After yesterday's post, Kathie made a comment that maybe Bess' zooming problem is actually recall related. She has the ability for agility (and I'm a poet and didn't know it!), and lord knows she has the energy. It's an idea that no one had suggested up to this point. And after much pondering and thinking, I think she's on to something! Thanks Kathie!!
When I get right down to it, it totally makes sense. While her zooming could be a little dash of stress, my gut says that's not the whole story. When she takes off, no amount of calling her brings her back until she's decided that she's done. We also have this exact same problem when we're out hiking. She gets on the scent of a deer, or better yet, sights an actual deer, and she is gone. There really isn't any calling her off of wildlife. Heffner I can call off. Bess, I have to wait for her to tire of the game or the deer to go somewhere that's too difficult for her to follow. She just totally gets in the zone and there's no getting through to her by verbal means. Something which was all too painfully evidenced by last summer's injury. If you've got a dog who won't listen and respect the command when it comes under ordinary circumstances, how can you possibly expect it when the dog is over aroused/stressed and has found a way to release it?
The other methods I've tried (from the suggestions of lots of great people!) obviously haven't had any sort of an impact, and this train of thought really makes sense. Especially when I think back to early training with Heffner. When I first started taking agility lessons with Heffner, we had a minor zoomy issue. Minor enough that I had kind of forgotten about it. At the beginning of each lesson, he would take one or two obstacles and then take off on a victory lap around the ring. Every. Single. Class. The difference is that he would actually come back to me when I called and that would end the zoom. This went on for a couple of months and then he just kind of got over it. It was never an issue after that. Even more recently in class there were times when I could tell that he was soooooo excited to be doing what he was doing and he soooooo wanted to just dig into the wonderful substrate that she has and just go tearing around the ring; he stayed with me. When we're out hiking, Heffner doesn't go terribly far from me. He may go off trail in a brief jaunt, but his recall is actually quite good. Even when there is wildlife involved.
For those who may be wondering what other means I have tried to get Bess through this, there's not a ton, but I'll go through them in case anyone else is going through a similar bout of craziness. We've tried incorporating tug play and jackpots before and after runs. The jackpots are for after runs. The tug play was tried before and after runs. She enjoys it for sure, but didn't seem to make a difference. There was all the proofing of working with me in the ring and trying not to give her the opportunity to self reward by leaving the ring on my terms in a trial setting. By Sunday of that trial weekend it was evident that wasn't having an impact. The most common advice that we got was to give her a time out. I tried this at the trial and I tried this during our practice barn time. I tried giving her a time out in a crate, in the truck cab, and in the entry way to the practice barn. Her time out length was varied from 5 minutes up to an hour. Yes, an hour long time out. I would then take her out and work with her again. The pretty consistent response that I got from her once she was back around agility equipment (and sometimes even before she was in sight of the equipment) was a dog who was more amped up then when she was put in her time out. The shorter duration time outs were more likely to lead to a dog who tried playing tug without being told and before even getting to actually work. The longer duration time outs usually lead to a dog who appeared to be calm, collected, and ready to work until she was released. Then we were back to playing Bess' game. So across the board the time outs in all their varieties didn't seem to have the intended impact. At one point I even tried just straight up yelling at her in a very mean mommy voice and telling her NO. It certainly didn't do anything while she was out having a blast running around where I couldn't get to her. And obviously yelling at her and telling her no is not the way to go when she would finally come back to me. So there you have it. Recall work I will happily try. Now I just have to develop a game plan.
On to a lighter subject, I painted the dogs' toe nails last night!!:0) A few weeks back I bought a new shade of green nail polish and some shamrock nail decals from Fred Meyer. Now that St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, I figured the dogs and I should get a little festive. I was not as inspired to put the effort into applying nail decals to my own nails, but the color matches!