Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Training 27

Do you know the saying, "It's not you, it's me?"

Well, I think that applies to the recent rockiness (if you can even call it that -- it's not THAT bad) of my agility with Marge.

I got to thinking the other day about how well Marge did when we ran Rally on Sunday with our friend and her Westie. Marge was totally attentive, and every time we ran it, it would have been a Q if it was really a trial. Monday, on the other hand, when I opted to run agility during my ring time at the club, Marge wasn't terrible, but she certainly wasn't as good. And, of course, as I already wrote about, Saturday could have gone a lot better than it did.

The reason for this? I'm stressing out too much about this stupid trial and forgetting to have fun.

Marge has spoiled me in the sense that training her to perform basic behaviors has been a piece of cake. Really. Things that totally haunt other dogs and their owners like stays, basic recalls, and attention have come really, really easy to me. So, when I encounter a difficulty in training, I sometimes forget that there is, indeed, a training period. Marge isn't necessarily going to just "get" tunnel/contact discriminations or 2o2o contact behaviors. Sometimes, I forget that it's okay to break it down. It's okay if she doesn't get it the first time around, because there's nothing out there that says a dog has to learn a given behavior at a certain rate.

Louie also pointed out that Marge actually does BETTER when she's being observed by others. Surely, I don't think this is her trying to show off. Rather, it is ME who is different when others are around - lots of praise, encouragement, and treats. Since she has had her issues with some people and some dogs, it would be silly to not reward her for doing well around them. And, what do you know -- she blossoms! When I'm training alone, I think I'm sometimes harder on myself and on Marge. There are no distractions to worry about, so everything else is supposed to just come easily. That is not the case.

So, it's a problem with me. It's a problem of my own stress, my own human desires to want to go out there and kick butt, and my own (sometimes extreme or unnecessary) worries that things will go badly.

I'm giving both of us a breather from agility this week or else one of us is going to burn out. I don't know why I get this way -- sometimes I think I just want Marge and I to succeed so badly that I lose sight of the fact that this is just ONE trial, there will be OTHERS if this one doesn't go well, and, overall, the idea is to have FUN. At least I was able to recognize this flaw in myself before things got ugly.

I'm going to have a private lesson with Marisa on Monday, and, in a few weeks, I think I'm going to play hooky from school (just to justify this - it's just one class - and I ALWAYS have awesome attendance) to drop in to agility class. I think I'm going to avoid doing agility alone for a while. After all, we still ARE a novice team, no matter how far we've progressed in our first year of agility.. and I think we both still need guidance.


I did promise video. Well, here it is - I did genuinely try to break things down - I set up a novice-type course and mostly worked on things individually. The only thing I need to improve upon for next time is being motivational for Marge and rewarding her more heavily and more often.

One thing I need to watch out for is the teeter. Although her teeter was fantastic on Saturday, she was really slow over it on Monday, and, at some points, basically hovered at the pivot point as the board moved back and forth (ie., not enough of her weight was shifted forward to completely tip the board down). I've had a lot of success motivating Marge when it comes to the teeter, so hopefully next time, she'll be back to normal with it.


Cyndi and Stumpy February 23, 2010 at 4:45 PM  

Introspection and self crtiques are wonderful tools. Just don't get carried away with it! You AND arge are doing wonderfully!

Sara February 23, 2010 at 5:32 PM  

I know where you're coming from...I always go into events saying, "I just want Oreo to not stress"....but then sometimes, I get disappointed if we don't Q. That competitive side, I didn't even know I had, comes out. I have to give myself a kick in the butt to put myself "back on course" and remember the dog I have, and the goals I have with him are more about personal Q's than title Q's. It's tough.

You're doing a great job with Marge! I think you two are going to do awesome at the trial.

Frankie Furter and Ernie February 23, 2010 at 5:41 PM  

A little VAKAY is always good to get thoughts collected. Enjoy.

Sue February 23, 2010 at 5:58 PM  

Although I don't like to admit it to myself, I'm very competitive and I stress when we go into the ring. I have to keep telling myself that it's supposed to be fun and it doesn't really matter how we finish.

But I sure do like to win.

Diana February 23, 2010 at 6:11 PM  

Its really good that you're always thinking and trying to improve. I really think that is important. You dont just go and do what youve always done. And that will make you go far. You are willing to change and recognize things in yourself. Good for you. Diana

houndstooth February 23, 2010 at 6:31 PM  

Some dogs do seem to just be "on" when they walk into a show ring, and you're right, it isn't magic. Those dogs really know how to pick up the cue from their handlers. If you're stressing, it is a good idea to back off it a bit. I think Marge looks wonderful and it is all in fun!

Muttsandaklutz February 23, 2010 at 7:14 PM  

*Exactly* what Sara said. Plus I love that photo of Marge on the teeter, really neat vantage point.

AC February 23, 2010 at 7:15 PM  

Good for catching yourself before burn-out. It's too easy to do too much and lose the fun.

Our trainer often mentions the problem with over training dogs. She says that she often sees teams that train and train and are going really well and then push too far so come "show time," the dog just doesn't perform like they did before. I don't know the psychology or physiology behind it for dogs, but it sure can be the case for human athletes.

Thanks for the dremel suggestion. I think it'll be worth the try after I get over botching Kona's poor foot.

NCmountainwoman February 23, 2010 at 7:37 PM  

You have both come so far. Just wonderful!

kissa-bull February 23, 2010 at 9:42 PM  

our most chubbiness live vicariously through you most athletic one
pibble sugars and wiggles from the wee ones
the houston woggie pack

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! February 23, 2010 at 10:09 PM  

Just remember it is supposed to be FUN...

When it stops being THAT, time to take a break and let it be fun again!


Lorenza February 24, 2010 at 12:19 AM  

I agree with Khyra!
Just try to make it fun and everything will be ok!
Kisses and hugs

Dexter February 24, 2010 at 6:19 AM  

That's right! Keep it fun! It is good to practice with other people because they see handler faults that you might not notice. They also see things that Marge did well that you might forget if she does the next thing not so well.


LauraK February 24, 2010 at 9:35 AM  

I know exactly where you're at right now! Riley and I (mostly me) are in another one of our agility slumps. Agility just hasn't been fun for me for the past month or two, and it's not fair to Riley for me to have such a poor attitude about it. Agility is supposed to be our fun time, and our outlet in life, and I'm starting to take it too seriously. I'm a perfectionist, and I want to get everything right- and we all know that agility is full of silly mistakes and learning experiences. So, we're going to take a month off, and come back recharged and ready to have fun! Have a good week off, and enjoy letting Marge just "be a dog". I think it's really important for teams to just enjoy life sometimes and not even think about agility training. Good luck with the trial, and don't stress out too much. Remember why we do this :) That's a great picture of Marge on the teeter!

Cheryl, Indiana, Shingo and Molly February 24, 2010 at 11:10 AM  

Just relax, let go, and have a good time!

Woofs and Kisses!

RILEY AND STAR MY MALTESEKIDS February 24, 2010 at 11:35 AM  


Is there nothing you can't do? We think you ought to sign up for the Summer Olympics and we're not kidding!

Riley and Star,

Gus, Louie and Callie February 24, 2010 at 6:04 PM  

We think Marge is doing great.. We could never do that unless there was a few sheep to herd..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Bijou February 24, 2010 at 7:48 PM  

Take a deep breath and relax. It is suppose to be fun right? So don't be so hard on yourself. Marge is doing a terrific job. Every time we visit your blog mom is impressed with all the exercise you two are getting. We wishe there was a place near us where we could get inside and run off some of our energy/weight. BOL


Anonymous February 24, 2010 at 11:11 PM  

Oh my goodness! My mom and me are so, so happy to find you and Miss Marge in blogland! It looks like you're both doing just swell. I started a new class tonite and I hope that maybe someday I can do agility, too. It seems like loads of fun!

Wiggles & Wags!
Mayzie (and her mom)

BRUTUS February 25, 2010 at 9:18 AM  

I definitely hear you, Sam!! It is so hard to temper my own drive & train at the rate Brutus needs it. SO tempting to drill something to make sure it's as good as it could possibly be, instead of being happy with a decent attempt & moving on while Brutus is still interested & happy! Brutus has his moments (like last night at our lesson when he decided it was a lot more fun to race around the arena than do some silly course), but I do think almost all our mistakes originate from one team member: me! I think you are doing the right thing by taking a little breather, it'll be good for both of you :) A change of pace never hurts anybody, human or canine!


KB February 26, 2010 at 7:39 AM  

You're very insightful about yourself and how Marge responds. I think that you're probably right on - and beyond that, having fun is what it's all about!

It's funny, speaking of it's not you, it's me. I wasn't feeling well this week and tried to do some simple training with my dogs. Both behaved oddly, not like themselves at all, and made little progress on training. I realized that it was my lack of energy (although I was trying to fake it) that led to both of them not learning well.

We forget how much things as subtle as our body language affect our dogs.

Here's to you and Marge having as much fun as you can!

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