As mental as it gets

The more you think you know, the more you realize how little you really know. That is a truth that reminds of itself from time to time and makes this hobby with the dogs extremely interesting. It also makes the successes even more rewarding, as you can only rely on the knowledge you have gained and the training you have settled upon.

Earlier I wrote that you can make any dog chase the lure: for some it comes naturally, while others need more work to be ‘lure-fast’. What I didn’t take into the account back then was the mentality and personality of the dog. Sure, the dog will learn how to chase and even kill the lure with simple positive enhancement techniques, and will do the work by herself like an angel. But what happens when there is another dog chasing the same lure, like in the competition?

For Fiona the first competition ever was part success, part failure: the qualifiers she ran like an angel, making a really flashy debut on the field. In the finals, however, the other competitor collided with her and they both quit the chase without completing the trial. The veterinarian in the competition checked her and stated that there were no visible injuries. Nor did we notice anything later on: not even muscle soreness which usually follows this kind of contact.

But this weekend proved us wrong in one sense or another. Fiona started very well, but didn’t chase the lure any further without checking the whereabouts of her competitor. And quit.

Is it mental or physical?

Irish Wolfhounds are known to remember nasty things that have happened to them, and to avoid such situations. Then again, any sane dog would do the same, regardless of the breed, but sighthounds seem to be extremely particular on this. So if it’s mental, it may go with age and positive experiences. If it’s physical, it may go with massage and physiotherapy.

Let’s go deeper into the mentality side. Fiona is very gentle, calm and easy as a dog: one could describe her as being soft. Very soft, in fact. In addition to that, she’s having her spooky age, which has resulted the fact that she cannot be taken into shows: the shuns away from the judge, who in turn cannot evaluate her.

On the track the situation is quite similar: she has had the bad experience of being touched by another, unknown dog in the coursing, and she thinks all strangers are a threat to her. So the game is settled in the start already: one look from the competitors is usually enough to tell the pair who does what and how. Which one is the chaser, which the killer. In Fiona’s case, enough to tell her that she may be in jeopardy.

This is something we are going to treat as a challenge: how to grow a sensitive soft Irish Wolfhound into a competitive lure courser. As far as I understand, it requires some good, positive experiences in the lure coursing, encouraging her to take her position and gain some self confidence. She is just about 2 years old, so she’s still growing, which may have it’s effect on her mind, too.

Anyone happen to know good books or articles about dog’s mentality and mental training?

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2 thoughts on “As mental as it gets

    • As a matter of fact, that is what we’re thinking, too. To give her positive enhancement in the form of solo runs and solo experiences, separating her from the pack and making her more or less the queen. Maybe that gives her more confidence? That remains to be seen, really.

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