Trekked up to County Durham again for some training. I really wanted to work with Dylan on his striding again, but he also really needed a down day after our busy weekend at Wigton and then a long walk on Monday. As we have a little houseguest in Alfie again for two weeks, I wanted Dyl to have his quiet day before Alfie arrived, and that really left only Tuesday. I’ll take you next time, Dylan!
I have mixed feelings about Rio’s training, and it’s mostly about me, not Ri!
She came out much more focused initially, when we worked on flyball. Her recalls were good! She’s striding nicely (a little short, but she hasn’t done full recalls for a long time) and she’s targeting her tug really nicely. She looks slow compared to the Whippets and Rave, but then I have realised today that most things look slow compared to the Whippets and Rave. When I watch just Rio’s recalls, she is faster than I thought, and I’m quite happy!
I wasn’t very happy with her agility. She came back out and wasn’t as focused. Having sat in the car and watched the others work, she had gotten herself worked up and was basically in overload again. I should never add pressure in that situation. So what did I do? Asked her to tug with someone other than me, something I know she struggles with at the best of times. Cat suggested using food and we did a few drives to a food bowl, and she didn’t look bad, but I stopped the session.
I feel a bit conflicted about this, four days later! Rio was learning, and Cat is a great teacher (so part of me just feels bad for stopping Cat from teaching us!). But I wasn’t happy and could feel myself getting upset and frustrated; I expect Rio to tug and play with me when she’s doing agility, and when she doesn’t, it’s a signal that she’s overloaded. I ignored that and compromised by using food, which she will work for even when distracted (although she’s still ‘fairyhead’). I didn’t formulate any of these thoughts at the time, by the way, all I knew was that I wasn’t comfortable and I didn’t want to carry on.
I got her out again a little later and asked Cat and Katie to sit at the other side of the field and let me work her by herself. I don’t know whether this was for me or her, but it worked, and she did some nice little bits of agility before she blew out again.
I am not overly concerned about this happening in competition, although it might. Rio’s stress comes from over-excitement/over-arousal which is mainly brought on by watching other dogs work. We’ve overcome this at our usual Tuesday training; she can stay focused the whole session, and is now getting to the point where I don’t need to be 100% focused on her during our down time. At a different venue, outdoors, where she can see the training involves dogs and people that she loves (including, all importantly, me and not her), she reaches a certain point and her brain switches off. This obviously won’t happen in competition!
If she goes up to Durham again (which I’m sure she will!), I need a plan. It may be that she only gets one session and then gets some chill-out time instead of another working session. I’m not sure yet, but a plan we will have.