Monday, April 11, 2016

Acknowledging Progress - Environmental Stress

I worked a 12 hour shift yesterday on a weekend, which means that there was a lot of "down time" at work.   In Radiology on the weekend we mostly get ER patients and it is either extremely busy or extremely slow.   I read an entire book (Brain on Fire - excellent, interesting medical memoir.  Link goes to the author's original New York Post article on her experience.)   I also had a lot of time to reflect and wallow on Saturday's trial.   I obsess about things, especially if I have them on video.   I really want to be the best that I can be and I am really mentally hard on myself.   I want to be more advanced than I am, I want to stop making the same mistakes.

I obsessed about how I did not decel and turn when Molly was committed to the triple jump, to show her the turn rather than sending her over the dummy jump.   I underestimated how tempting the dummy jump was.  About my lack of clear signalling of the jump Molly missed after the weave poles, I took it for granted that she would pick up that jump.  And about my inability to keep Molly off of the wrong course jump at the end.  (I do think if I had rear crossed it instead of front crossing earlier in the course, we would have gotten it.)  And of course, how many skilled handlers had no trouble at all.  And the weaves were a whole other "hot mess" of their own.

But then I settled into a different line of thinking.  Molly and I weren't there to work on agility courses.   We are not yet at the point, though we are getting there, where I can relax and just enjoy agility at an AKC trial with Molly.   I entered that trial to work on Molly's environmental challenges.  And in fairness to myself, and to my partner, both of our brains are divided at AKC trials - I would argue mine more than her's.  More than half of my mental energy is going to laser studying Molly's reactions to other dogs, her acclimation, her stress signals, making sure a dog doesn't goose her butt.  I have been letting her look at "triggers" and waiting in heart stopping silence to see if she will re-engage to me, or start chattering and lose focus.   She has been reorienting to me almost every time, and we worked hard for that.   I made the mistake of taking her into the snack area where the vendors were - it was heated and Molly was cold so I thought she could warm up before her run - and it instantly skyrocketed her stress levels.   There were lots of dogs in there hanging out, she had never been in that room before, and there were chewies and bones and bully sticks laid out everywhere for sale.   That's the sort of simple stuff that many accomplished teams aren't even thinking about, but for was too much.  But, she recovered quickly from that.   That would not have always been the case for her.

And we are Getting There.  This is Molly's second 3 ring AKC trial in a row with no insanity in the ring borne of stress.  I have chosen the venues wisely, with high ring gates she cannot jump out of - for my own comfort level.  I have learned so much about what Molly needs, so, so much.  I can only hope a clearer mind while handling her will follow - I have no doubt that it will.  In the mean time, I can remember that I am at a good place in my own personal journey and my progress cannot be rushed!  

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