Sunday was a big day for the little dog.
In the morning, we went to the first meeting of our newly-formed training group. Organized by my friend Ninso, it's an informal gathering on Sunday mornings. Half a dozen or so of us each kick in a few bucks to rent a facility for an hour, and then we each do our own thing. Maisy and I worked on heeling (looked great), some dumbbell retrieves (more enthusiasm and speed), and jumps. I tried Maisy over a broad jump for the first time ever, and she didn't even hesitate (though she did cut the corner). I was pretty happy about that.
Of all the dogs there, Maisy had only met one of them before, but that didn't matter- she was wonderful. She did try to chase one of the dogs, but came back quickly when I called. I was a little bummed she even ran after the dog, but given how quickly she bounced back, I was pretty happy with her. And I was thrilled with how social she was with a bunch of new people. She was a world-class floozy, pulling out her best tricks in order to charm hotdogs out of people.
After the class, I was talking with Ninso about ring nerves and trial stress, and Maisy just chilled at my feet. We were standing in a hallway, and strange dogs kept passing at both ends (talk about sudden environmental changes!), but she barely even noticed. She wasn't even working me for treats, she was just sitting there. I was very proud of her.
After all that, I probably should have just taken her home and called it a day, but there were CDSP runthroughs scheduled that afternoon, and since I signed us up for a trial in just over a month, I figured we'd better go so I would understand the exercises. After all, it's one thing to read the rule books, but it's another entirely to really know what I would be asked to do.
Maisy settled in nicely, chewing on a trachea in her crate. But when she came out, she seemed just a bit tenser than usual and definitely a little edgy. She did end up lunging at another dog, which was disappointing. I was hoping she wouldn't demonstrate any reactivity, but she was pretty quiet and returned to me immediately, so I suppose I should count it as an improvement. Sometimes it's just so hard to sort out which expectations are unreasonable, and which are reasonable, though.
She was a bit slow to warm up, which was probably partly due to stress, and partly due to the new environment. Also, I didn't have her ball, and I didn't have as much room to move around in with her, so it was a pretty different picture. At some point, I should probably think about a warm up routine for her...
Anyway, we got in the ring, and... well, it's hard for me to know what to say. Here's the video:
As I said over on Facebook, I left feeling kind of disappointed. She lagged on the fast pace, which completely surprised me since she has been forging in practice. As a result, I was sort of at a loss on how to respond. I'm not sure if you can hear us talking on the video, but that's what I was trying to tell the judge. I was not surprised that Maisy didn't do as well in a new environment as she does at home- that's a normal training thing, after all. It was just that it wasn't the behavior I was expecting! Talk about throwing me for a loop!
The judge's advice, while greatly appreciated, only threw me off more- I felt like I was trying to juggle way too much at once. In retrospect, I think that's the part that I was most disappointed in. Not the suggestions- those were great, and definitely things I needed to hear- but rather the way they broke my concentration. In the video, you can see a lot of time in the ring where Maisy doesn't have any of my attention... and she should have had all of it! As a result, we weren't as connected as I would have liked, and that coupled with her stress issues left me feeling a bit sad.
Despite how I felt, there is actually a lot to be happy with in the video. For the on-lead heeling portion, Maisy nailed her halts, did a lovely left turn, stuck with me on the about turns, and overall paid a lot of attention to me. She doesn't give me constant eye contact, but then, that's never been a criterion. Even while the judge and I are talking afterwards, Maisy remains attentive and engaged with me- love it!
The off-lead figure 8 is nice, too, especially considering that Maisy and I have worked on figure 8s, oh, maybe twice. And never with people. Despite the fact that I let her flooze all over people that morning, and despite the fact that one of the posts is a friend of hers, she stays right with me through the exercise. Good dog! Again, lots of attention, and she nailed her halts.
Another exercise we've barely practiced is the moving stand for exam, but she did a great job with it, too. I absolutely love the way her tail went nuts as the judge approached. She was just a bit uncertain when the judge reached down to touch her, but none of her little feet moved at any point during the exercise, which is fabulous.
Finally, the recall over bar jump exercise. I was a bit nervous that she might anticipate my call (she's been doing that in practice), but she held her stay! She did tick the jump on her way over (10” is a lot for her), but whatever. The front was nice, and I was very excited about her finish. It wasn't perfect, but it was a heck of a lot straighter than what we had just a few weeks ago.
Although my handling wasn't always the best (um, turning back towards her while she was lagging, anyone?), I am very proud of myself for being upbeat, happy, and enthusiastic in the ring. I squealed with the best of them out there, just like I do in practice, and I'm sure she knew I was proud of her. In the end, that's all that really matters, right?
After the runthrough, we came home and Maisy just absolutely crashed. The poor thing was so tired she couldn't even finish her bully stick. I guess being awesome is hard work!
All in all, it was a great day. It wasn't the easiest of days, and there are definitely things for us both to work on, but if she does this well in December, I will be very, very pleased. I think we've both grown a lot since that last time we were in the ring, so whether we qualify or not, I'm positive we'll be successful!