Monday, February 25, 2013

Use it or lose it


You know the phrase "use it or lose it"? I think I've lost it.

It's been over almost 10 months that I last took an agility class with Cohen. I stopped when my instructor took the summer off at my facility to focus on his own during its busiest months. Then, when he returned I was in pre-wedding countdown where I didn't feel like I had enough time to dedicate to a set schedule for classes. Then, after the wedding I returned for one class, felt like I was tripping over my feet, was disheartened by the feedback I was receiving from my instructor, got frustrated and haven't returned. I keep telling myself that the facility was too small (we only have enough room for a handful of obstacles out at a time), the flooring too slippery (dogs slip on it regularly, so building up speed is an issue), too smelly (it doubles as a daycare/doggy bathroom during the day) and too out of date (the equipment is old, and the training is of about the same era). Since stopping I've been to a handful of trials, but did not perform particularly well at any of them.

It's been several months since I last took an obedience class with Cohen. I had pegged this winter as time to polish up on Cohen's obedience and to prep both her and myself to begin competing in Open. I took 4 classes with a well respected trainer, took a break over Christmas, ran into her at a Rally trial I was attending where she said an offhandedly insulting remark to me about my performance with Cohen, and I haven't been back since. I was disheartened, but I do intend to go back... eventually. I'm having trouble motivating myself to re-attend.

I was supposed to go to flyball practice this weekend, but due to crappy weather, the 3 hour round trip involved and feeling obliged to spend time with my husband I didn't go. I spent the day feeling like I was crawling out of my skin. Walking the dog wasn't much of a reprieve, as the trails were icy and the dog was stir crazy.

Cohen is a good dog, but she's high energy and petulant, and when I get frustrated with her it only encourages her to blow me off more. I've seen a bit of a regression in her behaviour lately where she's diving for food on sidewalks, she's not calling away from other dogs, preferring instead to bark at them, and she's pulling like a freight train on walks. She's gotten lazy while performing tricks and I feel like I can see her merely going through the motions to earn a reward and getting frustrated and giving up when I attempt to hold off on reinforcement for mediocre performances. And I can see how this is entirely my fault.

I've taken her learned behaviours for granted and not maintained them. I've not had the motivation and structure classes would provide to continue to grow her skills (and mine!) and as a result we've both gotten lackadaisical and settled for "good enough". It's a slippery slope.

I feel like I'm losing so much of what Cohen and I worked so hard for. And I don't foresee it getting any easier any time soon.


1 comment:

  1. I will say that one of the nice things about flyball is that once your dog knows the routine, you can pretty much take breaks and come back with no problems. I've seen dogs come back from a year or more of no flyball to practice or tournament and run just like they had been practicing all along. I generally end up having to miss a weekly practice every few months at the least, and never really worry about it too much.

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