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Old 09-27-2010, 11:52 AM   #1
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Default First show nerves - eek!

We're counting down to our first show which is on saturday and i'm so nervous about the whole thing. It'll be our first agility show, ever. I've never even been to watch one!

Our trainer is entered with 4 of her dogs, so she'll be there to walk the course with me and help me work out a plan of attack with Mr Fluff for Brains pointer boy, but she's judging at some points and running hers at higher levels so won't be around at crunch time. It's an indoor show and fortunately has fences around each ring.

So, to all of you more experienced with doggy sports - have you got any words of wisdom for me and Mr Loony that will help us?

I'm a bag of nerves already, the thought of having to get focus from a hyped up loopy gundog in such an exciting environment is rather terrifying, once that nose is to the ground it takes dynamite to get through to him. Especially as we are not allowed to take noms into the ring

We're also in the biggest class of the day, I thought as we are Elementary and in the Large group we'd be in a smaller class, not so. He's up against loads of border collies and if they're anything like the ones we train with, we'll look completely out of control while they all wait nicely.

Help!

(Mr Mel will be filming it, so when it all goes horribly wrong and Oscar finds something disgusting to bathe in/has a boinging loony moment, it will all be captured for posterity and I will then wish I had a border collie with less distractability )
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Old 09-27-2010, 01:53 PM   #2
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Words of wisdom GIVEN to me: these first runs are all about having fun out there with him. That is your only goal that he and you have a good time. At this level it's getting comfortable out there. You aren't competing against anyone at this point, just getting out there and getting a feel for things. This line up will help you relax and enjoy it. If you go in with a spirit of 'oh God, I'm against Border Collies and this and that..." you'll be so nervous and that will bleed to him. Your run out there is your time, no one elses. Nothing else matters. Good luck!
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Old 09-27-2010, 01:55 PM   #3
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I think Draco gave you EXCELLENT advice! Just have a good time and try not to let your nerves get the best of you because you know how dogs can sense that! I wish you all the best (altho an evil little part of me is looking forward to an entertaining video ).
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Old 09-27-2010, 02:03 PM   #4
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Let me give you the same talk I give all of my students before (and during, and during and during over and over) their first trials.

Your first agility trials are NOT about doing well. They are NOT about ribbons. They are NOT about doing the equipment. They are simply - and only - about the dog having fun.

What I see ALL the time (and I mean ALL) are new handlers going into the ring all nervous and hoping to do "well." This stress goes right to the dog. The dog begins to stress and not have fun. The two enter the ring all stressed...having no fun... The dog IMMEDIATELY learns that showing is about STRESS and frustration. The next time in the ring, the handler is worse, so the dog gets worse. It becomes a terrible downward spiral until the dog quits working. Seriously, I see this ALL the time. It's why beginner dogs drop out like flies. I think the percentage of beginner dogs who reach the upper levels (in the venue I compete in anyway) is like 5 or 10 percent.

So it's extremely important that you forget doing well. Expect anything. He may sniff. He may go visit the ring stewards and judge. He may jump the fence and leave the ring. He may pee. FANTASTIC!!! It's ALL great and ALL fun. You're only job out there is to make sure your dog has the time of his life!!! Period. As long as he doesn't go attack a dog or a person or you, it's all fun.

And it will be for at least your next 10 to 20 times in the ring (depending on your dog's drive).

Asher has been in the ring quite a lot now, but i still make sure it is a BLAST for him every time he shows. This weekend, we made mistakes on the course and didn't qualify. But when we finished, I whooped it up loudly and with great enthusiasm. The look in his eyes as we left the ring was extreme excitement, extreme pride and unbridled joy. And he immediately got a ton of treats and more whooping and yelling. He felt like he HAD qualified and it was the best run that had EVER been. I seriously yell and cheer at the end of a run. You can't see it on my videos as the sound is muted for the music, but believe me, I'm a loud, happy handler.

This is why my dogs never develop ring fear. They don't shut down. They LOVE agility and they LOVE to show. The show ring is a BLAST because I've made it a blast.

It's your job to do that to, starting especially at your first shows.

Another thing I do for nerves is LOVE them. I WANT to be nervous. I want nerves because I use them in my performance. Nerves are fight or flight. I use those nerves for flight. They give me the edge I need to handle as a leader...to have great timing. If I'm not nervous, I run flat. My brain and my body don't keep up with my dogs' speed. If I'm at the start line and I'm not nervous, I will do whatever to make myself nervous. I need those nerves.

My best performances have been when I'm most nervous.

So use your nerves. Yeah!! Butterflies!! Put them into your focus and into your performance.

Again, get some Lanny Basham tapes and info. It will help you a lot.

Also remember, you can't do anything that experienced people haven't seen a hundred times. I've seen easily 200 dogs pee or poo in the ring. I've seen hundreds of dogs get the zoomies, leave the ring, jump on the judge, not do a single obstacle, etc. Who cares. At the beginning level, believe me...no one does. Did the dog have fun? That's what matters.

Your job? Make sure your dog has fun!!!
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Old 09-27-2010, 02:04 PM   #5
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LOL Great minds. Draco and I were writing at the same time.
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Old 09-27-2010, 05:17 PM   #6
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Great advice too you two!
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Old 09-28-2010, 04:24 AM   #7
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Thank you, REALLY appreciated... it's more me than him really, i'm a bag of nerves and I just need to sort myself out.

Our trainer has said pretty much the same thing about making it fun, not expecting anything of him other than that and she's shown me videos of some of her dogs' first shows to make me feel better, but it's good to hear from others. One of hers was really naughty in the ring at his first show and is now Grade 6, he's a spaniel so he's my inspiration that Oscar can do it!

Oscar loves agility at the moment and works really well at training, he has got very fast and is a lot better than me right now, if I hesitate he will work out his own course which is something i'm trying to tackle.

Lots of dogs are making their debut at this show, which is why I think our class is so big, so hopefully we won't be the worst, but if we are then we are - and i'll make sure I have a video of my hooligan running riot to entertain everyone. When he has a loony moment, he usually makes people laugh at least
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Old 09-28-2010, 07:02 AM   #8
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Mel I don't know much about Agility but if you can compose your self and just have fun ( it is only the first time!) No need to set goals just yet. The serious stuff will come later! Just make it a blast for Oscar that's all you have to think about on this one Good Luck Mel and Oscar let us know how you get on! ATB
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Old 09-28-2010, 11:06 AM   #9
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Sounds like any way around it Oscar is bound to have fun. Work with that, you have a very 'up' dog, that's a great thing! I'm working with Parker now on foundation skills and he is a VERY bouncy Collie in Agility. It's alot of fun to watch, and he's sort of following me, we're a looooong way from a debut yet.
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Old 09-28-2010, 11:17 AM   #10
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He's definitely very 'up', that's half the problem really, he's just soooooo 'WOOOHOOOOO' about the whole thing, he boings on the spot and does 'happy yelps' just waiting for his turn.

While it's fantastic that he's so raring to go, I find it almost impossible to get him to sit and wait at the start of the course. Sometimes he'll do it but if I push too hard, he gets twitchy and distracted and if I am too firm he then doesn't run as well. This is the part i'm most worried about, I just can't see me getting him to sit and wait for a release in that environment. I'm working on it but I don't want to push it in the show if he's not in that mood, i'd rather not have it and continue work until it's more reliable.

The technique our trainer has suggested, is to hold his collar and do a quick 360 degree turn on the spot, let go at a certain point and me run forward so I get a slight edge on him. I've been practising this and it may just work and relieve the stress of getting him to sit/down and wait. Though if I have to just run from the start line with him, then I have to and we'll know that's what needs work.

I'm fairly confident i'll get him on the equipment, but I do think we may lose contacts in the excitement of a new environment. If he's focussed on me he takes direction really well, but with a load of strange dogs and people outside the ring, who knows!

The good thing about this show is you get 2 runs of the agility course, and 2 runs of the jumping classes, so I will get another go at each rather than just the one. There's also no weaves or seesaw, thankfully! Oscar's favourites are jumps, cloth tunnel and A frame, so if we get a course of that we'll be well away.
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