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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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Canine Good Citizen!

The Golden is now a Canine Good Citizen! He has his very first title! And I’m a bit torn.

Three years ago when the Labrador came into my life, the CGC was the only goal I had. I knew nothing of obedience, rally or agility. We went to training because the Labrador was going to be a big dog (Ha!) and she had to behave. It took us five tries to earn the CGC. Each and every time, my evaluator looked at me and said something along the lines of “Will you relax?” Each time I was so nervous that the Labrador didn’t pass due to reacting to my nerves. When we finally passed I was so excited!

And then I heard all the depreciating comments about the CGC when it became a title. Sometimes list serves are not your friend. “The AKC will do anything for money.” “The CGC is a joke.” They talked about it not being a real test, and that anyone could pass.

The consensus seemed to be a CGC was nothing to be proud of. And then another person that list spoke out, reminding them how earlier they were declaring Obedience and Rally a dying sport because they couldn’t attract new people. And with attitudes like this, she suggested, no wonder! She was proud of her CGC, and worked hard for it and it lead her into those other sports. I wrote to her privately and thanked her for her words.

Now, the reason I am torn is I think I understand just a little more what some of those other people were seeing. Had the evaluator who passed the Labrador been there the other night, the Golden may not have passed. This evaluator was more lenient. She allowed retries. While one retry is allowed, she allowed people several. Technically, with a retry he would have passed, but it doesn’t feel the same.

Even so, I am proud of the Golden. Proud of the work we have done. I’ve enjoyed our time training, and the games we’ve played, and in the end that is what matters. And I do still love the fact he gets CGC added to his name!

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.

Titles and Birthdays!

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!

Spring Break

This week was Spring Break! That means things like Monday was 66 degrees and Wednesday didn’t get above 28. Today was 65, and by Monday they are calling for snow. Spring also means mud.wpid-isight-2014-03-15-21-161.png

Would you believe that’s the Golden? He really, really enjoyed his mud bath….. His water bath after….not so much:

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See? He’s NOT amused!

With the RNC coming up I took this week off to train. And we trained just about every day. Mostly outside. Looking back on the week I have a few ideas for next time. First, I think I need to spend as much time thinking about my training as actual training. I need a better plan. I need to consider how we’re doing and what we need to work on. A list would be helpful. In relationship to that, I need to be keeping better notes. In the beginning I was posting here every week, and I was keeping notes at the end of every day. I’ve started to slack off. I’ve waited several days and then tried to make notes on how training went, or events that happened and find that my memory just isn’t that good any more!

All that said, it’s been a fun week. We trained with friends. The Labrador and I worked on heeling around distractions, including toys and food bowls with the expectation that there will be a food bowl at the National. We’ve worked on the broad jump. We’ve worked our ring entrance, and handing off the leash to the stewart without the Labrador going over to say hi. We’ve worked on retrieving bumpers for fun. We’ve even played some agility.

The Golden is working on sit to greet, stand for exam, and heeling. He finished his Foundation Skills for Agility by winning the “Get Out” competition! (Upholding the family honor as the Labrador did the same thing when she took the class.) He’s started jumping, and rocks his tunnels! We’re working crosses, and I’m getting better with my footwork on front crosses, hoping that will translate over to running the Labrador as well, though she didn’t often give me chances to do front crosses! She’s a rear cross type of runner (in other words, mom’s just too damn slow to keep up!). We’ve started working on 2 on 2 off contacts, and these are things I need to put on that list I mentioned above. A list to keep with me to remind me when I’m out at the park that these are the things to work on!

The RNC is coming fast. And I have trail this coming weekend — a good chance to try out some of the things I plan to do at the RNC. So goals this week are to keep training. To work on focus, and attention. I need to read the rules at least one more time and study the signs. We need to practice our downs while heeling, and stands while heeling. We will keep working on our fronts, and of course, keep working on our heeling!

Played

She played me. The Labradork has been playing me. I am a sucker. For three years we’ve worked spin. Some days were better than others (faster, tighter spins). But then there were the days the command didn’t seem enough and I’d have to get a hand signal as well. Those days the spin was half hearted, slow, and not very tight, and I would just cheer her on, encourage her, or sometimes bring the treat out to lure her into a better spin.

Because of course the problem had to be my training right? If she wasn’t doing it correct, even after all that time, I must not have trained it right. She must not understand. So I’d take a few steps back. I’d work it again. Bring out the treat (read bribe). And then one day something inside me questioned. She’s almost three years old. This is a simple behavior. Could I seriously be that bad of a trainer that she really didn’t understand what I was asking? That had been my assumption. It had to be me. And it was, just not like I thought.

The other night I filled up her food bowl with dinner. I held it in my hand and without a signal said, “Spin.” It was like a fan had turned on as she whipped around in tight circle almost nose to tail. This sweet, innocent little Labradork had been playing me! She’d figured out the least amount of effort she could put into this behavior and still get the treat! Why put in effort if mom will just bring out the treat and lead me around by the nose and then still give me the treat? Mom’s a sucker!

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.