She is very sensitive to perceived corrections. Yes, that means they are corrections if she acts like that but gosh darn it, they were NOT intentional. I made a comment today that she wiped out in a tunnel on our weavers course and that I was SHOCKED she came barreling out of it. Normally a digger in a tunnel means no more happy Bailey. Very sad Bailey in fact. To say I was shocked is a complete understatement. What?! My dog recovered?! When the hoop hit her at our lesson is another example of a perceived correction. She's been measured, she's had things touching her back, yet she just knew in that brain of hers that whatever she did was wrong, so revert back to a known behavior--aka, creeping 2 on, 2 off contact.
My dog is weird in a lot of ways, but she's your not-so-average, super soft/sensitive dog. I guess I don't talk about it enough, or something? I'm sure most people we trial with think she is a slow dog, and that I only bring her out at trials. Not quite. There are four runs in my brain that I'll remember forever. Four runs where she was the Bailey I get to play with at home. Silly, sassy, FAST, responsive Bailey. One was our lone USDAA Gamblers Q a couple years ago in Lake Elmo. I still remember that run. One was a CPE colors run, another a CPE jumpers run, and then today's weavers run. All happened to be Qs, and I think that's because I could handle her like NORMAL! We worked well together, because that's what I'm accustomed to. She adores weaves now, because I took the time to proof them like crazy. We started with one friend, and she freaked out with ONE person watching. That person had to stand far away, then start walking around, then I added another friend, then some toys to be thrown, then the friends stood close, and now my dog loves to weave. She's happy, confident, comfortable. It also took two months of at home work before it transferred to anywhere in public!
Back to today's trial... Instead of my normal "set up and just get dogs in the building" mentality, I approached it like I approached our last tracking adventure. I set up the crate, brought Buzz in and everything else we would need. I kept out a clicker and LOTS of cookies. I got Bailey from the car and we proceeded to walk into the building. Or tried to at least. She was BEWILDERED by everything. It took us 5-10 minutes to walk from the car to the door. I did a handful of circles when she got too overstimulated and I stood my ground while she lunged for smells and things I didn't understand. I had as high a rate of reinforcement as I could get, yet it still took us THAT long to make it to the door. She still wasn't as relaxed and calm as I would have liked before entering, but at least she wasn't trying to pull me over anymore and was being semi-responsive. So, how did the plan work out? Apparently wonderfully. Giving my dog a chance to play LAT and get accustomed to the environment helped her relax. Inside, we played shaping games, we played mat/place games, I was able to shape TUGGING, while dogs were RUNNING AGILITY NEARBY! She was relaxed, happy, calm, and collected. I wanted to hit myself over the head when I thought about how stupid I've been. My hurry to get her inside the building has probably added an incredible amount of stress to her already stressed self. Hustle and bustle, MOVE NOW, don't look, does not work well for my dog, yet I've done it for years. She needs to take in her surroundings and be rewarded for acting appropriately. She needs that communication and feedback to start the day off well.
I'm committed now to being more sensitive to her needs. Take our time getting inside, play games in the area before being crated, and give her ample time to solicit my attention before I ask her to run. I know she won't have any real handler focus if I don't... I just can't expect her to. If she solicits my attention, it means she's unconcerned about her environment and wants to play with ME.
This little muppet really is amazing, when I stop and listen to her.
This little muppet qualified in Weavers and Jumpers today. Good going girlie!