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So, I entered three Rally Trials during the weekend of April 14 with the Golden.  He only needed one more leg to earn his Rally Novice Title, which we earned with a very respectable score of 91 (and first place).  The second run that day we earned a score of 95 and first place again.  I never even considered moving him up for the next day, and we earned a 98 (and again first place) on our final run of the weekend.

And then the mental wheels started turning on the drive home, and the question of what did it take to qualify for the Rally National slipped into my brain.  On the drive home I called a friend who looked it up for me – Three scores within the qualifying period of 93 or higher, which meant the Golden was a 2/3rds of the way there.

Many years ago the Labrador qualified for the very first Rally National, and we competed.  And now the wheels in my brain were spinning.  “Oh I probably wouldn’t go….”  It’s in Tulsa in 2019 which is a very, very long drive from where I am.  “But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say he qualified….”

I overnighted my entries the next day for another local trial.  Again, three trials in two days.  One on Saturday and two on Sunday.  Three chances to get one more score above 93!  I figured those were good odds.

On that Saturday we walked out of the ring with a score of 98 and another first place!  We did it!  We were qualified for the Rally National!  Which meant that the trial on Sunday could just be training!  Didn’t matter what happened, we had achieved our goal!

Only as we left the ring, and friends and other competitors came up to us their comments were things like “Why aren’t you in the other ring with him?” (The obedience ring) and “You need to move him up for tomorrow!”  But, I protested, we haven’t trained those other things!  “It’s just the Advanced signs without the jump, so pivots and fronts without moving.”  And…pivots we have.   “And you can lure the fronts….”  But, but…..  “It’s just an optional titling class….”

Yeah, I responded to peer pressure.  I moved him up.  I told myself on the way home to just keep thinking about it as training.  It didn’t get us anything to stay in Novice since we’d achieved our goal, so moving to Intermediate would give us practice on some of the Advanced signs on leash in a ring!  It was all good.  At least until I remembered there could be an offset figure 8!  There could be tennis balls in the ring!  So then panicked I pulled up the signs and realized there were also new Advanced signs since I lasted competed in Advance!  Wait?  I have to turn right and the dog turns left and WHAT?

After I started breathing again, I realized the Golden knows how to go around me.  We should be able to “fake” it.  I reminded myself to think of it as training, and heading back to the trial.

We came out of the ring with a score of 100, and first place!  Why yes, I was floating on cloud nine!  Our second run there was a Left Turn – Dog Circles Right – Forward (Sign 120).  I should have thought a bit more because I approached the sign and started my left turn, the Golden nicely pivoted with me, so I backed up, said I was going to retry it, sent him around me first, then I turned… 3pts lost, but ONLY 3pts lost!  Score of 97!  Not too bad for a class I didn’t think we had any chance in!

And now of course the brain is thinking, “one more and you’d be qualified for the National for Intermediate….”

 

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Favorite moments from trial this weekend:

First run: The sign was call front, finish left, forward…. I call the Golden front, and apparently paused too long and he decided to finish right. “I’d like to redo that one,” I stated as we backed up. Judge: “I think you should!”

First run: We are in the middle of the spiral, and I remember looking down, and he’s looking up and he’s PRANCING! And he’s THERE! And rocking it! And I remember thinking, “You’re still with me, and you’re prancing! I got the PRANCE! IN THE RING!” And some of the tension began to flood out of me.

Second Run: Right before we went into the ring the Golden was a bit…Himself. Which means he was VERY distracted by the environment. Judge saw it all. Called us in. We managed a score of 95 (and a first place!), and a very nice comment by the judge. I wish I could remember EXACTLY what he said, but it was a congratulations on my handling of him because he’d watched us just outside the ring and said he wasn’t betting on us pulling off a qualifying run and how great we did to earn that 95 and first place! He commented how well I did keeping the Golden focused and on task! (My eyes did flick to his breeder’s during this little speech, as I’m certain she was familiar with it! The Golden is his father’s son!!)

On another run – the sign is just a halt. We heel up, the Golden sits! Only before I can move forward, he pivots around in front of me and hugs me!

We had someone come all the way from CA to compete in our trial and afterwards she came up to me and went on about how we were such a JOY to watch and how it was like we went into the ring a switch was flipped and we were suddenly a TEAM!  While she didn’t know the struggles we’d been through, she took the time to come over and congratulate us!  I hope she knows how much this meant to me!

The Journey

Life takes turns you cannot predict or expect.  September of 2016 my husband noticed a strange lump.  June of 2017 he died.  My world has been shaken at the foundation, but through it all my dogs have remained my constant.

The Golden was a gift from my husband.  I have often commented he (the Golden, not the husband ;-)) was everything I wanted, and nothing I was prepared for.  He has challenged me as a trainer.  He has challenged my trainers!  He is not food motivated.  And while I believe he enjoys the relationship we have, the world is such an amazing place to him!  Sometimes I think he’d rather I follow him around to see all the things he sees than to come back and play the games I want to play.

Some days I disparaged of ever getting a title on him.  I remember when we earned his CGC I didn’t feel we should have.  I didn’t feel our performance was good enough.  I put a lot of expectations on this dog.  I cried one day at a lesson, just having such a hard time figuring out what motivated him, and how I could get him to play the games I wanted to play with him.

My husband never doubted me.  He always believed we’d get there, in our own way, taking our own path, walking our own journey.  For almost a year now, I haven’t had his voice there telling me, reminding me, believing in me.  But I’ve carried on.  I’ve tried taking his belief and making it my own.

This past weekend the Golden earned his Rally Novice title.  Not only did he earn it, he earned it with three first place ribbons and scores of 91, 95 and 96!  He pranced in the ring!  We became for those glorious moments the team I dreamed we could be!Blue

Two Dog Travel – Take Two

My very first blog post was called Two Dog Travel.  This was the story about how the Labrador broke out of her soft crate while visiting family.

I should have read it before we went home for Christmas.  While it’d been more than three years, and not one incident in all that time once we got back to my parents guess who decided to break out of her soft crate again?

Once again we traveled with two dogs.  This time the 55lb Labrador and the 65lb Golden Retriever.  We now have a Subaru Forester all decked out for the dogs, making the trip even more comfortable for everyone.

On Christmas Eve we decided to go shopping, so the dogs were placed into their soft crates, and my Father who elected not to go with us was given strict instructions not to let them out.

Out we went, shopping for a few hours only to come home to the Labrador greeting us at the front door, tail all a-wag, and evidence of an entire eaten loaf of bread on the floor.  All that was found was the wrapper.

“Dad!” I yelled, “I told you not to let them out!”

The Labrador followed me through the house, tail wagging as I went to find my Father, but there was no answer to my rather loud and exasperated exclamation.

Turning the corner I spotted him.  Asleep in bed!  How dare he?  He let out one dog and then didn’t bother to watch her?  “Dad!” I cried out, feeling fully justified in waking him up for a scolding.

Only… “I didn’t let them out,” was his sleepy, confused reply which sent me flying down the stairs to spy a ripped open soft crate.  This time she didn’t bother with the zipper, but ripped her way right through it, while the Golden watched (good boy for not following your sister’s example!).  And then she figure out how to open the sliding door to my old bedroom and probably happily trotted up the stairs to find the loaf of bread so easy to reach on the counter.

Lesson learned.  Metal crate purchased and left at my parents house!

And then I sheepishly apologized to my father, several times.

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I’ll be ringing in the new year home, with my husband and the three dogs.  Perfect way, in my opinion, to ring in the new year.  While there are lots of people posting about their new year resolutions I wanted to take a minute and look back over this last year.  Sometimes I don’t feel I’ve accomplished enough.  I’m not a good enough trainer.  I’m not progressing fast enough.  I left a training session frustrated today.  Part of the frustration is due to me trying to figure out my training philosophy – where my lines are.  There has been a lot on Facebook these last two days about training methodologies and labels — pure positive, balanced, force-free, “Have to” vs “Want to” — and I’ll be honest I haven’t read much of it, but what I do know is I have to figure out what is right for me and my dogs, and I’m having some difficulty with that.  Hopefully I’ll find more answers in the new year.  For the moment I’m just glad to be sitting here at home with the pups.

I know I want to stop comparing myself to other people.  I want to be able to appreciate and celebrate their accomplishments, while not feeling like I’m not keeping up.  I need to remind myself that that we don’t travel for trials, and yet the Labrador and I earned five new agility titles this year!  Considering I was someone who knew nothing about competition until the Labrador came into my life four years ago, that’s not too bad.

The Beagle earned her Novice Trick Dog title this year!  This was a lot of fun.  She loved getting to train!  And the Golden earned two legs of his Rally Novice title.  I should probably stop telling this story, but the second leg when the judge told me I qualified I replied with, “Really?  Are you sure?”  Probably not the best thing to blurt out to the judge!!

We’ve done a lot this year.  Maybe not by some people’s standards, but I’ll take it.  I’ve learned a lot this year.  Played a lot of games with my dogs.  And as frustrated as I may get I am enjoying the journey.  What more can I ask for?

Happy New Year!

September we competed and didn’t do so well.  We manged only two Q’s all weekend.  Something was off, and I actually scratched from a few classes.  I don’t know what it was — if something about the site was bothering her (there was constant noise from the highway as we were very close), or what.  Seeing that she wasn’t having fun, we scratched several classes on Sunday but stayed to run our first Elite Tunnels run!  My Tunnel Dog decided whatever was bothering her, tunnels were still more fun and she pulled of her first Elite Q!!

October’s trial was much more fun, though rather cold!  This was our first time running in Open in many classes and we came away with several Open Qs!

What a difference! In March while the Friday started out with 2 Q’s, the rest of the weekend we couldn’t buy a Q to save our souls. The Labrador was distracted. We were not connected and she wanted to visit everyone instead of stay on the course. I left the ring and said, “Did you see my untrained dog in there?”

So, we knew we had a few issues to work on. In lessons our instructor kept a crate next to her. If the Labrador left me to visit, she got put in the crate. Cheese lady was no longer fun! During practices, we asked friends to ring crew and do the same thing. If she visited, just take her and put her in her crate.

During the April trial I had two goals. The first was if she left me to visit, she got one “here.” If she did not respond, she got taken off the course and put in her crate. The other was contacts. If she blew a contact, I was going to pull her back and train it. In April we only had 2 Q’s all weekend, BUT I pulled her off the course when she went to visit, and I trained the contact when she broke it.

Which leads us to this weekend. 8/12 Qs! Four new titles! Only one almost visit, where she came back on the first “here!” NO missed contacts, and only one early release on her start line stay!

This was a Games Trial and we started off Saturday with Touch N Go. It was not pretty. We weren’t connected at all. Definitely an NQ, but the next run I left thinking we’d rocked it! She nailed the discrimination, hit all her contacts and I was so proud of her, but I spent too much time praising her perfect contacts and we missed the Q by 5.84 seconds. But I was happy with that, and I think in the long run it’s going to pay off on contacts. Then we did Weavers. The first run was fantastic! The second run….well I should have taken her for a longer walk before hand. She did the first three obstacles like a rockstar, then popped out of her weaves and gave me that “I’m so sorry mom, but I have to poop” look. Shit happens 😉

Then we ran two Open Tunnelers! I forgot I was in Open and almost missed the walk through! Luckily each day a friend reminded me we’d moved up and I ran in! She rocked the tunnels!

Sunday as if to redeem those 5.84 seconds from yesterday we nailed the first Touch N Go course by 4.73 seconds! Close, but we made it with a fantastic discrimination (awesome “here walk it” for a dog who LOVES tunnels!), and beautiful contacts! Second one we were even faster making course time by 10.96 seconds! The first weavers didn’t go so well. I didn’t realize how awkward an entrance it was from the tunnel to the weaves, and we didn’t Q that time, but the second Weavers she was beautiful. And then of course we had our two tunnelers. When I started this journey I swore I’d never be able to get a front cross in on the Labrador because she is so fast, but this weekend on several occasions because of the distance work we’ve been practicing I managed to several times! It was most obvious on the tunnelers where I was able to send her out and around loops without me having to run along side her for each tunnel and then at the end – the final stretch of tunnels where I was over a tunnel length ahead of her, looking back teasing her that, “I”m gonna beat you! Come on! Faster!!”

At the end of the day, I realized we’d earned our Novice Weavers, Novice Touch N Go, and first Open level title — Open Tunnelers! What I only realized moments before writing this is she also earned her OUTSTANDING Open Tunnelers!