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Archive for the ‘trial/show’ 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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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!

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I learned a hard lesson this past weekend at a NADAC trial. I thought the Labrador was done with visiting folks. I thought we’d over come that, but it was cropping up more and more in practice. She would bounce over to visit the instructor and I’d call her, usually more than once. She always came back to me, but not always on the first call. And I let this continue. I’m sure you see where this is going.

In practice if she blew a contact I made her go back. We train two on two off. In the trial setting as long as she got one paw in the contact zone I didn’t care. We kept going. We were qualifying! It was new and exciting! We earned titles! And then there was this last trial.

Friday we entered two classes — Touch N Go and Open Tunnelers. We rocked. We were together and a team and she ran a fantastic 5.85 yards per second! Nothing could stop us! Two first place Q’s!

And then Saturday things started to fall apart. We started the day with a beautiful Chances run. She got the distance. We were flowing and graceful and then she leapt off the dog walk. The photographer even got a wonderful sequences of photos of this. Isn’t that the memory you just want to keep? Actually…just maybe it is.

Our next few courses were all over the place. Some almost good, but not good enough. Our teamwork was off. Something wasn’t clicking.

Then Sunday it all fell apart. Or at least that’s how it felt. Our Regular run I felt like I had an untrained dog. She was all over the place. She went to say hi to the photographer. She ignored my recall. She acted like she had no idea what contacts were. And lucky for me I have wonderful friends. It was all my fault. As the judge said in the briefing, “Everything out there that happens right is your dog. Everything that goes wrong, is your fault.”

But instead of blame, they reminded me things that I’d been told before, but let slide. Things I’d ignored to my out detriment. The next course she left me. I called her. Once. She didn’t come so I walked over to and without a word took her by the scruff, signaling for my leash. I leashed her up, walked her to her crate and put her up without a word. Then I walked away.

The next course she stayed with me, but blew a contact. I called her back and put her back on the contact and then praised profusely. Then we finished the course. Not a Q, but second place and only a 10 point fault.

What I had trained — what I had allowed was exactly what I was getting. It was time to remember my criteria, hold the line and take my ego out of it. When I called her to come, she must come or the game ends. This isn’t just a because I say so, but it in the end is a safety issue. If there is someone across the street she wants to see, but a car is coming, she must return to me if I tell her to. A contact must be a two on two off. This is the criteria I have trained. This is the standard I must hold her to even if it means we NQ a few courses as I insist upon this. That is one thing I love about NADAC is the ability to train in the ring. So, take my ego which wants us to win NOW out of it, strengthen the criteria so that in the future she knows this is the way to play the game she loves, and how to keep playing.

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Up until recently we ran Tunnelers and Jumpers only at trials, but now the Labrador has her weaves down and her contacts are getting better.  So at the last trial we entered a few more classes, but we were limited on Saturday due to the fact we had another obligation in the morning that meant we didn’t arrive at the trial until late morning.  We now have two Regular Q’s, a Weaver’s Q, and five Tunnelers Q’s!

So now we are looking toward our next trial and trying to figure out what to enter since technically we are now eligible for everything!  First I need to consider the Labrador’s endurance – physically and mentally.  Is she up for six or seven runs in one day?  Laying around, to come out and run, to lay back down, to come out and run?  And honestly, I’m not sure.  At this last trial we ran three classes on Saturday, with only one Q (but two first places!).  The first class her mental focus wasn’t there, but the last two she was fantastic.  The jumpers run was gorgeous (only a no-Q due to a knocked bar), and her Tunnelers run we were 11 seconds under course time, which means at the end of the day she was not only focused, but still raring to go!

The next day we did five classes.  Our two Q’s that day were the second and fourth classes, with a 4th place in the middle.  No Q there due to faults.  Our Tunnelers time was still 8.18 seconds under time!  This leads me to believe she has the physical endurance.  Her mental focus was good, though I think she was little more distracted.  Now was that due to the longer day?  The weather?  Me?  I suppose one trial isn’t enough to judge.

My endurance on the other hand — let’s just say I think I’m going to take up jogging!  Mentally too it was a much longer day, but I enjoyed it.  I remembered the courses, stayed on track, and was still smiling by the end of the day.  Saturday I wasn’t feeling well, and didn’t eat during the trial.  Sunday I felt better, but didn’t eat.  I think if we up the number of classes, I definitely need to eat. The end of the trial crash due to not eating isn’t good.  So I will definitely try this next trial to calm the nerves and figure out something I can eat.

This next trial we are considering doing 6 classes each day.  That’s a big jump.  So the questions I’m asking myself are:

Is there a class I could skip?
Can running in all these hinder our training?  (For example what will it do if I run her in all six and she blows her contacts every time?)

I’m sure there are other questions to ask that I’m no thinking of at this time, but I have a little time to consider this, and so I will before I send in the entry.

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Not only have I been slacking keeping my handwritten journal updated, I’ve been slacking here! On April 27 the Labrador gave me a fantastic wedding day present. She earned her first NADAC title — TN-N!

I have a wonderful husband who didn’t complain at all about spending our 12 year wedding anniversary at an agility trial! He’s even now talking about getting his own agility dog sometime in the future when we are ready for another one.

How’s that for a great weekend?

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