Then things have gotten even worse in the ring with Cassie. I managed to get her to run two courses at the States out of six classes I attempted. She is warming up fairly happily but as soon as I try and enter the ring she shuts down and does not want to be there at all. I tricked her into the two runs she did do by incorporating hand touches at one start line and spins on the other. But my Miss Smarty Pappy Pants wouldn't fall for it any subsequent tries as right now they behaviours aren't enough to out way the stress she is feeling. I was pretty emotional about it. People just assume that you get upset about failure because you didn't win or qualify. I got upset because it's crushing to think that my dog doesn't want to do agility with me or is too stressed. The Q's and winning means nothing if my dog doesn't want to be there. I'll admit to a bit of a pity party for a few days while I wallowed in sorrow of how things had gone. But enough of feeling sorry for myself, that's not going to fix anything. Time for action and becoming a better dog trainer! I know that trying to figure out why is pointless. I can clearly see the stress when I take her into the ring so all I can do is try and address what I see.
I've been doing heaps of research and watching and reading like a crazy person to find information that might help me to come up with a plan. The Denise Fenzi stuff is really interesting and I'm liking what I'm reading. As always I'm eternally grateful to dog training friends who have ideas on what I can try. I value their opinions so much. I now have a strategy in place which includes a lot of different things including setting up a mock ring at training and at home, more games, higher arousal level at trials, lower value treats at home and making training at home look a lot more like it might at a trial. I had entered her in a trial last Saturday a week after the States and instead of trying to run courses with her my only goal was to get her to the start line, play games and make sure she is happy and comfortable. I was able to have a great game of tug before we went in the Masters Jumping ring. She did quieten down when we entered the ring but I let her settle and simply played nose touches with her. Once she was happily doing those I gave her a big cheer and we ran out of the ring to a reward. I did the same thing in the Excellent Agility class and I feel pretty confident that I achieved what I set out to do and she seemed a lot more happy and relaxed without the stress of running a course.
Our next two trials are on the road. Firstly we have a day trip to Bunbury and the week after we have a longer road trip to Geraldton for two days of trialling. Really good timing considering I need to feel a lot more confident that Cassie will be comfortable running in strange places. And it gives me another couple of weeks to get some more start line work done. To be honest I'm not really sure if the Nationals this year are lost. I had high hopes of showing Australia my beautiful pappy pants but I may have to let it go for now because I'm just not sure if I have enough time to work through this and have a real impact on the stress. But I will give it my best shot. One thing for sure is that I'll appreciate every success I have with Cassie and never take anything for granted.
At the States Cassie did give me a great highlight with a win in the first Masters Jumping heat. She is an amazing little dog that's for sure.
The one success at our house right now has been Colin and Fizz. After their very first foray into the agility ring at the States they achieved their very first Novice Jumping pass at last weekends trial. Pretty impressive to get your first pass at only your second weekend of trialling! And third place no less.