Monday, August 6, 2012

"He clearly loves the sport"

"He clearly loves the sport."  That's what Laura told us on Friday, as we were discussing why he gets so stressy at trials.  It really meant a lot to have someone like her say that, after all the world class dogs she trains with.  I think he likes agility, but after his poor trial performances lately I've come to wonder if maybe I'm making him do what he doesn't enjoy.

Well, the match on Saturday was our worst performance ever, and my highs from Friday have crashed.

When we got there, before the trial started, I just took Jonah in the building with some cookies so we could get used to the environment.  I was pleased, because he seemed pretty relaxed.

Our first run was gamblers.  I knew we were two dogs after another dog who trains with Grace, so I was just starting to get him ready when she was in the ring.  Then, it turned out there were scratches and we were next.  Yarg.  So, when we went in the ring I hadn't reved him up at all.  I pushed him around a little before we started, but unsurprisingly he got going pretty slow.  He trotted down the A-frame, came out of the chute looking a little sleepy, and then trotted all the way up-over-and-down the dogwalk.  So much for a 'running' dogwalk.  We did a loop of him just being kind of lackadaisical and ended with another dogwalk that went about the same.  If he'd been a foot farther along he would have gotten points for it, but instead the buzzer rang while he was midway down the down ramp.  Humph.

Then we went to the gamble, which was really quite easy.  It was a jump, pull towards a tunnel entry, and back to the jump.  The line was close.  The only trouble people had been having was the dog not pulling to the close tunnel entry, and going out to the far one.  In an effort to prevent that, I gave a "here" cue as he was approaching the jump.  Well, he came and ran right around the jump.  We went back and got the jump (I probably should have just kept going).  Then he came back to me instead of going in the tunnel.  Very unusual.  He sent out to the tunnel and finished, but it turned out we were 3 seconds over time.  I was kind of embarrassed to not qualify on that easy a gamble.  Of course, Qs don't matter in a match, but my pride was hurt.

Then came round 2, standard.  The course once again was easy.  This time I prepared him for the ring well.  He was happy going in.  But then when I took his leash off he started coughing.  I let him stop and then we got going, but he coughed a few more times, going really slow.  I figured he'd get going, and he did stop coughing, but he proceded to literally *walk* through the weave poles.  Then he ran past a jump right in front of him.  I stopped, thanked the judge, and then tried to get him going--I sprinted full speed towards the out gate.  Normally that would have been really thrilling, but he just loped behind me, running past the jumps in the closing line that I ran by.  Something was really not right.

Maybe he was hot (it was over 90).

Maybe he was really choking on something, although he didn't cough any more, and that wouldn't explain the first run.

Maybe his leg is still bothering him.  He looked a little stiff later in the day.

What I know is that it wasn't any fun for either of us.  We're entered in a few runs at a trial on Friday, and we'll give him another chance.  It's in AC, at least.  I thought a break from trialing would do him well, but it doesn't look like it worked.  I want an answer--a plan--a theory--anything to give me hope.  I don't want to come to the conclusion that Dave has concluded:  that he just doesn't like trials.  I have all these dreams for him.  I know he could get his CATCH, and I really think an ADCH is possible for him if he runs like I know he can run.  He's run really well in trials before, so I know it's not totally past him.  But are those really just my own desires?  Is it fair to push him if he just wants to do it?  Or can I find a way to reduce his stress so that he enjoys trials as much as he loves practice.  After all, he clearly loves the sport...

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