What a weekend for my pups! The weather was predicted to be really really crappy, but somehow we managed to avoid anything more than a little sprinkle here and there. The good thing about that was it was cloudy and quite cool…since there’s no running water at this site, it made it much more comfortable for the dogs.
Excellent only, so just Miles was entered the first day. Both courses were walking very big dog friendly so I was totally psyched. Most unfortunately, I got a call from my uncle that my great uncle had gone into a coma due to bleeding on the brain and wasn’t going to make it. This was during my walkthrough for Standard. Needless to say, I wasn’t very focused and ended up walking the same loop about 6 times before realize that I hadn’t even seen the rest of the course. My head and heart weren’t really in it, but I tried to find a way to put on a happy face for Miles. He actually did fantastic and I directed him very confidently into the wrong end of the tunnel at the second to last obstacle. When I realized that I told him to go in the #7 hole instead of the #19 hole, I very loudly said “shit”. Nice. Fortunately the judge was very nice and actually was chuckling a bit when I turned to apoligize to him after collecting my dog. Miles did exactly what I told him to do, so I wasn’t going to call him off that tunnel hole, so we just went with it and took our NQ. This run didn’t get on tape…probably a good thing 😉
In between runs I had Rue measured. We had done a lot of this as she had been growing up, but admittedly hadn’t measured her in quite some time. I new that her growth plates were closed at 10mo when she had her OFA prelims, so I wasn’t stressing about her height at all since she was consistently measuring about 20″ at home. I wasn’t concerned about her height while being measured, but more about her standing still…or standing on the table at all since we had worked so hard on an automatic down. Well she did fine, but did something at first to make her measure about 21.5″, gah! I asked if she could do it again, which she did, and we ended up with 20.75″. Still a little tall I think, but good enough for AKC. I will need to practice with her at home to make sure we get her consistently measuring under 21″ for USDAA.
The Excellent JWW course was technical in parts, but at the same time didn’t require any collection at all…sweet! I had a good plan and worked really hard to get my mental game back. I stupidly rushed him at the poles and pushed him into the second hole. He clearly knew that was incorrect and wouldn’t continue weaving until we fixed it 😉 The rest went beautifully except for a bar near the end at a very tricky spot where the dog had to converge on you and basically run across your feet to a rear cross jump. Not sure if he slipped or hit the standard or if he truly hit the bar. I didn’t hear anything, but saw the bar fall. He was super happy on this run though!
My mom came down from NY late Friday evening for the weekend in part to celebrate my birthday, but also to watch Rue’s debut (or de-Rue as my friend was calling it). So I dragged her out of bed at 6am for a potentially very long and rainy day. I was sooo appreciative of her coming along and being a trooper for the whole day. Thank goodness we didn’t see the 90% chance of rain up to 1″ total that they were predicting! They were running Exc Std, Exc JWW, Open Std, Open JWW, Novice Std, and Novice JWW in two rings, but with one judge. The trial moved very efficiently and there were quite a few scratches from folks being nervous about the weather. I think we were done with Excellent by 11:45. Doug and the girls arrived around 12:30 to be sure to catch the de-Rue too 🙂
The courses today seemed much more challenging than yesterday and more twisty turny. Thankfully I decided to bring my brain along! Standard ran great and I was so proud of Miles. He actually stopped on his dogwalk…I am not certain he’s done that in a trial in eons! He also had a great teeter both days without flying off. He was a little slow to down on the table, but all in all a beautiful run for our second AX leg and a 1st place!
The JWW course was full of boxes, ick, and was eating dogs up left and right. And the bigger the dogs got, the more it ate them up. Miles did an amazing job in light of a very hard call off the tunnel at #3 and being more distracted than usual. We got through most of the hard stuff to lose him to an offcourse at the end, boohoo. I knew that ending was going to be tough and I thought I had his attention so I released him to jump, but he got sucked to the obvious offcourse anyway 😦 He thought he was perfect and I didn’t let him know otherwise. He worked through a lot on that course and didn’t lose any speed or knock any bars despite it!
The Open classes were very small and were done and gone within an hour of starting, so that meant the time for Rue’s runs was getting closer! I tried to let go of any anxiety, but I’m never quite sure yet what I’m going to get out of her. It was only a week ago that I started working her in the ring without any cookies on me! And last Sunday I met Melanie for a quicky private just to run a Novice type course without cookies and with her being “judge” just to test the waters a bit more. She did pretty well, but visited Melanie twice and also visited some really interesting mushrooms on the ground that she found while on the table. I was able to get her back quickly both times, but I was certainly not going to be surprised by any visiting during the trial!
Both Novice courses were quite baby dog friendly. The Standard course did have a nice offcourse tunnel right in the beginning and also a choice b/w teeter and weaves, but otherwise was very straightforward. I was surprised that there was a pretty hard turn off the dogwalk to the broad though. Dang we’d been working really hard on straight exits in the last week and leaving the turns alone. I brought Rue out about 15 dogs ahead of time. I wanted to make sure she was nicely warmed up and that we had some time to connect. We did a little jog around the ring so she could see everything, potty, and loosen up and then headed to the practice jump. She did a really nice job there with focusing, so we left to wait outside the ring and do tricks. I started teaching her a new trick last week so I was anxious to see if she could do it here…yup. I also sent her out and around the legs of the tent to work on handling focus. She thought that was really fun! I used thawed frozen fried fish sticks as her warm up treat and realized as I was about to go in the ring that I had totally forgot to bring her post run reward of cat food with me! Dang it! So I secretly placed her bag of fish sticks outside of the exit area and figured that was better than nothing, plus she *really* likes them. As we entered the ring I never once doubted that we’d have a great run. She was focused and happy and very confident as we stepped to the line. I elected to put her in a sit, but to not lead out as I didn’t want to lose that connection. What a great job she did! Met all of my criteria without a question, didn’t even look at the offcourse tunnel, thought about taking the teeter a second time, but quickly redirected herself to the poles, and had good running contacts. Definitely her aframe and dogwalk hits were a bit high, but she did them happily and quickly 🙂 Rue earned her first Q with a 1st place finish! She was totally exstatic to shove her face in the bag of fish sticks and to play tug/chase with me, yay!
Last but not least was Novice JWW which was basically a big “S” shape. I was psyched to run the course, but again wasn’t totally sure who I’d get in the ring. I remembered her cat food reward, but since I had given her all of those fish sticks for her last run and Miles ate all of the frozen Bil-Jac, all I had left were a few meatballs and some string cheese that was graciously given to me. Neither of those are really favorites of hers and she wasn’t as excited during her warm up. We still had a nice run, but she sniffed a bit before taking the first jump and was trotting/slow cantering for the majority until the last 5 jumps when I just decided to take off ahead of her. She responded nicely to that and finished very well for a Q and a 2nd place 🙂
So, not sure what happened here…but I have some theories. Either she was a little mentally tired after the Standard run and really only got about 10 minutes to rest in between runs. Or possibly her tummy was full of fish sticks and that was good enough for her. Or she connected the fact that she got fish sticks before and after her last run which she loves, and decided that since I was giving her meatballs before this run that she was thus working for meatballs and that wasn’t very motivating. Or she was more distracted in this ring (Miles had been too) due to more activity outside of it and that took up enough of her mental processing that she couldn’t do her job and be fast at the same time. She was certainly happily surprised by her cat food reward and once again had a very fun wrestle/tug/chase session with me. I have no doubt that she was rewarded well at the end of that run, so I will have to play around with the variables and see how this plays out. Of course, training isn’t linear and I’ve seen this reaction from her before. We’re still learning about each other and this is obviously very new to us. I have no doubt that we’ll figure it out and that she’ll gain confidence in her job and go faster in response to that.
We are entered on our home turf for AKC next weekend….:)