Saturday, August 28, 2010

Woulda, shoulda, coulda ... UGH!

I'm getting this post out of the way, because it's depressing. After all the positives we've had this summer on the teeter, Devon has had a couple of set backs this week. Of course, just like last year, the set backs are right before a series of upcoming trials.

About a month ago, Devon refused the teeter at the kennel club when it was back in a dark corner. After having success lowering the teeter in that location, I moved the teeter to the middle of the floor. It was so interesting to see Devon work through her issue. She wouldn't leave the teeter until she went over it. Talk about dedication and heart! This is why I love this dog!

I was concerned that this would cause an overall setback in her teeter performance, but it didn't. For the last month, Devon has been confident on all the teeters she has been on. So I had no worries going to an agility trial on Sunday in Evansville. I could only make Sunday's trial, and there were 3 VMOs at this trial, and I needed a permanent height card for Ellie, a Golden I started running for a friend, and a temp measure for Page. I'm so glad to have these girls off the measure list! It makes my mornings go so much better.

I walked the Excellent Standard course for Devon. The course looped around where they landed off a jump facing the teeter, but instead had to turn to the right and do a 360 degree loop of 4 jumps before circling around and actually taking the teeter. I thought about cutting out that 4 jump loop completely and just sending Devon to the teeter when she saw it. However, I went against that idea because she had been so confident on the teeter that I thought I'd just run the course as usual.

The plan I did come up with was if she did head for the teeter I was going to step in and support the teeter and let her take it. I didn't want to call her off the teeter. I'd rather her go off course to take the teeter as she has been doing, sacrificing the short term Q for the longer term goal of a solid teeter performance.

Well, here's where the woulda, shoulda, coulda comes in. I shoulda gone with my first instinct and cut out that 4 jump loop. Devon actually committed to the turn and jump, which I didn't anticipate and I stepped in on her. This caused her to doubt her decision on the jump, but I quickly altered and supported this jump. I told her she was a good girl around the loop, but the small handling bauble in front of the teeter had done it's damage. When I supported the teeter, she wasn't sure of it and came off.

UGH!! Her first refusal of a teeter in competition. Something I NEVER wanted to happen in her career. And to fall into the coulda category, I coulda taken her special teeter treats (jerky treats that she only gets for a successful teeter and she loves; she even blows spit bubbles for these treats) and broken them up and showed them to her before her run and left them outside the ring like I do in training.

And I woulda walked her off the course so she didn't learn that refusing the teeter meant the game ended, but I forgot that too! I don't want to punish her for not taking the teeter, but I don't want her to learn that it's OK to bail off the teeter and then get to play the rest of the game. No teeter, no game. Sorry!

One other note about Devon's run. She spotted the teeter as she came out of the #3 tunnel. She's looking for it which tells me there's stress associated with the obstacle. No surprise, but noteworthy. Here's the run:

We didn't do the teeter in class this week, mainly because it was back in the dark corner where she had refused it a month ago. After a difficult time at the trial, I didn't want to follow it up with another bad training session.

Yesterday, I took a trip to the Louisville area to get Devon on a different teeter. I took the teeter treats, and she was happy to run to the teeter. After jumping off of it once, she went up and over it -- just once. She got lots of treats for that one time over it, but I could tell when she came off of it, she hated it. It was a hollow aluminum teeter and it made a loud hollow thud even on grass.

I was never able to get Devon over it again. I tried treats; I tried putting her up and working Page; I tried moving it to another location; and finally I tied her to the fence and had her watch Page go over it and get treats. Nothing. UGH!

We are entered in a 3-day trial this coming weekend and a 2-day trial the following weekend. This weekend we have FAST class the first two days, and it's the first class. Devon is the only one running in FAST, so I can concentrate on her. And if she is not successful in FAST, I will not be running her in Standard.

Unfortunately, she has never run at this location, which I wonder is part of the issue. Will she take the teeter in locations where she has trialed before? Or should I not run her in Standard in new locations and just stick with working in known locations this fall?

And the other consideration I have is preparing her for VST tests this fall. I learned last year that I cannot stress two sports with Devon at the same time when she's working at a high level in either of the sports. Right now VST tests are a top priority for us, so I'm leaning towards pulling her from Standard this fall until we get through her VST and then worrying about the teeter after that. I do think that working the other sports and not trialing consistently in agility has contributed to this teeter problem. Once we get a solid teeter, I need to stick with it and trial to build her confidence, pushing everything else aside.

The other thing that isn't helping is a weave issue, too. Back in June at the ACI trial, Devon had a a jammed shoulder and it was affecting her weave entries. This turned into a training issue. I worked through it and she has lovely entries in training, but as you can see by her JWW video they came back to bite us in that class, too.

Poor Devon. I'm just at a loss on how to support her, and it seems I'm making all the wrong decisions right now. Time will only tell how this issue is resolved.


Deb said...

Deb, it's so interesting to read how you think through each challenge, make decisions, follow or don't follow those decisions, then analyze the aftermath and make plans for the future. It's really helpful to me as I work through some similar training and competition issues. My next trial (Field Spaniel at PP on Sept. 11/12) is closed and too late to pull from standard. I'll have some difficult decisions to make and your advise, both in person and on your blog, will be very helpful. Thanks!

Deb said...

Thanks Deb! Hang in there. I know we can get through this with both our girls. They are awesome dogs and they deserve to have us help them through this. I know they can do the teeter, I just know it!