Cuz that's where we need to go back to.
I debated about posting today because I'm not sure where things are headed and as a writer, I always think I need to have a clear position to present before I start putting something into words.
I showed Phoenix in a local trial yesterday and it did not go well. I feel like all of our hard work over the summer was a complete waste of time. (Although spending time with your dog is never really a waste, is it?) He was not a happy dog in the ring. He barely managed to go through the motions. We Q'd in Open with a mediocre score. We NQ'd Utility on signals and barely skated through the rest of the exercises.
I tried hard to find something good about the day but "good" just wasn't on the agenda. I figure the purely compulsion trainers will say we just haven't worked long enough to instill the "have to" and the purely positive trainers will say "I told you so" for pulling the rewards out of the picture and asking him to work "just because."
But now I don't think it's either one of those things. He worked just as badly in the ring after 3 months of patient and constructive "no cookies" training as he worked after years of being trained generously with food. He was just plain miserable. A friend watching outside the ring said "He doesn't want to be in there." She was absolutely right.
He had been working well in training and I had high hopes that his confidence had returned with improved understanding and that he could give me some solid effort in the ring. But it didn't happen. Again, Phoenix warmed up nicely outside the ring, ears up, eyes bright, happy tugging on the leash, a few big bounces, into the ring and . . . flat as yesterday's beer.
We're entered two more days this weekend (regular classes), then two days next weekend (Wild Card Utility and Versatility). After that, I do not anticipate showing in obedience for a very long time.
After chatting with a dear training friend this morning (okay, wailing and gnashing my teeth!), I'm going to experiment and have two friends show Phoenix for me - once this weekend and once next weekend. They won't show him in all the classes, just one class each day. I don't expect this to miraculously cause him to start performing like the obedience ring is the best place in the world. Hell, I don't even know if he'll stay in the ring with them. But it can't hurt (and will probably make Michele and Renee appreciate their own dogs even more!)
Like Renee said, no matter what happens, at the end of the day, I still get to take my beautiful, amazing, smart, strong, funny dog home with me. If we need to take a break from obedience, we will. We can play more agility. We can start tracking. I will love him no matter what.