. . . then summer vacation begins!
Phoenix and I are entered in a local obedience trial this weekend. I decided to enter him only in Utility but not Open at these trials. I don't know how much, if any, of our ring issues are tied to his total dislike of the Open stays but thought we'd try a weekend with those out of the picture. That's the best thing about Utility - you go in, you come out, you're done and you know the results. Just what an immediate gratification freak like me needs!
Over the last year, I've come to believe our ring issues - such as they are - are not tied to any particular element of obedience. They are more of an overall reflection of lack of confidence, mis-understanding and boredom, all masquerading as ring stress and tied heavily to dependence on the delivery of food to assure him he was doing a good job.
After this weekend, we don't have any obedience trials on the calendar until the end of August so we'll have two wonderful months to train - two months for me to work at incorporating more play (without toys) into our routines. Two months for me to work at becoming a more spontaneous and less predictable trainer, especially in terms of heeling, which seems to be a barometer for all our obedience work.
Yeah - I know. Working at play. Planned spontaneity. Phoenix and I seem to be one big contradiction! I am such a creature of habit that any change in those habits requires a good deal of concentration and planning on my part.
I've got some habits to break and being a fairly methodical trainer is one of them. In the two brief weeks since Denise Fenzi's seminar, where Phoenix and I addressed personal play skills, I've made an effort to break out of our old training mold. I'm getting better and as a result I'm seeing my dog loosen up and be more willing to play with ME without focusing all his energy on a toy. I'd love to see this carry over into the ring this weekend but I'm the Queen of Expecting Too Much so am not holding my breath. We'll show and I'll work hard to bring out the best in my dog.
During our training this week, I've limited the amount of food I used by the expedient of only taking X pieces of food outdoors with me. Knowing I did not have an endless supply stashed in a container made me much more conscientious about how I "spent" it. That's another goal for the summer - to work on getting true effort and excellent work before rewarding. It's so dang easy to feed without thinking when I have a pocket full of treats.
My goals for the weekend are to get more play in the ring and to watch how I put pressure on my dog in the ring - avoiding set-ups to the left and asking him instead to circle right to set up.
Then we'll dive into summer vacation for both Nix and me - definitely still training but trying a few new things and hopefully doing more training at the park and with friends. And I'm looking forward to some weekends at home after a crazy busy April, May and June.