If you’ve been following Brody and I’s adventures at all lately, you’ll know that we have been prepping for the AWDF National Championships to be held later this month in California. You’ll also know that while we are entered, I have been on the fence about whether or not to scratch.
Brody is very young (just turned two), and while his training is coming along fabulously and I couldn’t be prouder of the progress he has made over the last several weeks, the reality is that he just isn’t trial ready. And so, after a lot of thought and after talking it over with some very knowledgeable people over this past weekend, I have made the final decision to pull Brody from the trial.
I’m a little disappointed, but only in the circumstances, not at all in Brody. I knew from the beginning that AWDF was an ambitious goal for us, and I honestly couldn’t be happier with how far my dog and I have come while trying to get ready. Unfortunately, the pieces just didn’t come together fast enough, and that’s totally okay. IPO is a journey (and a really freaking long one, at that), not a destination, and we have nothing but time.
So, we will be backing off on the intensity of training for a bit, and aiming for a Fall trial instead. We’ll likely be living in a new state by then, but I’m confident that we will achieve our IPO1 by the end of the year.
In other, related news…
We trained with two different clubs over the weekend and had a blast. Brody tracked beautifully both days, and I got some great advice on a couple of things we’ve been struggling with in obedience.
Protection is coming along. We finally have some secondary obedience. It’s horrendously ugly, but it exists, so that’s progress! We have a lot of work to do, but I know my dog and I know his process well, so I’m comfortable in saying that we will have a very nice routine…someday.
I did have something come up over the weekend that kind of got me thinking, and I figured I’d write about it here in case any other newbies encounter the same issue and aren’t quite sure what to make of it…
There seems to be a bit of an “expectation” (not sure if that’s quite the right word…) whenever I travel to a new club that every behavior that I ask my dog for be 100% finished and proofed. If it isn’t – if I ever attempt to work on something that we’re only part way through – I get kind of strange “blow back”. Less helpful suggestions than just the assumption that the behavior isn’t perfect because I’m somehow too stupid to see it.
For example, a couple of weeks ago I tried something new with Brody’s send out. We’ve been working with a visible marker that I send him to, and I wanted to see where we were if I faded it. Brody went down the field, but he was a little unsure and a little wiggly. That’s fine – it told me what I needed to know which is that we need more reps before I can pull the marker. No biggie.
But I did this in front of some guests at the club I was at that haven’t seen my dog before, and who, for whatever reason, questioned me quite heavily about my send-out.
“You know it should be faster than that, right?”
“You know he needs to be straighter?”
“Why are you using the method that you are?”
“You should really be teaching it X way instead. Here, let me show you.”
I don’t think this was ill-intentioned, but it sure made me feel like there is an expectation that every behavior be 100% perfect 100% of the time or you must be doing something wrong with your dog. No room for green-ness or mistakes along the way. Because the assumption they were making wasn’t that it must be a new behavior – it was that I was somehow doing something completely wrong.
I encountered this once again this past weekend with some behaviors that are only just started, or, at least, are not quite proofed yet.
I don’t mind suggestions (and I got many useful ones this past weekend, some of which I’ve already incorporated into my training), but I do mind the implication that because something isn’t 100% perfect, I need to completely change my approach with my dog, or I must be too stupid to see that the behavior still needs work.
Now, I can be a rather thin-skinned soul, so maybe I’m letting this get to me a little too much. But in making my training plans for the coming weeks, I’ve really found myself reluctant to train in front of new people any more, lest I be treated like I’m a complete moron every time my dog or myself makes a mistake.
Perhaps it’s simply a function of where we are in our training – sort of trained, but not quite – because I sure don’t remember encountering this when my dog was just learning to heel and was still in a harness for protection…
Nevertheless, it is something that I’ve been encountering recently, and while I will likely continue to ignore it in practice, I thought maybe some other newbies might be experiencing similar issues and might appreciate reading about my own struggles with it.
Because learning is a process, for both us handlers and for our dogs. Mistakes will be made. It takes time and practice to perfect behaviors. And honestly, what’s even the point of attending training if you’re not going to work on the behaviors that need working on?
Sure, I could spend my time at club showing off the behaviors that I know my dog does well. But, like, I really don’t need to drive six hours round trip to practice what is already perfect.
And again, I really do welcome suggestions when I’m working my dog. I got a great one this past weekend when someone pointed out that where I was carrying my reward toy was creating the bounce in my dog’s heeling. Or that where I was tossing my reward was creating some crookedness in my dog’s body. I also got some great tips on how to fix Brody’s creeping down-in-motion. Great stuff. Really – the whole point of attending training at clubs that I don’t train with regularly.
But still, there was some underlying negativity, too, that I didn’t find particularly helpful and that I really didn’t enjoy.
I can only hope that maybe as some people get to know myself and my dog a little better, their criticisms will become more constructive. And, in the meantime, I’ll just keep my head down and keep training my dog. 🙂