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Archive for the ‘Rally-O’ Category

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!

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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

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The AKC Rally National Championship was overwhelming! It was a lot of fun, but wow what an environment. Our first run I lost the Labrador. She got distracted, left my side and when she didn’t immediately return, we were excused. I don’t blame the judge, they had a lot of dogs to go through! Outside the ring I had perfect attention. I get inside, I get nervous and well, then we have an issue. I was so nervous my mouth even wet dry.

Our second run would have giving us a qualifying leg at a regular trial, so I’m very proud of her for that. Our very last sign though was a halt-pivot-halt. We stopped, she sat. We pivoted. And then she stood there. I asked her to sit. She didn’t. I asked again. And again. I realized I was begging, took a breathe, and tried again in a calmer voice. I almost reached down to tap her on the head, but instead, decided to call it. She’d stayed with me through the course, and now it was time to eat the points. We moved out, did our sit/stay and left with what would have been a qualifying score even with eating 10 points for the sign.

So, I’ve learned I’ve got to get a handle on my nerves. I’ve known that, and thought I was doing better, but in that environment it all flared back up! But we still got our nice participating certificate! Dog in need of a better handler!

We went from Rally to Agility, returning to Agility classes in March. The Labrador has repeated Intermediate, and the Golden has now down Foundations, and Beginner. In April we trialed. On Saturday we attempted Jumpers, Regular 1 and Regular 2. The good things about those runs is the Labrador stayed with me. She didn’t visit ring crew, or get distracted, she ran with me, just not necessarily over the obstacles. Actually our Jumpers run went very well, we were just over time by .2 seconds! So, though we didn’t Q I was pleased with her runs. There were vast improvements from our last agility trial to be proud of. Of course, Saturday when we had no Q’s is the day everyone came to watch including the Labrador’s breeder. Isn’t that just how it goes??

The next day we registered for Jumpers, Regular 1 and Tunnelers. This time I screwed up the Jumpers course by sending her shooting past a jump, then calling her back and making the mistake of calling her back over the jump. You can clearly hear the crowd in the video trying to tell me not to do what I was doing! Ooops! Regular 1 we missed a discrimination, but for the first time the Labrador got her weaves in the ring!! I finished the course cheering her on with “You got you weaves!” Sometimes you have to set smaller goals. Tunnelers though, tunnelers was nothing but awesome! With seconds to spar we shot around that course, not missing a beat, and moving as the most awesome tunneler team in history! And with the completion of that crazy figure eight tunnelers course little Ms. Labrador earned her very first Agility title the TN-N!!

So now we are moving on and working on building up to 12 weaves. One more session and I think we’ll have it. The Golden is doing some private agility lessons, as well as starting his CGC class. Our sit to greet is terrible. He wants to hug everyone, and has a very bad trainer. The Labrador is also doing some private agility training, and we are starting another Advanced Obedience class. I’m not sure when we’ll get back into the Obedience ring, or if it will be Open, or Graduate Novice, but either way we’ve lots to train. We’ll also be back in the agility ring this summer, and fall. I’m hoping to have the Golden’s CGC by the end of summer. After that, well I’ll need to make some more goals and plans.

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This weekend the Labrador (who turned 3 this month) earned her Rally Excellent title!

This weekend we traveled to a huge 6 day Cluster show! We only competed for two of those days, but the main point was to expose both the Labrador and me to something close to what we’ll be facing at the RNC. Normally we compete only locally at two ring trials of just obedience and rally. This Cluster had 15 rings all going at once! Confirmation, Obedience and Rally were going on all around us. Grooming was happening inside the same building near the rings and I had no idea how loud those dryers got! It was more commotion and noise, dogs and people than we’d ever had to deal with before.

Our main goals for this were:

  1. Expose ourselves to the crazy atmosphere
  2. Try a new feeding schedule for competing
  3. See how we handled competing twice in one day

I have to say I think I was more affected by the noise, commotion and stress than she was. I was more nervous than I’d been before. Though I’m always nervous I’ve never gotten quite so dry mouthed before. We arrived the day before and set up our crate, and since some confirmation judging was still going on as well as grooming and such we went into the building and played a little, letting us both adjust to the noise while we heeled and practiced a few Rally maneuvers.

The Labrador got her breakfast on Friday as normal, but then Friday night only got half rations. We’ve had issues with her eliminating in the ring and wanted to prevent this while making sure she still had the energy to get through the day. Saturday morning we arrived at the show grounds early and went for a walk, making sure she got all her morning business done well before we had to be in the ring! We showed Saturday morning, qualifying with a 97! It should have been a 100, but I had this minor moment of forgetting left and right and had to redo a sign!

After everyone was done (friends were also competing), I got a light lunch and we went back to our room to rest. We headed back to the show grounds around 4:00 expecting the next trial to begin around 4:00 or 5:00. It was scheduled to begin a half hour after the end of the previous show, but other issues caused it to be delayed even longer and we didn’t finish with our class until 11:30 pm! We qualified with a 77, which while not great, I’m satisfied with based on how long the day was, the strange environment and being so late! While the trial still had two more classes to go, we left and went back to our room where the Labrador again got half rations (and then fell asleep even before I was in bed!). I’m also pleased because the last time we tried to show twice in one day it didn’t go well. The second time in the ring the Labrador left me, said hi to the judges, and ring stewards and nothing I did could reclaim her attention. We were excused, and I wondered if perhaps showing twice in one day was going to be too much for her. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Perhaps it was maturity, or training or just that day she wanted to make new friends. But now I know we can como

The next morning we didn’t go over quite as early, but still gave ourselves plenty of time before our earliest possible start time. A nice walk made sure the call of nature was answered, and a wonderfully organized club not only had the Rally course set up early, but the efficient and friendly judge got us done earlier than Saturday. Again we qualified, this time with a 85! It should have been a 95, but I screwed up a sign and decided not to retry it. I think we were both a bit worn out and frazzled and I wasn’t sure I’d get her attention back enough to complete it properly (it was the last sign!).

Our biggest concerns were eliminating in the ring (we have a plan!), handing the leash to the stewart (no problems!) and though we’d trained I still dreaded getting an offset figure eight. We didn’t have a single one! I still am expecting one for the RNC. And our Sit/Stay was excellent.

We had a few attention issues that we need to work on, though I suspect there are due more to my nerves than anything. While warming up I tried a combination of having treats on me (security blanket) and not having treats on me. It made very little difference outside the ring. She was awesome! But the moment we’d approach the ring, I would tense. My throat got dry. I’m certain the way I said sit outside the ring verse how I said it inside was different. I need to work on this.

All in all it was a great weekend!

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Today I received my entry confirmation for the 2014 AKC Rally National Championship.

I don’t recall when we realized we qualified. Or when I realized it was going to be on this coast, and only a few hours drive from me. I do recall my immediate determination to submit my entry! I’d gone from a woman who knew nothing about dog sports to a woman who’d qualified for the first ever AKC Rally National Championship! We’d qualified! I knew there were limits on the number of entries that would accepted out of those that qualified, but I had no doubt I would send it in. A friend asked what was my strategy to make sure I got in and I told her, overnight it and hope! We were both certain that everyone would overnight their entries and it would fill up that first day. We were determined to get ours in!

But then time passed. And I started getting nervous. I started having doubts. Yes we qualified, but…. Fears, doubts, excuses started slipping in. We qualified at small shows, and this was going to be a great, big National! We didn’t qualify with all scores 95 and above. Surely those who belonged at the National qualified with all 100s. Those would be the ones to overnight their entries and get in. So many doubts swirling in my head.

And then the day that entries opened came closer. I made the decision to just snail mail my entry. The explanation I told myself was that I couldn’t afford the cost to overnight it. Nonsense. I was letting my fear win. Letting my doubt win. I put it in the mail and told myself that if we made it, fine, and if we didn’t that was fine too. I even worked out a plan to go and watch, already assuming we wouldn’t get in.

Shows what I know! It didn’t fill up the first day. And my entry did make it and we are entered. So, now that even in spite of my own attempts to sabotage myself we are in, I have a new plan.

Step One: Remind myself daily that we QUALIFIED just like everyone else who will be there.

Step Two: Train. Practice. Improve on our weaknesses, and build on our strengths. Visualize success!

Step Three: Breathe.

Step Four: HAVE FUN!

And of course — most important HUG THE LABRADORK!

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I couldn’t have done this without her. She is my best friend, my partner and the sweetest dog I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my life with.

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Today the Labrador earned her CD and her RA! She qualified in both classes, and earned first place in both! I’m still in shock, but at least the nervous/excited energy is starting to wear off.

I am so very proud of her. I left class on Wednesday night feeling certain there was no way we’d qualify. I was considering pulling my entry or just not showing up. Thursday night I worked with her some in the front yard and decided we’d already paid, we’d go and see what happens, though I was still convinced we wouldn’t qualify. Friday night I was a bundle of nerves.

We were the second dog in our Novice class, and once again most of our points were lost on the heeling. We have a lot of work to do there, but she always makes me laugh. This time she took a step on the Stand for Exam, so we’ll have to work on that too since I believe in Utility the exam is much more thorough. The judge let us know we’d qualified so far as we left the ring, and I was ecstatic. We went back in for the long sit and the judge called for us to leave our dogs. I got almost to the other end of the ring, and the judge alerted us to a problem. I look back to see my Labrador still sitting, but being loomed over by a much bigger dog, who seemed very determined to sniff every inch of her. My girl held her stay as long as she good, but once the owner of the big dog was there, and the judge, she gave me this apologetic look and took a step away from all the pressure. I don’t blame her one bit, but I was sure we were done. The judge asked me to stay with my dog, but then added that I shouldn’t worry, he’d redo my long sit! So we waited for the minute to be up for the other dogs, did our long down, and then remained alone in the ring for a redo on the long sit. Amazingly we were the only dog in the class to qualify!

We got a nice break between this class and the Rally class. The course seemed simple, and the walk through went quickly. Then we were in the ring and the leash went off. There were no cones on this course — so no figure either, or serpentine or spiral. It was just the signs, and the jump. We retried one station (loosing 3 points) because I didn’t signal my stop very well, and she didn’t sit, but other than that I left the ring having no idea how I’d done, and honestly wondering if maybe I’d missed a sign as it seemed to go by quickly! I didn’t miss anything and we again got first place!

Two blue ribbons means the Labrador got two cheeseburgers! She’s also right now out back enjoying a bone. What a wonderful day! We go back tomorrow, entered again in Novice. It won’t count for anything, but it will be good experience and practice.

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