I was watching TV the other day and I heard the saying "comparison is the thief of joy". It is so true. In agility I find it so easy to constantly compare myself to others especially those that are often successful. Then the obligatory thoughts of "I wish my dog was that fast/accurate/focused/[add comparison] follow. It puts so much pressure on yourself which in turn gets directed to your dog. It is so pointless and no one knows the individual struggles that the person you are comparing yourself to has had themselves because we only see the good bits. I choose to not compare.
I really have no cause for complaint of where Ve and I currently are. He has come on in leaps and bounds since the Nationals. Every time I think about how far there still is to go I remind myself that six months ago he could barely cope with being at Dogs West at all let alone doing agility. Training nights he is getting really confident. Sonic comes with us to training now and helps Ve feel confident just by being there. We've got a little routine that we do were I take them both for a walk and then we play tug games together. The difference I've seen in Veto's confidence at Dogs West since I've been doing that is huge. It seems to put him in a happy relaxed frame of mind right from the beginning and he way more receptive for the rest of the night. If he starts off worried it is really hard to get him out of that mind set. Veto is also getting much more used to the dogs at training. When he knows what is around him and it is constant it seems much easier for him to relax and stop worrying. He still needs to look sometimes but he can usual dismiss and move on pretty quickly.
The trialling environment continues to be such a huge challenge with so many more dogs around plus the dogs going off in the back of cars and sometimes at each other at ring side. There has been more than one occasion when Ve has been tugging happily near a ring until other dogs nearby have had a go at each other. You can literally watch Ve shut down as soon as it happens. It is so hard to get him back from once that happens. I think he has become a little more resilient thanks to the Reactivity Management course I did and being able to protect him from other dogs for well over six months now.
I often think back to where it all started. Puppy Culture posted on their Facebook page a few months ago about the impact of attacks on dogs under twelve months of age. When I think about the dogs that upset Ve the most I can trace the colour and shape back to the red heeler that attacked him when he was only four or five months old. It came at him from behind so he didn't even see it coming. At the time he seemed OK but after that he had more than one dog rush him and also a dog down the road who came out from its property and attacked him. The suspicion that Ve has and the worry that consumes him when he is unsure what another dog is going to do. I see so many times that Ve will be fine when he knows where a dog is but as soon as they are off leash and on the move his whole demeanor changes and he goes on the alert. I can't change what happened to Ve but I will do everything I can to help him overcome it.
We had an OK State Trial this year. Easily the best I've had in quite a few years. Last year was such a massive disaster so it wasn't going to take much to beat it. But we went the other extreme this time and Veto won the Excellent Agility Final for the 500 height. We had our ups and downs over the two days. He had moments of confidence and then another dog would upset him and he'd shut down. He only managed two Q's out of the six runs he did in the heats but they were solid runs and other than being cautious his performance was great. I was so proud of him. He really does try so hard for me.
Right now we are taking it easy. We'll do a few trials but they will be spread out. I tried to do some Masters Jumping classes with him at the States and realized what a mistake that was. He is in no way ready for Masters level. So we'll do NFC Excellent Jumping until he is feeling at trials the way he feels at training. I have a heap of judging appointments coming up as well including judging at the Queensland State Agility Trial at the end of this month. I love winter at home and we are spending most of our time enjoying the property. The dogs are having a great time. I love nothing more than watching Veto running flat out gunning down the fire break. He is so relaxed and happy. It's really what its all about.