Mika was gradually slowing down more and more all last week, especially near the end of the week. I didn't think much of it, until the morning of Sunday May 3, when we ran half of a Nationals Standard course and she really wasn't into it. She didn't have any attitude, her weaves were slow...She trotted down the dog walk and wasn't running her fastest, more of a lope...it wouldn't be very noticeable for someone who didn't know her really well, but after 2 years of constantly watching for signs of stress, I knew that it was a warning sign and that if I didn't change something, things would go downhill. So after our practice on Sunday, I decided to give her a break. No agility at all for 3 days straight. I was really worried that all of our hard work at building drive had gone down the drain, and that the new Mika was becoming the old Mika, the Mika back when we first started...always worrying, always stressing.
Good news, though...this morning we practiced 8 weaves in the backyard (stick-in-the-ground poles), and she was incredible, blasting through the poles at more than her normal speed! We also went to the field after school and just ran 3 jumps in a straight line. She had so much fun, and was back to her regular, very fast speed! I think she probably slowed down because I was training her too much -- well, more than usual. I never drill my dogs over and over again, and I never train them several times a day with many repetitions, but ever since the snow has melted, I've been training Mika every day with a few repetitions each time (probably 2-4). Too much for the little girl, I realize now. I've been keeping it all positive, rewarding for off-courses and mistakes as usual, so that's not it.
I guess it's true for anything, that if you have something too much you don't enjoy it as much, but if you don't have it as often it's a special treat. If I had chocolate every day I'd probably get sick of it, but as I only have chocolate once in a while, I really enjoy it. I bet human athletes who train hard every day get sick of training once in a while. So why not the same for agility?
So, the changes:
- 1 repetition for everything
- don't train every day, take a couple days off every week
- run Wall-e first so Mika will really want to go
I was very worried on Sunday, but I'm so relieved now. I think with my new set of rules, it'll all turn out great.
Funny how last year on May 3, Mika ran out of the ring at a trial and I was really worried that all of our hard work at decreasing stress was for nothing. (Turns out she ran out of the ring because of a cracked nail. Very painful!) And then this year on May 3, I was also really worried that Mika was starting her old stressing habits again. May 3, May 3, May 3! I wonder what will happen on next year's May 3. Hopefully nothing... ;)
You might think I was worrying for nothing, but when it comes to Mika's stress, I am a worrier. Mika has battled with stress all her life ever since she came to us as an 8-week old puppy, and I try to do everything I can to help her. She always tries so hard, and always gives me her best...she deserves nothing less than the best from me, too.