29 September 2009

Nancy Drew, and the Case of the Dog Agility Dead People.

All right. I am too sneaky of a detective to let this Gustavo freakout thing keep going on. I decided that I need to treat this like a mystery and solve it. Because there are a lot of suspicious elements to the Gustavo seeing dead people thing that just don't sit quite right with me. I don't see dead people. No one ELSE sees dead people. And he only sees dead people at dog shows.


Suspicious element No. 1:
Gustavo is a rockstar at practice. He knows his equipment, the teeters are his friends, and he has never, ever, ever gotten underneath a table. Should not be melting down under the pressure because of obstacles.

Suspicious element No. 2:
When he freaks out at stuff, it's stuff like stumps. Buckets. Things far away in the distance that don't move. Scarey noises. All of a sudden freaking out during dog agility shows doesn't fit that pattern.

Us detectives love patterns. Patterns make us stroke our chins between thumb and pointer finger and go, "Hmmmmm." It's sort of a detective thing.

Armed with this valuable knowledge, I set up a little test. Whenever you catch criminals, they always go, "I've been FRAMED!" when the detectives set up a sneaky enough little test. Right? So I had this idea of trying to re-create the dog show things that might freak him out. We always go practice the same way. With everybody. Whole team, dumped in a pen and taking turns. And lots of rewarding.

Always the dog show vs. the practicing. A reoccurring nightmare for my dog training, as far as I'm concerned. And we have to stop this madness.

I go up to forest agility and leave the dogs in the car and set up a course. Then, I remove one and only one dog from the car. Gustavo. Our suspect. I tell him it's his turn and off we go, and we are going to go down there and run a course. Just like that. Can he go from car to course and just do it? No warming up. No dog friends. No rewardy things. Nothing. What happens if I ask him to just do it?

He stays his startline, does a super teeter, gets 5 obstacles into the course and then freaks out!

So here I'm all SUPER DETECTIVE SKILZ! Dexter! I am Jimmy McNulty and I have totally just busted Stringer Bell! I OWN the city of Baltimore! Miami Beach! My dog is freaking out! I got my dog to freak out, just like that! Easy Peasy!

He is running up and down the fence line, totally ignoring me, as if there is a stump out there and stopping and freezing, then, just to make it even better and WEIRDER, he starts running up the a-frame and jumping off! Like he has gone certifiably insane!

YES! I am like way irritated and pissed but secretly excited about my detective hunch and I have framed a criminal! Because now I have a new weird agility behavior we have never, ever had and it's not even a dog show. A-frame madness! No one has ever been as excited as me to have such a major, horrible, screw up of dog fiasco! And I can't call him, he's checked out, gone to another planet in his little brain that no one else gets to visit, it's not even planet of the apes. Planet of the There is No Recall Because There is No One Home!

Theoretically, my non dog training friends, you should be extremely upset if your dog does something this bizarre and erratic. You would be almost slitting your wrists of bad dog training hari kari. Don't try this at home. Remember, I am a trained detective. Even though I haven't seen season 3 of Dexter yet, and actually, he's just a forensics specialist. But I do read Susan Garret's dog training blog and own a Greg Derrett video. You do the math.

I am just super happy joy joy all over the place because he's plain old weird and spooky just like at a dog show and I got it to happen in one of his happy places!

Right, I KNOW, non dog training friends, this is backwards and demented and sounds WRONG. But trust me here. All in the name of solving the mystery.

So he runs back up on the a-frame, ready for launch (this is like the weirdest thing ever, but so is that hiding under the table-hooray for detectiveness!) and I snatch him off the top and don't say anything. Just quietly carry him to the car and get out the other dogs. I am kind of weirded out that I got such a weird and extreme reaction on my first try, since re-creating dog show at practice never, ever has worked before. I know this is EXACTLY how Dexter felt when he was on to the Ice Truck Killer. A little scared, a little excited. The girl dogs do some low impact teeter totters for a while, with Otterpop practicing them from far away, and their funny tricks before I go get the criminal again. They are totally normal and do not see any dead people out there in the forest.

So I go back and remove the suspect from the vehicle, and take him back to the scene of the crime. I then commence some Dog Agility for Dummies fun. Very edible paste and blunt edge scissors agility. Like lay down, get a cookie. Lay down, lead out, one jump, get a cookie. We are in kindergarten. We quickly move up to like 4th grade, and I put him in the pen with the other dogs. Passed 4th grade with a big fat gold star.

Official Detective note:
Regression to a juvenile state bring suspect back off planet Zombie.

The other dogs practice some tricks. Otterpop practices sticking in those weave poles with me a mile away no matter how hard I flail my arms or fall down or what. Sticking in. We'll be ready for that next pesky weave pole gamble, just you wait.

I bring the suspect out again, this time with his little treat bag, and set him up for the same course that caused the crazy meltdown earlier. I reward in some of the usual spots. Teeter totter. Dogwalk contact. Poles. Aha. He is lightening fast, accurate, super champion status out there. Interesting. You can see my detective wheels turning. Absence of rewards may cause Dead People. There are never rewards on course at the dog show, except for kind words of praise, which I do use lavishly, but still.

So we all have a little walk together then I put the hinky twins back in the car and Gustavo back in the xpen. Experiment time again. I change the course a little bit. I'm going on the scientific formula that he hasn't done this course, or practiced any of it. And the rest of his team has been banished up to the car. It's all on him. And I'm going to run it without any frisbee or treat bag or nothing again. Sort of like at a dog show.

So every time he sticks a contact, I'm all gushy good boy, but doesn't get an award for it. Usually in practice, I try to reward about 50% of good contacts and poles and even teeters, and just tell him "good boy" on the others, so he isn't always expecting a treat. I really try to save the good reward for the amazing ones. But on one practice course with zero rewards for excellent behaviors, he starts the wide turns and misses a weave pole entry that I let him go on with, and then, I get a successful failure. I get him to go under the table!

OMG. It's like the failure lightbulb isn't just blinking it's being smashed against my forehead. HELLO! Do you think he's confused?

Ya think?

I know he's confused. He doesn't know if he did the poles right or wrong, and he got nothing, zero, zilcho rewarded on that whole course and he doesn't know if he did ANYTHING right and when he's confused, it starts to build up pressure and that results in crazytown. And he is under the table, and I call him back up and I can just tell, the look is wrong in his eyes and he's about to blow. Have him do a couple easy jumps, reward him for finding his leash, then back in the pen and get the other dogs to give them some turns.

Official Detective note:
At the dog show, confusion sets in earlier, and to get the pressure off he just has to get OUT. Hence dead people or under a table or even running out under the score table. Like he can't do agility if he doesn't know he's doing it right. Why it only happens SOMETIMES, not sure. I think when he looks out and just sees a user friendly jumpers course and we do it error free, life is good. One handling error by me on a jumpers course though can get a modified Dead People reaction.

Detective conclusion:
Fix this problem.


Cedarfield said...

OK, first of all can I just say that I LOVE the mocked up book cover. It's so funny and cute.
Second-congratulations on diagnosing Gustavo's weird trialing behavior. I know just what you mean about being thrilled that you were able to figure it out all on your own and simultaneously being bummed out that now you also have to fix it when you've already fixed so much. Does it ever end??

Anonymous said...

My theory is that people leave the fewest comments on your very best posts because, well, there's nothing to say. Rendered speechless in awe.

Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck said...

wow. great detective skills! And good luck on all the work ahead :)

Elf said...

(1) Gotta love photoshop. PERfecto! Ditto on congrats on reproducing the problem. I also know what that's like. I've only once, ever, managed to get Tika to the state in a practice where she grabbed my shoes. And it was sort of like what you're doing. Instead of regular evening class, it was Nationals Practice, so we were running the whole thing kind of like a trial, with a lot of unfamiliar dogs and people, and the dogs crated further away from the field, and even though it WASN'T a trial, wow, I was shocked & amazed when Tika grabbed my feet at the end of the run. But then never again. Sigh. So--good thinking, Nance!