It’s the Little Things

Two happy puppers after a successful trial weekend.

I recently entered both of my boys into a freestyle competition just for fun. Neither dog was entered competitively. Kyber is too young and inexperienced and I’ve been too busy and Kyu’s been too ill for me to have constructed a proper routine for him. Not to mention the behaviors I need at the higher level haven’t been trained to fluency. So it was a low-key affair.

Kyber, despite his age and lack of training, did really well in the ring. I couldn’t be prouder. Where he struggles is waiting his turn and seeing other dogs. I know he’s not quite ready for a long day of crating while stuff is going on so I set him up for success as best I could.

I’ve been working with him a lot on keeping his brain intact. He’d gotten to the point where he was so amped up and overly-aroused every time we went to the training club that he was unable to focus and was horrible in his crate. I started working on it and he made fast progress. It’s still hard for him but at least we’re on the right path. I do a lot of things that help me assess his thinking level. Seeing if he can eat treats before we get out of the car. Seeing if he can eat treats while we stand by the car. Leaving the building immediately if he rushes in and barks. It’s still a work in progress but at least he has a brain when he arrives now.

I crated him in the office so he’d have less traffic to bark at and, if he did bark, at least he’d be less likely to interrupt the performances. He barked more than I would have liked but at least it was less than if he’d been crated in the main area. He was a little more reactive to the dogs than is ideal but he was able to watch them without going crazy more than he’s been in the past. So we are seeing progress there as well.

Kyu, of course, is my veteran. He’s been to lots of shows so I didn’t need to do as much work to keep him prepared. However, we had no choreography for our routine. I was just winging it. Unfortunately Kyu, much like his predecessor, does better when he knows what to expect. While he still performed well to the audience’s eye, I could tell he was confused. I had this feeling of “Do you know what we’re doing, Mom?” from him the entire time. I don’t like that and I know he doesn’t either. It doesn’t feel good to be uncertain and I don’t want that feeling in the ring especially! I also know, from experience in other sports, that he does better if at least I know what I’m doing. He’s willing to lean on me as long as I’m confident even if he is a bit uncertain. I was not confident on Saturday and he knew it. I didn’t know what to do, where to be, and I flubbed several cues. I vowed to do better for him on Sunday.

After the show Saturday, I went home and listened to his music so that I could come up with some quick choreography to memorize before Sunday’s performance. It didn’t have to be anything spectacular but I needed to have a plan so that he would feel more confident in the ring.

Sunday morning, before the show began, I spent some of the open ring time memorizing the routine I’d thrown together the night before. I only hoped I would remember it when it was time for us to go. 🙂

Our dance Sunday was much better even if Kyu was still a little confused. I at least had a plan and he could rely on that. It was a small thing but it made a world of difference for him.

In addition to the boys’ trial-related small things, I’ve also made some small changes to Kyber’s life to help him as he struggles through adolescence. I stopped taking him for walks before work as it was just amping him up (we do some training and disc play to tire him out). What I hadn’t expected was how this has made our weekend hikes more bearable. He’s no longer straining at the end of the 30′ leash the entire time; he’s taking time to wander and sniff now. He’s actually getting the decompression benefits now.

It’s a never-ending journey of figuring out what my dogs need to be their best and successful. What they need so that our relationship is strong. It can be frustrating figuring out the puzzle but it’s worth the results in the end.

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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