Last Saturday, Maisy and I went to an APDT/WCRL trial hosted by our breed club, the Minnesota Mixed Breed Club. It was a smashing success in a lot of ways!!
It feels weird to write that heading; I don't really think of Maisy as reactive anymore. Still, I know that the neural pathways for reactivity will always be in her brain. They may become dusty or overgrown, but in times of stress, she may head down that path. Because of that, I continue to be cautious about what I expose her to.
This trial was no exception. I pre-entered Trial 1, Levels 1 and 2, figuring I could enter Trials 2 and 3 if she was doing well. I wasn't sure how she'd do because previous to this, the longest she could stay at a trial before getting stressed was about two hours.
Well, by the time Trial 1 was over, we'd blown past the two hour mark. We were closer to four, actually, and Maisy was fine. Well, she'd barked a few times while she was in her crate and I was away (walking the course, chatting, whatever), but I wasn't too worried about that. I decided to enter her in a few more runs. Because Trials 2 and 3 were being run simultaneously, I went ahead and day-of-show entered her in Levels 1 and 2 in both.
Maisy did great up until the six hour mark, when she got a bit edgy. Nothing big, just a small bark and lunge toward a white shepherd. (Of course she did that right after I bragged to the judge about how she used to be reactive!) Although I was bummed by that, she did come right back to me. I moved her to the car crate so she could get some downtime, and she was able to come back in to work with no problem.
All in all, she spent 9.5 hours at the trial! Other than being very tired by the end, she did very, very well. Crating in the car was clearly the right choice because as I was trying to pack up our stuff, she kept going in the crate in the building to eat her chewy... something she won't do if she's stressed. I was really proud of her!
Another huge success came with my ring nerves. They've always been bad. Seriously bad. Like can't-eat-and-need-stomach-meds bad. Of course, Maisy would realize that, and between the two of us, we'd end up in an out of control anxiety spiral.
I did get nervous a few times while at the trial, but it was nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past. I've started a meditation practice over recent months, so every time I felt the nerves fluttering up, I would close my eyes and take a few deep breaths the way I do during my formal sitting times. Then I would gaze into Maisy's face, continue breathing, and tell myself that I was calm, I was relaxed, I was at ease, I was having fun.
And I was! Meditation is amazing.
Okay, okay. Yes, I need to tell you how we did. Maisy and I did a total of six runs:
Trial 1, Level 2: 206, 3rd place, Another nice run, and probably my favorite. When we got to the moving down sign (not a true moving down, the dog just needs to down instead of sit when you halt), Maisy did a play bow instead of a down. I laughed hysterically because it was so ridiculously funny.
Trial 2, Level 1: NQ, I missed a sign. No, I missed the last sign. Seriously didn't even see it. The judge (Charlene Swainamer, who was awesome and I loved her) was so sad. It would have been a 206 if it hadn't been for that missed sign. I shrugged, told her it happened, and that we still had fun. I meant it, too.
Trial 2, Level 2: NQ, Again, my fault. We got to a sign where you halt and leave the dog and I got confused over what to do, handled Maisy poorly, and she broke the stay. I looked back to the judge, who confirmed it was an NQ, and took advantage of this fact to reinforce the really nice moments of heeling with cookies. Afterward, the judge was practically crying. She was so sweet; she really liked Maisy and was so bummed out for us. I told her was just a dog show and that it really didn't matter. She agreed, but was still sad. I told her that honestly, I didn't care. And you know, I've said that before, but inside I was still totally disappointed and upset. Saturday I wasn't. So we NQ'd. Big deal.
Trial 3, Level 1: 205, 3rd place, A nice run. Nothing to report... well, except we clearly need to proof against the presences of Auntie Sara. Maisy got distracted when she saw her ringside. It was kind of cute, actually.
Trial 3, Level 2: 197, 4th place, We lost ten points on the bonus because Maisy did not do the moving down (a true one this time), even though she'd done it flawlessly in Trial 2. I wasn't upset, though. She was just so very tired.
In the end, we picked up two QQs towards our ARCH (out of five needed), and 23 Level 2 points (you need a total of 100, 30 from Level 1, 30 from Level 2, and the remaining from either level. We have plenty of Level 1 points).
I gave Maisy a preemptive clonidine when we got home so she would be able to sleep. I think that was a good choice, because she didn't sleep in bed with me that night. (A sure sign, if a bit unusual, of stress.) On Sunday, she was tired, tired, tired. My friend Laura came over with her dogs Piper and Allister to go for a walk. Maisy hid. When we left, I asked her if she wanted to go and instead of bouncing around, she lowered her head and avoided contact. Poor baby.
I felt bad for her, but it had been a big week for her; a party the weekend before with 5 or 6 dogs in the house, a modeling job on Wednesday, and then the trial. In July, we'll try another full day, and if it's still hard for her, we'll cut back on the length of time we spend at trials in the future. I don't think we'll need to, though. She's amazing!