Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mika Trial Feb. 21, 2010

I had a hard time falling asleep last night thinking about this trial. (Yeah, a day after the trial. Delayed reaction!) I realized that our performances and Mika's focus have been deteriorating somewhat at recent trials ("recent" as in this trial and the trials at the end of last year). And I realized what I was doing differently. I changed our mental warm-up routine last year. Not sure when, maybe in the summer or fall.

We used to do a short mental warm-up as we were on deck waiting to enter the ring; just tricks, rewarding with the treats she'd be getting after the run. I changed that routine because Mika loses her peak drive fairly quickly.

Our newer mental warm-up routine (not including physical warm-up) has just been letting the gate steward know that we're in the building and then going in the starting gate the dog ahead of us is halfway through the course. There, we very quickly tug. I tell Mika "Drop It" when the dog ahead of us is finished running, reward her with a piece of whatever food she'll be getting after the run, and carry her in.

Now I'm thinking that maybe her decreased focus while running (at this trial in particular she ran off twice, I think, to run over to other dogs when we were running next to the gate) and decreased drive are a result of our shorter, or lack of, mental warm-up.

In the Masters Standard run, Mika reacted at a dog (a Border Terrier that Mika has reacted at before; she doesn't like any other terrier in general, but especially this little guy for some reason) at the beginning of the run after we'd entered the ring. I carried her in and set her down to tell her to sit for her start-line stay, and she ran over to the dog (who was on deck), barking several times. She's never done this before at the beginning of a run at a trial. I picked her up and held her on the ground for a running start, but she kept looking at the dog. Now this was getting even stranger; usually Mika will recover quickly when she reacts at trials. I had to go to the opposite side of her to block her view of the dog and change how I handled the beginning of the course. We were both rattled and Mika especially was stressed, for the entire run.

Before we left for home, I worked on our reactivity games both inside the trial building and inside. Inside the building, Mika let an aussie sniff her butt when she didn't even see it, which was REALLY amazing for her!! That was a nice highlight of the day.

Things to change or work on: switch our mental warm-up back to our old one; entering the starting gate when the dog ahead of us is about to start the course, and doing tricks. Also, work on our reactivity exercises at the end of every trial, concentrating on inside the building.

Mika also had a very nice, fast DW in the second Masters Gamblers run. She hit 3 out of 4 DW contacts this trial (and the one she missed was close)!!


  1. That must have been upsetting for you. Im glad you were able to end on a positive note. Diana

  2. Sorry about the dog reactiveness and the stress during the run - I know you work really hard to keep Mika from being stressed but these things happen from time to time and you dealt with it well. Don't get too bummed - aren't we always training one thing and then having to go back and focus on another thing, etc. Like you probably changed your warm-up routine to encourage more speed and you got more speed, so now you lost a little focus and you have to go back and work on a warm-up routine that adds focus back in. It's typical of what we all seem to go through, you know?

  3. wow, those sound like some great awarenesses and some great plans you have come up with, I am begining to realize that dog agility will always be a balancing and there will always be maintaince and working on one thing for awhile, and then maybe having to go back and work on the opposite to balance things out, LOL, but guess if we could walk out there each time and be assured it would all go perfectly it would get pretty boring after the first 30 or 40 perfect runs, but those first ones would be fun, LOL. whoo hoooo on the contacts, that is terrific.

  4. I agree with Ricky's post - reactivity is tough to deal with (I know first hand) and there are always going to be slip-ups. Sounds like the day didn't end too bad, though!

  5. Thanks for the supportive comments, guys :) I'm glad to have all of you!

  6. Aw, I didn't know this had happened. That is certainly unsettling, and to happen seconds before a run -- good job keeping your composure and making it as positive as possible.

  7. Hey Nat, I had problems trying to figure out a good warm up routine for Abbey as well, but perhaps this will help a little bit. What I've been doing with Abbey is really a combo of what you do with Mika and A LOT of it really does reduce stress. What I do is usually while the course builders are building our course my friend and I take the dogs to an open area AWAY from the direct interaction with the trial site. We'll let the dogs off leash and run with them or let them play just to get the edges off them and make them feel a bit more relieved and comfortable. For them it's fun. We go back and put them in the ex-pen together while we're walking the course and watching the "big dogs" run. I always wait until the LAST possible moment to run up to the gate with my treats, have Abbey do a few tricks to keep her interested and driven, and then go into the ring and run. This keeps Abbey's drive UP keeps her amped and I don't have to run into very many OTHER dogs at the ring gate as Abbey will generally chew out anyone who's there anyway because she thinks it's HER ring at this point.