Oh no, it happened. I thought it would never happen to me, but it has. Just when you think you're doing great, it rears its ugly head. I suffered a case of.....Greedy Trainer Syndrome.
Greedy Trainer Syndrome happens when training is moving along great. You are progressing, you and the dog are both having fun. You keep pushing forward.....until you get to a point where you realize that you and your dog are on two different pages (and if you are really unlucky, in two different chapters!)
Kash is, by all accounts, an amazing boy. He loves to learn, he's got zest, he spills joie de vivre, and he attacks everything head on. So when I noticed he was getting slower, and sloower, and sloooooooooower in agility, doing what I consider simple stuff, I had to sit back and reassess. And it only took, oh, two minutes to realize that I was slowly but surely pushing him farther than he was ready for, or farther than we had really trained for! And I also realized that I was slowly but surely leaving some very important, but fundamental, things behind that I should be doing each day at this point. As I'm getting my girls ready for their trials for the year, I know that he's nowhere NEAR the level they are at, but yet I had him attempting some of the same things! What gives? Darn old Greedy Trainer Syndrome!
And the poor guy. It's not like he was giving up. He remained engaged the whole time, never got distracted with smells or birds, he followed me around, did what I asked, he was just....slow. It was so clear when I woke up and realized he didn't have any confidence in what he was doing. He didn't have enough understanding, and I wasn't maintaining my criteria (speed and drive while learning accuracy, breaking it down for him to keep it fast and fun). I acknowledge that for some things that speed may take a tiny dip, but not this much. I goofed up.
It's not a big deal, though, really. We're just going back to basics. Like basic basics. I am not doing anything obstacle-focused until we spend some time getting speed back. So we're going to run. Lots. And chase. And target. And tug. The only obstacle-focused activity we will do is doing simple jump grids with a target at the end, or with me racing him to a toy. Other than that, we'll simply be getting the "agile" back into agility! So far in his tunnel training he loves running a straight tunnel, so we'll use that (sparingly) as another racing game.
Today we did a session of just this. I did some one-person restraints where I threw his toy, held him back, and told him to "Get it!!!". I threw some, restrained him, and raced him to the toy. We did circle work. Once in a while a little bit of food would fall (I have a food-dropping problem that I need to be trained better for!), and he would get distracted eating it so I'd just take off running. Until he caught me. It didn't take long for him to overtake me, and I would let him grab his tug - but we kept on running. We started out fun and we ended with fun.
He did GREAT! It's the boy I used to have, and the one I want back for agility. I know he has it in him, so I'm not going to settle for sloooow performance. I pushed him to that point, so I'll get him back out of it.
And really, once I got out of "agility-brain" and into "training-brain", I realized....what's the rush? He's barely over a year old, we have a lifetime ahead of us to get there. And I know we'll get there. When he's ready.
In the meantime, here's babyKash at 4 months old playing around with some things. Even at this age he was speedy, so this is what we're going back to!