Monday, April 27, 2009
And we blew it!
Doc and I trialed Saturday, as planned. And unfortunately, it was miserably hot--the first hot day we have had all year. It's been like 60 degrees tops here for the past several weeks, and on Saturday, it was 88-90 all damn day.
That did not make for a happy Doc.
We got to the tracking field around 7 a.m. and we were the second team up to track. It was tracking on alfalfa, which we've never worked in before, and right at the beginning of the track Doc went straight down the first leg like a good dog, and I inadvertently let him hit the end of the line hard and corrected him. Which made him stop and think he had done something wrong, so he started casting about trying to figure out where he was supposed to be going to track. I know you're not supposed to give handler help on the track, so I just watched and clenched my jaw, praying that he would find the track and start up again, but of course, in all of his back-and-forth searching, he tangled his legs up in the line and just stopped. Argh! The judge, fortunately, allowed me to call him to me to fix the line and let me have a second command to start him up again, and voila, we were in business. He went straight down the first leg, hit the corner, checked right for scent, checked left, found no scent, then nailed his turn and went straight down the second leg. Blew past the article, unfortunately, but nailed his second corner no problem, did a clean last leg and found the article and downed on it perfectly. Good dog! Due to our rough start, the loss of the article, and a desire from the judge to see more intensity on the track, we scored a 78. But that's passing, with points to spare, so that was OK!
Unfortunately, we did not fare as well in obedience. It was around 11 AM when we started, and it was blazing hot. I could tell from the outset that Doc wanted nothing but to be in the car in the shade. No interest in being out in the sun, no interest in doing anything strenuous. Which made for a very bad routine. To start, Doc was scheduled to be the honor dog first, which means laying out in the hot sun for 10 minutes or so while the other dog goes through its routine. He was fine at first, but when they shot the gun during the heeling exercise, I heard the telltale jingling, looked behind me, and saw Doc trotting to me. Damn. Not good. I knew it, and I'm sure that he knew it after he saw my body language and my face.
When it was our turn to do our routine, the judge was concerned about sensitivity to gunfire and made us go through a gunfire test--he had us walk over to him and stand around while he shot the gun about 20 paces from us, multiple times. Doc did OK, was sitting and wagging but confused and a little stressed. We need to do more work with gunfire, obviously. But the judge said he'd let us finish our routine as long as Doc didn't show any more issues with the gun. And fortuntely, he didn't. In fact, during our heeling, it was like he didn't even notice it. Good.
But after our first 50 paces or so of heeling, he was starting to lag and forge. He was getting tired. We made it through the free heel, the group, and the motion exercises. But by the time we were supposed to do our retrieves, he was spent. And it all went downhill. Two commands to get him to retrieve on the flat. He went over the 1 meter jump on the way out, then went around on the way back and dropped the damn dumbbell at my feet. Then didn't want to get into heel position, and at one point I could see him eyeing the shade nearby and thinking about trying to make a break for it. We were supposed to do the A-frame next, I threw the dumbbell, Doc went over, got it, but then came back around and tried to head for shade rahter than bring the dumbbell straight back to me. No, no, no. I had to call him back, he brought the dumbbell, and I had to mentally fight with him to get him to hold it for a count of 3 before I took it back from him.
Then, when it was time for our go-out . . . well, let's just say there really was no go-out to speak of. He went about 10 paces and then platzed. I put his leash on, and felt supreme disappointment, but what can you do? It was a bad day.
The judge gave us our critique and fortunately was very kind, though I knew we didn't even come close to passing.
But Doc redeemed himself somewhat in protection . . . we never did really train the blind search, so that part of it was sketchy, but the rest of the routine went OK. Wasn't the prettiest picture, and we had some control issues, but we made it through and it wasn't so bad--86 points.
So . . . it was a bit of a rough day, but I was pleased to see that under pretty tough conditions, my dog was able to do the protection work and the tracking work--there's definitely a lot to be said for that. So it wasn't all bad.
We'll try again in the fall, when the cooler weather hits, and I'm going to be making it a point to condition this dog better before the next trial--I looked at a photo of him going over the A-frame at the trial, and I winced a little. He's kinda fat right now, and it never helps a dog to have to haul around a couple extra pounds when you're asking him to do so much hard work.