Tay and I have had a second trial in a row where the dog I have fun with in training showed up at the trial!
Last weekend at the ASCA trial I was prepared to do short courses and to work on weaves and contacts. On both rounds of jumpers she was great - I didn't support one jump and she missed it but otherwise she was focused and fast. This was in Leatherdale arena where she has been the most stressed in the past - she has even started shaking in the middle of the ring.
In the first round of regular she was a bit wired and she was missing her dogwalk contact. I was trying to get her to stop 2on/2off. She finally came close on the third attempt and we left to a party. I was amazed that she kept trying in a trial - in the past she would have gone off sniffing and been too stressed to repeat it. On round two of regular she did better and we left early. We didn't get to work on the weaves until the second day. A couple of the gambles were going to be too hard for her - involving weaves or aframes and we just skipped those gambles.
On Sunday we were able to train the weave poles a bit more - repeating the sequence before the weaves. She did great the second time through them and we left to a party. She earned one gamblers leg on Sunday with a fun tunnel gamble.
This past weekend at the CPE trial she ran so well at Soccer Blast. She earned quite a few Qs and she played fast and focused with me. Sometimes she was a bit sticky on the start line on Sat but by Sunday she started with me right way. She only went off sniffing once and that was when the dogwalk seemed odd to her on Sunday and she went up and came back down. The judge was great and let us repeat the dogwalk after we fixed it. She was fine then. Tay even did 6 weave poles on the first try for the first time in a trial in several weeks.
At the ASCA trial the weather was nice enough that I was able to keep her in the van during the trial. I thought it would be less stressful for her. This past weekend it was too hot to leave her in the van so she was crated inside near the back of the building. I was amazed that she was actually napping in her crate. In the past she would pace and circle and be standing almost all the time in her crate. She seemed very relaxed. It was such a relief. She also *walked* - and I mean WALKED around the trial area - normally she is such a bundle of energy and can not calmly walk at a trial. Yet when I was ready to start the run she was right there with me running full speed! She finally beat Sinco in time and/or points in some classes!!! Now I've known all along that she can be very fast and can when she puts her mind to it run faster than Sinco - few people have seen it or believe me but I know because I run both of them! She also did a lot of collected turns which she does in training and in the past could not do in trials!
So I had a blast running my Tay Tay this past weekend!
So you may ask what do I think brought about this transformation?
I think it is a combination of things and I believe the combination is the key.
1. I am much more vocal running her and praising her a LOT for things. If I see her head start to drop to sniff I immediately say something in a loud happy voice and she would pick up her nose and keep running.
2. She started wearing her custom made collar that has a LOT of Jade stones on it last weekend at the ASCA trial. She just wears it at trials and I take it off right before she runs and put it back on after she runs - she usually wants it on and will put her head into it. Jade stones are known for providing protection from negative energy and spirits and are self clearing.
3. I sprayed "Florida water" in the van at the ASCA trial and in our crating area and on me. It is a special water created by Shamans in Peru that provides protection from negativity and it smells wonderful. I immediately feel relaxed when I smell it. Tay actually doesn't mind it and she is very sensitive to most essential oils.
4. I once again abandoned the 2o/2o dogwalk criteria for her when she started to collect and trot through the contact zone. Would I like it to be faster and to be less managed by me - yes! But that will take more time and practice with her. For her, as it was with Sonic, it is too hard for her to do a running aframe and a stopping dogwalk. I've seen dogs who can handle different criteria on the different obstacles but it is a hard concept for many dogs. Tay has to really be thinking hard to stop on the dogwalk which she was originally taught and I've asked her to do many times in practice. But trials are stressful for her and it is very hard for to concentrate to do it. It just isn't automatic for her enough to do it under stress. How many of us can think clearly under stress?
5. Lastly the other thing that has happened which can not be discounted in how it may have impacted her is that she had surgery 10 days before the ASCA trial to remove an implode sebaceous cyst from her neck. She had drains in her neck for a few days. Going to the vet is very stressful and it was an emergency situation. She may have undergone some sort of change under anesthesia.
Now she will have a break from trialing until Labor Day weekend. This will be good for her. I plan to not run her in AKC at all or USDAA standard for several months - I'm going to wait until I am sure her confidence in trials is here to stay and her weave pole performance improves in trials. In the meantime I will use ASCA and NADAC trials for training it and run her in CPE trials where there are a lot of classes where weaves can be avoided or where there are only 6 poles.
I had more fun running her at these past trials because she was RUNNING and she was trying really hard to stay focused - she was the fun dog I have in training! To see her run with joy and not stress was so rewarding and she was so proud of herself too! I could tell she was having more fun than she has had in a long time at a trial.