Monday, June 21, 2010

Trial Report


Maisy and I went to an APDT rally trial at Proper Paws University in Racine, Wisconsin on Sunday. (Which was an absolutely lovely trial site, with wonderful workers, and friendly competitors. I would absolutely go back in the future, even though the drive was a bit long.) We were entered in two Level 1B runs, and two Level 2B runs.

I had two main goals for the weekend. First, I hoped to have one really nice run, which I defined as Maisy being relaxed and focused in the ring. At our last few trials, Maisy has been stressy in the ring, which manifests itself as being distracted, sniffy and scratching herself a lot. Even when she’s had technically good runs- by which I mean, she had high scores- I didn’t feel connected to her. And I wanted that connection. So, how did she do? Well, judge for yourself:



That run was a 209 and 4th place! We lost our only point on that tight leash in the first 5 seconds, and I can hardly be upset by it, because she was just so excited to go! The run felt really good. She stayed with me, checked in with me frequently, and was clearly having fun. Afterwards, another handler told me she loved the way Maisy and I work together.

Our second level 1 run was nice, as well, although she did get momentarily distracted by something on the floor, causing us to lose one point. Overall score was, again, 209, but no placement. (There were SIX 210s. We were seventh.) It, too, was a solid run, lots of attention, and no stress behaviors.

She did really well managing the environment, too. While we were hanging out after our run, Maisy was all butt wiggly and schmoozing the trial secretary and the other judge! She had full-on helicopter tail, and was totally unphased by the woman who came up to her and loved on her, and didn’t even mind the HUGE white dog that “just loves little dogs.” (Although I did quickly remove her from that situation. Please, no matter how much your dog loves other dogs- please ask first. Mine isn’t always so happy to say hi.)

Our second goal for the weekend was for me: if, at any point, I felt that Maisy was stressing in the ring, I would immediately tell the judge I’d like to NQ in order to do a cookie run. Well, we met this goal, too.

While Maisy did a really good job managing the trial environment, it appears that her limit is about three hours, because that’s when her brain started to seep out of her head. During our first level 2 run, we were first in the ring (drat those short little legs!). This is always hard for us because there isn’t much time to warm up and get connected before we go in the ring, and because there’s a lot more chaos ringside right before we enter.

Just before we entered the ring, Maisy was very distracted by a German Shepherd, and although I thought I’d gotten her attention, I clearly hadn’t. When I took the first step of heeling, she ran off toward the corner where the dog was. She came back immediately when I called, and quite honestly, I could have salvaged the run if I’d wanted to.

Instead, though, I looked at the judge, and told her that I was going to NQ ourselves so that we could do a cookie run. I treated her liberally throughout the course. She did a lovely job, and just absolutely nailed her halt-side step right-halt and the moving down. They were just gorgeous. Her heeling was really nice, too. Now, granted, I got great performance in part because the rate of reinforcement was so high, but I do think we could still have scored in the high 190s or low 200s. It was worth taking the NQ so that I could reinforce working with me so well after bouncing back from a stressful event. Afterwards, the judge commented that I had probably made the right decisions since Maisy settled in so nicely.

I probably should have left after that, but we were in the middle of the running order for the second level 2 trial, and so I was hopeful that she could pull it together. (I admit, I was still sort of hoping for a QQ towards her ARCH, too.) We played look at that with the German Shepherd (whose handler was very gracious and helped us with that. I didn’t get a chance to thank her, so on the off chance she’s reading- thanks!).

As we headed up for our turn, I could tell that Maisy wasn’t focused at all. I told the judge that Maisy wasn’t going to be able to do it, and that I’d like to go in and do one really sign really well. She said that was fine with her, so I did the first sign, and I swear to you, she was so focused and did such a nice job that it was very tempting to complete the course. But I followed through on what I said I was going to do, and ended the trial on what I felt was a very high note.

I could not be more proud of my dog. Not only is she more focused at trials, but she’s more relaxed, too. She actually took a nap, you guys! She’s never done that before. She also bounced back from her reactive moments really quickly, and was willing and eager to work. I am very pleased that we’ve built up the level of working relationship that we have, and I’m grateful to see so much improvement.

14 comments:

Sam said...

Wow, good for you, and it's always nice to see a handler who truly looks out for their dog rather than being all about the Q's. Congratulations!

Lauren said...

I hope to one day be able to communicate so well with a dog!

Congrats to you and Maisy!!!!

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

congratulations!!!! It sounds like a VERY successful trial and that video of her is gorgeous! Maisy looked very relaxed and had such nice quick responses to everything! I assume I will be seeing you at the APDT trial in July and can't wait to see how awesome she does there!

Crystal said...

Thanks everyone! :)

Yes, Laura, we will be at the MMBC trials, but I haven't decided if I'm entering in CDSP or in APDT... I don't think Maisy can do both, so I need to choose.

Lindsay said...

That's great! Way to go!! And way to go on following through with your game plan. That's sooooo hard to do!

krecik said...

Woohoo, great job! How much do you talk to Maisy in the ring? You seemed very quiet on video. I talk to Ira the entire time, mostly out of nerves.

Crystal said...

I talk a moderate amount. I try not to talk to much, because when we train, I'm fairly quiet. I worry that the sudden chattering changes the picture too much. But I do talk to her, mostly verbal praise for eye contact, and a "hey puppy!" kind of thing right before a sign if she's not looking. I think you can't hear me mostly because I'm *quiet* when I talk to her.

Dawn said...

She looks much more relaxed even than she did at the last one, and really so do you! Thats wonderful. I cant wait to see you at the next one.

KayakMedia said...

Congratulations to Team Maisy! What a stellar day for so many reasons and thank you for the wonderful write-up. VERY inspiring and I'm taking notes for our foray into the ring. :)

Crystal said...

I felt much more relaxed, Dawn, but it's good to hear that you could tell, too!

Kristen said...

Great job! I never noticed she only has one pointy ear until that picture!

Crystal said...

Indeed, she has one that sticks up and one that flops down. It's what initially attracted my attention when I first met her.

M.T. said...

What a fantastic post to read, go Maisy!!!! and especially big kudos to YOU, the handler, Crystal, for making difficult but the RIGHT decisions -- i am guilty of making the WRONG ones, regretabbly, when it comes to managing my dog's stress etc. Live and learn, and i'm happy to read about how wonderfully Maisy and you and working together like this! :)

Crystal said...

My biggest regret last summer was trying to salvage a run that I should have scrapped. Ironically, we earned the RL1X on that run... it felt awful. I swore I would never do that again. My dog (and our relationship) comes first, and then my ambitions.