You can learn a lot from failure. When you trial your dog you learn what you know and figure out what you still need to work on. No surprise for us, Risa’s lack of focus is still a huge issue.
We were supposed to trial both days this weekend but things didn’t work out that way. So it was just Sunday and an attempt at her first RAE leg. I honestly do not care if we ever earn that RAE. However, is a goal to reach for and gives us something to do that is local. I don’t need to drive far to find AKC trials! 🙂
Her Excellent run was a little sketchy. There were moments when she was definitely connected with me and we looked good. Then there were times she wandered off. We probably would have had a better score had she been able to do the back up 3 steps (we’re still working on perfecting this so I’m not surprised here) and had she not stood up as I came back to her on a sit/stay. We managed a 72; the minimum score needed to qualify is 70.
It wasn’t pretty but it was a Q! I looked over the Advanced course and knew she could do it. There wasn’t a sign she couldn’t perform and it was a much shorter and simpler course than the Excellent course. I also figured she’d be a bit more comfortable the second time through since she does still get stressed out at competitive venues.
We were excused from the course. A dog came very close to the ring gates while we were working and she took off after it. (Actually, it was a Sunday at this trial last year when she was also excused for pretty much the same reason.) Surprisingly, I was able to get her back and working but it did not last. Eventually, the judge decided she was just too unfocused and asked us to leave.
Even though it was not a good run, there was a lot of good there. Risa did not have a huge reactive meltdown. She started, yes. But then switched to curiosity. She also came back and worked with me after it. Risa remained thinking. It wasn’t enough but it shows that the hard work we’ve put in is paying off. 🙂
However, it seems that just taking classes regularly is not enough to help Risa’s focus issues. When the world is crazy, she doesn’t have enough incentive to stay connected with me. (And her new-found joy of checking out other dogs isn’t helping either though I hesitate to find fault with it given her history.) Now I know what I need to do. We really need to start working on focus in very distracting environments. Especially around dogs. Unfortunately, I am unsure how exactly I’m going to do this. What I really need are some friends with and without dogs who are willing to work with us on very specific issues. Something I won’t find in the classes we typically take. I have no friends to enlist.
So, for now, I plan on taking her to her least favorite place to work: pet stores. It’s the closest thing I have to a super distracting (and stressful) environment. I think at least once a week should help and might even help her overcome her fear of them. Once the weather improves, we will probably be able to find other opportunities as well. I just hope I can do enough to improve her concentration. She’s really a spectacular rally dog. It’s just not very easy to see trial-time!