Friday, February 4, 2011

Builds Character!

That is one of the phrases going through my head right now. One way or another these dogs are making it so that I will have everything figured out just in time for our next dane pup. I've had a variety of people tell me that the variety of things I've worked through with both dogs will make me a better dog trainer. On the one hand, that's awesome. On the other hand, there are times when I would like to not have to work for it so much!

Today was the start of a three day AKC agility trial that I have Bess entered in. I decided to still compete with her because we've obviously got a few things to work through. I had to go into work this morning for a few hours, but the trials start later on Fridays any way and that's not a problem. Also not a problem because I started work at 6:30am. I didn't have quite as much time to warm Bess up prior to our run as I might have liked, but I also didn't have high expectations for her. We warmed up for about 15-20 min., I walked the course, and then we hung out for a short bit while waiting our turn to run (tall to small today). We did our normal focus games that we play while waiting. She was alert and attentive. Good signs. There was a little bit of sass in there too. Not necessarily a bad sign, but lately anything could be a bad sign. When it was our turn I got her to the start line, set her up and was prepared to pull her after two jumps. She had other plans. After the second jump she took off like a bat out of hell around the ring! I mean seriously mad, crazy zoomies at warp speed. She made three laps of the entire outer perimeter of the ring in the amount of time it would have taken us to complete the course. I just stood there and tried to wait for her to calm down a bit because there was no hope for a recall at this point. Finally I just thanked the judge and started walking towards the exit gate to get her collar and leash. She finally made it over to me and I headed out with her to walk around. Thankfully the property that the event center is on is huge and there are a ton of places to take the dogs to walk. I found a more secluded area to let her off leash so that she could just burn off some steam and run. It helped. Sort of.

We hung out in the truck while waiting for Standard (I decided to not crate her this weekend to see if that would help at all). I forgot to move her up to Open by the deadline, so we were running last in Novice. Not that I was really bothered by that. The plan for Standard was to pull her after one jump and leave the ring. If we can't handle two jumps, then lets try one. soon as we got into the ring, Bess flipped the crazy switch and started trying to play tug with her leash. While I was trying to keep that out of her mouth, she decided to use my arm as a bite sleeve. I finally just got the collar off of her and she seemed collected enough. After all, I was only going to have her go over one jump, it should be easy to pull her off of that, right? WRONG! As soon as her feet left the ground on that first jump she was gone. More hauling ass around the ring. Though this time it was only one lap, that ended by her doing one of those horse reining sliding stops up against one of the poor ring crew people. Nothing like having a berserk great dane come barreling at you at top speed, only to have her just barely stop in time to not completely knock you out of your chair. Yes, that's my Bessy! Once she came back to me, I had her sit, thanked the judge and we made our way to the exit. She was walking calmly and I think I tapped her on the butt or something. Wrong thing to do! She took off for another lap and a half of the ring. Freaking A! Finally got her back for the second time and got the collar on so that we could actually exit the ring.

On the up side of everything, she stayed in the ring. Sounds like an accomplishment, right? Except that three sides of each ring are part of an arena wall and the one "open" side is fencing with two swinging gates, so she can't just run right out. She drew a fair bit of attention during her jumpers run. After all, I'm sure to someone outside of the ring, it's highly entertaining to watch an over sized crack dog racing around the ring like the devil was out to burn her tail off! While I was disappointed to a certain extent, at the same time to, I had no expectations going into this trial aside from hoping to start fixing what is obviously broken. There were some very nice, more experienced people who came up to me afterwards to offer words of encouragement and lend their years of experience with a variety of dogs and how they got through it. It was incredibly sweet and very much appreciated. They had some great tips and advice. But mostly, it was just really nice to hear from someone who has been in my same exact spot and made it through to the other side on top. There were a lot of nice things said about Bess too! And I do have to admit that I would rather have a dog doing the zoomies right now than one who is shutting down completely. Which was also the general consensus. So we'll get there, eventually. And isn't it just super that I have this blog to document that fun journey so that I can look back on it years later and laugh?? (heavy on the sarcasm!)

For the immediate future, this will be Bess' last agility trial for a while. Because I was planning on using this trial to gauge what to do for the future, I had sent off very few entries. I've already pulled her from the trials that she was entered in. She will get the month of February completely off from agility. No training, no nothing. We'll start back up with foundation work ON LEAD in March and move on from there. I don't expect to have her back in the ring until the fall. I'm not horribly sad, it leaves more time and money for other pursuits. And I've still got Heffner.

Speaking of Heffner, the boy is getting incredibly restless and is in some serious need of real exercise. He's getting another adjustment next week and I REALLY hope she'll let me start exercising him more! If all goes well and I have him in the type of condition that I want, I'm hoping to trial him at the end of March to see how his body holds up. If not well, that will be Heffner's last agility trial. If his body can handle it, then we'll move on from there. At this point, I am 99% sure that this will be Heffner's last year of agility. He's too important to me to have him wearing down at an early age.

Phew! What a day! I have a lot of thoughts weighing heavily on my mind right now. Tonight though, I shall whisk them away with a little frivolity with some great friends, a cult classic movie, and some yummy drinks! Happy Friday everyone!

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