Once more I am way behind with the blog.
To catch up in order I will begin with my trip to Burridge which I had booked for Friday and Saturday. Andy didn't come along as there was nothing for small dogs so he stayed at home and did some gardening and of course forced himself to take the bike out for a ride!
Although Burridge is no longer the same show as it was at Southsea, I still quite enjoyed it as we had a good parking spot with friends and had some fun.
Our agility though was not good. We started with a reasonable run in the jumping class apart from a mistake in the weaves. When it came to my grade 6 agility run things went downhill big time. The course started with a simple loop out to the A-Frame followed by a jump/pull through sequence. I felt at the time that Niamh stopped on the A-Frame longer than I had asked and when I got to the pull through she wasn't with me at all instead she was spook barking across to the ring rope where there were some straw bales. There was a lady with a big hat and a collie on the bales, the collie was jumping up and down from behind the bales a bit like a jack-in-the-box. I really struggled to get Niamh back to me, she kept barking and running away and then looking over at the bales. It seemed like forever before I finally caught her and managed to get her out of the ring. Needless to say I was very upset that Niamh was too scared even to come to me. I managed to get her playing with her ball outside the ring which was something positive.
I took her round to the side of the ring and she was really spooky. She was backing away from the bales and barking and when I took her closer she was sniffing them like mad and jumping away really spooked. I guess there were some very unpleasant scary smells coming from the bales. I managed to get her playing with her ball nearby but she wasn't all that happy so I decided to leave it at that until I'd given the situation more thought.
She hadn't spooked in the morning in her jumping class because the bales were not there. They arrived at lunch time. Maybe if her afternoon class had been jumping she would have been ok, stopping on the A-Frame obviously gave her time to see and smell that something was different?
When the class finished I asked the judge if I could possibly go inside the ring and just play tuggy with her. He was very kind (thank you Don) and agreed that I could do so as long as I didn't use any equipment. Fair enough of course. I didn't want to use the equipment I just wanted to take her back into the ring and get her playing with me. This we achieved so I felt a bit better.
Lucky for me my good friend and most respected dog trainer just happened to be around. Val had come along for a day out to watch Pete and Keeda run. We had a long discussion and as always Val pointed me in the right direction and helped me to decide to return the following day to try to work through the problem (I was rather upset and wasn't going to bring Niamh back the following day.) As I was leaving Val ran over to my car to tell me that she had watched another dog do a very similar thing so although I felt bad for that person it did make me feel a bit better knowing my dog wasn't the only one to be spooked by the scary bales. The following day I learned that at least three or four more dogs reacted in a similar fashion.
So I got up early on Saturday and off we went again. I had a plan and was most annoyed when I got there to discover I had left all the chopped up sausage at home in the fridge. Luckily Karen came to the rescue with a large lump of cheddar cheese! As soon as I arrived I got Niamh out and took her round to the bales. Again she spooked but I persisted until she calmed down a little bit and then when she put her nose to the bale without barking or spooking I clicked and rewarded with a lump of cheese. After that we were away and within five minutes Niamh was jumping on the bales and offering her full repertoire of tricks.
The first class on was the pairs and Leah and I were first to run. Karen, Jenny and Hannah went and sat on the bales just in case Niamh spooked again. We decided that should she do this it would be good to have some friendly faces there to allay her fears. As it happened she didn't even glance at the bales. Leah was supportive and told me not to worry what happened, just to make sure Niamh had a good time. I ran second so that Niamh would get wound up by watching Herbie run. That certainly worked and she went off really happy and did a lovely clear round and played like mad at the end. I was very relieved.
I was still anxious about her next class as it was an agility round and I thought she might have time to stop and worry to I made up my mind that I would do very fast releases on the contacts. We had to wait all day long for the next class which was the Olympia qualifier. It was my last chance for Olympia this year but to be honest I wasn't unduly concerned about qualifying, my main aim was to have a happy dog. Before Niamh's run I again took her round to the bales to do some tricks. To my dismay there was a lady sat on them with a huge male boxer dog. Niamh hates boxer dogs. Yikes, that wasn't good. I decided to approach the lady and share my concerns with her. She was so obliging and said she would move right away when she saw me join the queue on the other side of the ring. She was true to her word and I am really grateful to her. Meantime, I took Niamh to the other end of the bales and just played around with the cheese again. She was desperate to jump on the bales and show me how clever she was! What a wonderful tool the clicker is. I know this result could be achieved using just words and a reward but there is no doubt that the clicker is a very fast way of reaching a goal (obviously if you have a clicker minded dog!)
So, we entered the ring with me being very determined not to show Niamh that I was the slightest bit anxious. Well, she worked like a dream and but for a really poor decision on my part I think she would possibly have qualified for the semi-final. So, no Olympia for us this year, very disappointing but much more important I had a happy dog who was completely back to normal thanks to a clicker, a pound of cheese and some help from my friends!