Monday, March 5, 2012

Third Trial, Handling and Perception of Understanding

So two weeks ago we had the third qualifying trial for SA Champs and AWC Try-Outs.  The courses were at least slightly more technical than round 2, but still not the difficulty I was hoping for in this kind of event.  Regardless, as per the usual, you put some pressure on people and watch many bomb out.  The Agility Round for me was a complete heart breaker!  Chaos had a really nice round, but as in really really, I promise.  Just to touch the second last bar with one tiny little tippy toe.  Oh well, such is life.  And in all fairness he did make up for it with a nice clear in the jumping round.  So we are still lying right up there in second place.  One more trial and then the finals in June... what a looooong drawn out process.  It can't possible be good for my nerves!  I just want to know whether I am going to Czech now or not.  Chaos doesn't care though, he doesn't care about nerves anymore (which is quite cool), Chaos just cares about doing something.  Something exciting.  A lot.  At this exact moment Chaos is trying to tell The Nerd to put on pants and go and throw a ball for them.  Volt is agreeing with Chaos.  Delta couldn't care, obviously a lot of people are ordering pizza tonight... the delivery guy on his little motorcycle has been tormenting Delta endlessly.  Quake is chill-o's.  I like living with dogs.  It is very amusing.

Although it annoys me every time, it annoys me a little bit more this week that people blame their dogs unfairly. Which is almost always.  Half the time they blame their dogs for their own mistakes, the other half of the time they blame their dogs because their perception of understanding is wrong.  I don't often outright say someone is wrong in agility, but seriously people.  If I hear ONE more time 'he is just being naughty, he ALWAYS does it at home, just never anywhere else', I might just shoot someone.  Obviously your perception of your dog's understanding is seriously warped.  Understanding INCLUDES generalisation, in case you did not know.  If your dog can only do something at home this means that he has not generalised the behaviour and there for you cannot categorically state that he has an understanding.  This includes those that have actually not had the same criteria in other environments (shows or different training venues) than at home.  Yes, I am talking to those that releases their dogs (with supposed 2o2o contacts) as soon as that first toe touches the very top of the contact at shows.  Then they are surprised when the dog eventually starts leaping from the middle of the dog walk (yes I am exaggerating again).  You want me to explain it to you?  At home you train a 2o2o... get to a show and all of a sudden there is no criteria?  Your dog has no clue what they are supposed to do.  That is just an example by the way...  If your dog doesn't 'do stuff right' at a show or new venue, then you need to help them generalise the behaviour, by doing some foundation of said behaviour in different venues.  And ALWAYS have the same criteria... Okay honestly, I will do a quick release that the World Champs and maybe at the National Champs, but if you don't expect some form of criteria 90% of the time, you are really just screwing yourself... and your dogs, not that our dogs care about the criteria, but because you are bound to get pissy with them...

In line with that argument.... we had a training day yesterday.  Our provincial committee organises them, basically we stick up two courses, one novice and one advanced, it is our competition equipment, on our regular competition rounds, rings set out like normal etc.  Then you pay your 30 bucks (2.50 pounds, 4 dollars) for the day and you can do as much training as you want, provided of course there is no harsh handling or other plain STUPID things and training 'methods'.  Handlers ask other people to act as judges, they are allowed to take food and targets and toys in the ring or you can run it as a 'competition' round.  It is all really for the good of the sport and it has been very well met.  Anyhow, this gave me to give Volt a go over the full competition contacts and ask for criteria and get a full on reward in the ring!  Of course we had some 'less than perfect' moments too, Stein was only 18 months old (exactly) on the day, but I LOVE that, because I don't want him to be perfect now already.  I am still super happy with what he did, so I felt the intense need to make a'pretty video', but it does include his mistakes in the beginning too.

Now just sitting there yesterday watching other people it just made my opinion so much clearer on the whole training/handling relationship.  There are a few situations (these aren't necessarily a full time scenario, we ALL make mistakes sometimes).  You get the bad handler/bad trainer combo... I have no clue what they are asking their dog to do and neither does their dog, because it changes all the time.  The one moment an opposite arm is suppose to mean get out and away from me, but the very next second that same opposite arm is supposed to mean come to me.  You get the bad handler/good trainer moments, the dog is doing exactly what it has been taught to do, but the handler had an...erm shall we call it lapse in judgement... so what the handler is asking is actually for the dog to go off course.  And then of course the good handler/bad trainer scenario, the handling is technically speaking perfect, except for the part where they never actually taught their dog to do what they are asking.  The trick is analysing your partnership with your dog and figuring out which parts falls in which categories... or finding a trainer that can do that for you accurately and actually believing them.

Anyhow, I promise I will post some more vids of Super Spaz soon, just that all the trial videos have to be held off until ALL the handlers have run them...

*All photos courtesy of Melissa Wilson

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