Saturday, August 23, 2014

Molly CGCA and Perri's Best Novice Work Ever!

The girl dogs and I went to Suburban Dog Training Club today for an Obedience show 'n go.  Since they were offering CGC and CGCA tests, I decided to have Molly tested.  I was not sure how it would go.  I was only 15 minutes early, and that is not enough time for Molly to get to a place and settle in and stop chattering and howling.   Molly lacks a solid "leave it" when it comes to food on the ground.  And I had no idea how she would handle the Recall with Distraction.  I forgot entirely about the test item that requires the tester to put a bag down in front of your dog and ask to pet them until the test itself!  Oops!  I also had not slept well the night before and I was feeling rotten and anxious about the test and not at all enthusiastic about it.

There are ten test steps for an AKC Community Canine test -
1. Dog sits/stands/lies down under control while owner fills out paperwork.  Molly was coming down from chattering and was acting stressed out during this test step.  She was stress panting and very uncomfortable looking.  Regardless, she behaved and sat beside me while I filled out the paperwork.
2. Walks on a loose leash in a natural setting.   We were taken into another room and asked to loose leash walk and were given fast pace, right and left turn directions.  Molly was not engaged with me at all, but she was trudging along well enough to pass.  She was not leash pulling whatsoever, but she was stressed and not having very much fun.
3. Walks on a loose leash through a crowd. We were asked to walk around the crating room of the obedience club.   There were crates around, and there were other dogs and people around.  This step was combined with step number 4 (dog walks past distraction dogs and does not pull).  Molly noticed a golden retriever warming up for the Open ring and I asked her to "Focus" and she came right back with me.
4. Walks past distraction dogs.
5. Sit-Stay in small group (3 people with dogs.)  This was probably, in the actual test, the thing that was the most stressful for me.  Molly did some low whining and sniffing and licking the air.   This was really pushing it with her and I am genuinely surprised that she stayed sitting.  The dogs with us were two large irish setters and a standard poodle.
6. Dog allows somebody carrying something (a purse, bag or backpack) to approach and pet it.  Again, I completely forgot about this.  Molly stayed sitting and wagged her tail when she was petted but did not jump.  She looked at the bag but did not get up to sniff it.
7. "Leave It" Dog walks by food on the floor and follows owner instructions, "Leave It."
For this we had to walk by two food bowls with milkbones inside of them and wire covers on the top.  Molly really did not even notice that there was food in the bowls, she was still in blah-unenthusiastic mode and was just sort of walking around aimlessly with me past the bowls.
8. Down/Sit Stay The dog has to stay while the handler picks up a bag  off the ground and places it by the evaluator and returns to the dog.  Easy peasy.
9. Recall with distractions present.  The dog has to recall 20 feet offset, so I had to leave Molly and walk diagonally across the room to call her.  The evaluator is the distraction.  When I called Molly she exploded towards me and was full body wagging to return to me.
10. Dog will sit or stand stay while owner walks through a door.  Owner calls dog through when ready.  If I had to guess, Molly thought this was totally stupid but she did it just fine.

Success!  I wanted this test with Molly for two reasons.  The first is that she is a pitbull and I think that a pitbull can use all of the Polite Dog evaluations that they can get.  The other reason is that when I had Molly tested for the CGC in 2011, it was not a title.  So when I look Molly up on the AKC website, the CGC is not listed there.  I was not willing to pay an extra twenty bucks just to have the CGC turned into a title, but since CGCA is a new title and test and we could take it on top of the original certification...all the more reason!  The latter reason is a little bit silly and I know that.

We waited about half an hour for our turn in the Novice ring.  I felt much calmer, enjoyed coffee and a donut and practiced a calm down stay with Molly while there were other dogs present.  She seemed a lot less stressed (probably because I was less stressed.) and did really well with being calm while we waited.  Her ring time was nothing spectacular, it was nothing like the match that we did at K9Jym a month or so ago.  She was laggy and disengaged on her heeling.   She was sloppy with her finishes and halts at sit.  On the figure 8 , on the outside turn she completely left heel position and met me on my right side for the halt.  My two favorite things were the Sit-Stay Walk Around the ring (beginner novice style.)  Molly has never been able to hold that stay before, but today she did.  Sort of.  Her two front feet moved slightly, but her butt stayed where it needed to be.  I will call it progress.  On the recall she flew towards me so fast, with such a gaping shark grin that her tongue flew up and smacked her face.  She had foam splatted on her face when she got to me.   Oh god I love this dog.  And then she did a trainwreck of a finish.   It is okay, I got what I trained today and if I want to continue this with Molly (I do.) I need to put more effort into engagement in heel position.  

Perri's ring time was next.  And before I discuss that, I will mention last night's agility class with Perri.  It was awful.  We have had a run of really great agility classes lately.  She is not perfect, she is not a speed demon but she has been enjoying herself and not shutting down.  When I throw her toy after a run she makes everybody, including myself, laugh with her silly pouncing.  Last night, right from the start, Perri was not into it.  No toy or motivator was strong enough.  I got barely more than a trot out of her.  The only thing that brought her any joy was entering the weave poles, but she would slow to a crawl through the poles.  I joked with my teacher that I was going to drop her off at the SPCA.  I drove home in tears.  Stupid, silly sobbing tears about my brilliant dog that is trapped inside of her own head.  Tears for no end in sight.  Tears for trying so hard to work at Perri's pace, tears for feeling so stupid to think we were getting anywhere at all.

Anyone can imagine how I thought today was going to go.  The last time we were at Suburban for a match in January, Perri was very stressed.  She shut down almost immediately.  She stared out of the ring gating into the opposite room at the dogs.  She froze in front of the mirror in the room and could not work.  It was a mess.  

I "put on my big girl panties" and got in there.  We played tricks and pivots ringside.  I made sure that she did not see the hulking rottweiler leaving the ring.  Perri heeled.  And heeled.  And I reinforced with tuna fudge.  And reinforced some more.  I did not once clap or pat my leg to entice her with me, she was right there.  She earned her food from where it was in my pocket instead of me luring her with it in my hands.  She got one goose in on the figure 8 and I broke it all off and started her again. (I warned everyone that Perri is a gooser, and they all laughed and it made me feel better to have confessed her poodle sins.)  This time she spun around the whole thing beautifully.  On the heel free I had a dog the entire time - I don't think I have ever had Perri right there at heel position with me for an entire heel free.  And when we walked past the mirror I saw my little poodle dog pinned to my left leg with her tail wagging and gazing up at me and I almost started crying all over again.  Instead of the mirror being a major issue and distraction, I was the only one in our team who noticed it.  And I noticed a dog and her girl dancing together.  

And again,

"Without thought or effort, I could find the cool white space within myself where no ego existed, where I had a goal but also no goals at all, where there was only the dog who accepted my invitation to dance, and the world fell away." - Bones Would Rain From the Sky, Suzanne Clothier.

I need these moments with Perri.  I especially needed this moment after last night.  When a ring steward told me that Perri "prances so beautifully" it seemed surreal that she might be talking about my dog.  My dog that lags, my dog that freezes and stares.   It is hard to figure out if you are helping an anxious dog find her way or if you are forcing her do a sport that she hates.  Moments like these are so very necessary for me.  They help me to understand that I am not torturing Perri and that she does enjoy what we do together, if only I will give her the time and support that she needs.

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