The weekend didn't quite go as I'd hoped it would, sadly. At least not for Psyche and I.
We arrived at the Motel Friday night and she of course took everything with stride. She'd been there before, so quickly made herself comfortable. But Saturday morning when we arrived at the fun match it was much different. It was at a place where they have a boarding kennel, so it was all very loud, which is hard for a Psyche dog. We took her out to the warm up ring, and that was a huge mistake. Dogs who were being kept at the kennel were in runs that led outdoors to where they could bark at Psyche, which immediately freaked her freak, and all she'd do was cower behind me, so we decided we wouldn't enter the warm up ring at all again that day. Who needs the warm up ring at a fun match anyway?
So her first run was Steeplechase, and it wasn't bad but it also really wasn't what I was expecting. I expected Psyche to be a lot more comfortable and confidant in a new place with her toy and I there as comfort, but she worked for me much the same way she would have at a trial. "Okay, I'll do it, I guess." Just not very into it at all.
So our second run was Advanced Jumpers, so between the two runs I played with her outside along the ring side, and she was fine, really playing with her tug and having a grand time. Bring her into the ring for her run, there she goes again, just like at a trial, shut down and just not interested.
Her next run I didn't even walk the course before. I just said, I'm going to go in, run around like a fool, throw her toy, have some fun, and then if she's into it, throw in a tunnel. No big deal. That worked much better. And honestly, I'm thinking I should have done that all of her runs, but hey, hind sight's 20-20.
We only did one more run after that, which was her advanced tunnelers, and honestly, she was so hot and tired that I just ended on a good note and we left early. We only missed the masters tunnelers, and with the way she was going, she wasn't going to to have much oopmh for her last run anyway.
I left the fun match with a better idea of what she needs, though. I think she needs to be more confident with agility in new places before I add the stress of the trial setting. So we'll do parks and other places working on what little equipment we can take with us, and then we'll look for another fun match, or one run at a trial. I want her to be able to if she's stressed at a trial think "Oh, agility, I'm good at this, and it's fun!" and instead of stressing in the ring, take comfort in agility itself.
If someday down the road I really think that Psyche's not enjoying it, and nothing's working, I'll have to ask myself, "Is this really fun for her?" and consider not trialing her anymore. But as of right now, we're not giving up because I'm taking a better approach that I know isn't going to hurt my dog, so we'll see where we are in the next few months. She's supposed to "re-debut" at our club's September trial, but we'll play it by ear.
Stay tuned for a post about the amazing dog and handler combo we met at the fun match on Saturday, a brief update on Sunday's fun match, and a little about the pitter patter of puppy paws on my floors right now.