and I am looking at him and walking slooooowly.  That is an issue!  At the Let's Speak Dog CDSP Obedience trial I did something I had never done with Ein - on the Figure 8 I didn't look at him.  I looked straight ahead and just walked the pattern.  And I had more of a dog than I ever had before!

Dipping that shoulder back, opening it up to Ein is throwing him a clear signal to stay back.  It is not encouraging him to pull forward.  There is almost always some lagging due to his anxiety, but I need to commit to not feed into it.  I need to commit to showing Ein clear body language when he is anxious.  What's the worst that could happen?

We have two Veterans runs on April 12th.  I want to have them video'd.  I want to see my shoulders straight no matter what Ein is doing.  A leap of faith!  My challenge!  It is really really hard for me to do this.  I know better, I really do.  I know that my slow walking and dipping my shoulder into my dog pushes him back, but I can't stop.  (I also can't seem to just walk at a nice clip instead of creeping forward, paralyzed that my dog might not come with me.  But, hey.)

I want to do well on this RAE adventure.  Will I go the distance and try to get 10 QQ's?  It all depends on Ein.  It all depends on me.  I don't think that I am done learning lessons from my little red dog, and maybe that is why I wrote out that entry form on Monday.  I have seen his anxiety drop and his confidence blossom and I think there is still a lot more room for improvement - on both ends of the relationship!

Shoulders forward, relaxed and happy heeling.  Something to try for in the ring!
*(RAE stands for "Rally Advanced Excellent" and that title can be earned by qualifying in both the Advanced B and Excellent B class at 10 different trials.  10 "QQs".)

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