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Archive for the ‘Rally-O’ Category

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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I just realized I didn’t do a puppy update on Sunday. I’ll try to make up for it this Sunday, but I had a good reason! This past weekend I was competing with the Labrador. We entered our first Novice Obedience class, and got a second on Saturday, and first on Sunday earning two legs of our CD!

We also NQ’d in Rally Advanced, so we still only have two legs for that. And it’s never what you think is going to get you! Friday night we arrived early for the Rally Trial. The rain on the way down was horrible, and I was very thankful my husband was driving! Rally Excellent ran first, but I got our map and started looking over it. It looked very straight forward, but I was concerned about the fact the jump looked like it was going to be the broad jump, and that there was an offset figure 8. We’ve had the offset figure eight for both legs we’ve Q’d for, but they make me nervous! The broad jump was being used in the Excellent class, and was sitting in the exact same place where it would sit for the Advanced, so I figured the judge had built nested courses, and it would stay where it was. I have not trained the broad jump as much as I should have. The Labrador will still step on boards. I was fairly certain we were going to loose 10 points right off the bat due to that.

I watched the Excellent runs, surprised by how many people NQ’d, and not really understanding why. Turned out it was a judge’s error, which wasn’t pointed out or realized until after placements were given, and some people left. She was NQing for jump refusal, but the rules now state it’s just an IP. Meanwhile someone else commented that the broad jump hadn’t been set correctly either! They removed the broad jump when it came time for Advance, and put the Bar jump in! I was ecstatic, commenting that I’d just gotten 10 points back, since I knew the Labrador would do the bar!

I also watched the first three Advanced runs. This is not something I normally do, but there were enough dogs going that I felt I could watch a few before warming up the Labrador. The first three people NQ’d. They each blew by the same sign. They just missed it. You had a right turn and then straight ahead was an about U turn, but between the turn and the U turn there was another sign. It was easy to miss. Watching them to do helped me make sure I didn’t!

Our turn came and in we went. She was doing well, forging a bit, but siting when asked, downing and heeling in the general area. We were at the last two signs and I knew something was wrong. We finished our 360 to the left, and she stepped away and squatted! Oh no! I grabbed her collar and we raced from the ring! One sign to go, and she had to go! Up until that point we had a 95, and first place. Next show we’ll get it and we’ll make sure to have a nice potty break before going in the ring! Bad handler!!

Two interesting things about this Rally Trial — the signs weren’t on the ground as I was used to. They were on PVC posts about chest high. Didn’t phase the Labrador. The other interesting thing was the judge was in a wheel chair. This explained why their Show N Go two weeks earlier had judges in wheelchairs.

Disappointed that we didn’t earn our title, and annoyed with myself we went home so I could sleep and drive back early the next morning.

The judge for the Obedience Trial was extremely nice to us Novice A people. He had a good briefing, trying to put us at ease, and was more than willing to work with us. He had us recalling away from the crowd, and told us we could set our dogs up facing any direction for the stand for exam. I was last to go, and our heeling wasn’t anything like I would have liked. Honestly I thought we were already NQ’d after I finished because I thought it was so bad. I think the Labrador sat at maybe one halt, and there was a moment during the off leash where I really have no idea where she was . Everything else was fantastic, though we lost half a point for her crooked sit on the recall. As I finished, the judge came up to tell me he’d call us back in shortly for the sits and downs. I asked him something like, “I get to do those?” He laughed, and told me that you always do the sits and downs unless you ask to be excused. For some reason I thought if you hadn’t qualified at that point you didn’t come in for the sits and downs. Then he answered what I was really asking, and told me that yes we did have a qualifying score! I was shocked and grateful and we left the ring with a happy bounce. And then the Labrador did an awesome sit stay and down stay!

The 3 minute down stay I think is the longest three minutes of your life. You stand there across the ring, looking at your dog just waiting for the judge to tell you to return to your dog. Every sound from the crating room, which she was closet to, attracted her attention. And then there was a fly. I watched it buzz around, coming closer and closer to her, expecting her to snap at it any any moment and break, but she didn’t! I was so proud of her! Second place and our first Q for Novice A!

Sunday I was a little less nervous — but only a little. I keep telling myself that one day I won’t be nervous doing this. No, I don’t believe myself. Sunday we were on. Her heeling was much better. She didn’t miss a sit! The leash didn’t tighten on the figure eight. Her sit on the recall was so good everyone commented on how beautiful it was when I left the ring. Our score was 10 points higher, enough for us to earn first place!

It was a fantastic trial. Not only because of the Q’s, but the people. I really like this club and plan to keep going there and doing their Show N Gos. An hour and a half is not a bad drive. The President and VP of the club took time out of their day to talk with me, sit with me, and offer advice and make me laugh. I need to send a thank you card.

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This week we’ve worked on leg weaves, which he now easily executes. Time to move on to walking as he weaves (and hoping he doesn’t trip me!). We’ve been working more on “over” for roll over, and loose leash walking. I keep reminding myself it’s a process. I want heeling which is a specific position, and then I want “with me” which means you can move as far as you want as long as the leash doesn’t get tight. Heeling is going well. With me, well we’re still working on it!

In fact, heeling is going so well we impressed the crowd at the Show N Go this weekend. I had only planned on taking the Golden along for the experience of being in a show-like environment, but decided at the end of the week to enter him in Rally Novice for two runs. It was the first time he was in a ring, and the first time he’s seen Rally signs. And he was amazing! For the figure eight the pylons were food bowls — didn’t phase him! The judge was in a wheelchair, which she moved around — he glanced, but focused right back! The left about turn that we’ve never practiced – he did with a look at me like, “What? That wasn’t hard. Why are you looking at me amazed?” He even managed the down, walk around dog without breaking his stay! He was excellent in his crate when I left him there. Did fantastic in the warm up area, and I walked him through the crowds a few times, and he was nicely focused on mom. I’m very proud of my boy!

So new places and things this week were plenty! The Show N Go being the highlight of course, but we also spent some time outside our local grocery store checking out shopping carts and learning that if I look at mom when people walk by I get treats! Was a rather nice way to spend a few moments. He got on a bus this week as well. No hesitation, and got pets for that. And we had our first restaurant, outside meal where he lay at my chair patiently as we ordered, ate and relaxed. He was so good he earned Red Robin french fry!

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I think he liked it. With this success, we also went to Panera, where he did just as well laying patiently as people came by, we got our food, and as we ate. We even upped the distractions on that one by bringing the Labrador as well. He still did fantastic.

This week he also got to go to Agility Practice. While he’s too young to be doing any jumping and such, it was a great socialization experience. He got to meet other people and dogs, and I was pleased to see him being polite about it.

He never ceases to amaze and impress me.

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On Friday the Labrador and I had our debut in Rally Advance. This means I went into the ring and removed her leash. While we’ve done that in Agility, a Rally ring is a completely different environment. We’d also done it at a Show-N-Go, but again, different, and I was allowed treats on me.

Our first class while she did leave me to go say hi to the judge, and then to the folks at the table, we still managed a very respectable 92 out of a 100 for third place. I was pleased! Then about 15 minutes later we were back in the ring for another go.

It was a disaster. We eventually made it through about six of the signs, but the Labrador kept leaving me. She said hi to the judge, then started sniffing. Nothing I said or did brought her back to me. Finally the judge brought me my leash and said, “Thank you.” Our cue to leave the ring. Honestly, she gave us ample time to try to fix our course, but the Labrador was displaying all sorts of stress signals and avoidance. I was stressed and nervous, and she picks up on it. She was stressed. Dog shows are stressful. Hence the avoidance and sniffing.

I put her leash on and we left the ring, continuing out the door to the field behind the facility to walk and make a 911 call to my trainer.

This was our first Rally NQ. I knew it would happen one day, and I know this won’t be our last. As my trainer and others said, “Welcome to dog showing.” I was disappointed, and a bit bummed.

One exhibitor spoke to me before we went into the ring about the 5-5-5 rule, something I hadn’t heard before. Will it matter in 5 minutes? Will it matter in 5 hours? Will it matter in 5 days? The answer to all of that beyond what it showed me there was more training to do. So, I was bummed, and disappointed, not devastated. I went home that night, and wondered what would happen the next day. Would we have another good run, like our 92? Was she a one run dog? Was I a one run handler? Was it the stress? A whole in the training? Either way, I knew there wasn’t much we could do over night to change anything. We played in the yard, did some heeling with a frisbee reward, played with the tunnel and weave poles and basically had fun.

Then we headed back again the next day.

I must look as nervous as I feel at these trials as I always seem to get adopted, or maybe dog show people are just that friendly! I had people I didn’t know stopping by to assure me everything would be fine. We’d do great! They reminded me that a positive attitude is important. I love how friendly everyone is.

One thing that was different for me this time, as opposed to the last time I showed in Rally was it wasn’t the signs that worried me. I actually felt like I had a grasp of the signs after seeing the course map and didn’t feel like I needed to pull out the rule book to double check my understanding of them. I guess my flash cards have been paying off! That and I’d read through the rules again the night before. I walked the course, and worried about the fact the jump led her right towards the stewards table. There was a halt, pivot left, forward right in front of it, and I considered where to do the sign to give us distance from people with the hope she wouldn’t go say hi.

We warmed up. We went in. We completed the first sign, and then the Labrador went to say hi to the judge. “Oh no, not again.” I think the words actually left my mouth, but were followed by a here, and unlike the previous day, the Labrador returned! We heeled forward, completing our course to an amazing score of 96 and first place! Redemption! A 96 under the same judge who had handed us our leash the day before and nicely said, “Thank you.” She’d also said that she had a dog in the car that would have been worse than mine. Today her comment was, “Nice recovery!” I wanted to crow, “See I really HAD trained my dog!” Instead I smiled and said, “Thank you.” I think she understood!

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