I had one of the hardest agility trialing days I've had since I retired Tobie. That may sound surprising given the ups and downs Feisty and have over the last 4 years. However today I had a melt down.
What brought me to that point? Well I'm in St. Louis trialing in a place that none of my dogs have been to before. We have done a lot of road trips recently and they are getting into the routine of these pretty well. Today we started with Ex JWW and I ran Sinco first. She had a nice run but missed her weave entry in spite of my collecting to help her. No biggie. Then Spring ran and he popped out of pole 10 and so I had him redo them and did them all and we left the ring to a party right away. No biggie. Then Feisty had her turn. I wanted to warm her up a the warm up jump located between the two rings so she could feel the energy in the arena. While waiting for the jump she went from tail up and happy to tail tucked and shivering and not wanting to move. She did this once before a couple of weeks ago and I got her over it but never figured out what caused it. This time I left the area immediately and went to my crating space and got the high value treats out. We worked on tricks and waited by the start gate and her tail came up and she looked ok again. I figured it would be like last time - she'd work through it.
Well we went to the start line and as soon as I took off the leash she wanted to leave the ring. I tried a couple of times to get her to come with me and finally said "thank you" and we left the ring. I had no idea what caused it. I called Pam and asked her to do some healing touch long distance for her. I kept her out and let her walk around outside to shake it off. I assumed it was bad vibes. So I had downtime before our next run. There were only a few dogs left in the JWW ring and most of the people were over by the other ring. I walked Feisty around the outside of the JWW ring. The only place she freaked was where the only person was - the photographer. I tried to give her treats close to him. Then I had a flashback to the summer.
This summer I was taking lots of photos of puppies and she was around one time when the flash was going off. She obviously thought it was lightning and she looked like she did during a thunderstorm. The thunder never came. I didn't worry much about it and I thought it was just the flash and eventually she'd realize that no thunder followed.
Well I decided to test my theory and we got a bunch of high value treats and went out to the van where I had my camera. She likes to get in the van so that is a happy place. I got the camera out and clicked and she immediately froze up and wouldn't eat treats. BINGO! The interesting thing is that she is so convinced it is coming from sky that she is not afraid of the camera when it is quiet. She has made NO association between the camera and the noise.
So I started to formulate a plan for the standard run. I talked to the photographer and asked him if he would please not take any pictures of any of my dogs because I had one who is very afraid of the camera click. I was wearing a blue tie-dyed shirt so I thought he could remember me. He said he would and he understood. I kept a careful eye on him and he left the standard ring and went over the far side of the JWW ring. I thought - great! I ran Sinco and she missed the weaves again - hmmm... Then it was Feisty's turn. Still no photographer at the ring and we had a good spot on the far side. We hung out and she was relaxed and happy. About 5 dogs before us the photographer came back to the standard ring. Well I still was not concerned because I had asked him not to shoot us and I kept Feisty out of range of the sound as long as possible. I took my time setting up so the photographer would be ready.
My plan was that if Feisty was squirrely I'd do one obstacle and leave. If she was a bit squirrely but running I'd skip the table and keep going. She started out on fire - she was fast, nailed the weaves, and so I went for the table. The photographer was about 20 feet from the table. As I released her from the table he clicked the camera and Feisty scooted around the chute - the next obstacle and I looked over at him and he was shooting her. I said "Please stop taking pictures of her!" - by that point Feisty was half way to the exit which was directly opposite of the camera. I was furious. All of the work I've done with the table and to have this happen. The melt down began. I thought I was managing the situation as best I can given that have NO time to work on it. Yes I realize it is a training issue but taking photos is optional.
So I recovered from my melt down and walked her around the rings - by this time most of the people were gone. She seemed fine and happy. She really treats the click sound like thunder and once it is gone she does fine. Hopefully I can get the photographer to remember tomorrow to not photograph her.
So I thought I could work on a bit in the hotel room. I have her stone collar, a thundershirt, and beef liver (stopped at a pet store for some even better treats). I have a business suite room since I have to be here for four days. Even across the room 20-25 feet distance and she can't tolerate the click. Even not having had dinner she was not hungry enough to work through it. Again she likes the quiet camera just fine.
There will be no portrait shoots for Feisty anytime soon. If I could just show her that it is coming from the camera and not the sky she would be fine with it. She is fine with clickers - for awhile I thought maybe the Iclick bothered her but it doesn't. She is not bothered by any other types of clicks.
It is so disappointing to me because she had been running better than she ever has at trials and now to have a setback like this and something new to have to train/proof her for. I am at a bit of a loss of how to begin with it but I think I will have to have someone else help and hold the camera 50 plus feet away - find a point where it clicks but she doesn't immediately go over threshold.
Keep your fingers crossed that this has not added a new problem for the table!