Ever get what you wanted, but then it wasn't what you really wanted? Today was like that. We did improve our score a tiny bit (197) and we did tie for 1st (with Shirlee and Dreamer) but it wasn't the performance I was looking for.
It started out good. The heel on lead was beautiful. Stunning. Lovely. No crowding or bumping or any of that stuff I've been working hard to clean up, just smooth and driving and totally ON. Good boy! That's my dog! Aside from grabbing leash on the fast - a good solid catch this time, no casual nibbling like yesterday! - I was totally happy with that heeling.
Then the wheels fell off. Maybe not totally off. But they definitely came loose. The heel free was not a thing of beauty even though we only lost 2 points. I think the only reason he stayed with me was because he couldn't think of anything else to do at the moment. The recall was a casual affair, regardless of only being marked half a point off. Focus? Drive? Attention? Huh?
Then came the run-off. I had a dog for about half of it. Shirlee had a dog for about three-quarters. She won and was in a very good position to go HIT. The trial wasn't over when I left but Utility A was the only thing left and chances of beating a 197 out of UA are not high. She said that was Dreamer's last Novice B weekend and I'm thinking it was Phoenix's, too. We can move up to Graduate Novice for some summer trials and address the issues we're having in the context of of new exercises and only half the heeling.
Is that really addressing the issues or running scared? We're entered in the 4RK9s UKC trial in a week. Guess we'll have to deal with them there! I know what the problem is, it's no mystery. The baby dog expects more paychecks than are being delivered in the ring and when the paychecks don't come, neither does the behavior. It comes, just not with the intensity I want. I need to make a concentrated effort to STOP USING SO MANY FREAKING COOKIES! There. I feel better now.
I am a food trainer and I admit it. I like to train with food. But it's so easy to get in the habit of TOO MUCH food and not sticking to criteria for what gets cookies and what doesn't. So, hello, wake-up call. Phoenix doesn't need a cookie for everything. (For doG's sake, don't ask him. He'll tell you otherwise.) Does he still need cookies? Well of course. You wouldn't work for free, would you? But he can get other rewards, too, like playing with me which he really enjoys, too. I have the bruises to prove it.
Bottom line? Stick to my criteria: attitude first, followed by precision. Work to extend the "pay periods," use timely jackpots of food/toys, continue to build myself as the primary motivator through play and using corrections that rev him up to try harder.
It's really a good thing I'm on furlough this week so I'll have time to train!