The True Root of the Problem

The last two weekends, Risa and I performed a couple freestyle demos. It’s really been a lot of fun showcasing our routines and trying to create more interest in the sport. I find it’s difficult to describe to people; you really have to see it to get it. The first demo we did was nowhere near as good as I would have hoped. Risa was very distracted. The second demo was a lot more fun but Risa was still very distracted.

Even going back to our most recent competition, Risa was not as “on” as I would like to see. I thought it was because we hadn’t practiced the routine enough. Life’s been pretty hectic lately and I haven’t had the time to devote to training that I’d like. The routine we performed this weekend I designed just 2 weeks ago! Granted, I utilized sequences and movements Risa already knows well to avoid potential problems. Still, she missed a ton of marks and the routine we performed barely resembled the one we’d been practicing every night.

So what happened? It didn’t dawn on me until today after we finished our dance. It’s not that Risa doesn’t know the movements, behaviors, or how to perform them in the routine. The problem is we haven’t trained for that level of distraction. Today’s event was huge. Tons of dogs, people, kids, food, noise, vendors, etc. We train in my living room, the yard, or the training room (in the basement). Risa and I train in a vacuum and I expect her to be on top of things in the middle of the 3-ring circus. I know events like that are hard for Risa given her history and fears. But I think the real reason we’re struggling is due to my lack of preparation. I haven’t prepared her to handle crazy events well because we rarely train in areas with major distractions. No wonder she’s missing her marks and blowing off cues. There is too much for her to watch and not enough of a history of reinforcement for watching Mom in those environments.

It’s not like she’s never trained around distractions. She has. But not recently. Risa and I haven’t taken a class in over a year and it’s really starting to show. Every time we trial, it shows more. Each time we demo, it’s more obvious. We need to train with distractions. Until we practice where it’s busy and build up to crazy levels, things are not going to get better.

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize this is our issue. Seems pretty obvious now. We need to find a class!! 🙂

Here’s our Halloween-themed performance from this weekend in case you want to see, first hand, what I’m talking about:

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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