Monday, November 09, 2009

New Suit and a Trial

Saturday morning I took Laev to training and introduced her to a bitesuit jacket. She didn't have much hesitation at all in transitioning from a sleeve to a suit; I was almost suprised at how quickly she moved from an arm bite up to biting on the back and shoulders. She *loved* winning the whole jacket; she took it back to the car with her and wrapped all four legs about it as she held on with her mouth. She did out when requested, but she is clearly into this new game.

We're introducing suitwork because I would like to take Laev to a UKC-SDA dog sport trial, where we can do obedience and protection work without gunfire. We're still having trouble with that; for every bit of progress we make, we then have a setback, as when I was gone over a weekend and target practice began next door, inducing a fresh panic attack. /sigh/ Honestly, sometimes I despair of ever getting past this. It frustrates me so much, because (as I know I've said, sorry for repeating) she did not have this fear as a young dog; it's been wholly learned. And it's preventing us from showing off what we can do.

At least she's having fun with a suit. I have to teach some new exercises for the other venue, but that shouldn't be too hard.

Then I drove up for an APDT trial, Sunday only. (I'd wanted to do Saturday, but I'd never heard back from the secretary who'd told me to just email my entries and pay when I arrived. I'm glad I called a friend at the trial before driving several hours -- she was able to confirm that though the secretary had received my email, I wasn't on the Saturday list!) Shakespeare ran four classes and got four legs, never scoring under 205*, and legitimized his ARCHEX (I'd thought he'd gotten it before, APDT records disagreed, I went back for extra QQs. I probably screwed up my counting!) What most impressive is that I've hardly worked with him at all -- read, once or twice -- since his last trial in March. He is such the reliable Old Man. What a guy.

* APDT runs have 200 possible points, plus an optional 10-point bonus exercise.

Laev, on the other hand, was a total ditz. I took her into the building once just to acclimate (I wasn't going to try to crate inside, as it was a small area), and she glanced around and then promptly downed and focused on me, picture-perfect. I was feeling pretty good. We came in for her first run, and she set up nicely just inside the ring gate, cute and focused. Great. We moved forward and I set her up for a recall over a jump, the first exercise. I cued her to "sit" as I prepared to step away (we don't use a "stay" cue) and she popped into an obedience stand.

Laev has a superstitious head movement with her obedience stand, so it's very obvious when she's standing in response to a cue as opposed to standing accidentally or casually. This was a perfect obedience stand.

That's an automatic NQ, but I thought we could at least continue the run as if we hadn't NQ'd on the very first exercise. I asked her to come into heel and then cued sit again. Pop! Perfect obedience stand. And, once more.

I have no idea why "sit" suddenly meant to stand, but it clearly did. More, Laev was clearly getting frustrated at being told to sit and stand repeatedly. After the third mistake, I left her in a stand and went to recall over the jump, which she did. We were rattled, though, and the connection was gone. She was seized by the desire to examine the food bowls in the figure-8 (no eating and she did recall to me, so it wasn't a total disaster) and we made up the rest of our course, ending on a slightly better note. Total ditz.

She needed only one leg to finish her RL3 title, so we still had a chance in the afternoon trial. I took a moment to review "sit" and she seemed to get it. :) When it was her turn for the last run (the trial dragged late), I brought her in and, stupidly, thought I'd get a couple of directed retrieves (this run's bonus) before going in the ring. I set up my focused dog in the emptying crating area and put out her dumbbell.

We were a good fifteen feet from the nearest line of crates, but the trial had been running long and I suppose the crated dogs were sick of it. The crates were uncovered, and as Laev trotted out, a line of dogs lunged at their doors. Laev aborted the retrieve as she whirled to look for the attack, and I called her back to me, feeling angry and stupid. I'd just wanted an open space to warm up, and I'd picked a row of grumpy dogs! Another dog came by us, very close, and Laev jumped and snarked, still hackled defensively. Oh, stink.

And then we were up. I knew Laev wasn't mentally recovered, but what else to do? We went in and faced that same first exercise, a recall over a jump. Laev sat, I cued her to wait, she popped into an obedience stand, wholly distracted. Yep. We flubbed through the course 'til we could end on the backward heeling exercise, which she does very well, and asked to be excused. Whew.

"It's a young dog," the judge told me. "Not THAT young," replied. Seriously, Laev, you're brilliant in many aspects, you can do so many things beyond simple rally exercises -- what's up with this silliness?

Very frustrating, overall. Between the gunfire hangup and this flubbed trial, I'm feeling rather defeated.

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