The truth is, Maisy was stressed at the trial last month. She was less stressed than I've seen her in the past, which is great, but she was still stressed. She scratched herself in the ring. She mildly snarked at another dog in the crating area. She could not relax in her car crate, despite the many, many hours of practice we've put in over the past year. Once we got home, she jumped at every little sound, which broke my heart. I haven't seen her like that in a long time.
|I love looking at this face in the ring.|
With all that said, I'm also not willing to give up on a promising performance career just yet. In retrospect, the trial was poorly timed. It came the day after Christmas, a holiday which is tense and stressful around my house, and Maisy is exquisitely sensitive to the moods of her people. Since my husband and I had a hard time keeping our own stress from boiling over, I am quite sure that at least some of her behavior at the trial was a result of what had happened in the days leading up to it.
More than that, even though she was stressed, she truly seemed to enjoy some aspects of the trial. The video is proof that she was pretty happy to be playing the obedience game, and she liked visiting with all the people that were there. Most importantly, we were together. Maisy is my dog, through and through, and she wants to be where I am.
So we will try again. We will enter another trial, and I will keep a close eye on her stress levels, both during and after the trial. We will do one day only, and only one run. If she's feeling okay, we'll do another trial, and another. But if she's not? Well, I will have to think long and hard about whether or not we should keep competing.
Because here's the thing: I believe that Maisy can work through her stress because of the relationship we have. Maybe it's purely reinforcement history, or maybe it's because she trusts me. I don't know. Whatever the reason, it's clear that Maisy is willing to face her fears and keep working simply because I ask her to.
And if she's willing to do that- if she's willing to look a panic attack in the face and say, “Excuse me, but my mom wants me to heel right now,”- well, I had better live up to my end of the bargain. Hopefully I can find a way to do that while still competing with her. But if I can't? I'll give it all up in a heartbeat, because I want to be someone worthy of her trust.