I was reminded this past weekend at the SEMASA trial (thanks to a very good friend not afraid to tell me when my head’s in an uncomfortable location) that there’s a whole lot more to trialing than preparing your dog. A big hunk of competing has to do with preparing yourself. You can have the best trained dog on the planet and if you walk out into that arena with the wrong attitude it’s going to come back and bite you in the arse.
I’ve been working hard to make things black and white for Quinn. I don’t course train. I break things down into manageable chunks and work till he gets it right. Not just once. He needs to consistently get it right before we move on to the next piece of the puzzle.
I went into the SEMASA trial confident in Quinn’s abilities to get the job done. I also went in with a case of nerves the like of which I haven’t experienced in a very long time. Oh, there’s always a good surge of adrenalin that comes before I trial. Usually it’s just that, and as soon as I walk through the gate, I forget about it. On Saturday, it was full-blown nerves that followed me through the entire course.
I was on a WTCH hunt.
Now, here’s something we also forget: Titles mean bupkiss to dogs.
What does mean something to dogs is what mental state their handler is in. And though I train in black and white, I spent the first day trialing in various shades of grey. I felt rushed, couldn’t remember which was Go Bye and which was Away, and I forgot that Quinn and I are a team out there. Of course, I knew where the draw was. I’d watched the runs, analyzed how the stock was moving, paid attention to who had success doing what. Quinn hadn’t. Those were things he relies on me to handle, and Saturday I didn’t do such a good job of that.
Thankfully, I corrected that for Sunday, and guess what? We had way more success. We finished his Open Duck title with a whopping 101 — and a whooping from judge Cheryl Padgett for throwing in the towel too soon on the center chute. (For those of you who know how much I love ducks, you’ll understand that the fact we made the first two panels and had two awesome — but blown — set-ups at the center, had me so giddy I was willing to take the loss in points as long as we Q’d.) We also finished his Advanced Sheep title. Again, I rushed the center chute. I’m not sure why, but that’s something I need to work on, not Quinn.
Not to say I am 100% to blame for our lackluster performance. There are some things I’ll need to work on with Quinn before we head up to the UMASC Coyote Classic in under two weeks.
There’s even more I have to work on with me.