Tuesday, September 08, 2009

My lesson of the week: Stand up!

I did three days of agility with Lucy in a trial on home turf over the Labor Day weekend. Not three full days--I don't ask the old girl to do that any more--I only entered her in three events per day. We had some great successes: a Jumpers Q (for the PIII jumpers title); two standard Qs (the first of which got us the PIII Standard title), and two more Snooker Super Qs (one more Snooker Q and we'll have PIII Snooker Bronze!) Our pairs run was beautiful; unfortunately our partner E'd, but we had a good time.

Notice I haven't mentioned any Gamblers Qs? Since achieving the ADCH and moving over to Performance, we have yet to get a gamble. I'm starting to think I should just stop entering Gamblers, since I'm not chasing the APD title. Maybe I should just enter the things we're really good at until I retire Lucy. Why keep trying at something that only leads to frustration? On the other hand, I keep thinking that sooner or later we'll do it. I work on gamble skills when we train (although now that she's getting old I don't spend a lot of time training her). It's something to think about.

Overall, the trial felt very positive and rewarding to me, and Lucy was running fast and seemed like she was having a good time out there. But I had one moment where I did a really boneheaded move that I knew was wrong, wrong, wrong, and that prematurely ended what was shaping up to be a fabulous Snooker run: I bent over to pull my dog into handler focus. Of course, it did not draw her toward me, as I intended, but pushed her out and away, so she jumped the #2 closing obstacle in the wrong direction.

I had been trying to threadle Lucy. There are lots of ways I could have handled this successfully, none of which involve bending over, and I had even planned to do it correctly (with a "backy-uppy" move) in the walkthrough. The problem is that to us humans, it seems like bending over should draw the dog in, so in a pinch or a panic, we resort to stupid instinct. To dogs, us bending over looks like we are pushing or pointing ourselves toward an obstacle (probably the wrong one). I used to make this mistake all the time with contact/tunnel discriminations. I want the near obstacle so I lean in toward Lucy thinking I'm somehow "engaging her," but she thinks I'm indicating the far obstacle. I see my friends do it all the time, and if they say "I don't know why she took X instead of Y" I can say "oh, you leaned over. You need to stand up straight."

So the fact that I know better and did it anyway makes me feel like even more of a dope. But I'm a trainable dope, I think. I swear if I got a do-over I wouldn't do the same mistake again. Maybe a whole new mistake to learn from, but not that one!

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