Yesterday's Periland trial gave us another opportunity to see how the "new Dean Dog" would fare in competition.
Although he rarely enjoyed actually competing there, Dean always loved Periland. The grounds are extensive and beautiful and we are allowed to play with dogs who can be kept under control off leash. Also, there is a pond on the property and we are allowed to let our dogs swim there. Dean absolutely adores the Periland pond!
I went searching through my video archives for videos of Dean running at Periland and did find a couple. This was a Level 1 Standard run. It isn't bad, but I can tell he's stressed.
Note the "scrunched up" position on the start line, the inability to hold the start line stay, the fact that I never have him go back and re-do a jump he skipped (that would have shut him down!), how I have to hover near many of the jumps as he takes them, and if you are really observant, you can catch his glance at the crowd at the very end and see him stress because of it.
In this one, complements of a friend who took the video and put it on her youtube, he tries to turn and leave before we even start!
He does turn and go into the course with me, but not because he particularly wants to. He does take jumps, which I, again, have to hover near, I manage to work him through it, but in some ways I am doing more work than he is! And then . . . the teeter at the end . . . He was actually not supposed to take that. I know that from my line that it looks like I sent him to it, but I really didn't intend to. That was his first competition teeter attempt. The first of four throughout his life. That fly-off was clearly not pleasant for him.
And there have been many, many more runs where he stressed, disengaged, and liked everything else about Periland much, much more than he liked the actual Agility! Still, he has always loved the place.
Dean's version of fun at Periland . . .
So, as we drove onto the grounds, Dean went to the window in anticipation! He hasn't been there in ages. When the sight that he expected did not appear, he seemed slightly confused! The building must have seemed strange to him. His excitement diminished slightly but he was still very clearly eager to get out of the car and get to enjoying himself!
We got there much earlier than we needed to be there, so I had plenty of time to unpack, get a crate area set up, and then take both of them for a short walk on the grounds. Dean was very, very interested in sniffing out there, but that was perfectly appropriate and I gave both of them a good bit of time to explore.
I also brought them in for a while during a class when there would not be a teeter banging, and I gave them their Kongs so Dean could settle into the building a bit. He generally does not do well performing in brand new buildings and, of course, he has no idea that this building is actually the exact same place where he used to run outside!
After that I took them for a really long walk and then they went into the car so I could walk and prepare for their Standard runs.
I'll admit, I was nervous about running Dean. There were three strikes against us. First, this was a new building to him. I wasn't sure what running in a brand new space would do to his ability to focus on the game. Second, I wasn't going to be able to bring him in and engage with him like I did last week at Bella Vista because the teeter was close to the end of the course and we were going to have to run right in and get to the line as soon as the dog ahead of him went over it. Finally, there was a teeter in the course and I had no idea how that was going to go!
So, I did the best I could and it worked out perfectly. As we waited our turn, I engaged with him right outside the building. Instead of the warm-up jump I used leg weaves and circles and sits with quick little recalls. He liked that and it worked out well.
As soon as the dog ahead of us finished the teeter, we ran in. We were on the line just a second or two after we really should have been, but we got there and it was OK. Dean was focused and relaxed at the start line, and off we went.
From my recollection, it was a run that took some work on my part, but really was an excellent teamwork effort. Dean took everything very willingly and was clearly focused on getting through the course. He did enter the weaves incorrectly (both dogs need serious weave pole review!) and when I had him reset he ran to an off course tunnel. He almost went in but called off at the last second. The judge actually chuckled a bit at that! Then he came back and weaved. His A-Frame was good, but then he went too far around the next jump! But, just like last week, when I called him back to do it, he did so happily - no problems with a re-try! I love that!
Finally, the moment came and we approached the teeter. At first he almost went by it but we stopped and he did it! And afterward, he went on to the last three pieces of equipment - which headed right toward the crowd - confidently and happily!! I can't ask for more than that!
The fact that he has successfully completed a teeter in competition is a major, major accomplishment for us! It means more to me than any title he and I will ever earn!
Comparing this to the old videos above, I see so many differences! At the start line, Dean is relaxed, focused on the task at hand, and happy to be there. He is ready to go onto the course! I didn't have to babysit the jumps at all! He is sending ahead very nicely and taking them on his own. He is working as much as I am now, if not just a little bit more! And he is very happy to do so! Even when he got distracted, he was actually trying to figure out what was next on course. He was not just disengaging, but trying to figure out what I wanted next. That is actually one of the qualities that I have always loved best about Tessa and I am thrilled that Dean is starting to do the same thing! Dean is clearly taking some ownership of this game and he is starting to really, really like it. I don't know that he likes competition in particular but it seems that he is starting to understand that Agility at a competition is something he can enjoy just as much as Agility at class. That is more than good enough for me!
And the teeter! Maybe not the world's most beautiful teeter performance, but it was successful and he was not rattled by it at all!
It was a Q, which really was icing on the cake! Now there is no going back - he has qualified in Level 2 Standard so we can't go back to Level 1 Standard any more. But I think we are OK with that.
I wasn't able to celebrate with him much because I had to switch him out of the car for Tessa who needed to be prepared for her run, but after she ran, I took both of them for a nice walk. I would have like to have let Dean swim, but it really was too cold.
I wasn't sure what his mindset would be for Wildcard, although I was anticipating it much more than I had been the Standard run! In the end, he was actually more focused and he did an even better job. Unfortunately, I have no video of his Wildcard run. I actually let him choose his first discrimination. His choice was between the dogwalk or tire. He took the dogwalk! There was one bobble at the weaves, but he got them done and that was a Q, also!
After Tessa ran Wildcard, we took another long walk, and I took some pictures. Some of those are posted in the entry just before this.
All in all, I was impressed by Dean's performance. I don't think he has ever been as relaxed and enthusiastic in a new place as he was yesterday.
I am looking forward to doing some weave work with both dogs and to trialing again with both of them on the Saturday after Thanksgiving at Periland!