Perri and I went to Let's Speak Dog for another obedience match today. As uplifted and good as I felt when we went to our obedience match in June...I felt pretty crappy today.
I got there only five minutes early. I did not set Perri's crate up. We went in, did a little acclimation and went into the ring. I don't know if that was "the issue", I don't think that it was but I don't think it helped. Every time I bring my dogs (Ein or Perri) to this training center, they are more stressed than usual.
Perri was stressed. She was scanning big time. Scanning the mounds of equipment on the opposite side of the one ring gate (agility stuff, boxes, lots of stuff.) She was scanning the opposite ring. She was scanning the two vacuum cleaners in the building, one was inside of the ring and one was outside of the ring. Despite that she did try to play with her bunny tug, but it was very mechanical and her heart was not into it. I could see that. Things were bothering her that did not bother her at our match last month. I left her leash attached, same as I did last month. But today the leash bothered Perri. When the leash grew tight while she pounced for her toy, she recoiled as though I had strangled her. When the leash slapped on the ground when she went after her toy, she became afraid of it. Both of those things happened at our last match, and Perri was too into her playing to care. It sticks in my mind how proud I was of her rebounding to toy play after that golden retriever smashed into the ring gate towards her and barked last time. There were some very intense distractions and Scary Perri things last month, but those things did not bother Perri.
I tried to do some Work, but she could not remain engaged with me. And I can't just survive heeling with Perri, I know that we can do better than just trudging along. I tried to look where I was going and be confident and not melt down, but despite that but I had to break off our heel patterns over and over again. Not good for Perri, not good for me. She sniffed the steward's butt on the figure 8. We broke off and started again. Perri actually lasered in on me and did a beautiful figure 8 loop. I pushed it and tried to go for the second half of the loop and she lagged. I am so angry at myself for not rewarding her with her toy and finishing up. But every time I threw her toy, she was just not interested. Still, I should not have pushed it.
Not the best time with Perri. I promised myself that these matches would not be "make or break" with Perri. (As in, avoiding "if Perri does not do well at this match, we are done with obedience!" type thinking.) And we have done enough matches for me to know that if Perri might stress and scan at one match, she could do very well at another. After two matches at Let's Speak Dog, I have to say this is her poorest place to practice obedience. We will not return. I want to go ahead and say "If I could get Perri to Not Worry and Stay Engaged here, she could do it anywhere." but...you have to ask yourself when you have a sensitive dog... Should I cherry pick locations where we can be successful? Or should I try to bulldoze ahead for the elusive bomb proof dog. The latter is never going to happen. I will be amazed if Perri and I ever achieve even a Companion Dog title. I dream so often of the day when I finally feel that we can try Novice again. I dream of it being this winter. A fool's dream, maybe. Probably.
I have to accept that. Perri is who she is. She is three years old. She is teaching me so much about building ring confidence, about listening to my dog, and about expectations. I could desensitize her to the slap of the leash on mat flooring, to a vacuum cleaner in a room. But those things might not bother Perri at a different training/trial site. I have so much to learn still. But right now, attending matches is about building mine and Perri's confidence in the obedience ring. We need to stay away from training centers that, for whatever reason, Perri cannot handle. For now, maybe forever.
By the way, her group stays were solid. As ever.