I am pretty lucky to have a dog as awesome as Gustavo. I wouldn't trade him for any other dog in the whole wide world.
A week ago, he couldn't hardly do agility anymore. All systems broke. At least at the dog show. This has happened before. Whether it's his inherent quirkiness, sickness, brain damage, bad training, or just a super inflammed case of environmental stress, when his wheels fall of they fall off hard and all the way around and then they roll down the street and vanish. Gone. Down the drain.
Sometimes they don't come back. That's how it used to be. One step forward and 13 million back. This week, not bad at all. Nothing has been able to scare him on weave poles and teeter totters all week. All recall systems in place, except for one incident I missed involving my husband and a neighborhood cat. He returned from that escapade in the arms of a little boy from down the street, who would have kept him if he could have.
Not a chance.
In the interest of, train don't complain, here's what Gustavo worked on this week:
Impulse control games for his foods. We run around, he lays down, the foods are around and he stays until released and gets the foods from me. This goes super in the backyard. We haven't moved it out to cat land in the driveway, near the street.
Revisit some of those tried and true tricks. Feet on the flower pot and pivot around. Climb into a bowl with all your feet, not just 3. Maybe it's just me, but some of these tricks that I taught Otterpop and Ruby in just a few sessions, many years ago, are still not perfected with Gustavo, after all these years, and we dust them off and work on them in times like this.
Weave poles with weird things on the bases. Bases pulled apart. Sticks on the bases. Pieces of plastic and cardboard on the bases, under the bases, across the bases. This week, nothing scares him about weave poles.
Teeters every way possible. Far from me, close to me, doing a trick before them, bouncing on them, for treats, for no treats, for playing with toys. Nothing but a huge party for him, doing the teeter. He loves him some teeter, just not at a dog show.
Recalls, recalls, recalls. In the forest, when we're walking, I whistle and he's always there. Boy, did this take a long time. When we practice, always there. Boy, did this take a long time. Near cats, or in front of the house, his recall is gone. Certainly a hole that provides clues to dog show meltdowns-too high of a distraction and he is out to lunch.
Photoshoot stays where you HAVE to look at the camera. And stay. And not move. All at the same time. Also very difficult when there are distractions or scary things nearby.
Gustavo is probably now 7 years old. That isn't young in dog agility years, or in dog years, period. Watch him run a tricky international sequence and follow my every move, he looks like a super champ. Watch him run out of the ring at jump 3 in the next class, he looks like a starters dog who's been trained by a deranged chimp.
This thing we try for in training agility, the most fast and most perfect, the most enthusiasm and the most skills, this is something that seems reachable when we practice. I walk the course at the dog show, it seems like this one, we got. And we get out there, and it really goes to shit.
The agility qualifying year has just begun. USDAA Nationals are held just over the hill from us this year. It was never a question that Otterpop was qualified for the Nationals. She had more Qs than she knew what to do with. All of her titles end with silver and gold. This isn't how it works with Gustavo. I looked at the calendar today and thought, what do we do? What do we enter? Is this a little bit pathetic to have worked so hard trying to train a dog who can't I can't even run clean enough to qualify to run in the Nationals? This causes me to hang my head down and shake it slow.
I wanted to be good at this.
Gustavo is over there, sleeping on a tiny pillow. He can sleep on tiny things. When I get up, he's my perfect shadow, and follows me silently across the floor. I am pretty lucky to have a dog as awesome as Gustavo. I wouldn't trade him for any other dog in the whole wide world.