Perri learns fast but reaches a mental block threshhold just as fast. It is beyond maddening. Everything that we have trained, it takes forever. We have increased our training sessions from literally 30 seconds to a few minutes at a time. And still, if I do too many of those sessions in a day...she will just stare at me and walk away and sniff.
We go to Rally class and she won't heel. We do trials and it is all I can do to keep her engaged and not staring at the ringside dogs or the floor. She goes to her happy place if she feels the least amount of discomfort and it is absolutely exhausting to me. This is not how I thought things were going to go at all. Not at all.
She is getting better, but she is taking her sweet time. I have said before that Molly is a teacher dog? Well so is Perri. She is teaching me patience, she is teaching me how to hang in there with her, she is teaching me to bite my lip and take a deep breath and love her good points. And she is teaching me exactly how unclear and confusing I am. Because if I am unclear and confusing? Perri isn't sure what to do and that means she just cannot deal with whatever I am trying to teach. She won't keep trying, because she might be wrong and that means that she might die. (Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic.)
Agility is no different. Perri is fast, she is just as fast as Molly. The problem is she trots through any agility course, just to make sure that nothing is going to kill her. To make sure she is doing everything just right. She can make it through maybe 25 minutes of agility class tops before all of that thinking just becomes too much for her, and after that she decides it is just time to stare at obstacles or sniff the wall. Tunnels are our biggest challenge, because when Perri is mentally tired and stressed, a tunnel takes away her ability to keep an eye out for anything that might be unsafe.
I am not willing to accept any of this. Part of me is screaming that this dog just wants to be a pet and a therapy dog. Leave her alone already. And the other part of me refuses to accept that this could be true. After all, her training endurance has increased. She sometimes walks up to me and pokes me with her nose and wants to work. I have glimmers of brilliance. We are taking a platform class and she is able to work the entire time and this is encouraging. In fact, just last night in our class we were complimented by two different people how nice Perri looks with her positions, that she has found her niche and that she is happy and enjoying herself. We also had a really cool moment where Perri momentarily became lost in staring at the noisy-but-sweet pitbull working across the classroom from us. Those worried eyebrows, the zoning out. When I waited her out she suddenly snapped back to me and gave me some good focused attention on the platform and then we kept working as we had been, with tail wags! Those are the moments I am looking for!
And on the sidelines I have my Molly. She's not an overthinker. Molly is a do-er. Act first, think later. That's Molly. Sometime about two months ago, I started teaching Molly the same stuff I was teaching Perri. "Just for fun." Haha, Molly. Obedience? HAHA.
Molly never gets tired of working. And if she does, she just bares her teeth and nips me and wants to keep going (and it is up to me to realize that she is tired, much like knowing when a fussy toddler needs a nap.) I remember when I was first teaching Ein a right finish. He was struggling with it, I think in equal parts because I am an idiot and because he didn't like going behind me. It took me months to get a smooth right finish on Ein, and even sometimes, if he is really stressed, he won't. I taught it to Molly in about two minutes, just to see what would happen. She has sailed through pivoting around a front paw platform. She is ready to learn the pocket hand. I started shaping the dumbbell with her two or three weeks ago. She is already biting and holding it until I click. She is just as far as Perri has come in...a lot of months. She loves it. She adores working on platforms and offers behaviors at an absurd rate. In fact, I just today made her her own sit platform so that we can learn the pocket hand without her wanting to pivot around the front paw platform. I would also like to smooth out fronts and her understanding of heel position. Wait...I'm doing this stuff with crazy Molly?!
"Sheesh all I gotta do is hold this dumb thing and I get a treat? Cool."
I am really starting to think there is an Obedience future for my girl. I originally entered Molly in her first APDT Rally-O trial in October 2012, chuckling as I filled out the entry form. Molly. Rally? Let's just see what happens! She earned two 201 scores her first time in the ring. We have had some mixed success since then. She earned her RL2 in February but was completely disconnected and stressed out. There were a lot of factors that could have caused that , but I have been determined since that day to increase Molly's understanding of the behaviors I want so that she feels more secure in the ring. That means, she has to know how to heel. Not just how to walk with me while I talk to her. Things are progressing well. I am very interested to see how she does at my club's August Rally trial. We will be trying for her first ARCH QQ, but above all I will be looking for improvement in her rally ring confidence and in her focus and heeling.
And if that goes well... Maybe we should try some Obedience matches? Maybe we should try Beginner Novice? Maybe I should open my mind to the same possibilities and goals that I have for Perri? Time will tell. But I think that I could have a whole lot of fun with this crazy girl. I just have to keep an open mind and let my dogs, all of them, tell me what they want to do.