Because we're members of an obedience club, we are lucky subscribers to the clubs newsletter. The first issue that we received was the last of the former editor's. In the "letter from the editor" she referenced a previous article that I dug up and have re-read over and over and over. And I believe that it shapes my agility attitude more than anything else.
The article was re-printed from a sheltie forum and written by a handler who has been doing agility since I was in elementary school with dogs of all different breeds. She was writing about what she will do with her baby dogs in their first year of trailing. Although I don't have permission to re-post, the points that resonated most with me was to have a big post-run party, base success outside of the Q, and if the dog seems stressed before a lead out, don't do it - even if it's advantageous to. I'll add to that another point that was not precisely mentioned but the meat of it was there - if my dog makes a mistake I will not correct it. When we moved into Excellent this became a little sigh of relief. Because you need clean runs, I really really didn't correct a mistake. In Open when you can have that one refusal or wrong course it's so much easier to just want to go back and salvage that Q... now when I walk the course I look for every potential off-course opportunity and come up with a "plan B" so that my dog won't know when we do something a little bit different than the numbers suggest.
Today we ran a JWW course. There were about a half dozen pinwheels on the course - not the most motivating thing. And the handling was along the lines of "over over front cross, over over front cross, over over tunnel weaves over over front cross over over big over." Murray put his nose down during one of the many pinwheels which broke my attention and I didn't cue him properly into a pull into the correct side of the tunnel. Rather than correcting it, we moved on and finished the course. Yes, that creates "more faults" but does it really matter? He finished fast and enthusiastic. And when we have these little bobbles and a Q vanishes from the table we ultimately run better. Because I whip out things that I'm afraid to try. After the wrong course, I ran hard into the weaves and then did rears instead of fronts because I am always too afraid to do rears. Guess what? He drove ahead of me and took those jumps with speed.
|Don't have any photos from that run, but here's Murr in his Halloween Costume (50 Shades of Gray) at the same trial.|
Some of the most meaningful compliments I've gotten in the ring have been on NQ runs. Today, one exhibitor said to me "what I love about watching you is that you always stay praise your dog and he doesn't know he made a mistake." Another said (after a different NQ run a few weeks back) that "you and your dog look alike on the course - you both have a big smile on your face!"
|We had NQ'd a good 4 times by this point of the course! (Photo Credit: Clark Kranz)|
The way I need my attitude to change - or perhaps it's my actions - is to take those risks and loosen up before we NQ, not just afterwards! I need to take more risks, because really, what are the consequences? So far when I have done the things I don't feel ballsy enough to do initially, Murray runs faster and does them correctly.
I need to stay 100% positive for my dog, though. If he thinks he was bad (ooooohhhh so bad for gosh darn taking the wrong side of the tunnel!) then he'll shut down. And shutting down may get us into trouble. So I don't chance that. And in his mind he has won in every round, and those are the wins that I care the most about.