Before you can decide where you're going, you have to look at where you've been.
When we first started working together she had pretty much no foundation. A good sit stay at least. No heeling- not even playing Peanut Butter Spoon Follow the Leader (Dog says WHAT. I missed a game with Peanut Butter? Can we do this now please?) No restrained recalls. No wobble board. No- well, I could go on.
So because we went through classes together rather than working on our own (remember, the first year of training she lived away from me), she was in the hands of our school's general program. Not always what I would do personally, but again, Improv. We tried it all their way. I did very much like the approach to jumping- Linda Mecklenberg, thank you! Otherwise, the program included 2o2o contacts. Channel weaves. A few minutes once a week over each piece of equipment.
We ended up with creepy contacts. A dog with no foot work on weaves because they went together too quickly. Teeter fear. No intensity. Well, intense uncertainty. Her most confident obstacle to perform was jumps. A little TOO confident. Go Dog, well, WENT. She had a strong GO at least, all the way to "China." (Dog says, Well I always remembered to write and bring you back souvenirs. It wasn't all bad.) So that is where we were at about 18 months.
These issues were a total of several things, the lack of foundation, inconsistent/infrequent training, no early bond, and her personality. So with these things in mind, after I acquired her fully, we started obedience, foundation and re-training obstacles, and would partake in general ice-breaker activities (Dog says, I really enjoyed the 'Two Truths and a Lie" icebreaker. And playing ball on the couch.). We did much more groundwork, learned some directionals and eventually I reigned her in with these tools. Don't worry, she still makes the occasional journey to China.
I realized when exercises became more complicated that she hates to be wrong (Dog says, It's true! I also believe that you should measure once, cut twice.) and would slow down to think so she could always choose correctly. By the time we reached Masters early this year she was thinking an AWFUL lot. I figured then, that the more I arm her with ("Lefts," "Rights," and other maneuver commands, discrimination talent, obstacle independence) the more I could communicate and the better she'd feel. (Dogs says, Knowledge is Power.) I found that she never needs a correction. Breaking the exercise is enough and is only used when things are really bad. The initial contact zone creeping was just her trying to make sure she was doing the right thing. In a big move, we said goodbye to the stop on our contacts all together.
At about the third birthday or one year after getting her and one year of solid retraining I was pretty happy. The TEAM was there. But I still could see some of the old hesitation. Sometimes things weren't fun for her, I could tell there was still a lot of stress in her mind. I started re-evaluating our status. I moved from pretty happy to pretty determined that I could turn no-go situations into GO. But how? I'd employed everything I knew. Research time! Then I found...Silvia Trkman. Yes I know I am behind the times. But who cares, I found her at just the right time. Everything about this trainer's philosophy fits my needs! Fun? Check! Positive? Check! Confidence building? Check! Speed Inducing? Check! My checks don't do it justice, but go to her site. GO. It's where Go Dog and I are heading.
Assessment requires inventory. So, what do we have now at 3.3?
A philosophy we can believe in with methods to put it into action.
A Dog that cares.
A Project Lead that thinks the Dog can GO anywhere!
Technically, we also have:
A good running A Frame.
A huge catalog of commands to be used at our whim.
That's a lot of good things! But because this is all about GOing for it, we need to think also about what we need:
Recovery- Dog will need to regain momentum faster after a slow down or collection.
To understand the dogwalk a little better. Sometimes we run nicely, sometimes we feel we should have a stop again. Not sure why that makes occasional appearances.
Muscle memory on weave poles!
For it to be ok for me to get ahead. Because we do a lot of front crosses, when I move ahead she will hesitate in anticipation of the cross. This issue includes the lead out situation. I cannot lead out or she will not run off the line.
Maybe a little less China sightseeing. It seems that when there is an open space on course, the Dog must fill it... with herself.
To reward more more more. Focus is on the GOOD from now on (For MY background, I am used to taking fast and making it consistent, not taking consistent and bringing out the fast. It has been hard to decide to make the trade, but I think it is best to for Go Dog to get to GO).
And a big roadblock: I feel positive stress (Eustress, psych heads) during tournaments. I am exhilarated, I am excited, I am filled with happy endorphins that want to RUN. The Dog reads any stress from me as negative stress, placing her in Distress. My wish is for her to learn to feed off my positive stress in a positive way. This might call for couples therapy, but it's going in the plan for improvement anyways.
There we are. Assessment complete, for now. Time to start breaking these things down and working on going for it. Project Go Dog is officially, well, a GO!