27 April 2011

on Seri and World Teams

Seri is going to be 5 years old in June. I love her, she has a wonderful personality, she's very affectionate, a great lap dog, silly, happy, and gets along with everybody. She's also very talented physically - she could jump the moon and then some. However, at trials she allows her arousal level to overcome her. I am sure she is getting better with experience and training, however, she still has "brain farts" in the ring, and doesn't perform to the level she could. She is just an over-excited dog. I have been thinking on this a lot, and that combined with her other issues (prone to bar-knocking, hard to turn tight) and her recent shoulder and wrist issues, has led me to the idea of entering some AKC trials at 20" this summer. I had always thought with her physical talent and sheer speed that Seri would be my next World Team dog, but unless she learns to control her arousal level and perform to her mental abilities even when excited, then she really won't belong on that stage. This is a very difficult decision, and I've decided to give her the rest of the year before closing the door on any possibilities with her- she is already qualified for USDAA Nationals at 26", and I've sent in her Intent to Compete form and will run her in the necessary trials, but if she doesn't settle down by the end of the year and stop having brain farts in the ring, I will probably drop her down to 20/22" where the jumps are easier on her, and just stick it out till Strafe is ready for 26" competition. Now, Seri is PLENTY fast for the National stage, and my hope is that if she is more focused, and perhaps more easily able to turn tightly (relative term for Seri) on the lower jumps, that maybe she won't disconnect from me at random points on course, and we could probably cut down on NQ's due to bars as well. I certainly would like to take her to National events and be able to run her like she should be run, and not babysit bars.

I shall describe a brain fart for you, since you probably haven't seen it. It entails Seri, after a random obstacle such as a see-saw or tunnel, hooking a turn away from me (or simply running straight when I've turned), running forward, screaming at the top of her lungs while I yell back "lie down!" or "come!!!", and after about 30-50 feet of running/screaming, she stops and comes running back (still screaming). She often doesn't take any obstacles when she does this, just runs off yelling. I'm not sure exactly what she's thinking when this happens, but I suspect it's something like "WHEEEEEEEE!!!!!", and not much of "gee, I think this is where I'm supposed to go next". She's done this at quite a few trials - not all of them, and she often stays on course, so it's not an E, but I'd feel awfully silly if I went to Tryouts and she did that, and even sillier if we went to Europe and she did that.

So I will continue to work with her. She doesn't do that in training, although she still is not quite up to the level of coursework that Drifter can do - her "engine" is too large and she drives forward a little to easily sometimes, not to mention the restrictions on my handling due to her needing help with deceleration *before* the bar - but working her on difficult courses seems to keep her brain better engaged. This is partially why I'm thinking lower jumps may help - she really sails through the air at 26", so perhaps less airtime means less time to lose her marbles? I'm not sure. We shall see. By the time winter rolls around, after a complete year of trialing in Tournaments and Excellent B, I will have a better idea whether Seri's head is in the game or not. But she's a frustrating dog, and just goes to show no matter how talented the trainer or handler, a lot of success in agility depends on the right dog, not just physically, but also mentally.

Naughty baby Seri tugging on my couch cover

For now we continue to rehab her shoulder jam. Yesterday Ria said it is looking better, but considering she put that same shoulder out over the winter on the ice, and now has tweaked/jammed it, we will be concocting a regimen to strengthen the rotator cuff just in case.

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