Last weekend (Sept 19-20) we attended our first outdoor agility trial since last September. It was Perri's very first outdoor agility trial.
It started off innocently and well enough with FAST. Molly was usual, breaking off her start line, a little wild but she did both her contacts on the teeter and A-frame. The send was a tunnel to jump to different tunnel entrance. She blew out of the tunnel, went around the jump and took the backside and then the correct end of the tunnel again. Fault! We fooled around a little bit with the weave poles and left the ring when our time was up. We had a meatball party.
Perri was next and earned her Novice Fast title with exactly 50 points. She was a little fired up too and got pouncey on me, but she was a good girl overall!
Things went downhill quickly. In Standard, Molly got stressed. First two jumps and she flew away from me wild. I called her back and she did another jump and ran far away and hopped on the pause table. I called her back to me and she just sniffed the ground. One criteria I try to stick with is that when I get that level of disengagement with Molly, we leave the ring. (Because often when we continue, she gets wilder and wilder and eventually jumps out of the ring.)
The day got even worse when in JWW, two dogs before our run, Molly had an absolutely berserk melt down. She started screaming, she was up on her hind legs, she was chatter-screaming and frothing and her tongue was hanging out. She was yanking me around, she would not and could not re-engage. I scratched her right there and walked her back to the cars and she was still on hind legs screaming her fool head off almost the entire way back to the car. I had to go walk for Perri's Open Standard course, and I was in tears. I could not believe how bad Molly got. How could we keep backsliding this bad? What set her off? Three people approached me throughout the rest of the day and asked what on earth happened, and if we were okay. They had never seen such behavior from Molly.
Back to Perri. She was worried in JWW, had some jump run outs and lots of worried glances towards the treeline (the JWW ring was a different one than she had run in that morning in FAST.) She tried her best though. Weaves were not very good, but again she tried her best. In Open Standard she did better. She did her chute (!!!), she had a few jump refusals. She popped out of the weaves but did them pretty nicely when we repeated them. We ran the rest of the run at top speed confidence mode.
And, back to Molly! She was in car-jail. After Perri's run I was still feeling miserable about Molly and did not really feel like leaving the trial yet. I signed up to work the rest of the trial for Open JWW and Novice JWW. In between the two classes I got Molly out again for a walk. I thought maybe if we spent more time on acclimation, Sunday could be better. She was stressy and whiney and chattery around the first two rings, but when we got to the third ring...the JWW ring she went insane again. We fought our way back to the car and it hit me: she thought it was lure coursing. She was acting exactly the way she does when we are waiting for our turn to lure course. The snow fencing was there. There was a dog running around in the ring. And there was a noisy generator at one of the RVs nearby. I worked Novice JWW, waited for T2B to complete in the "lure coursing ring", and got Molly out again. We worked long and slow, with lots of treats, and stayed under threshold. Slowly slowly approaching the ring until we finally managed to get to the ring entrance with a quiet dog. The course was being set up for the next day and she had a start when she saw the measuring tape being adjusted (the bag! I knew the bag was in there!!!) and I cringed and waited for what felt like forever and she reoriented to me and I gave her tons of treats. She looked back at the tape and quickly back to me. I was so proud of her. It had to be her decision to examine the ring and the measuring tape and decide to choose engagement with me, and she did!
We got there early Sunday. We did the exact same thing. Molly seemed calmer.
I will take a break and talk about Perri's day. She was better! She seemed to have figured out this Outdoor Thing. We got a jump refusal pretty quickly but she was in a great mood and we continued the course until a straight line down the back into the weave poles. I started decelerating for the weave entry which pulled Perri off of the jump. The weave poles we tried two times and on the third time I asked her to try them again. She got crazy! Play bow and zoomies. Not embarrassing or anything, having your dog get zoomies in the Excellent ring! And it is my policy for Perri that with zoomies, I walk out of the ring. Usually she gets a second chance, but I didn't want to risk her leaving the ring. (And she usually only zooms on dirt at this point.)
Open Standard was gorgeous. Everything was perfect. She did the chute as the first obstacle with the wind blowing the fabric towards us (somebody straightened it right before our run.), she did a 180 and turned nicely back onto the second jump instead of going wide like she almost always does. But the weaves ate us. She got in and weaved a few poles and started sniffing the ground. I asked her to do them again and she continued sniffing and walked away from me. Sniff sniff sniff. That made me upset, because it all came together in my mind then. She might be hurt again. Her weave poles have been declining in the last month, just like last time, until she absolutely says "I cannot do this." We finished the last few obstacles and had a major party. Weave poles or not, I was proud of my girl turning out a nearly clean run at her first outdoor trial!
Back to Molly!
JWW was in a different ring on Sunday and I was rejoicing! We got into the ring, I took the leash off and she took the first jump, sniffed by the snow fencing and jumped out of the ring. Well. I did not expect that. I was a bit crushed.
I considered scratching her for Standard, but decided to try it. I went into Perri-mode for Molly (which is normally way too energy-making for her.) Fun talk and personal play and tricks ringside. Running off the start line together. Praising whatever mistakes occur and going with them... We got into the ring and she launched for the first jump before I was ready. Again. I called her back nicely enough and we ran off together. She ran out the first line because I was so far behind her (this is why Molly does a start line stay!), and took a tunnel and the next thing was the dog walk so I just called her to that and showered her with praise on what a good girl she had been. Next thing was the panel jump to the edge of the ring which was terrifying for me. I sent her over the panel and told her to do the teeter, which was next...and also near the fencing. I did not want to give her any body pressure to send her out of the ring. She did her dog walk contact and the teeter properly, next jump...and bounced off the table and started sniffing. I told her she was amazing and she got back up on the table and her tail was wagging but she was all red and stressed and panting. The judge finished her count and I said "We are going to leave now, thank you!" and out over another jump or two and we did the finish tunnel and had a major party. Whew.
I don't know what happened. Molly has done outdoor trials before and while we haven't been enormously successful...we never are! Molly was no more crazy or not crazy outdoors than indoors. We always have wild Molly runs indoors, and outdoors was no different. But her stress and confidence crash was very new. We are actually going to try again on Friday, one day of AKC outdoors at a different location. We will see how that goes. Hopefully she does not think she is at lure coursing again.