Maisy and I attended an APDT rally trial today, hosted by the Minnesota Mixed Breed Club. We entered in two level 2B runs.
I was really proud of Maisy today. She was initially quite stressed when we entered the building, and did some minor growling (but no lunging, so yay!). She quickly settled in, though, and it seemed like the longer we were there, the calmer she got. By the end of the day- about three hours- she was flopped on her side and quite relaxed.
The other cool thing came from Jeff, who is a provisional judge, and who we met last summer. Because he's a rational human being, he remembers and is smitten with Maisy. (Or at least, he seemed to like her an awful lot.) Anyway, he commented about how much more outgoing she was today than she was last year. He said last year, he couldn't get close enough to touch her, and this year, she was really into him.
After he said that, I realized that she was really interested in seeing the other dogs, too. She's never been one to initiate greetings with other dogs, and today I had to keep calling her off the other dogs, lest I run the risk of being the "rude" dog that has to say hi to everyone. What a change!
We did have a bad moment, though, and it was in the ring during our second run. Even though it's kind of embarrassing, I decided to upload the video for you guys to see:
I chose to upload this video for two reasons. First, because this is a blog about reactivity, I wanted you to see what her reactivity looks like. It used to be worse, but this is pretty typical for her these days. I'm actually pretty proud of the reduction in intensity.
Second, because I am so stinking proud of her. Okay, I know that's a weird thing to say, given that she was reactive in the ring, but look at her ability to bounce back from stress! What you can't see in the video is that she was startled by a dog who suddenly came through a doorway near that corner... a large black dog who is paralyzed, has no use of his back end, and who was in a sling and being carried/pulled by his owner. So, there's a sudden environment change, which is an iffy proposition for her anyway, and it's a dog who looks like a dog, and yet doesn't move correctly and is wearing weird stuff, and... that can't really be a dog, can it? But then what is it? OMG I MUST FREAK OUT!!!
Right, so, I thought the reactivity was understandable (if a bit embarrassing). I chose to put her on leash for safety measures (she's never gotten into anything with another dog, and we certainly don't need to start), and then finished the course. I wanted her to end on a good note, for both our sakes. And she bounced back really well. If you look carefully, you can see that there are a few instances where she looks back at that corner, although they seemed more obvious at the time than they do on the video. I used extra treats to reinforce attention, mostly because I could, what with the fact that we'd already NQ'd and all. But overall? She was very focused on me and generally relaxed, which is evident both in her body language, and by the fact that her mouth was very soft as we moved through the remainder of the course (she gets "sharky" when stressed).
So, even though we NQ'd, even though it was a bit embarrassing, I was still so incredibly pleased with her performance. I mean, barring that bit in the middle, it was a beautiful run! And then, afterwards, we hung around the trial site for another hour and a half. I expected her to be edgier as a result of the cortisol that was surely flowing through her blood because of that outburst, but instead she was on her side and quite relaxed. How cool is that?
Oh, and our first run? She scored a 205 and 4th place! We lost three points because of a handler error (well, tactical decision- I chose to move inside the six foot line for the send over jump exercise since I've never really properly trained jumping), so really, that's like a 208!
I was also really happy with me- my ring nerves were the lowest they've ever been. I was just a teensy bit nervous prior to going in the first time, but since I wasn't working on a title or QQs or anything, there was nothing to lose, and everything to gain. And we did gain it. We worked together like a team. Despite stress, despite reactivity, we were both able to bounce back and act like the champions we want to be someday.