Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Feisty Files Update

It is time for another chapter in the "Feisty Files"!

As a refresher, in March of 2008 Feisty entered Excellent Standard and JWW.  Since then she has earned 26 Excellent JWW legs (23 MXJ legs) and over 275 MACH points (all from JWW).  She has also earned only 5 Excellent Standard legs.  She earned her AXJ in March of 2008 and her AX in June of 2009. 

In standard the table has been the biggest training issue.  I have spent a lot of time working on proofing her table performance and making it fun.  In February of this year at a USDAA trial she did the table which was situated right next to the ring stewards, timer and scribe as well as a row of people leaning over the railing AND the place where the noisy speaker had been.  Feisty got on the table and went down without any hesitation at all.  I knew we had made a huge breakthrough.  After spending many runs in Standard getting an "E" for training the table (either leaving the ring to a party when she would finally get on it or leaving the ring because she refused to get on it at all, this was a huge victory.

May's TCOTC trial was our first time in Excellent standard in over 6 months.  I was feeling good about her table performance and Jacque Hoye was the judge.  We spent a lot of time working in Jacque's classes to proof her table performance so I thought this would be a good place to begin again.  Feisty did a great table and a great everything else on Saturday to earn her FIRST Excellent B Standard leg in two years!!!!  I was ecstatic!  On Sunday she missed the weave entry which was right before the table.  I made her redo the weaves so we could go to the table.  She got on immediately and went down and we left right away to a huge party.  Perfect way to reward the table!

This past weekend we ran in the BOTC AKC trial.  On Saturday we ran JWW first.  Feisty knocked a bar on jump 2 which is unusual for her but most likely due to the long grass in the ring.  So I went into training mode and did more distance handling than usual at an AKC trial.  I also "left" her in the weaves.  She proceeded to miss the entry and pop out early and it was the next to last obstacle on the course.  If I do this with my other dogs it is not a big deal.  However I had a momentary lapse in memory of which dog I was running here.  Feisty remembers everything and forgets nothing!  Then on our standard run she popped out at pole 10.  I remembered then that I better try it again and she popped out again so I took her off the course.  I know I can't repeat my mistake from JWW and let her go on without weaviing again.  On Sunday she ran JWW and popped out again at pole 10 - and I pulled her off right away.  Then in Standard she took a wrong course into a tunnel when all who watched said that I was turned and calling her in plenty of time for her to come with me.  So we left the course to cut our losses at that point.  Needless to say I was feeling pretty frustrated with myself for having not "fixed" our weaves on rd 1 on Saturday.

So once again Feisty puts me into a position to consider something that I've only ever done with one other dog of mine (Tobie).  I rarely recommend going home and training something between trial days.  For most dogs they are too tired to really be able to process any training at the end of a day of trialing.  For other dogs the adrenaline rush of the trial atmosphere or the stress of the trial scene is ultimately what is interfering with their performance so practice at home is not going to help that.  I decided that I needed to make myself feel better that Feisty could weave 12 poles.  I also realized that she had been practicing on the 24" poles so I should get out the 22" poles and practice with those.  We stopped at the school on the way home and set up the narrower poles.  I used the container of hot dogs as proofing material and placed the container by the 10th poles.  The first time she weaved great right by it - she got hot dogs for it.  Then she realized there were yummy treats in that container.  Then she actually started to pop out to check out the container.  Yippee!  I recreated the problem and I verbally corrected her and asked her to weave again.  She got faster and more excited about weaving and very quickly figured out how to weave past the container to get hot dogs.  Then Pam offered to guard the container and we had it open and by the 10th pole.  Feisty worked through it and got faster and more excited about weaving.  Proofing does help build confidence and speed!!! 

Our Sunday night training paid off!  On Monday Feisty ran two perfectly clean runs to earn her FIRST Double Q - two years after getting into Excellent!!!  It was great!  She took second place behind Pam and Windy in JWW!

It is really hard to run a dog who has as much as potential as she does and is as skilled as she is when she can act so squirrelly at times!  She is also the first dog I've had who is in that very small minority of dogs who exercises her independence.  She has done this in seminars as well in trials where she has made up her own course that does not reflect my handling at all and she has refused to do obstacles by stopping and standing there staring at me.  There have been times when I could tell it was stress related but there are times when she is definitely not stressed.  So any time she is running as a teammate it is a real treat!  She is a very high energy dog who loves to do things with me but everything has to be aligned just right for her to be willing and able to run as a teammate!  She is also the kind of dog who loves to be challenged in her training and does not shut down when she is mentally challenged.  She can be shut down with stress or boredom.  Proofing is mentally challenging for her and she gets into it.

So I finally got the positive reinforcement I needed to keep going with her!  We have had a LONG dry spell!

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