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Discussion Starter #1

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In dogs or people??
 

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I know our situation doesn't apply exactly, and I have no links to offer, but I am following along because Nova has become really stressy training at our new facility.

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Discussion Starter #5
Dogs!

tooshort

The fenzi ones are good!
 

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I'm just here to follow, too.

And to say thanks for the links provided.
 

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I thought of another. You might have to do some more digging on her blog, but Laura Waudby's toller, Vito, is very stressy and anxious and she's written a lot of good posts about how she's worked with him on his ring confidence. She's teaching the Ring Confidence class at FDSA now. I searched "ring stress" and got some hits, but it won't let me post a link to the search results.

http://laurawaudby.blogspot.com/
 

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This topic has been very near and dear to me lately. My newest whippet struggles with ring stress and I recently undermined my senior dog's success in Nosework with a handling error. SO, ring stress and performance stress are actively on my mind.

Here's a tangent for anyone who might be interested: At a nosework trial last weekend, the judge made us all recite some things before the competition. She made us all say, "I have the best dog in the world." We all did it. She made us all say, "We are the best team in the whole world." We all did it. THEN, she instructed us to say, "I am the best handler in the world." We (as a group) just couldn't do it. Everyone laughed uncomfortably and she repeated her order and we all did our best to comply, but the enthusiasm in the room dropped. If we believe in the dog and the team but don't believe in ourselves as handlers, we're sunk in competition. We (as handlers) have to have the confidence in ourselves to uphold our responsibility for managing half of the team.

The day before the nosework trial, I was showing my whippet. We had just finished our CD. However, someone recently heavily criticized my handling of my dog. She used some really rough language and her words stuck with me. She gave me detailed instructions on what she wanted me to change. I have never met this person. All of the critique was delivered on-line. For my next run, I decided to try out her advice just to see what happened. After all, we had completed the title and there was nothing on the line. So I did what she said and my dog faded badly and I pulled him from groups because his confidence was rocked. I was SO mad at myself for abandoning what I believed to be best for my dog. I can't believe I did that.

Then, back to Nosework. My dog and I struggled on vehicles. It took us 1:30 to find the hide. I called my training partner and went on and on about how my dog bombed the search and false alerted. I was shocked! I was 100% sure that my dog gorked. Then, I bought the video. My dog had the hide in 9 seconds. I pulled him off the hide and pressured him into repeatedly checking out another area. Fortunately, my dog hung in there and found the hide despite me, but he's a seasoned and bold dog. My other dogs would not have recovered. Without the video, I would never have understood my role in the struggle. I was sure HE was the problem. I was SURE. And I was wrong.

Then, tonight I was working my whippet on signals. He's really good at them. We were doing them in succession and he was nailing them even though I recently changed my drop signal. All of a sudden, my neighbor's puppy started screaming. I was thinking about what happened to the puppy. My dog didn't pay the puppy any attention at all. All of a sudden, he couldn't do signals. I kept trying, but I was still thinking about the puppy. After his 3rd error, I stopped. I cleared my head, realizing that I was distracted. Then we started over and he nailed them all again, perfect. Again, I was the problem. When I am on auto-pilot, my dog can't work.

What is ring stress? Is it ever all about the dog? How much is Dog? How much is Handler? How much can working the mental game of competition change the level of stress for the dog? If a person doesn't feel like a good handler, how can the Dog work well under pressure?

Is the answer ever one thing? No. But if the handler is truly solid, I have to suspect that the dog will struggle much less.

Sorry for the ramble, but I find this topic to be so interesting and so timely. It's complicated. And it's a little different for everyone.
 

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I am in a pretty similar position with Kylie right now.

Her weaves fall apart in trials, after the first run in a day. This is a dog who is doing HARD weave entries, 12 poles, off sides, whatever, at home, practice and show and goes but in trial isn't even managing off-sides (with 6), and is popping out and then frustration barking at me. I honestly do not believe it's the environment itself, though there could be some aspect of it that is not present in show 'n goes and I'm not catching. Mostly? I think I'm doing SOMETHING different at trials. Not giving her enough feedback, not slowing up to support her enough, pushing too hard for speed in them, my nerves are getting to me, just *something*.

I need to video. I need to have experienced people REALLY watch me in practices and at trials and give me some feedback. I also really, really need to figure out how to handle her popping out in the ring that works best for *her*, because otherwise it just makes the situation worse. THAT much I'm sure of.

But um, yeah. I think for me the biggest component here is definitely the human element.
 

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This is interesting. Hank is definitely stressy at trials (the three we've been to). I feel like I set up with reasonable expectations. The first trial totally blindsided me as I HONESTLY expected 0 issues because he's so solid at practices and show n go's. It's leaving me struggling to try to piece together what is happening and why.

Some food for thought for sure for me.

I am sure this will be like his teeter fear and that one day it'll click and he won't look back. It's just getting over that 'hump'.
 

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This topic has been very near and dear to me lately. My newest whippet struggles with ring stress and I recently undermined my senior dog's success in Nosework with a handling error. SO, ring stress and performance stress are actively on my mind.

Here's a tangent for anyone who might be interested: At a nosework trial last weekend, the judge made us all recite some things before the competition. She made us all say, "I have the best dog in the world." We all did it. She made us all say, "We are the best team in the whole world." We all did it. THEN, she instructed us to say, "I am the best handler in the world." We (as a group) just couldn't do it. Everyone laughed uncomfortably and she repeated her order and we all did our best to comply, but the enthusiasm in the room dropped. If we believe in the dog and the team but don't believe in ourselves as handlers, we're sunk in competition. We (as handlers) have to have the confidence in ourselves to uphold our responsibility for managing half of the team.

The day before the nosework trial, I was showing my whippet. We had just finished our CD. However, someone recently heavily criticized my handling of my dog. She used some really rough language and her words stuck with me. She gave me detailed instructions on what she wanted me to change. I have never met this person. All of the critique was delivered on-line. For my next run, I decided to try out her advice just to see what happened. After all, we had completed the title and there was nothing on the line. So I did what she said and my dog faded badly and I pulled him from groups because his confidence was rocked. I was SO mad at myself for abandoning what I believed to be best for my dog. I can't believe I did that.

Then, back to Nosework. My dog and I struggled on vehicles. It took us 1:30 to find the hide. I called my training partner and went on and on about how my dog bombed the search and false alerted. I was shocked! I was 100% sure that my dog gorked. Then, I bought the video. My dog had the hide in 9 seconds. I pulled him off the hide and pressured him into repeatedly checking out another area. Fortunately, my dog hung in there and found the hide despite me, but he's a seasoned and bold dog. My other dogs would not have recovered. Without the video, I would never have understood my role in the struggle. I was sure HE was the problem. I was SURE. And I was wrong.

Then, tonight I was working my whippet on signals. He's really good at them. We were doing them in succession and he was nailing them even though I recently changed my drop signal. All of a sudden, my neighbor's puppy started screaming. I was thinking about what happened to the puppy. My dog didn't pay the puppy any attention at all. All of a sudden, he couldn't do signals. I kept trying, but I was still thinking about the puppy. After his 3rd error, I stopped. I cleared my head, realizing that I was distracted. Then we started over and he nailed them all again, perfect. Again, I was the problem. When I am on auto-pilot, my dog can't work.

What is ring stress? Is it ever all about the dog? How much is Dog? How much is Handler? How much can working the mental game of competition change the level of stress for the dog? If a person doesn't feel like a good handler, how can the Dog work well under pressure?

Is the answer ever one thing? No. But if the handler is truly solid, I have to suspect that the dog will struggle much less.

Sorry for the ramble, but I find this topic to be so interesting and so timely. It's complicated. And it's a little different for everyone.
This resonates with me a lot. I know that *I* have become a lot more stressed at our new training facility. The other places...well, everyone just wanted to have fun, so I didn't care if we struggled or did something funny. But at the new facility, everyone is so ahead of us in skill. The trainers compete all around the world. And I....just crumble inside when it's our turn to go. I try and stay nice and happy and positive outwardly, but I'm sure Nova senses my inner nervousness. So, long story short, I wouldn't be surprised if I am really the problem in our situation.

Add: and thanks for sharing your links, everyone! They were all very informative.
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If it truly is the dog who is stressing, and the situation has little or no relation to a handler's (lack of) skill or ability, I'd have to question whether the dog is a suitable candidate for competition.

I haven't read the links thoroughly, yet. Although I'm sure somewhere this aspect is addressed.
 

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If it truly is the dog who is stressing, and the situation has little or no relation to a handler's (lack of) skill or ability, I'd have to question whether the dog is a suitable candidate for competition.

I haven't read the links thoroughly, yet. Although I'm sure somewhere this aspect is addressed.
My trainer's dog, who is on something like her fifth NATCH and competed this weekend in a trial with a bunch of semis in the background, in a cramped site where there were people set up within 10 feet of the ring itself, started out severely phobic of noises and other dogs.

I'd argue, frankly, that most dogs are going to stress some in competition, regardless of the handler element. I'd also argue that saying 'not suited' and giving up on a dog who is stressing out instead of figuring out how to help support them and get them through it is akin to saying 'my dog is afraid of other dogs/cars/the world, I'll just let them stay at home and hide under the couch instead of work on it'. IMO that is absolutely NOT doing the dog any favors.

Are there dogs who aren't suitable? Yes. Should confidence be built up before tossing a fearful/stressed dog in a ring? Yes. Should you force a miserable dog in the ring? No. Is a dog who is stressing ready for a trial? Probably not.

But just say 'eh, you're stressing in any way, wrong dog' I'd imagine you'd have VERY FEW dogs to choose from, and even if you had tons, I honestly think you'd be taking something hugely beneficial away from the dog.
 

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Yep I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. He's young and I am still figuring him out.

He was petrified of the teeter until he suddenly wasn't. It just took some creativity to figure out the way to work him through that and now he has no stress with the teeter at all.

One of my friend's dogs this last weekend Q'd I think every run and got 3 titles and when she first started she was one of the stressiest dogs I'd seen. Now there isn't a hint of it at all anymore.
 

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Do you have any idea why he's stressed? Is it all the other people and dogs? Is it lack of reinforcement available? Is it being in a new location? Or is he just feeding off of your additional stress?
 

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Yep I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. He's young and I am still figuring him out.

He was petrified of the teeter until he suddenly wasn't. It just took some creativity to figure out the way to work him through that and now he has no stress with the teeter at all.

One of my friend's dogs this last weekend Q'd I think every run and got 3 titles and when she first started she was one of the stressiest dogs I'd seen. Now there isn't a hint of it at all anymore.
You know at the tiny, local, level I compete at? I can name more dogs who have had issues and worked through them (or do have and are) than dogs who were always fine. And every last one of them is more confident than they were, less stressed, and just better all around than when they started.

Heck, Kylie has gone from a dog who wouldn't leave the start line to 4 qs out of 6 runs. Both of those nqs were handler error, even if her weaves were Bleh. More importantly? She's not afraid of things anymore. She doesn't shut down. People can pet her. She's HAPPIER.
 

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Do you have any idea why he's stressed? Is it all the other people and dogs? Is it lack of reinforcement available? Is it being in a new location? Or is he just feeding off of your additional stress?
All of the above I think? He's a bit weirded out by people standing outside the ring and watching him. I think we could get through that with reinforcement but without it is hard. And we have very very limited fun runs available. Right now I'm not going to enter anything except the one fun run in October. But my limited ability to get him out and about is my concern. I'm just not in an area with many options.

He's also freaking out about my ceiling fan lately so may be a fear period or something.
 

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All of the above I think? He's a bit weirded out by people standing outside the ring and watching him. I think we could get through that with reinforcement but without it is hard. And we have very very limited fun runs available. Right now I'm not going to enter anything except the one fun run in October. But my limited ability to get him out and about is my concern. I'm just not in an area with many options.

He's also freaking out about my ceiling fan lately so may be a fear period or something.
Yeah, it seems so hard to get dogs used to a new environment with tons of stuff going on when you also can't use your reinforcements. It would be nice if there were more training runs. I haven't been to show'n'gos for any sport (don't even know if we have them) but I imagine the environment is way quieter than a real trial.

ETA: That's actually the main value I see in doing confo with my dogs. I can go to a busy show, get in the ring with a judge, and feed the crap out of them (and I do work on sits and downs and things when we're at the back of the line). Lots of good feelings about being in a show environment before they have to do complicated behaviors for no rewards.
 

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I think exposing dogs to the show environment as early as possible is one of the smartest things a handler can do. Right from the week we brought him home at 10 weeks, Ocean was tagging along at all of the agility trials that Lars and I went to. He had probably been to around 25 trials by the time I entered him in his first one at 15 months old. We played there, got treats there, did baby practice jump and start line work at agility trials. I took him to all of our classes, matches, and show and gos with Lars. So, the environment, the stress, the noise was all business as usual to him when it was his turn to step up to the real start line. I honestly think O is more at home at agility trials than he is anywhere else. I think that might be why he stresses more in quieter environments like small obedience trials...it's so different from what he is conditioned to. When it comes time for him to work some in obedience, I'll show him at shows where there is a ton of activity and noise that resembles an agility trial....places where they have conformation and obedience in the same large building.

Here's Ocean's first time ever on the business side of the agility ring gates. He's 15 months here. You can see, nothing seems to really distract or bother him because he literally grew up in this facility. ;)




With Lars, I didn't have another dog showing to drag him around to trials as a tag along. But, when he was six months old, I entered him in rally in some obedience/rally trials....but didn't show him. In obedience or rally, there can't be any unentered dogs on the trial site. I did that so I could get him used to the obedience environment...and work and play some in the pressure cooker of nerves. But I also took Lars EVERYWHERE I could for classes and run thrus. Any place they held trials and held run thrus....we were there on a regular basis. Stepping into the rally ring at a show for the first time was not a big deal for Lars at all either.

This was the first time ever for him stepping into an obedience/rally ring....and he was 15 months old.


Yes, they are both the same age when they debuted in their sports and they are young dogs....but I started acclimating them to the show world they would be performing in right from day one. For me, there's no mystery about how are they going to handle that environment and I've built a lot of trust with them in that environment. I think the best thing people can do is start young (or whenever you get your dog) to acclimate them to the environment they will be primarily working in. I also believe everything in Trainjunkie's post about the handler's emotional state and how it affects their dogs. If you're a nervous wreck, your dog will be your amplifier...whatever is going on inside you will come out through your dog ten fold. So, definitely keep that in mind and there are some herbal supplements/homeopathic remedies that people can take that will help check the people nerve/stress problems. The more you expose your dogs to these environments, the better they do get.
 

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Hank has been going to shows since I got him but I did get him later obviously and he had 0 training when I got him so I feel like maybe we're a bit behind. He is overall pretty confident until he's not. Lol that's not the best description but maybe you know what I mean. He's happy happy happy and fun until he's shut down. He rarely shuts down but apparently something about trials specifically is making him shut down. He did not shut down at all at our fun run. This is a dog that LOVES agility practice.
 
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