I recently was presented with a similar situation. I entered Twizzler in an agility trial thinking that he would rock – he’s fast and he’s confident running sequences in class and in house league. The reality was far from what was expected. He froze in the ring … correction, he froze until he made a mad dash for the exit! The poor guy was so stressed. What was I to do – address the situation or avoid it? Twizz has been playing agility for about 2 years so I could continue in classes, house league and dog camp. That would be the easy path. Or, I could try to resolve it. I took the not so easy path … why? I see the potential in Twizz and I had to recognize that my own wishes factor into this. Yep, I want to trial in agility!! Blame it on the allure of ribbons and rosettes.
The first step was to try to figure out what the issue was – was it strange places, noise, barking dogs, people moving about, a combination of things? Much like figuring out a food allergy, I had to approach this systematically and I had to keenly observe Twizzler’s behavior in each situation. When it was too much, I would back up to a point where he was comfortable and always I had really tasty treats for him.
What I learned from this process is that although I had taken Twizzler to a lot of different places as a pup and continue to do so, none of the places had the noise and excitement similar to that of an agility trial. While, I normally don’t take him to off leash parks, the walkway leading to the entrance was a great spot to start (we did eventually get into the off leash area). High value rewards are what Twizz thinks is high value, not me. If the reward is food, it’s best to have a hungry dog (thus increasing the value of the food).
Although my journey with Twizz continues, we’ve taken some steps in the right direction. Life will continue to present situations that may require training, re-training, re-framing … It’s a continual process of learning. All of this results in opportunities to strengthen our bond.