Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stressing to Succeed

Forget Tuesday Training for now, because I'm more than a little bit upset with tonight's agility class.

In short: the course was too damn hard.  

This is a class of Novice dogs.  Sure, some of us have started competing, BUT, when it all comes down to it, most of us are green.  Half the dogs need the weave poles bent, another half needs help with the teeter.  Other dogs have their problems with certain obstacles as well, no matter what they be.
So, then, why are we running an Excellent B course?  

Marge was EXTREMELY stressed out by this course.  Awful body language, leaving the ring, licking, disengaging, lots of sniffing. The biggest problem was the fact that it started with a God-awful A-Frame/tunnel discrimination exercise.  So, to be putting her back at the start line 5 zillion times to try to get her in to the tunnel really didn't do much for her ego.

There was also a really hard back cross to be executed after she shot through a straight tunnel, and she totally wasn't with me on that, so it presented problems, too.

Fortunately, the class did end significantly better than it started, because I used many more treats, stopped a lot more to praise and feed her, and didn't fix our mistakes.  I took her out on to the field when everyone was done and just did some simple stuff, like the weaves alone, or a single jump, or going through the tunnel.  She looked alright.. not perfect, but not terrible either.  It could have also had to do with the fact that we'd been there 1 1/2 hours already.

It's funny how she was so happy on the big wide NADAC Novice course, but totally bummed at class.  I think that presents a fairly large problem and I sure hope it doesn't keep happening and that tonight doesn't have lasting repercussions on her drive and performance.  

I don't blame her one bit, though.  The initial tunnel was downright demoralizing.

I'm going to do some private training time in the training building so I can do some extremely fun and motivational stuff with her.  I can understand how agility would be no fun if every two seconds you have to start over and try something again.


Kathy Mocharnuk November 3, 2009 at 11:04 PM  

Well, I have trained long enough to deceide I am my dogs advocate, and so now days if my dog is doing something that is just too hard, or just too much for the dogs stress level, I break it down. I will tell the instructors on the end of this course I am going to do a serpentine instead of a threadle because there are too many challenges early and if Liz gives us that....then I want to make this part easier, or I will break the course up and stop and treat and play and get my dog revved up and connect with her and then continue on. Weirdly enough most of the instructors seem to respect that, and it is good training to break things down more. Sounds like that is just what you did, it really sounds like you made some great training decisions. I would not have thought anything of saying I had to leave and going early if a class is that long and your dog has had enough. I love that you broke things down and went out and did some simpler things.

I am sorry you had that type of a class after your awesome weekend.

Scout and Freyja November 3, 2009 at 11:16 PM  

We are so furry sorry about this class and that it stressed both you and Marge. Sometimes it helps to sit back and realize that in the larger scheme of things in time the class will be no more than a blip on the radar.

BTW, we just noticed Marge's photo in the sidebar with the frog on her head! Too sweet☺

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With Khattledog November 4, 2009 at 12:12 AM  

Sorry to see it was too stressful fur both of woo -

I do think woo will get LOTS of great advice here!


Carolyn November 4, 2009 at 12:37 AM  

My opinion....sounds like your trainer was having an off night. What was she thinking?

Same thing happened to me & Coop. My trainer actually asked me what was WRONG with my dog. I told her she was pushing my 10 month old PUP too hard. Lol! (I also pulled him from the class after that to allow him to mature....and we're still maturing, btw. Ha ha!)

But seriously, it's great that you broke things down for Marge. That's how Coop and I have been training - even if it is "just" the backyard. Not a darn thing wrong with that approach.

Keep it up, Sam. You've got some good instincts!


Dexter November 4, 2009 at 5:15 AM  

Maybe the teacher forgot what class it was. Next time you just tell that old teacher to fix the course.


Cyndi and Stumpy November 4, 2009 at 7:25 AM  

Way to go, Sam! No one knows Marge like you do, and marge is counting on you to guard against anything that is not in her best interest. You're awesoome at that!

KB November 4, 2009 at 7:36 AM  

I think that you did the best thing possible, staying late and doing easy and motivational things with your dog.

I don't know the personality of your trainer - but you could consider simply telling her that it's too hard and you need to do it differently, if this happens again. My regular trainer (non-agility) would totally respect that, but my former agility trainer wouldn't have (she was totally into 'you make them do it' mindset)...

In any case, it seems like you have great instincts, ending with really fun easy stuff!

Sue November 4, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

I've found with my water dogs that if we have to repeat something over an over, they just shut down and I might as well forget it. They're done.

We have to keep it interesting and different. Did you speak to the instructor about the course?

Frankie Furter and Ernie November 4, 2009 at 11:40 AM  

These things are SUPPOSED to be good and also fun for us. I would have lodged a complaint.

Frankie Furter and Ernie November 4, 2009 at 11:40 AM  

These things are SUPPOSED to be good and also fun for us. I would have lodged a complaint.

Cinnamon and Mint November 4, 2009 at 2:52 PM  

I am learning a lot from your posts and other people's comments on them. I often forget to think things from Cinnamon's perspective as well as mine. When she starts ignoring me in our training sessions, there must be a reason, such as same things repeated over and over. Thanks again for sharing your experience!

Also, thank you for your comment on our post about palm seeds. I checked the ASPCA website and found that the seeds are not toxic to dogs. However, we still have to keep an eye on them, as they can cause a blockage in Cinnamon's stomach.

Astrid Keel November 4, 2009 at 5:13 PM  

Urghhh. that sounds dreadful! I hope that next time (and hopefully there is no next time) you speak up and tell the instructor that your Marge is not the only one who is not enjoying the class.


Gus, Louie and Callie November 4, 2009 at 5:55 PM  

More treats always makes things better. Don't give up you will get it...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Lorenza November 4, 2009 at 8:29 PM  

Sure you two had a stressfull time!
I hope next time will be better!
Kisses and hugs

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart November 5, 2009 at 8:32 PM  

Sorry the course was too hard. I think it's completely fine to simply do the parts you want to do and skip the rest of Marge is having trouble.

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