This past weekend, Risa and I had the opportunity to attend a canine freestyle seminar at Great Companions. I was really looking forward to the opportunity as we’re really starting to get serious about competing and I could always use more pointers.
Since the drive was a bit more than we could do in a day, we stayed in a hotel overnight. Hotel stays are a bit tough on Risa since she’s in a new environment filled with unfamiliar sounds. She tends to bark a lot at the noises beyond the door. I don’t want to disturb anyone so I spent a lot of time rewarding her for being quiet. If it got to be a bit much, I sent her into her kennel as she feels more secure there.
The next day, we hopped in the car and arrived at our destination. I set Ris’ kennel up in a cool place and set up a visual barrier to keep her stress levels lower. Risa does not like other dogs approaching her while she is crated. So I took two light blankets and use them to form a curtain around her kennel to block out the sight of other dogs.
After spending some time listening to the lecture part of the seminar, it was finally time for some teamwork. I was a bit concerned being in such close quarters with other dogs. Risa was wearing a bandanna as a reminder to everyone that she ‘has issues’ 😉 but dogs can still get loose. Where I was seated, there was no easy escape. Despite some initial fear and curiosity about the room, Risa was GREAT. I fed her tons of treats along the sidelines for looking at the dog teams that were working or glancing at the nearby dogs. She spent a lot of time just staring at me awaiting her next yummy tidbit.
When we got to work, she was a bit stressed. New location. Not sure exactly what she was there for. So she did a lot of sniffing. Were we alone, I probably would have been less worried about this behavior. But I didn’t want her to visit the other dogs and potentially cause a problem. Once I got her attention, she was great and won the hearts of the seminar presenters with her ears and attitude. 😉
At lunch she got a bit growly when she heard other dogs outside her kennel, even if they were 20+ feet away! Of course, she could only hear their tags jingling. She got to wander around a bit on lunch as well and met our friend’s dog. He didn’t even care that she was checking him out so she was comfortable around him. Even if, by canine standards, she was a bit more rude than usual. 😉
In the afternoon, we went outside to work in the pole barn to gauge our dog’s rhythm and timing. All dogs were working off leash in a fairly large area so I had to be on my toes. Fortunately, I am quite used to it (though that does make it hard to just relax and have a conversation at any time). Risa had her first reaction when one of the dogs went to leave the area. He sort of ‘appeared out of nowhere’ and passed right by our things. Ris was fairly easy to calm down and we went back to watching everyone else work.
We were seated behind an agility tunnel, which I was surprised Risa didn’t try to go through. 😉 During one of the rhythm sessions, one of the dogs did go through the tunnel. As soon as I heard the sound of dog through tunnel, I was on my feet and we were out of the way into the corner as quickly as possible. Risa gave a delayed reactive bark and I joked with her about a ‘delayed reaction.’ It was like I have a reactivity avoidance warning system after all these years. LOL.
One of the other dogs tried to do some visiting when he was out and I had to keep jumping up and out of the way as Ris reacted with a couple barks. I was hoping it would be our turn soon!
We did go shortly after that. As soon as I took off Ris’ lead, she bolted and starting running. She was so happy to be able to wander and sniff. And SPRINT! She just had to run, literally. I was worried, again, about her getting into trouble though she generally avoids dogs when she’s running free. She got a chance to sniff the area ON leash after I got her back and then we were able to work and get our rhythm/timing measured. After that, I put her back in her kennel to relax. I didn’t want her to be too stressed and I was also getting tired of being ‘on’ the entire time.
We worked a couple more times inside after that. Risa was acting a bit more stressed. Not sure if it was because it was a long day, because of her reactive episodes, or if I was just being really unclear what I wanted from her. Either way, she gave it her all. I was able to get some really good pointers from the seminar instructor at the end. It has been far too long since Risa and I have been in a classroom situation where we can get that sort of feedback. I was a bit disappointed to hear it. . .but I needed to. After 4 years, we’re still having communication issues that leads to frustration from both of us.
Some of these things I know and just totally forget when I’m in the moment. I need to stop trying to get Risa ‘up’ and excited. She already is. All the time. Revving her up only makes it more difficult for her to concentrate and execute the moves I request. So I need to start keeping my tone lower and maybe even whisper with her. Because it seems when she has more energy than she can control, she wanders off to sniff because she just can’t handle it. I think I also need to take a step back with her and stop overworking some of her freestyle moves. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying them as much as she has in the past. I think I’ll give her a break for now. And if I have to leave them out of our next competition entry, so be it. They’re not required!
Overall, it was a fun and tiring day. The seminar wasn’t exactly what I had expected but that happens. I am just thankful for the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people, work my dog in a new situation, and expand my knowledge about freestyle. Now I really want to find some classes for Risa and I to take!!! I hope I can.