the sheltiechick blog

Whatever Wednesday

Other ideas for names for this post was “Wimpy Wednesday” or “Whiny Wednesday.” Or maybe I could save this post and call it “Failure Friday?” Let’s stick with the slightly more optimistic “Whatever Wednesday,” because once again, I’m trying to be positive, right? Right. So let’s go.

As I mentioned in last week’s training challenge, Payton was entered in his very first rally trial last weekend. It was novice rally – not a huge deal, right? Payton’s perch work was fabulous and his heel was looking really good as a result. Not flawless but really good for the semi-rush job I was doing to get ready for the trial. I thought we’d maybe scrape out a Q, even.

Sometimes life just likes to punch us in the stomach though.

I had Payton out before going in the ring and was practicing the moves for the signs, popping him some treats to get him all locked in and ready to go. He was sitting in heel and I was chatting with a friend while feeding him and just working on eye contact before we were going in the ring. She was telling me he looked great, was so attentive, I was feeling pretty good. Optimistic!
Then a large dog almost sat on him.
Cue a meltdown from Payton. I got up and took him in the opposite direction but that wasn’t helping. He was barking and flipping out. I had a treat and tried to get him in heel to pop him the treat, he had NO interest in the treat at all.
My dog’s brain was gone… and they just called our number to get into the ring.

I did about four signs with my dog barking the entire time and swiveling his head around looking for that big dog, freaking out, before I realized there was no recovering. I turned to the judge and said “That’s it for us, thank you,” and out of the ring we went.

My friend told me not to feel bad, that dog had just freaked him out, but I still felt bad. Immediately doubts started setting in. Payton is kind of OCD at times. If you move something in the house, he’s alarmed and barks at it. If you bring something new and strange into the house, he’s alarmed and barks at it. If he sees something new while on a walk, he’s alarmed and barks at it. The response I was anticipating from Payton in the ring was for him to get really excited and start jumping around and playing like a crazy, not panicking. What was I going to do?

The second day I got Payton out and was ready to try again, and made SURE I was very calm and quiet with him before we got in the ring. I kept out of everybody’s way so nobody would accidentally sit on him again, so nobody would do anything strange and freak him out. We got in the ring and he sat in heel at the “start” sign and looked up at me with a smile. “Yes,” I thought. “We got this.” I took a deep breath as we started forwarded…
and as we reached the second sign, there was another person standing right outside the ring gates with their border collie, doing as border collies do, creepin’ and peering into the ring.
Cue meltdown!
I did manage to get Payton to complete the second sign, and we started towards the third sign, but he wouldn’t do the third sign (a left pivot) for me. I looked up at the judge (a different judge this day thankfully, I don’t think I would have even had the guts to walk back in under the same judge) and said “We’re all done I think, thank you.”
“That was a good decision for him,” she told me as we walked out. I’m pretty sure my face was bright red. I know I did right by my dog by taking him out so I didn’t poison the ring experience, but this was mortifying. I’m sure everybody thought my dog was a total nutcase and completely untrained.

Just to be clear: I don’t blame the person with the border collie. Yes, it would have been nice if they weren’t standing right outside the ring gate with their dog staring at me. Before Auggie goes in the ring for agility, I try to keep him back from the ring gates, but I am getting him revved up and that means he’s jumping around and barking. If that sets off a dog in the ring, it’s unfortunate and yes, I would feel bad, but it ultimately means the dog in the ring needs to be trained better against distractions. Same rules apply to Payton. He needs to be trained better. It is not the fault of the person outside the ring that my dog was unprepared for that kind of distraction, it’s MY fault. The answer is TRAIN MY DOG.

So that’s why this is WHATEVER WEDNESDAY. Part of me feels really beat up and beat down right now (and it’s not because this week’s gym activities have left me unable to tell you a part of my body that is NOT sore at the moment.) I am terrified that we are facing a long uphill battle and might never be able to fix this problem. I’m picturing my dog freaking out every time I take him in a ring and he sees something new. THERE’S A SANDBAG UNDER THAT DOGWALK OMG. THERE’S A SIGN HANGING ON THAT WALL OMG. THAT TABLE IS PAINTED PURPLE INSTEAD OF YELLOW OMG. It’s panic inducing picturing serious problems for the rest of his life. You certainly can’t control every aspect of every trial – there will always be something new or unknown or unusual.
But you know? Whatever. I know the answer: TRAIN MY DOG. And it’s kind of that simple, isn’t it? I went to the Dollar Store and I bought a bunch of “weird” things. Anything that just looked different, stuff that maybe Payton hadn’t seen before. I bought some spinny flower sticks, some glow sticks in the shape of a trident and an axe, a plunger, big buckets, just anything that looked different. We’re going to start more distraction work. I’m going to double down again on the recalls and try to rebuild getting him locked on when he hears his name rather than having him tune me out so much.
My biggest plan right now is to re-read my way through Control Unleashed, especially as it addresses Over Noticers. So I’m planning on running a nice muscle soak this evening and dying a little while reading the book. Just like I’ve been making a weekly schedule on what to work with my dogs every week, I need to battle plan out how to work on this with Payton.
It all comes back to training.

We’ll see how simple it is when we actually tackle the problem.