Only a short note about yesterday’s obedience match.
Few moths ago a big obedience competition in Lublin was announced – it was going to be held together with zoological fair inside the same venue. I decided to attend it even if I was only going to do a ring entrance with Gapcio (to reward his attitude and engagement). But I took my chances and asked administrators if the will let me take part but act as if it was a match. They agreed :D
Such a big event is a perfect place for a training. Hordes of people, hundreds of dogs, birds, cats and many unusual animals are an ideal option to vastly reward a dog for his motivation and attitude. I had a great chance to show Gapcio that even when we are in a such difficult conditions, we still have a party and there is no difference between trail and training. Currently we have great fun from our training which is not a mean but an end in itself. Trails are just a part of it. In the close future we do not plan to take part in official trails.
We arrived for yesterday’s trial forty minutes before our turn. It was a perfect amount of time for Gapcio to acclimate in a new place. Gapcio had enough time to get used to the noise, smells and suffocating temperature and humidity. I have a rule that I do not ask my dog to work until he is truly ready. I do not try to bribe him by treats, toys nor do I try to work with him. Acclimation is a time for observation and getting accustomed to a new place.
When I see that Gapcio is calm I stand up and wait for him to engage. From this moment it is up to Gapcio to start. It is his choice, if he wants to work he will come to me. If not then it means that acclimation might have been too short, the place is too overwhelming, or it is simply not his day. I do not push him, he has a right to choose if he want to do something. It has to be mutual party so there is not coercion. Gapcio is showing me his readiness by jumping on me and maintaining eye contact. The moment he starts his jumps I respond and we move on to play.
Going back to yesterday’s mach, I have planned to repeat ring entrance for a few times and rewarding each one. Unfortunately temperature inside the venue was suffocating and I quickly adjusted my plan to current conditions. Gapcio does not like high temperatures and if I did more ring entrances he might have been too exhausted. So I did only one which I quickly rewarded. I really care about these entrances because I want to make a strong connection with ring being a party place.
Recall was the first exercise, the starting place was very close to the audience so Gapcio needed some time to shake off and lighten the pressure. After the recall he was super happy and engaged. About particular exercises; I do not treat matches a test place, I have training for that. Matches are supposed to build self-confidence and show that you can have fun anywhere you go even when conditions are extreme. If Gapcio is able to focus and relax then detail will be the easiest part.
My plan for this match was to reward not the particular exercises but engagement and emotions after together with transition to a next exercise. I did make few mistakes which I was able to notice when I have watched the video. Now I know what I have to change during the next match.
We will also focus more on transition to work after engagement and going to set-ups.
If I ever decide to take part in an official trail I will still lavishly reward Gapcio between exercises. I do not like the recent fad – treating trials as a death or life situation where only results matters and the whole work is treated very seriously with no place for fun.
I do not admire dogs who are heeling like robots, with no emotions between exercise. Dogs, who have no connection to the handler.
If my engagement is going to result with less points or disqualification then… let it be :) Mutual fun is our priority.