I’m just not gonna think about it. Whatever Grady does on the course, I’ll remain positive but firm in my expectations. For the next minute, we both have our jobs to do so I’ll focus on mine and trust he will do his. The important thing is that Grady and I are here to have a good time.
But I so want to get that last Q for our Excellent Standard title!
A little history. Since the beginning Grady has a conflicted relationship with his two-on, two-off contact performance. He does great in practice but in a trial he acts as if he has no idea what to do. On the teeter and dog walk, he tends to stop anywhere on the down side which makes planning for the next several obstacles difficult. While I’m waiting on him to figure out that his front paws need to be on the ground, precious seconds are ticking away as he patiently stares at me as if I’m confused so much so that I start to wonder, am I the one whose confused?
The A-frame is a big problem. I’m to the point where it is hard for me to imagine anything other than Grady leaping off well before the contact zone. And, Grady’s consequence when he does that is to be taken off the course without getting a treat. If we run T2B first and I get to enforce that, Grady typically does great on his standard run, making his contacts. It’s as if that little reminder helps him (Grady loves the stage so he doesn’t like it when he has to leave). But, I don’t always have the opportunity to run T2B first which makes that strategy less than ideal.
I’ve done everything I know to do to train him. Targets, treat and train, “jack potting” the treats, clicker, etc.; they’ve all been utilized. I think they’ve been beneficial but I have to wonder what is going through Grady’s mind when he leaps off the contact obstacles with such purpose. I can almost hear him saying, “I got this! No need to mess with the details!”
Since I’ve done all the behavioral stuff I can think of to do, I’m going to go mental and picture Grady doing his contacts correctly. I’ve decided that I won’t get frustrated with him if he doesn’t make a contact (but he will have to leave the course since that message has to be clear to him – he must do his contact correctly to keep running). Before the run, I tell him how much I love running with him and that we are going to have fun on this next run. I take a deep breath, exhale and let go of all my worries about the run and remind myself that it just doesn’t matter.
This turned out to be one of our best runs ever! It was relaxed and smooth and Grady made all his contacts without a problem, even the A-frame! Of course I was thrilled – Grady got his Excellent Standard title!
Which reminds me that so much of this sport is mental. Grady could have messed up his contacts but I believe that my decision to keep a positive attitude no matter what helped us to run well. I know that we still have work to do on our contacts and that may always be a training goal of ours but that’s okay. We’ll take it one run at a time, always relationship focused.