Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Nationals...

For those who don't know Hope well, she is a very happy girl but somewhat dispostioned towards being anxious. It's something I'm very mindful of in training and one of the reasons I introduced and continue to manage her quite carefully in team competitions. I want her to be able to enjoy all the things she loves in life and to do that I have to deal with the anxiety as the monkey on our back. Initially with flyball we worked quite carefully in introducing passes over the hurdles as in doggy terms, a dog rushing at you full pelt and especially in a straight line is a weird, rather off-putting behaviour. Generally the only time they'd do it naturally is if it were a very young pup who was still learning their social graces or a dog with a serious and aggressive intent. So we desensitized, counter conditioned and gave her lots of room and reinforcement, wide passes with late releases and using easy going team-mates she loves. This worked really well and we'd progressed to right up the ladder to nice fairly tight passes.

At Hope's last comp in Euroa she was attacked as we were entering the ring. The dog was really worked up into a frentic state (a personal pet peeve of mine in flyball... people excuse all manner of out of control hyper aroused behaviour in the name of 'building drive' and then shrug as if there's nothing you can do about it) and to get to our start place we had to go by her which just tipped her over boiling point and she lunged at Hope, roaring and snapping out a tuft of fur. Hope's reaction was akin to, "Jeeze what's YOUR issue?!?" and I went into recovery and refocusing mode, which worked well enough that she finished off the comp without seeming terribly phased. She was concerned about that individual dog after but not overly so and remained fully operant, engaged, eager and happy. We found out later Hope isn't the first dog this has happened to unfortunately. I wasn't happy but figured at least it didn't seem to result in any major impact for Hope.

So we went to the next (Nationals team only) practice. I had it in my mind that if she was that stressed again we'd beg off but after a week of practicing chilling out we'd give her a chance at least. She saw this dog again and while they didn't run together at all Hope was stressed seeing her there. She'd be focused and eager for the run but then pull off the last two hurdles to avoid having to cross on the back-run. Our sub-captain who'd not been at Euroa was wanting tighter crosses and I was not willing so it wasn't much fun. At the end of practice the dogs were off lead for a play but I kept Hope with me. The other dog's owner tossed a ball which happened to bounce over and Hope had a major freak out, tucked her tail and bolted behind me cowering and shaking, then proceded to physically tow me back to the car spooking out and panic barking over her shoulder. I about cried, she's NEVER been so freaked out!

We kept everything calm this week and when I went to the next team practice. We didn't get much time in but I was so heartened to see her being confident and full of chutzpa, bouncing around, rolling on the grass like a nut, driving back over all the jumps full pelt, gleefully enjoying the tuggy and being her usual sunny self. Before I could go into much else I was pulled aside and told they'd decided to not to put us in for Nationals. Which is disappointing in one sense because I was very excited about it prior to all this but a relief in another because I wanted a few more weeks of relaxed time and positive practices before we throw a comp her way even with how well she was doing this time. While she's not affected enough to be considered a 'reactive' dog as such, ime one fo the worst things you can do in terms of working with such dogs is to start working them too soon after an incident instead of letting them fully settle out and that would be the case for her as well. Sooo... for better or worse, we're sitting this one out.

Meanwhile, on the way back I'd got a call from Mandi asking if I'd like another dog to run in flyball. Luka is her keeper from her first litter, about a year old now but she's not ready to start serious herding training with him. In the meantime, he's a busy lad and she figured he might do well with a holiday for awhile.

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