Sunday, June 29, 2014

GirlDog Obedience Match

I took Perri and Molly both to an Obedience match today.  I was feeling completely relaxed about the whole thing until this morning.  Then I was feeling like, "Why would I do this?!"

I went into this with very specific goals for Molly: Good Ringside Behavior.  Reinforce Heeling A Lot.

We did the Heel on Lead and I had a dog the entire time and she was a fun dog!  I really enjoyed myself and I was totally able to relax in there.  On our first halt she forged out and sat crooked, but after that she did a much better job.  We were having so much fun that I forgot to give her many treats, but she seemed happy enough to work until halts for them.
The figure 8 I did the outside loop first and got a bit of lagging, but she quickly caught up with me and was just lovely and again: fun!  She did not fuss with the stewards or try to give kisses or any of that stuff.   FLOORED.
I did not do the Heel Free with Molly.  I don't think we are ready for that yet.
We did the recall and something happened that I did not expect!  I left her, and just as I turned the handler in the Open ring right next to us threw a dumbbell.  And OH how Molly noticed.  Her eyes got huge and she got as tall as possible in her sit-stay and looked back at me.   I am furious with myself for not returning to her and rewarding her!   Bad handler, bad handler!  She held her stay, though and I recalled her and she came in fast and a bit wobbly but she did good!  Great straight finish.  
We did the Sit for Exam and Molly did great with that!
We did the exercise where the dog is asked to Sit-Stay in the center of the ring and the handler walks around the outside.  Molly did good until I walked behind her and then she turned to look at me and got up.  I reset her and walked a wide circle around her and around her back.  We can fix that!  
I also took a leap of faith and put her into the group stays.  If I was angry at myself for not reinforcing the stay when she heard a dumbbell being thrown on the recall, I got my opportunity during the group stays!  I think a dumbbell was thrown at least three times during her stays.  I waited (and sweated!) for her to return her attention to me, and I went into her and rewarded that.  Molly held her stays, the entire time.  She didn't budge.  Oh, I stayed close.  10-ish feet away.  The leash was on and laying on the ground beside her.  Her and her neighboring irish setter looked at each other and air sniffed and I don't think that I breathed, but she returned her focus on me.  Wow.
Who is this dog??

I had 100 percent fun in that ring with Molly today!  She is so cute when she heels, and she wants to do it.  There were so many moments that I was so proud of her, and she completely blew by all of my expectations for her today.  Ringside behavior was great as well.  I had her in a down stay with me most of the time and rewarded her handsomely for offered focus.  I am very excited about Molly's "obedience future."  

And then it was Perri's turn.  Perri was Perri.  My goal for Perri today was for her to not sniff the ring steward's butts on the Figure 8.  It sounds so funny to say, but Perri's ring-goosing is a major stress behavior and a lack of engagement during heeling.
The Heel on Lead was fine.  Perri was stressed and somewhat disengaged, but about halfway through she locked into me a little better.  Straight sits at all halts.  And here again is another minor show of progress - when Perri stresses she does not keep any focus on me whatsoever and does not sit and if she does it is well after the fact, and crooked.
The Figure 8 she did NOT sniff a butt!  No butts were sniffed!  I again chose to go to the right with her to keep her from the butt, but I do wish that I had gone left to get her engaged with me - going right is harder for Perri to start out with.  Sitting at every halt, and straight!  I anticipated the judge's "Halt" at the end of the Figure 8 and she asked if I would like to do it again.  Sure, why not.   But I had nearly lost my dog. 
I tried the Heel Free but Perri was just nearly gone and I asked if we could just stop the exercise right in the middle of it after I got some good attention and a sit from her.  She just wasn't there.  My goal for the next match is to have a game plan for how to help Perri get through that, how to play with her, how to help her relax more (and how to help myself relax more!)
The Stand for Exam was perfect.
The Recall ....  I have been having some problems with Perri being sticky on the recall.  She doesn't want to budge.  She seems to think I am trying to trick her into breaking a stay.  Or, she anticipates entirely and breaks the stay.  So, she stuck today.  I called her a second time and showered her with praise , and she had some good speed going.
The Group Stays were flawless with Perri, and leash was off and I was the full distance away.

So, I am a bit disappointed in myself with Perri's ring time.  I feel that I didn't reinforce her enough, didn't encourage her enough.  Something.  I tried to remember to walk faster and to not turn my shoulders.  Perri is truly so talented.  When she stops worrying so much she can really turn it on.  Part of me wonders if the two of us as a team have so much baggage and sour ring experience from our bumpy start into the world of Obedience.  Part of me wonders if Perri is just Perri, and confidence will take its good old time to develop.  There were things about today that were downright more solid than they ever have been.  There were other stubborn things that were exactly the same.  My ringtime with Molly felt so fun and light hearted.  With Perri so heavy with worried glances in the neighboring rings, so heavy with my concern over doing the Wrong Thing every time.  Everything feels so weighted down and intense with Perri.   

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