Oops! I didn't mean to cause a panic with my mention of Shakespeare in the last post; I got a couple of emails about him. He's absolutely fine. :-) But I have been kicking around for a few months the idea of retiring him from competition.
Anyone who has spoken with me online or in person knows that he doesn't like trials. Our single biggest issue is trial stress. (And no, this doesn't appear anywhere else, and it doesn't seem to be based on my own trial nerves. It's unique to trials, where I think he can sense the general nerves and adrenaline of the crowd.) It's better sometimes than others -- I was surprised and pleased with his performance at our last Open obedience trial, for example -- but he's never "on" in trials and he's generally, well, depressed at the scene.
So I've been wondering whether it's fair to him to ask him to perform in trials. It's not like he particularly cares whether or not he's got the title, you know. He does it for me in the ring because he's the world's best dog, more or less, but is it fair for me to ask that of him?
So I'm thinking of severely cutting back on trialing to just those situations which I know are more Shakespeare-friendly. We don't trial much, anyway, due to this, but I have decided that I'll enter only one more Agility trial this year for him, at his home field, so to speak. I'll do UKC obedience, but probably no AKC obedience. (No group downs and often smaller trials.) We'll do Schutzhund obedience, where we're the only one on the field and it's an open area rather than crowded with spectators. We'll do Rally, where we can play and treat in the ring.
Some of this is coming up now because of something Armin Winkler said to me at the seminar last week: that it was cruel and horrible to see a dog fail a trial and be frightened because he was not adequately prepared or made to meet the challenge. He was talking about a dog being run off the field in protection work because he was scared by the aggressive helper, which is different; I would never place Shakespeare in that kind of situation if I felt he couldn't take it. But even if no one's scaring him out of the ring, he isn't having fun during the competition itself -- and isn't that the entire point of dog sports, anyway?
Shakespeare was my only competition dog for a long, long time -- Dante died too young, Chaucer was recovering dog-aggressive and a mixed breed, Tempest was not a candidate for public venues. Inky is my husband's dog and had major spinal surgery, anyway, so I would hate to ask her to be more physical than she volunteers. So it was Shakespeare or we sat at home, and he likes to train with me. It's fun. He just doesn't like to trial. Now I have Laevatein waiting in the wings, so there's hope of doing something else down the road, and maybe some of the pressure can come off him.
He also has a tooth which is looking problematic; if it's dead or dying, that will end bitework for him. I won't risk breaking a tooth and hurting him.
We'll see. In the meantime, he's not completely retired. We went to Michigan yesterday during a sudden snowstorm and, in two inches of falling snow and a cold wind, about fifty degrees colder than where he'd been working in Missouri, he completed his UKC-SDA Family Obedience title. :-) I watched the Protection Alert trial and knew he could have done it, but I hadn't entered him, coming off a week of traveling with the new puppy. Oh, well. There's always another chance, and he doesn't know we missed anything.
UCD FO Shakespeare To Go CD CGC BH WAC TDI RL1-CL