Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Not all About the Ribbons

So a three day agility trail and Qualification wise we are 1 in 6 . The last run on the last day we managed to pull out a Q (skin of our teeth). I'm sure you would surprised to hear me say that I think this has been our most successful trail yet. I mean in the past we've gone 3 in 4 at a trail (I think we have, may have been two in four). Well that's because there are things more important than the ribbons.

My goal was to get Gauis to stop running off form me at trails to bark at the judge (And ring crew, and trial secretaries, and the audience). It's something we've been working on since we started trailing. Well actually it's something I've been working on with Gauis since he was about 5 months old. Which I think is one reason it's such a frustrating issue. It's like he can learn so much but I just can't get him completely over this one little issue. Here's some really yucky runs, with a very distracted dog that had a tendency to run off and yell at people.

So I've talked to about a million people trying to get advice on how to fix the problem. I was told more run throughs. Which as far as I'm concerned is never a bad idea, but he doesn't bark at folks in practice, or in class. I only see this behavior at trails. The fact that this is a tricky issue to deal with was brought home to me when Laura Derrett said this when I asked her about the issue. "Hmmm, that's a tough one. I don't know." So I decided to go with another Laura's advice and she said 'naughty mean dogs that bark at folks don't get to play the game, and get put in their crates with no cookies.' or something like that.

And that was the goal of this weekend, not Qs. So the question of the day is how did it work?

Well as predicted, first run on Friday Gauis runs off from me to bark at the Judge (It was a poor provisional judge at her first trial. Gauis was the second dog she had ever judged and of course he ran at her and barked. Not a very warm welcome committee my little dog). So I gave him a negative reward marker (AHOH) and then walked over to grab his collar (Not hard, just to take hold of it, something I do in his normal life all the time and that he doesn't find intimating.) . He saw me coming and took off which resulted in a bit of a benny hill moment (He was not scared of me he just doesn't like being penalty walked anywhere and he knew that's what was coming) But after I finally got a hold of him he was walked by his collar out of the ring straight to his crate which he was unceremoniously chucked into.

He was furious at me. When I came back in fifteen minutes to take him out to use the bathroom he had shoved the blanket I kept in there with him and his water bowl up against the wire door so that they covered it almost completely. Through the tiny crack that was left I could see him sitting (not laying down comfortably as he normally is) with his back to the door staring at the solid plastic wall of his crate. He didn't move from this position until after I had put his leash on, and he wouldn't make eye contact with me the entire time I took him out to pee. No calming signals, no ears back, just simply pretending the other end of the leash didn't exist.

After that he seemed to get over it, especially when I didn't take him back to his crate and let him sleep in my lap till his next run. For being so ring 'stressed' he sure isn't stressed by the trail environment, even with all of the new dogs and people. He spent most of the trail out like a light some of the time on his back, spread eagle.

So next was jumpers which started around 7 pm (Oh my gosh it was a long trail, we got there at 11 am). And you know what, he stayed with me. Not a peep. I defiantly saw his ears go back a few times when he caught sight of the judge out of the corner his eyes. but he managed to resist the urge to be naughty. He worked through it. Granted we were slow as molasses but hey I'll take it. He gets more comfortable rehearsing the good behavior we'll get the speed back. We ran clean, just ten seconds over time on Friday.

And that was sort of the theme for the rest of the weekend. No barking except for that first run. He was slow and tentative but manage to restrain himself. In fact he got a little faster throughout the weekend. And his last run on Sunday was only two seconds over time which was a small enough time fault that we still managed to Q! (Hence the ribbon picture and out first leg in open!). Other than being over time we had some refusals, some knocked bars, and some off courses. But none of those are a big deal, I'll take a million of them over the barking. The standard courses especially were pretty rough (some I thought were harder than the excellent courses. One had three different discrimination between tunnels and contact obstacles in it).

I was really proud of him. I hope I never have to walk him off a course like that again. Hopefully he'll remember that lesson and we won't have to worry about it anymore. But it just feels good to have a way of dealing with the problem that works.


Texas The Doxie said...

Oh Gaius. :) I had to laugh because that would so be Texas and I should we ever attempt to get in the ring in the far, far future

Diana said...

Great job on your part. Im glad you finally figured out how to stop the barking. My dog stresses in the ring too. If I make a mistake , she stress circles. Its been hard to work pass that but its getting better. Congrats on your weekend!!!