SUMMARY: What we did well on, but mostly what we screwed up. (This is my third post of the day. You'll probably more enjoy my previous posts about Weekend Courses or Haute TRACS is Almost Done.
- Weaves: Hitting the correct entry and then skipping a pole. Several times. This cost us 14 points in Saturday's Snooker, time in the Steeplechase, I don't know where else as I didn't take good notes at the time. Popping out early. She did this almost 100% on Thursday, I think. I made her go back in and correct them on the theory that slowing her down is punishment enough. That didn't seem to help, so on Friday I made her lie down and THEN made her go back in and fix them. The next set of weaves she did the entry-skipping thing again; made her lie down, then go back in, and she finished them completely and I whooped and ran her quickly out of the ring over a couple of fast obstacles.
That seems to have fixed it again, as she completed all of her weaves correctly on Saturday, I'm pretty sure, enough that I dared three sets in the gamble and she did great, made entries AND stayed in. Woo.
- Contacts: Oh, bad dog, left the first two early in team standard and I didn't want to mess around in Team events. So later I made her lie down when she left a contact or two early, and that seems to have fixed it again. You really do have to stay on top of this stuff, don't you!
- Start line stay: She is so good! Although in that same first team run, she left before I released her, and I let her get away with it because it was team. I feared for my life after that, but in fact she stuck all of her remaining start-line stays all weekend very nicely.
- Bars and refusals: I just didn't count them well this weekend. There were many, many, many on Thursday but seemed to be better on Friday and even better on Saturday. I wonder, if I had stayed through Sunday, whether we'd have actually had a run or two with no refusals or knocked bars? We just don't practice enough running and jumping, I guess. Not enough room for it in my yard; class is so much more focused on handling.
- Energy: So far she seems to maintain total drive and enthusiasm, although she was more easily distracted away from her tug toy while going to and from the ring. I hope that's just growing maturity and confidence, not a stress reaction. I'd hate to think that I'm slowing her down in the ring by my incompetent handling or stressing her out about doing well in the ring.
- Contacts: Barely getting toenails into the Aframe down contacts and flying over most of the dogwalk downs. I don't believe that we were called for any dogwalk ups this weekend. Maybe I'm concentrating on the wrong part of the contact and Rachel's right about that being trivial! I need to just decide how she's supposed to do her contacts and what I'm willing to accept in the ring and go about fixing it again. She never used to have so many flyoffs. I don't think so, anyway.
- Drive and enthusiasm: I've always had trouble getting her to play with a toy before a run, except the first run of the morning, where she really gets into it--until we get ringside, where she'd rather sniff the ground. Presumably that's mostly the chow-hound's food obsession, but the amount of time I spend dragging her around by the neck trying to do a little jogging to warm up or just to get from one side of the ring to the other is a little bit concerning. Is this a stress reaction more than mere food sniffing?
She does seem to me to be tiring and flagging sooner and more often. Heat never seemed to matter to her, but this weekend she didn't leap immediately to her feet when I approached her crate saying, "Tika, you want to do some agility?" This is so unlike her. This just adds to the assorted things I have been noting about her getting tired so much faster than Boost, where not long ago she could completely keep up, or about being good for only a couple or three runs in class before her drive visibly drops.
I mean, really, she's still a fast dog, but not drivey fast like she often used to be. Her Saturday Jumpers speed was 5.25 yards per second, which is good but not great (Boost's 5.96, winning dog 6.41).
So I have all these questions running through my head: Is she sore? Is she getting old? Does she have something seriously wrong with her like Remington did that mystified me about his performance for so long? Is she out of condition, am I not doing enough with her? Should I be doing less with her? Argh, so hard to figure out.
- Weaves: I keep relying too much on her being a "good weaving dog" and then don't work the weave entries or exits at ALL and then get errors or pop-outs. But she did make a couple of really beautiful and very difficult weave entries all on her own this weekend. I'm not always certain where I need to give a bit more info and where she's fine on her own. Should probably experiment.
- Start-line stays: She has been so much better at staying since I started having her lie down at the start, which she wanted to do half the time anyway. She still sometimes gets up early and creeps up on the first obstacle, but I'll take it as long as she doesn't actually start doing the course on her own. It's not so much of a problem with electronic timing, so she's not creeping across the start line, but I have to make sure I give her plenty of room--just in case--for those classes (gamblers, snooker) where a traditional start line is still used.
- Energy:I really felt droopy Thursday, which was not the hottest day, and all weekend I seemed to have trouble getting my feet to take me where I wanted to go. It might have been lack of sleep on Thursday. It might have been allergy drugs Thursday and Friday so I didn't take them Friday night, but didn't feel any better Saturday. I keep thinking I'm in reasonable condition. I sure wish I was in the right frame of mind to take these extra pounds off again! It's just not happening at the moment. I'm sure that contributes immensely to my perceived inability to move around the course.
- Handling: I made SO many mistakes this weekend that I SO know better. The kind where the instant you make it you know you've just screwed up, usually even before the dog goes off course/knocks a bar/gets a refusal/etc. Where is my brain? I realize that everyone makes mistakes, but this weekend felt particularly bad for me.
- Attitude: On the other hand, I felt less stress about any of my runs than I have in a long time. I enjoyed myself on course, I didn't feel like crawling into a corner and bawling when I messed up yet another course, I never felt the kind of self-pressure I feel for, say, the last leg for an ADCH or trying to get a needed Super-Q or such. Even though I wanted Tika's 2 jumpers for her ADCH-Bronze, I wasn't thinking about it at all during my runs, just concentrating on the runs themselves. So the question is--did I make more stupid errors because I *wasn't* stressed and running on adrenaline? My Q rate doesn't seem to be horribly different from other USDAA trials, so I'm not sure really what difference any of this really made.