Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Trial/Workshop Report, Day 1 (Friday)

The club had opted to spend two days in seminar/workshop and then trial on Sunday. I would have preferred to trial on Saturday -- I didn't think an extra day of training would make a significant difference one way or another, and I also had the purely personal motive of then having Sunday free either for church or for the APDT/CDSP trial an hour away. But my opinion didn't carry, which was fine.

We've been getting an amazing amount of rain this month, and our club field was completely flooded with inches of water, so we used a soccer field near our tracking fields for practice and the trial. We met the imported German judge at the tracking fields -- "Let us say not seminar, let us say we make dog training" -- and started our workshop.

Shakespeare's morning practice track was pretty lousy. This didn't surprise me greatly, because I'd really forgotten that I wanted to do tracking with him and had been focusing more on Laev, but I thought he'd do better than he did. He skipped one article and tried to skip another, and this is the only part of tracking he'd been really reliable on! What a great picture to show the judge. :-)

Laev's track was better (of course -- Laev's much better at tracking because I didn't goof up her training as much) and she actually received compliments from the judge and a visitor from another club who came to train and then trial this weekend. Nice.

The visitor from another club had brought a dog to try for his SchH3. He waited and laid a track over our used tracks, and when they ran the track it was very pretty indeed. The dog had earned his 1 and 2 earlier this year, and if he worked anything like he tracked, he'd have a 3 on Sunday. :-)

Tracking finished, we ate lunch and then headed to the makeshift trial field. Obedience was largely a chance to let people work through the routines and get suggestions or help if they wanted. When it was our turn (we work in pairs, to simulate trial conditions of one dog working and another honoring), I pulled Laev and went to practice reporting to the judge.

This was the second time for the club to practice on this field. I'd driven over once during the week to practice with Laev and let her see the place, but that was obviously solo. I was approaching with my eye on the judge instead of my dog, as he'd recommended, and I wasn't watching Laev closely. (No reason too, in my experience.) But apparently the act of going into a group with another dog was too near last week's experience, when one dog jumped another, and Laev decided to take preemptive action. She lunged at the Shepherd beside us.

I was stunned but caught her ("Oh," said Carol from the side, "so that's what those ears are for!"). I could barely believe it; I've not seen Laev aggress like that before. Still, there was no time to marvel at it, because the judge was coming to me and telling me to put a pinch on her for training.

Crud. Laev's never had a pinch on for obedience -- she uses a customized one for parts of bitework only -- and I was pretty sure that adding one for this would not fix the situation. She snarked because of stress, and adding stress to the situation might after a few ugly moments suppress the obvious behavior but wouldn't get me the long term fix I wanted. Still, here's a man we flew in from Germany for this weekend, who is going to judge me, who is German and probably expects that I will jump at his training advice (training directors there generally get fewer arguments than I give mine here!), and I am standing in front of my entire club and outsiders, with the dog who was indeed the problem in this situation. No pressure.

I stare at Laev for a moment, who is giving me good eye contact back, as trained. "I see you thinking," says the judge. "What are you going to do?"

"We're going to do that again," I said, "in this collar, and I'm not going to take my eyes off her."

The two teams reported to the judge again, this time with both my eyes on Laev. I reminded her verbally to watch me, and while we were speaking to the judge I shifted slightly, asking her to scoot forward, backward, sideways in heel position. When we'd finished our spoken protocol, I quietly told the other handler that we'd be moving first, and then I heeled Laev backward from the judge and other dog and moved away. Success! She never even glanced at the other dog. No trouble, no repeated mistakes, and no band-aided training that would have given me problems in the long run.

Laev's obedience was middling; she didn't look awful, but I know she can do better. I wanted to practice reporting in again but didn't really get a chance. I didn't want to insist and fret people about working their dogs next to one which had previously snarked; I can do it tomorrow.

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