Monday, August 16, 2010

What I learned at my last agility trial

I always hope to bring something home from each trial that I attend, and this past trial weekend was no different!

1. That Gaci is still showing more stress in the ring than I would like. Also, Gaci is more negatively affected by the heat than I first realized. In training situations, she is fabulous, even around other people and dogs. The first day of her trial went super well, and she was focused and driven, and the only reason she did not Q was that she came back out of the chute (last obstacle....gah!!!) when she hit the fabric. The second day, however, she was spent before we even got started. I ended up pulling her out of the run early so that it wouldn't adversely affect her even more. I probably should have scratched early, but gave her the benefit of the doubt.

In talking with my trainer (yep - even trainers still have trainers!!), we are going to go back a few steps again and address some of the stress issues. This may involve paying my entries but only going to the ring for training, and doing 6-8 obstacles and running out of the ring to go for a swim or get a reward, to keep her motivated. Or it may involve her just trialling one day per weekend, before she starts showing signs of negative stress. I am going to up her training around distractions and do more simple training like focus/fun tricks to keep her thinking that the trial site is a great place to be. Time to get back to fun and less on the drilling.

2. Shimmer is going to be a fabulous agility dog! She is surpassing my expectations so much, and she came out with a Q and 1st place in her Starters Jumpers run (which is all I entered her in this weekend). We are developing such a great working relationship between both Rally and Agility that I can't wait to see where it all leads. I have a feeling she'll be a great multi-titled dog. Her level of focus and happiness around other people and other dogs continues to surprise me, considering the natural sensitivity she usually has to her environment. She was a social butterfly with the people, and she tolerated other dogs in close range very well.

3. Shimmer/Gaci both have a limit on how much *close contact* they can stand with each other for one period of time. They spent most of their downtime together either in the expen or the the large custom-built kennel in the van, but it seems that for the ladies the amount of time spent together was a little too much and they started picking at each other a little bit. Nothing worrisome but enough so that I knew they needed a break from each other, and they drove home in separate quarters. The combination of trial stress, first time camping, and just the long weekend was enough to get them a little tired of each other. However, they are playing at my feet as I type this, so I know it's no serious issue. Just something to keep in mind with future trials!

What a great weekend though, I couldn't ask for better weather or a nicer time. I think I enjoyed this trial the most so far, as it was quite relaxing. Once again I learned a little more about the sport, my dogs, and how it affects them, so that I can make changes where needed and continue helping them to be the best they can be.

Looking forward to September's trials. I've only got Gaci entered in two runs as we work on having more fun, and I've put Shimmer into four runs - two Jumpers, a Snooker, and a Gamblers. Can't wait to see how it pans out for her.

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