What a crazy busy week. Many thoughts, no time to blog them.
Phoenix and I went to the obedience show-n-go at the Scott County club's building today. We picked up Kate and Orbit in Iowa City and hit the open road. The sky was blue, the interstate was dry and you'd never believe our part of the state had 12-17" of snow just a few days before.
Our Open run went well. We're kind of treading water in Open. I'm not working the exercises very much since our focus is getting ready for Utility. But one thing we're having fun with is the dumbbell retrieves and having the "judge" try to race in and beat Phoenix to the dumbbell, both on flat and over the high.
When I first started doing this, Phoenix didn't see the point. He just backed off and let the "judge" get it. What a polite boy. We worked at it awhile and now when I set him up for either retrieve, he scopes out the judge and gets that locked and loaded look in his eye. It's now a grand game to get the dumbbell first before someone else steals his prize.
Utility continues to be a work in progress. (Is it ever NOT?) Watching him this morning, scent discrimination is his strongest exercise. He gets it and he thinks its fun. Signals have improved tremendously. Gloves are strong, turn #3 isn't. Moving stand seems to bore him half to death. The go-out part of directed jumping was great today but the actual jumping part escaped him when dogs were moving around close to the ring gates outside the ring.
At this point, Nix's mistakes are coming from a lack of confidence. For all his craziness in agility, he's not one of those "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" dogs in obedience. Our training at this point is all about building confidence and joy in the work, no matter the environment. It's a different ride than with any of my previous UDs/OTChs., always something new to figure out. I love my skinny little dog.
Also had a short but interesting conversation with a friend about how much pressure we as handlers put on our dogs with our expectations and goals for titles, scores, rankings, etc. This is a double-edged sword, often inspiring higher achievements but at the same time, setting the human element of the team up for disappointment when things don't go as planned.
Sometimes that self-inflicted pressure to achieve also turns us into freak handlers in the ring, ironically CAUSING our dogs to engage in the weird "I've never been trained for this activity before in my life" behavior we desperately want to avoid.
Okay, enough thoughts. Hug your dogs and treasure your time with them, no matter what you're doing.