Sunday, June 10, 2012

Should I stay or should I go?

Carmine is having to ask herself this question at every run lately.  She has broken her start line stay on about 2/3 of her runs at the past few AKC trials.  I have had to be very clear about it because she is too fast and pushy for me to let it slide.  I started reviewing some videos tonight of runs and I noticed that she has been pushing it even on the ones I thought she was being good.  So I need to do more proofing on my inhales before I say "free" which is when she is leaving instead of after hearing the release word.

I feel strongly that allowing a dog to break a start line stay only causes a run to unravel and often leads to deterioration of contact criteria, weave poles and eventually turns and possibly jumps.  Starts, contacts, turns and weaves all require thoughtfulness, impulse control, and collection.  Breaking a start line stay also allows the dog to be in control of the run and very often it is difficult to keep a dog on course when they are in charge right from the beginning.  Now breaking a start line stay is not the same as making the conscious choice to run with your dog at the start line which I often do with Feisty.  

Today a student of mine asked me if I thought Carmine was understanding the leaving the ring for breaking the start line since I was still having to take her off.  I believe she is understanding it because she seems to recognize the error the minute I look at her and walk off when she breaks.  However  I may have caused some confusion now that I've seen the videos where she has been leaving a nanosecond before my release when I didn't realize it.  That confusion means it will take longer to get the point across and explains in part why it is taking longer than I anticipated.  There is some general rule of thumb that for every mistake it takes three times as long to overcome it.  Today she paused before she left after hearing my release - I thought that was a sign of progress.  She also stayed for both runs today so that is huge progress.  

The second run has been the hardest for her and she goes into the ring barking and wanting to pull on the leash (which I try not to tolerate).  She is higher than a kite which is why staying is so hard for her.  It is hard to have the self-discipline to take her off when I too would really like to run the course.  Normally I would not have a young dog doing this much AKC for several reasons.  One there are the fewer runs per day available which makes it harder for a dog to have a chance to learn from their mistakes such as this.  In USDAA, NADAC, ASCA or CPE there are 4-6 runs a day available and progress can be made faster when training contacts or start line stays in this manner.  Second AKC runs are expensive per run.  Third no training in the ring is allowed in AKC.  Fourth the environment can be more stressful for dogs who are sensitive.  If it weren't for my goals with my other experienced dogs I would not have had her in so many AKC trials at such a young age.  I am looking forward to the NADAC trial this month in order to have better opportunity for training in the ring and I look forward to less trialing in July and August and more focus on training.

While Carmine is definitely driven and excited to do agility to the point where she forgets about impulse control, she is also sensitive.  You can tell when a mistake has happened because she shortens her stride and jumps more vertically.  So she is very much a team player out there and she always leaves the ring by my side and she tries very hard.  I am so proud of her for her two wonderful Jumpers with weaves runs this weekend where she showed me a glimpse of her true potential and she showed me a glimpse of her speed and focus in a trial setting.    I feel so fortunate to have such a fun, driven and sweet canine agility companion.