June 27, 2014
Sometimes I forget why we compete Chloe in dog sports. To those who have seen her, it obvious that she requires exercise to release the tightly wound spring of energy that makes her exciting. Once purposely sprung, she is an amazing creature to watch play and, when she wants, to watch work.
To those who have interacted with her, Chloe is more than simply a high energy dog: Chloe is a nervous dog, a tentative dog around people. Chloe is, however, eager to learn new things -- like most dogs, first in the comfort of her own home.
Our trainers have a different image of Chloe. Chloe is a highly distracted dog -- such is her misfortune. Though generally quick to pick up a new behavior, her attention falters with the passing breeze. Some trainers who we work with explain to us that her tendency for distraction is because of her attentiveness. Though none have explicitly stated, I believe that they also think that her attentiveness also makes her prone to nervousness. To help her, each has told us that we need to forge a stronger relationship with her and to build her confidence.
Thus I lay the groundwork for my trail of failure. Our training is not generally without a grand purpose; competing her in Rally or Obedience are our lofty goals. We train her to build her confidence so that she can compete because that has the compounding effect of further building her confidence.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take Andrew Ramsey's Train the Trainer course and was excited (nervous) about competing Chloe in her first nosework trial. As always, Chloe was hyper to be someplace new, she is not a mellow dog, and she was overwhelmed by her environment. When it came to our turn to find the scent we failed miserably. Though weakly, Chloe did indicate the correct box, we spent the rest of the allotted time meandering about. I was horrified. I was embarrassed. I wanted to run from this place and hide from my shame.
Margaret and I spent the rest of the day hiking and talking. She asked me why we compete our dog. (We are both introverts and find it difficult to be around a lot people for too long, so competitions are trying.) We trial her because it builds her confidence.
Chloe didn't fail me, I failed her. She was confident out there, not nosework confident, but Chloe confident. She didn't run from strangers, she even sniffed a hand or two. She stayed in a freaky hotel and walked amongst real working dogs. She is an incredible creature and she is inching her way to being a confident dog. All I need is to remember that we compete Chloe to help her on her journey.