Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Private Eye

Sometimes when you don’t know what’s going on under the surface you have to hire a private eye to investigate and get to the bottom of things.

And sometimes, similarly, when you can’t see what’s happening in your training, it takes a private with somebody that has a great eye to point out what’s going on.

Yay wordplay!
I’ve been training mostly on my own for awhile now (as in, not seeking continuous, deliberate instruction from someone duly appointed to provide feedback- thanks for being a training buddy though mommy!) and I’ve felt that some of our lingering gaps are the result of this. I feel good about a lot of things, but uneasy about some things. And while I have REALLY enjoyed absorbing training thoughts and tips from those with different backgrounds this past year and have been able to incorporate a LOT, I needed help with my established ‘system’ from an expert coming from the same ‘system.’ So when the option came around to get a private eye from the exact person I would have picked if I could have picked anyone, I grabbed it (and wrestled it to the ground and refused to let go. Everyone was just very lucky that there was an opening…).
Going into it today, for my part, I was pretty open. I tried to come up with things to work on to maximize my time but all I really ended up asking for was thoughts. I might have squeaked out words like “dogwalk,” “ring stress” and “jumping” but who knows. The hour directed itself anyways and because of that I probably came away with much more.

The Dog, for her part, displayed her true self in full- complete with start line weirdness and show quality dogwalks (high and leapier than in normal practice). She was NOT Perfect Dog but this was the perfect time for her to be herself.

Results? I came away with some of the best observations and suggestions I have ever gotten. Let today go down as the day that Daisy Peel got the scoop on The Dog. If she was a REAL P.I., she would have showed me pictures of The Dog canoodling with a married politician in a seedy hotel. With blackmailing and extorting people. Maybe some drugs. Watergate of dog agility. Yep, she is that good of a P.I. Like a real P.I., she came in, threw the reality down and didn’t disappoint. No excuses, just the truth.
Seriously though, we have homework. The good news is that I am super familiar with a lot of what we need to do (enter the bonus of a similar foundation!) and now that it’s been pointed out I feel comfortable diving in on my own.

More good news: the scoop is, she doesn’t think The Dog necessarily has ring stress. Remember in the summer (ok, you can lie) when I said I thought maybe The Dog was fooling me to some extent and not as stressed as she appeared? Yep. Though not so much fooling me (she isn’t THAT evil) as playing with a different set of rules (which of course I’ve been unknowingly reinforcing).

I’ve thought that her ‘circling’ thing (where she takes off and circles the ring at certain times) was her burning off stress. It actually seems to be a little game she plays. Dog makes circle so Leader calls Dog back. What fun we have! I never thought that me calling her would be rewarding for her since she never used to enjoy coming in. Times have changed I guess. The REALLY interesting part is how that behavior fits into practices. When she makes a mistake, she will take off for a circle. I always thought she was feeling pressure from the error and marveled at how she would circle back to just before the section where we made the mistake to restart (“She is so clever, look at her self-correcting!”) and would make circles until I called her to reset. But it’s actually more like, “weee! I am right since I came back from my circle and now we go again, how fun are second turns?!?!” So in her fun world, she is always right.


We went to go work handling, but then the start line thing came up right away (Dog sits and stares at me when I lead out, maybe eventually trotting out around the jumps to say hi) so we did little exercises where she declared The Dog not quite ‘getting’ jumping an really isn't getting what I'm doing. Not stressed. Just not educated. This has been my recent fear and I was sure I’d need to somehow understand Salo to teach her to collect and extend and WHEN. But again, good news is that there are things we can revisit that I already understand from our foundation to show her this. There are some holes in her understanding of location which seem to be the cause (at last, a real cause!) to her China trips. Previously I filled the holes with verbals and arm waving but those are just bandaids and don’t solve the issue that she isn’t really watching my motion and I’m not making her. Now we need to clue her in to me again. Hola Dog! The best part is that I wanted to just be able to run and not rely on the other stuff and this will get us there. And her jumping form IS good so the bars won't be an issue once the rest is in place.

I don’t think it will be a long disgusting road to retrain all of her jumping/handling foundation; she started catching on and remembering after awhile. Likewise, she started catching on that circles don’t get anything now. No more circles!

As far as the dogwalk, apparently I haven’t been picky enough. It scares me to get picky (and risk losing the running that took so long to get if she shut down) but with the newfound thought that she probably isn’t a stress ball anymore I might venture into pickiness yet. She thought I could select for a lot more rear leg separation AND teach turns. She showed me an interesting way to shape turns that I think could work for The Dog.

There was a lot more too, but I seriously doubt I’m making much sense so I’ll keep it to myself. I’m totally thrilled that everything makes sense to me which is probably what matters. I suppose I could feel discouraged by all the things she found wrong or lacking, but really I feel better about where we are then I have in a long time. It's like I've been fumbling in the dark with a flashlight but finally someone switched on the floodlights.

Oh yes! There's the door. Lets go already!



  1. What fun - a private with DP!!! Lucky girl!!

  2. Isn't she awesome to work with? Love DP!!!