Well, first of all, Tripp got "repoodified"! The blue beard came off (so we wouldn't get kicked out of the AKC trial for color) and after shaping up that body he's almost show worthy again. :-) He still needs a bit of growth in some places, but considering I shaved him only 3 months ago, he looks amazing. I know, he always looks good anyway. LOL
So after all our time in Rally, I decided to take the plunge and enter a traditional Obedience trial. The new AKC classes available and decent entry fees made the difference. (That, and our trainer insisting Tripp could do Beginner Novice blindfolded. Ok, but what about me? My handling was the bigger concern! LOL) We started the long weekend on the right foot with a day of run thrus at American K9 Country. Each year they offer this "training party" before certain trials, giving handlers the chance to practice in the same ring setting they may be competing in later. Considering Tripp's previous performance, I made sure to be there and let him know we would be doing obedience, not agility! ;-) That day of course was very busy - we tried the Beginner Novice course, as well as regular Novice and Open, just for fun, plus random exercises and heelwork - so Tripp was well tired out for the night. Next day was spent in the grooming salon, which exhausted him again. At least he wouldn't be going into the trial with pent up energy. LOL
Souhegan Kennel Club offered a great deal on non-regular classes, so I took the chance to enter Wild Card for fun and practice, as well as Beginner Novice. Obviously I hoped for a Q (when don't I?), but went in with only the expectation of learning what it's all about, how we would do, and whether we'd enjoy regular Obedience. Sure enough we did, so I think we will keep at it. :-) It's quite a change from Rally, and we have lots to learn, but it was still fun - seemingly for both of us! And Tripp did very well and was mostly calm.
First up: Wild Card Novice
Wild Card is a non-regular class which allows the handler to choose one exercise to receive a perfect score on; performing it is optional. I of course performed all the exercises - I chose the first one as our wild card, figuring Tripp would be "wildest" then. Handlers are also permitted unlimited praise during each exercise, although repeated commands are still faulted. The rest of the class is performed as in regular Obedience trials, with the same standards of performance. The Novice exercises are: heel on leash & figure 8 (around 2 human "posts"), stand for exam, heel free (off leash), recall (come sit at front, then finish to heel position), long sit (1 minute), and long down (3 minutes).
The class proved to be a great warm up (lucky for us it was scheduled as our first run) and I learned a lot. I wish I could've taken notes in the ring! The judge was super nice and helpful; very supportive of this newbie. Tripp was faulted a few times for poor position and being distracted (but, Mom, there's a Poodle in the next ring!), but as expected most of the points off were due to my handling. My funniest fault was due to forgetting that there was a finish after the recall - I got excited at Tripp's beautiful performance and waved my arms, ready to say yes and release him. Oops! LOL That in turn threw Tripp off and caused him to flip into a very crooked heel position. But most of my other faults were subtle incorrect movements and positioning of myself (some of which I didn't even know there were rules on.) Of course, actually knowing the rules and scoring system would make a big difference, but I do still need work on my handling. Much as I love Rally, including it's casuality, it's perpetuated my sloppy handling and inprecise training. And there's nothing wrong with that - until you start Obedience trials, which are all about precision.
Overall we did much better than I anticipated in Wild Card Novice... 188, not bad at all! I was surprised to score as well as we did, being so green. Even without the Wild Card option, we would've been docked only 5 additional points, so still would've Qed with a 183! (A Qualifying score is 170.) Obviously talking to Tripp in the ring made a difference though, so doubt he'd do as well if I remained silent throughout, as in a regular Novice trial. But who knows. We may find out some day! ;-)
Next: Beginner Novice
Beginner Novice is a new offering in AKC Obedience. The exercises are: heel on leash, figure 8, sit for exam, sit stay (while handler walks around ring), and a recall (no finish required). This is a great optional titling class, with exercises & rules somewhere between Rally and Novice Obedience. Rally signs are used for the heeling pattern, instead of the judge telling you where to go, everything's on-leash, and there are no group exercises. It's a nice stepping stone for those like me coming from Rally. It was still pretty tough, allowing only one verbal praise per exercise (much quieter than I've ever been! LOL) and standards of performance the same as regular Obedience - precision positioning, etc.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, having no experience beyond the one run-thru day, but there was no way to know until we tried! Amazingly, we finished with a very respectable 193 and 1st place. Our first Obedience leg! I'm excited to continue.
Here we go, chasing more titles... :-)