Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Trust Your Dog (But Not With Dead Mice)

My goal for a recent NADAC trial was to trust my whippet Wyatt to work away from me more. At a trial, when anxiety is higher (for both of us) and when I am looking to qualify, I tend to run him closer to me than I would at home or in our weekly class. As I drove to the trial I wondered what would happen if I have him more space. Would be ran around jumps and tires? Would be break his stay at the start line? Would he blow his contacts?

NADAC has a lot of distance challenges built into their regular (standard) and chances classes. Wyatt did great on his first run of the weekend, which was chances and got the distance challenge fine. In the regular runs Saturday, he got the first distance challenge (a jump and teeter combination) but missed a weave pole distance challenge. We have not, up to now, practiced this much. I seemed to pull him out of the weaves with my verbal admonition to “go weaves”. Looks like I should trust him to do the weaves on his own.

Now I noticed that dogs had been distracted by something in this ring at day. After we missed the weaves and were running the rest of the course, Wyatt suddenly veered away from me and became obsessed with something on the ground. I could not get him to “leave it” and also could not catch him since I did not have his leash. I finally ran back to the finish line to get his leash. As I headed back to him, I saw him urinating in the ring, something he never does. I saw something furry on the ground when I returned and called for the cleanup crew to get the dead mouse off the course. You have to admire his determination on claiming that mouse; sometimes dogs are just dogs. Quite a few people thanked me for finding the distraction.

On Sunday, there was a great opportunity to test my ability to give him space in the tunnelers class, which is a course made up of all tunnels. Many people send a dog through one tunnel and stay at that end as their dog comes out and they direct them to an adjacent tunnel. I wondered if Wyatt would enter the second tunnel if I was way down the other end. This course happened to be a double shot, which means you can do the course a second time, right after you do it the first time, for (hopefully) a second qualifying run.

On the first go around, I gave him some distance, but not as much as I could have. On the second run, feeling confident, I gave him much more space. He did fine without me being close. Even though it was second run he was over a second faster the second time. That definitely showed that I will get faster run if I trust him to work farther way from me.

The last run of the weekend was jumpers, one of our best classes. We needed one more qualifying run to get our elite jumpers title. NADAC has really tightened up the times especially at the elite level. I knew that in jumpers he was really ready to work more at a distance. Sure enough, he did great, and he got his EJC title. So I really learned an important lesson this weekend: trust your dog (but not with dead mice!)

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