Over winter break (between what seemed like weekly blizzards), Tripp & I worked on further advancing in Obedience, preparing for our next season of trials. I finally ordered a set of official scent articles, which came just in time for Christmas. At last we could get "serious" with training for Utility, the highest level in Obedience. For so long I had denied any desire to compete in Utility, but everyone was right - it really is a ton of fun! I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say it's the most fun level, as I enjoy them all; but it definitely is a blast, and an exciting challenge. I'm also looking forward to eventually competing in AKC's new Versatility class which takes exercises from all 3 levels, mixing it up each time. That should be really interesting. Not quite ready for that yet, but we'll get there!
First up: our debut in CDSP Utility on Apr. 4. (Yes, I'm behind on updating... so what's new? ;-)
In trial one, Tripp started out decently enough. Unfortunately things went downhill in Scent Discrimination, where he got distracted while searching and decided it'd be more interesting to track a scent on the floor instead of finding my article. :-p I had to re-command him, but that never fails to make him guess, so he just grabbed whichever article was convenient. NQ right there. Oh well, on to the rest of the exercises. Things didn't go much smoother in Directed Jumping... I don't know what the heck that serpentine go out was all about! LOL (More smells, no doubt.) On his second attempt he surprised me by taking the jump on his way out... that was just showing off. Not an exercise he typically blows. The Directed Retrieve on the other hand, is commonly one of his downfalls in the ring. Total distraction and silliness. Definitely something we need to work on. Finally in the Moving Stand, he did something right - possibly even perfect! :-) I stopped a little too closely (apparently should've gone 10' instead of 6') but Tripp did great. Now if we can just get ALL the exercises to that level of competency. haha
Thankfully Tripp got most of the goofiness out of his system in the morning. In trial two he showed much better, and actually we ended up being the only qualifying team out of all the Utility entries. Tough class! But Tripp proved he could do it. :-) Other than a couple silly distractions during the glove exercise, he actually did a really nice job! I was a little nervous when he dropped the glove (or threw it at me? LOL) but happily that was just points off, not an NQ. We finished with a respectable score of 192, and of course got 1st place by default.
Don't want to get too hopeful though for a quick title finish, as I foresee us spending a long time in CDSP Utility. Okay, so maybe I am slightly hopeful... but then we'll still keep entering after UD, as the current plan is to aim for OTCH level! Because yes, Tripp absolutely does need another Championship. hehehe
Now, we're kind of working backwards here, beginning with the highest levels and working our way down in other venues, but that's just the way it goes. While we're near the top in CDSP, we're just starting in Open (the middle level) with UKC. (Wait for AKC to come around - we still have even lower titles to finish. LOL)
On Apr 18, we did a day of show entry at UDSNNE's UKC trials at Waggin' Tail. I know I had sworn that I would never do regular Open Obed. with Tripp due to the 3 minute sit, as it tended to bother his back ever so slightly... but then he'd sit in his window seat for half an hour, twitching/spasming, but refusing to move. :-p Man that's annoying! I kept joking I might as well do Open if he insists on sitting that long outside of the ring - but just because he would do it in competition doesn't justify any discomfort in the name of a title. (He never broke a stay, but I could tell it hurt a little. And that defeats the whole purpose of dog sports.) So I held off. But having recently finished treatment (TCM/herbal) for his chronic Lyme Disease which had been flaring up, I've found Tripp to be less sore lately, and as long as his spine isn't way out of alignment from doing something wacky (boys will still be boys) he now seems able to handle the long sit without difficulty. We did a few practice runs and no twitching. Yay! :-)
I was also really happy to find that UKC offers a "minimum jump height" option, which means a shorter (and safer) broad jump in Open.
So here we go... As I told Tripp, we only have to do it 3 times if he's good. So far, that's looking promising!
In trial one, Tripp did pretty well overall. He got several deductions for positioning (crooked sits, imperfect heeling, etc.) and more for a slow drop on recall (something else we need to work on), but his attention was decent - not ideal, but decent. He had some really great moments, and we Qed, so I can't really complain too much! Final score was 184 (and a 2nd place by default - only 2 teams Qed) so with min. score being 170 to qualify, it certainly could have been worse! That puts us about half way to "perfect" - I'll take it... this time. haha
Trial 2 we got on video, thanks to a fellow competitor who was kind enough to film us. Tripp did a bit better this time - similar faults, but not so many. This judge is a stickler for positioning, so it's hard to get a clean run with anything less than absolute precision. But that is the ultimate goal in Obedience, isn't it? We finished with a 192.5 and 1st place (by a mere half point), so definitely nothing to sneeze at! :-)
I think Tripp's biggest fault in this run was lagging during the figure 8. I wondered where he disappeared to near the end... I should've known - he spotted the camera. LOL What a ham. ;-)
The stay exercises aren't shown on the video. In UKC Open, these consist of an Honor down-stay with handler out of sight, while another team does the heeling patterns (notice Oonah the Malamute hanging out center ring while Tripp & I work), and then the group sit-stay, again with handlers out of sight. Tough exercises, but go figure they are the only ones Tripp scored perfectly in. :-D
Well, just one more leg to go, and then we will be on to more Utility. UKC has some interesting stuff to offer there, a little different from the other venues, so it should be fun!
Here are some nice pics from the UKC trial, taken by Chris Bäby.