Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 1 Disaster

Sometimes things just don't go right.  Usually I can find ways to blame myself for problems we have, but sometimes it just isn't meant to be.  After today, part of me wonders when it's time to just decide that Jonah doesn't like trialing.  We've been going to trials for over a year now and at this point I'm not actually sure he's noticeably getting more comfortable in that environment.  He likes agility, that much is clear.  It's not clear, though, whether he actually likes competing.  I do.  Sometimes he seems to have a ton of fun.  But not always.  Today was one of those days...mostly at least.

Round 1:  Advanced Snooker
     This was not a pretty snooker.  There was no flowing course, no matter how low a point total you wanted.  I ended up planning a pretty smooth opening of 1-5-1-6-1-4.  I think it would have gone pretty well, but we only got the 1-5 part of things.  He was a little wary off the start line, not barking or getting as excited as usual.  The five obstacle was a jump to a tunnel, and coming out of the tunnel he just looked worried and slow.  I called him but he had his glazed over face and he just loped out into the middle of the ring and took a random jump.  Whistle.  Yarg.  I noticed it happening and called him, but when he gets like that he's just in a zone and it's hard to shake him out.  Well, there went our chance at our AAD this weekend.

Round 2:  Steeplechase
     This run actually wasn't a full disaster, but it wasn't a Q either.  The best line was for me to run on the left of the A-frame (obstacle 2), but the judge was standing right next to it on the other side and the approach was uphill, so I changed my mind last minute and ran on the other side so I'd be between him and the judge.  He started great, cruised over the first jump, the A-frame, tunnel, jump.  Then he forgot how to weave.  First he ran right past them, like he couldn't even see them.  Then I brought him back and he missed his entry.  Then he missed again.  Next he got it, but even though I stayed right with him he popped out at 10.  YARG!  Jonah does NOT have trouble with his weave poles.  He's generally very solid.  He was just worried and stressed and couldn't handle it this time.  I have no idea why.  After he popped out, I knew we wouldn't qualify anyway since we'd wasted so much time, so I just went on.  Whistle.  But then, it was like suddenly Jonah caught on fire.  I'm not sure he's ever--anywhere--run so fast (in agility).  Obstacles 6-17 (the end of the course) had to have rivaled even the best BCs.  I handled really well and aggressively, knowing there was nothing to lose, and he rose to the occasion.  It was amazing.  So!much!fun!  We had a BIG party after that.  I would pay a lot to have him run like that all the time.

Round 3:  Advanced Standard
     This was the big running dogwalk debut.  Unfortunately, the approach to the dogwalk was a 180 degree turn from a tunnel under it, so not a lot of oomph going in.  The dogwalk was not rubberized and had reasonably big slats, so I was worried about it.  In the end, it was not a beautiful jackpot like we get most of the time at home, but it was a clear hit.  Good boy.  He was running well, but then the photographer was right next to the table, and the clicking noise freaked him out.  First he didn't jump right on the table.  Then when he did he kept glancing at the guy and it took him a second to lie down.  The photographer felt bad and backed away, but then the motion worried Jonah too.  Oops.  After the table he picked up again and was doing well until the second to last jump which pointed right back at where the photographer was.  He disconnected and got stressed, so I changed my handling plan to go get him and run with him.  Well, he took the jump...and then took the chute again for an off course.  So close!  Yarg.

So, I was really frustrated.  I still tried to be super positive with Jonah, but I just don't know what to do. I have this awesome fast dog who loves agility at home and at practice, and sometimes at trials.  Then other times, he's just this scarred slow poke who is no fun to handle and who has no fun himself.  I would say, 'we'll just take a break from trialing for a while' and maybe that's what we should do, but my sense is that the only way he could possibly get better is by having positive trial experiences, since I can't recreate his nervousness in practice.  Maybe he just doesn't want to be a competitive agility dog.  That idea sort of breaks my heart because I know how good he can be, but there's no point in doing it if he's not having fun.  We'll go back tomorrow and see what happens.  Let's just say this wasn't the kind of 'tune up' I was hoping for before nationals.  At least he got his DW contact, though!

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