You have trained everything, nothing seems to be able to go wrong....
You're all set, the big day of the trial or your exam. The preparation has not been a problem and you have trained everything well with your dog. Nothing seems to be able to go wrong. But during the trial you are suddenly very disappointed and the dog does not do what you expect of him.
This is a known problem in which many handlers will recognise themselves. There can be several reasons why this happens, but often it is caused by ourselves, the handler, without us being aware of it. Because the handler is sometimes a little nervous before the trial, he will behave slightly differently than normal.
The dog feels when you behave differently
Dogs have this through immediately and know "today everything is different ". This will also make the dog nervous and he may unexpectedly start to show different behavior. He may become less interested in performing the exercises his handler asks him to do. But it can also happen that he will start to show unwanted behavior because he knows and feels that his handler is not allowed and cannot correct him today at the trial.
As mentioned, this is a well-known problem, because our dogs read us very well and they immediately sense when something is different then before. So it is always important to train not only your dog, but certainly yourself, to achieve your goal if you are a little nervous yourself. The dog senses this immediately and we want to avoid this. So train yourself in advance so that you can better control yourself during a trial.
Prepare yourself for a trial
I always try to prepare myself as well as possible and train myself and the dog in this. For example, when teaching tracking, I always train in a controlled system. I lay the track myself and know exactly where the objects are and where the corners are. Because of this I control everything and I can help and correct the dog if necessary. The dog also knows this well during the training. Still, at the end of the training, the dog has to do it himself and I have to trust my dog.
For that reason, for example, today I did a "double blind track" with my dog. A double blind track means that the dog does not know where the track is, but I as the handler do not know either. In this way I test if the dog is trained well enough for example for practical work and I also prepare him and myself for a trial or exam where we also have to do it blind.
A colleague of mine had run the track in a contaminated area with many different smells and temptations. At the beginning of the track the colleague had put down his cap with which I can give the dog scent. Ten minutes later I went with my dog to the beginning of the trail and gave the dog scent from the cap. From that moment on I had to trust my dog in her work. I had to read, trust and follow her. Eventually she did this well and we found my colleague at the end of the trail.
Test your dog and yourself in different places
Such a test moment gives me a very good feeling but it is also very important to see if you are ready for an exam or trial. In addition, it is also very important to realise that examinations are often in a strange place, where for the dog strange people and other dogs are. This can be a reason for the dog to show different behavior.
So when I have to do a trial or exam, I always look for a lot of trial situations in the period beforehand. This is to prepare both myself and my dog for the test and to see if everything is as well trained as I think it is. This way the dog gets used to all kinds of situations and he will not find it different on the day of an inspection or an exam.