Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tickets Travels - To the Start Line ...

I needed to be Ticket’s leader, rather than her friend. I had to change my whole attitude: instead of fluffing around and trying to make Ticket feel safe … I had to become stronger and more assertive, less tolerant of her panicky behavior and straight to the point. I was allowing Ticket to practice her panicky behavior and subsequently, she was getting better at it all the time! Her fears will never disappear however we could learn to deal with them better …

I changed our whole routine … rather than giving her time to check everything out before running at a trial or training I would take her directly from the car and walk right THROUGH all the people to get to our ring or course. If she pulled away and started to panic I would say “c’mon, don’t be silly” and keep walking … and she did! This felt like a milestone all on its own. I had been fighting her all the time by trying to be nice to her … now she was accepting the challenge and trusting my judgment.

This laid the foundation for a whole new approach to my relationship with Ticket and I applied it to many other situations that challenged us.

Her start lines were another hurdle – if she was in her start position (down) at the start line and the steward walked directly at us to collect the lead, she would bolt the other direction. I have since managed to either stand between her and the approaching steward (which doesn’t always work so I often have hold of her collar) or I toss the lead to the steward before he/she gets too close. We’ve had a few moments where I’ve dropped my guard and Ticket has certainly reminded me that those scary monsters are still out there!

It’s hard to change your default (as we know in training) and I am learning to live with keeping these monsters at bay by consistently being on the lookout to provide Ticket with the almighty leader that she needs to source her strength from. As the human part of this team when things are going well, I do sometimes forget about the ‘monsters’ and default to my “mate” relationship with Ticket, however she always manages to snap me out of any illusion of comfort and bring me back to her world and my “Leader” position.

So, now we can actually get past the start line and think about running the courses … oh my goodness! Ticket has another gear, faster than her training mode … now I need to learn to handle and think on the run, before she makes her own decisions and course!

This realisation has opened up so many new doors for me … I now have the opportunity to train and work with a dog with abilities that many of us would only dream about, I am learning how to help and communicate with this type of dog and I can also give Ticket a serious shot at being a “real” agility dog!

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