Two weeks ago we traveled with a friend to Kelowna to compete in a CARO rally trial. The plan for the weekend was to attempt an advanced title and also a novice team title. The first round was novice team and it went well. Stella was a little distracted but I was pleased with some of the choices she made. We had been working on some of the attention stuff since the trial a few weeks before that and had made some good progress.
Things went steadily down hill from there. It was a very long day and the facility was stinking hot (around 35C). Our first round of advanced was awful. There were a few moments of lovely work but the majority of the round was very distracted despite the fact that we can use food (with rules). CARO rounds are about twice the length of most CKC rally and that combined with dirt floors was to much for her. The second round of advanced was even worse and I opted to pull us out part way through the round.
It was the end of a very long day and I'm embarrassed to admit that I ended up in some very tired, frustrated tears. We are capable of beautiful team work and this trial and even the CKC one before that were showing a disconnect that was getting worse. Yes I believe Stella is going through a "teenage brain" phase and she is very young but this is pointing out some big holes for us. We need to start to build duration, reduce the reinforcement schedule and be a lot stronger about maintaining criteria. I also need to figure out how to do all that while keeping things fun and reinforcing for both of us. Currently her ability to concentrate in a stimulating environment seems to come in about 12-15 second increments.
So after my mini-meltdown a new plan was created. I would do two rounds on Sunday. The first was an on leash round for novice team. Unfortunately my friend's dog was lame so she had pulled from competition the day before. They found me a partner and we had a good round. We didn't Q because our partner missed a station but I was happy with our result. The next round was advanced and I opted to go FEO (non-competitive) and use the round for training. We went on-leash and I rewarded good choices. It was a very good decision as it kept her from rehearsing more bad stuff and helped to end the weekend on a positive note. We also kept the day shorter and headed for home after that instead of waiting until the end of day for our final runs. Bad days are never fun but they are valuable learning experiences!!!
I will now take some time to work through all of this. This past weekend we participated in two CKC Rally Advanced rounds where I was already registered. The rounds went very well thanks to the practice match on friday where we were able to get some good training rounds in the facility. I had a clear plan for our rounds and was rewarded with a 98 and first place on saturday. Stella also did great on sunday but I screwed up and turned incorrectly losing 10 points and also had one re-do (3 points - my fault again) so ended with a respectable 87. I hope to train in lots of different environments and practice matches over the next months and re-evaluate competition plans in the fall.