Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What is it about entering the ring?

I went to a NADAC trial to do some really good proofing this weekend. Well, we got it.

I did see some 2 on - 2 off's offered on contacts which was a good sign. Wyatt hardly misses his 2 on - 2 offs now at home and in class but they have been rare at trials. And the great thing about NADAC is that you can go back and redo a contact if you need to.

A lot of people suggest making your dog sit or down and walking off the course if they blow a contact at a trial. So I wonder about this. Of course, the dog really has to understand the behavior AND you have to make sure you are cuing the dog exactly the same AND you have to make sure it will actually help your dog.

Here is the interesting thing. NADAC allows practice weave poles. Right before the weavers game, I took him practice. He was just awesome. He was independent, fast, and 100% accurate.

We get into the ring, he takes off very fast, and has a lot of trouble with his weave entries and skipping weaves (very uncommon at home). I was 99% my cuing was the same.

How can we walk over, in the same building and environment, and go from 100% accuracy to 50% accuracy? I believe that whatever is going on with the weaves is the same as what is going on with contacts.

What are the possibilities?

o He is picking up on my ring nerves (which are not really strong but he is a super sensitive dog). Someone suggested trying peppermint so they can't pick up a change in your scent. I am going to try this next trial. I have noticed times when I am sure I do not have any ring nerves but he seems to have his own. For example, certain breeds like German Shepard dogs, can get him stimulated. At our last show and go, when I really had no ring stress that I could detect, a GSD ran before him and he was barking and get stimulated, and he had contact issues on the run.

o I am running much faster when I get into the ring. At times, when I have tried to deliberately slow down it has helped but not always. Sometimes he gets "upset" that I am not cuing him fast enough and he will bark and nip.

o He is not getting treated in the ring setting. I don't think this is it since I use long sequences without treats in class.

o He somehow has his own ring nerves. If this is the case, why did the warm up weaves go so well? I wonder if I should get some rings for home and see if he has somehow developed an association with the what a ring looks like.

But this observation about the weaves makes me think he is not "blowing me off" in the ring but that somehow the adrenal levels are going up and that is causing a deterioration in performance in the ring which manifests on weaves and contacts. My feeling is that walking him off would just add to the stress around weaves and contacts. Mostly likely, there is a complex combination of my own and his ring stress that we will need to detangle.


John Heffernan said...

Comment from Lisa D...

John, great blog and lots of interesting thoughts.

Regarding Wyatt blowing off contacts and weaves in trials my bet would be your ring nerves. Although I'm not a wreck or anything before I go in I do get a little nervous/excited and I know it affects my dogs. Bonnie Henderson (who also has Whippets) taught me some relaxing breathing techniques one day at a trial. They really did seem to help and these along with the mint are what I use to get myself calm enough that my dogs don't react as much to me. If you think Wyatt is having ring nerves of his own then rescue remedy may help take the edge off and is legal to use as far as I know.

My other thought is that maybe the nerves/adrenaline running through you while in the ring is causing you to signal slightly different than normal. I was having a problem with weave pole entries with my IG and my instructor was watching our run and said "you are babying her in trials". I had no idea I was doing it but sure enough I was. Once I made an extra point to use the same signal as always for the weaves in trials she was getting the entry every time. Can you have someone videotape you to check on your signals in the ring?

I am also uncertain about pulling a dog off the course if they blow contacts. My feelings are that for some dogs it will break their spirit. I realize this is tough to do for Labs and Border Collies but for (in my case) IGs and of course Whippets it is very disheartening.

Keep up the blog, I love it!

Lisa D

John Heffernan said...

Thanks for the comment, Lisa...

I have tried some breathing/centering exercises and they certainly help me. Rescue remedy, anxiety wraps, DAP spray were all tried with Wyatt and I did not see a difference. I have looked at videotapes quite a bit. At this point, I am not seeing a difference. The only thing I am wondering about is my speed which may be quite a bit faster due to that slight amount of extra adrelalin. I have been thining a lot about this and will write more later and perhaps post a video for folks to look at...

Thanks again and hope your whippet puppy is doing well...