Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is my dog the weird one?

Photo by Robin Sallie.
 
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need to do to get Maisy ready to trial again, and it doesn’t include obedience skills! Rather, I’ve been thinking about what happens outside the ring: the stuff she needs to be comfortable with before we try to compete again. For those of you who have never gone to a dog show or trial, let me set the stage. My typical experience with trials has been like this:

I get up early on a weekend, a day when I usually sleep in. I pack a training bag. I walk Maisy early (both to take off the edge and to make sure she’s empty), whereas I normally walk her in the afternoon. I load her up in the car and drive, sometimes long distances, to places she’s never been before. Sometimes we even stay in a hotel. When we arrive at the trial site, I put her in a crate, something I don’t do very often at home. Although I try to pick an out-of-the-way location, inevitably another dog will come up to her crate for a quick sniff or two. If I cover her crate, she will hear barking, shouting, and equipment banging around, but not know what’s causing all the noise. If I leave her crate uncovered, she has to watch other dogs working and playing- hard for my fun-cop dog. When I finally bring her out of the crate, she has to deal with crowded spaces and the inevitable unwanted physical or social contact (someone, canine or human, is almost guaranteed to swoop down on her). Add to that the fact that the person she’s counting on to be an island of normalcy in this sea of chaos is all stressed out with ring nerves, and good grief! How can I possibly expect her to act normal?

Clearly, we expect a lot out of a performance dog beyond the many skills we expect them to demonstrate in the ring. And while Maisy isn’t exactly normal, I have a hard time thinking she’s all that weird, either.

10 comments:

Kristine said...

I don't think she's that weird. It's just because you are so focussed on what is going on with Maisy you don't see what is going on between other owners and their dogs. Every dog has quirks and fears and stressors. Especially in a trial setting. We are still working up to introdcuing our dog to such a place. So know that you are already more advanced than I am on that scale! Not weird at all, more like very brave.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

It is hard but you'll get there! I often cover the crate all but a small corner. And for the most part I find other exhibitors are very respectful of what their dog is doing. It's not like the general public at petsmart. Most people don't let their dogs go up to other dogs or bother other dog's crates. And obedience trials aren't noisy, only flyball and disc :) But you will have to deal with dogs being in very close proximity to Maisy, especially at the ring entrance.

It was really nice having Vito grow up at trials. I'm pretty sure we would be in the same boat as Maisy if he hadn't.

Crystal said...

Kristine- you're right; other than the time I was stewarding (and posted about), I've never paid much attention to the other dogs. I have seen some pretty stressed dogs at trials.

Laura- I certainly didn't mean to imply that other owners are rude. On the contrary, most other people at trials are kind and considerate. I've met some of the nicest people at trials, especially MMBC trials, but others, too. Just that sometimes, when conditions are tight, a crate sniff or genital check out is inevitable.

The reason I stick with rally (and hopefully obedience) is because of the relatively low-barking, low-movement nature. Agility, flyball, disc... all of that would send Maisy so far over the top. Maybe someday...

I envy you and Vito and his early exposure to trials.

Dawn said...

She is not that different really. Even Magic who is pretty laid back has moments where he stresses at trials or classes. Last night he was growling at a limping dog WAY on the other side of the room.

Crystal said...

Thanks, Dawn. That actually makes me feel better. Maisy's just a bit more... obvious/obnoxious about displaying her stress than most.

Robin Sallie said...

Look! You made a training plan. Nice job. Now you seek out all those place, triggers, spaces and you train thoughtfully to make them non-issues.

Start with getting up before the sun for early morning walks a couple times a week.

Crystal said...

Hey! No spoiling my Thursday blog post, Robin! LOL

Eliz said...

An idea (perhaps good perhaps not so good); Have you thought of having your own practice trials set up at a rented ring and then work up to playing out the scenario above. Maybe gradually adding dog and people then changing aforementioned people, dogs, as well as changing locations (if possible). It might not be perfect, but it might help.

I'm not sure where you would find people willing to train with you on Saturday morning but you seem resourceful.

Crystal said...

Hmmm, I might have a few friends with dogs that might help me with that. ;)

Katie said...

When I first started trialing with Luce I either had to take somebody to hold her while I walked the course, or I had to go when it was cool enough to crate in my car, because she SCREAMED in her crate.

Now she doesn't :)

So no, not that weird. LOL

And bless Steve for being such a good crate dog. I completely forgot to close the door to his soft-sided crate at the flyball tournament last weekend and left him to go out to my car to grab my lunch. My teammates found him standing in the back of his crate looking very confused.