It's official. I'm hooked. I said this years ago when I first learned about "dancing with dogs" and attended a seminar... long before I even had a working dog! Then I got Tripp and trained with freestyle in mind. We did demos. It was all fun. Now we are competing. Part of me wondered if that would put some pressure on and make mistakes more disappointing... Nope! I have found that, while I do have fun in every sport, musical freestyle is the only one where we can completely bomb and still leave the ring smiling, carefree, having a great time. (Hopefully that attitude remains as we move up the ranks!) I have also found that the competitors are some of the nicest bunch of people out of all the sports we've done. I've always found a decent crowd at trials, but in WCFO it was like being around friends. And I'm no social butterfly! The energy is wonderful, nothing like a competition, just total support of each other no matter what. We are there for fun and bonding with our canine partners. I maintain that freestyle is one of the most advanced dog sports, as far as training goes, and it develops a pretty amazing relationship between dog and handler. It's so much more than just obedience and tricks set to music. It really is a team effort, a partnership.
Oct 8 & 9 brought the WCFO regional trials to Amherst. I entered our TNT routine both days. Never did I expect we would do so well. Practice paid off, and Tripp performed better than ever. We got amazing feedback from everyone; of course Mr. Flashy Poodle impressed everybody! The judges gave some great reviews on our detailed score sheets with tips for future training. Day one we earned 1st place and a special award by the WCFO founder for Outstanding Routine. Day two gave us 2nd place and another special award for High Scoring Beginners Routine. :-) We also earned our Freestyle Dog title. Requirements increase as you move up in levels, so future trials should be interesting! I already have a couple new routines in mind...
As proud as I was of Tripp for doing so well in the ring, I was made equally proud out of the ring... being a young intact male, he's developed some sociability issues with dogs. I am not at all happy with his usual behavior towards other males, but I know it's the hormones talking. And he's always been a bit of a bully. Yes, Tripp! Most people wouldn't believe that. It's true. Nobody's perfect! So on Sat. we headed out to AK9C's "dog park" for some playtime after the trial. Near the end of our visit a family entered with 2 kids and 2 male dogs. I got Tripp close to me just in case. Their young Pittie mix bounded over to say hi. Tripp gave a little growl, but the pup made it very clear he just wanted to play. The boys took off running and I was so happy to see Tripp make a guy buddy! They chased each other around, getting insanely messy in the mud, having a grand old time. Tripp politely ignored the smaller old dog, and didn't worry about the kids. The resulting cleanup was worth it to see him socialize so well. (Although I found a number of ticks after, so we probably won't be visiting the park again.) Then on Sun. he played briefly with an older male Golden, even accepting play mouthing from him, and not growling once. I'm still overjoyed that my baby made new friends. I really am just as proud of that as all the awards we won that weekend! :-)
This was one busy weekend! Though I must say we were more successful in rally on Sat. than in agility on Sun. (no surprise). But Tripp has been doing great in practice, he just needs trial experience at this point. So we entered with yet another organization, USDAA. This is where I intended to focus our efforts, simply because they will allow him to run when creatively groomed. Apparently we have our work cut out for us! Usually I'm good about learning rules before a trial, but I missed one important point on scoring... to get a qualifying score in USDAA you need a clean run. No "off courses" allowed. Not just in jumpers, but standard agility as well! Who knew? LOL So does this mean I'll enter less? Well, probably not. After all I'm not going to "waste" all the training we've done so far. In fact, I may actually enter more - add jumpers to the list. Hey, why not? Just as much of a shot Qing there as in Std. now! ;-)
Anyway, no Qs this weekend. Gamblers was a bust - distractions made us lose time and though we racked up more than enough points, once again the buzzer sounded with just one obstacle left in the gamble. Oooh! But it still makes for a good warm up run, and I do enjoy the strategy of the game. I'm determined to finish the course one of these times! If Tripp could just focus he would make an awesome gamblers dog. Maybe some day... I set up my tripod to film us as best I could. Most of our gamblers run can be seen. Unfortunately, I suffered camera malfunction with our standard run, so missed the opportunity to review my handling mistakes. We didn't do too badly out there, and I thought we had just barely squeaked out a Q, until learning the scoring methods. Oh well. It was also an educational experience on set up and handling. Tripp is a totally different dog in agility - thinks he's a wild Border Collie! Can't handle seeing other dogs in "his" ring, and is always in a hurry to get started (hence the barking). I need to get focus, and keep him out of sight until it's our turn. Trickier than it sounds, as they want you ringside and then in the ring setting up while the last team finishes their run! Uh... yeah, right.
We shall try again, but I'm not holding my breath for ribbons in this one! When we do finally Q and title in USDAA, it will be quite an accomplishment!
Marshland Obedience Club held their annual UKC Rally Trials at Finish Forward Dogs in Saco, ME on Oct. 1, 2011. Tripp & I entered both trials that day, looking to finish our level 2 title. We did just that in the morning with a score of 97 and 1st place in A dvision. That meant a move-up for us for the afternoon trial. For some reason they put me in B division "with the pros" in level 3. No biggie, and maybe I will stay there for future trials! In any case, level 3 was great. We got another 97 and 2nd place. Shannan (of FFD) was nice enough to take video of us doing our first URO3 trial. :-)