Saturday, June 22, 2013

Getting Closer

Yesterday was a dog show day for Bess and Ruthie.  I had Bess entered in two runs of Graduate Novice and Ruthie entered in breed twice for our frenchie club's dual specialties.  The short of it is Bess and I did not qualify in either of her runs and Ruthie did not get pulled in breed for the first specialty and I pulled her from the second because it was really starting to warm up and I wasn't really feeling like sticking around until late.  Now for the long of it. ;)

Bess is definitely moving in the right direction in obedience, but we aren't quite there yet.  After the HUGE improvement that she made in Lodi, I kind of felt like we had turned a corner and things were only going to look up from here.  After all, she overcame the many distractions at that gorgeous venue, she worked on grass, outside, and in hot weather.  If she can put in smile worthy performances there that made me proud of her, surely competing on packed dirt in an indoor arena that she's competed in before should be a piece of cake!  Well, almost.  The things that she knew, she totally nailed.  The things that she's been a little shaky on in training, fell apart.  I'll focus on the many positives before I tear apart what went wrong and start in on questioning my prep leading up to the trial.

Bess' heeling is seriously improving!  Yes, it's still on leash in Graduate Novice and our biggest buggaboo is off lead, but it's honestly improving under trial conditions.  Her heeling was a little so-so for her morning run, but I was really happy with it in her afternoon run.  Heeling is my favorite thing to train and absolute favorite exercise when the handler and dog are in sync.  For me, there's just nothing that feels better than awesome heeling with my dogs! 

The other high point of both of her runs was that she came on every single recall!  We've had issues in the past, more so in competition than in training, where she just continues to hold her stay when I call her.  Yesterday she came on all of her recalls, and Graduate Novice has a LOT of recalls.  She was definitely more enthusiastic about her recalls over the high and broad jumps, but she still did every single one.

She also nailed all of her finishes (I pretty much also have her finish from the right), regardless of where she decided front was. ;)  And we had some interesting front placements that gave me doubt as to whether she could pull it off.  But she did!

And now for our not so great moments.  The drop on recall and the off lead figure 8 killed us both times.  We had no drop in either run.  That was the one exercise that she seemed the most confused by in the ring.  Instead of dropping, both times she just eventually stopped in a stand.  She knew that there was something that she was supposed to do, but just couldn't seem to remember how to respond.  Her fronts both times after that were also not great.  For the second run, she didn't even sit after I called her in the rest of the way. 

The first figure 8 of the day was the worst.  For the final halt, she ended up on my right side.  She was so distracted by the people who were our posts that she lost focus on me completely.  I lost her both times when circling to the right.  In our second run, I did give an additional heel command that brought her back and actually seemed to snap her back to the task at hand and cause her to remember what she was supposed to do.

Since yesterday, there are two general trains of thought that have been occupying my mind.  1) What am I going to do to fix this?  And 2) Did I do something in our training leading up to it to confuse her?  Leading up to Lodi, I have to openly admit that I did not work with Bess on anything obedience related in between our private lessons.  We were going once a week and outside of our lessons, I didn't do anything with her.  Lodi obviously went well.  This time around, I decided to work on the drop on recall in particular, the week leading up to the trial.  Since that's our exercise that fell apart the most, now I'm wondering if I was on the right track before and I should just not work Bess on anything obedience related leading up to a trial.  Maybe I pushed it too much and created more confusion.  All sorts of self doubts have crept in.  Her performances showed definite improvement, I'm just paranoid about ruining her tremendous steps forward.

So what am I going to do to fix this?  I know what I'm going to do about the fronts.  I worked hard on making the finishes fun for her and that succeeded.  She has a solid understanding of them, and proved that in the ring yesterday.  Now I just need to do that with her fronts.  I'm pretty sure I know how to go about that.  Now I just need to try it out.

Fixing the drop on recall may be something that I only work on in our lessons.  She understands both the verbal and the signal commands for dropping.  I have her do them randomly around the house and the yard and she nails it.  It's just her understanding of it in motion on a recall that seems to break down.  Maybe it's something that while at home, I will only work on having her drop in motion.  Once she drops, I'll release her, give her her reward, and that will be it.  I won't worry about her coming to front  after the drop for a while.  We'll see.

Not to be forgotten, the Mighty Midget got to go in the breed ring as a special yesterday!  I will admit that I feel way less confident showing a frenchie in conformation than I do a dane.  It's just so different!  For one, there's a table.  For the other, I just don't practice conformation showing with her.  I did more recently, but not that much and subsequently, it just feels a little awkward.  It was totally fun though!  She was a good girl and did what she needed to do, though she obviously a little bored with it.  Two friends of mine recently got a frenchie puppy and they came to the specialty to check everything out and get a little slice of frenchie heaven.  So they loved on Ruthie a whole lot and she just ate it up!  By comparison, being in the ring was not as entertaining and Ruthie centered.;)

As I mentioned, things were heating up after Bess' afternoon GN run, so I decided to just pack everyone up and head home.  So no afternoon showing for Ruthie.  It was definitely a fun day and I came away from it with a good feeling.  Here's to continuing on this road!

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