Phoenix and I are 48 hours out from our first AKC obedience trial in five months. Given that we spent a good part of 2011 spiraling down in flames where obedience was concerned, I’ve got a lot running through my head.
Everything we experienced last year happened for a reason. It’s not like anyone is ever going to stop and explain WHY it happened, it was just part of our journey. Apparently the Supreme Dog Trainer In The Sky felt these were things I needed to know. He was right. I learned a lot last year - about dog training in general (nothing is carved in stone, NOTHING), about my dog in particular (physically hard as steel, mentally a marshmallow), about myself (change is possible!) and what I really want from the sport (another OTCh? A 200? More ribbons and titles? Dunno. Seriously. Still pondering).
All things being equal, I would just as soon have not experienced the level of frustration and disappointment that marked last year in obedience for us but it probably isn’t even close to what Phoenix was feeling. At least I had a choice in the matter - enter? Show? Stay home? Poor guy - he had to do whatever I chose, whether he wanted to or not.
And a lot of times, I think it was “or not.”
While we rocked in the agility ring (the proverbial good time was had by all), obedience trials seemed to bring out the worst in both of us.
I’d never had a dog throw the stuff at me that Phoenix did. I’d never explored the concepts he forced me to stop and think about. Was he really stressed? Did he just want the cookies? Was he just screwing off? Or was he truly confused? To correct or not to correct? Why did my dog not WANT to do this stuff that I thought was so much fun?
I swear the first two OTChs. never caused this much soul searching! (Okay, in reality, they probably did - every dog comes with his own larger than life issues, they just pale in comparison with the current dog’s issues).
In getting ready for this Friday’s trial, I’ve made a list of what’s important to me:
1) having a happy, confident dog in the ring
2) looking for small improvements in both attitude and technical performance
3) enjoying our time in the ring together for what it is: time together with my beautiful, funny boy
4) not freaking out about what kind of score we’ll get
5) not even thinking about being scored
Those last two are going to be easy and difficult at the same time. I am very goal oriented and achievement driven. I think about scores a lot. I like to know my dog can walk into a new environment and show me he totally knows his job. But at the same time, right now I’m so totally focused on enjoying the moment that scores aren’t even on my radar.
So now we’re off to a new start in a new year. Who knows what I’ll learn this time around.