Yes, folks, the phrase of the day is “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Brought three dogs to an APDT rally trial today. Took Augie, my in tact male Bull Terrier, out and his nose hit the ground. Full on teeth chattering and drooling. I have a bitch in season at home, and all his consciousness has migrated directly to his testicles. It was heartbreaking because Augie normally does rally with so much enthusiasm, if not precision, that he develops a following at every trial he goes to. I was really looking forward to running him and now he was just gone.
So, what do you do in this situation? Break out more reinforcers, Vicks Vapo Rub, pinch collar, clicker, squeaky toy? Here’s my thought on the subject. When a dog comes out in such a distracted state, you’re better off to put him away. Run another dog if you have one, or just watch everyone else and enjoy the day. You might be able to train past this kind of behavior, but you’re not going to do it today.
Now, Augie’s old mother, Ruby, is a fabulous rally dog. She always got good scores and she’s a pleasure to run. Today, I had her entered in Veterans for the first time. Seeing her gray face looking up at me at the start line was really thrilling, and I was ready to have some fun with my old girl again. After the third sign, she just stopped. Stood there and panted. It was a hot day. She looked back at the ring gate, clearly saying, “Don’t you agree it would be much cooler in the shade?” I called her to me and she did finish the course for me, and earned her first Veteran’s leg, but I had to work hard to keep her with me. Not like her, at all.
So, despite the fact that it meant losing the substantial entry fees I paid to be in the other three trials this weekend, I packed up my babies and went home. Running in the rest of those trials would just have been asking for it. Sometimes we forget that dogs are dogs, and they have consciousness and existence beyond our plans. We have to accept that they are sentient beings and not machines, and sometimes they’re just not going to perform for us.
So, as a very seasoned Pigs Fly competitor, I hereby give you permission to go home if you get to the trial and your dog is hot/tired/checked out/feeling ill/unable to perform. It’s OK. Discretion is the better part of valor, and there are times when packing it in is the best thing to do.
PS, my third dog, young Nora did finish her Level 1 title today – it was a great day, even if it ended earlier than we had planned.