Giving Obedience a "Trial Run"
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... :-)
I'm not sure how we did it. Blame it on the full moon, or just Tripp being Tripp, but he was absolutely wild this weekend. We started Saturday with Rally trials at Finish Forward Dogs, working on his championship points. I didn't get any "Poodles Gone Wild" video footage, but while part of me regrets not having that reference to decifer his unusual behavior, another part is glad there's no evidence of a crazy dog winning the whole show. LOL
Truly, it was unusual behavior for Tripp in the obedience ring, and actually he did well in the first class, earning a 99 & 1st place, but then it seems he spotted the a-frame (even though it was against the wall and behind fencing) and went into agility mode. From then on he was breaking position and barking like mad. Lucky for us, UKC apparently has no rules against barking (AKC does). Somehow, even with all those faults, we managed to score a 95 in the second class. Our 3rd class went slightly better, with the same behaviors but fewer incidents, and we scored a 98 & 3rd place. I was still not impressed with all the barking & running around and asked Tripp to please behave for our final ring time. He listened and gave a nice performance, though it took much willpower! He reeeally wanted to take off again, but stayed with me, and of course that intensity made for an extra flashy run. We ended with a perfect 100 & 1st place, which was earned by a time tie-breaker. Competition was stiff with many great teams scoring high. Tripp was just quicker.
For special awards, the club as usual offered High in Trial for both trials that day, as well as High Combined, which is the first I recall seeing offered for rally. It is for the highest combined score in levels 2 & 3. In the morning trial, another excellent team took HIT with their perfect score, but to my surprise Tripp & I won High Combined. (I actually had to ask what it was. LOL) Well this is something new! Very cool. Incidentally, our combined score was 194 out of a possible 200. The same awards were offered at the conclusion of the afternoon trial, and I sat vaguely listening to the judge announcing the winner for HIT & HC - the same winner as last time... Wait, what? Who me? You mean both?? Very, very cool! :-) We nailed both awards for the same trial. So, we hit a couple bumps, but it was a really nice finish to the day. Oh yes, our afternoon HC score was 198. Not bad, not bad at all!
As of this event, our rally championship point tally stands at 82 points - we need 100 for UROC title. (Points are earned based on score - 1 pt. for a 91, 2 pts. for a 92, and so on.) We have surpassed the required points in each level (must have at least 40 in level 2 & 20 in level 3), so we can earn the remainder from either one, although I will likely continue entering both to work towards URX, which requires 10 double Qs (we have 4 so far)... although that will depend on next year's show schedule and finances.
My fleeting hope of making rank in UKC's Rally All-Stars was dashed earlier in the year. This is an annual list of the top 50 highest scoring teams in the country. It is divided for each level. We made level 3 rank in late winter with our first trial, but come spring we were quickly bumped off by teams who apparently have far more opportunities for competition. Unfortunately we are not so lucky here, with only a few trials to attend in the region. As it currently stands, the #1 team (a Poodle, by the way) has over 500 points (I am baffled at how they accomplished that - must compete every weekend!), although the lowest at the moment is only 46 in level 2 and 50 in level 3. Perhaps there is hope yet... We are up to 47 points now in level 2 and 51 in level 3. So just maybe we'll make the list again, at least briefly. However, this was likely our last trial of the year, so I'm sure more active competitors will take the lead. Oh well. It was a cheap thrill while we had it.
Here is our win photo, with his haul of ribbons from the day!
Marshland Obedience Club
Sept. 29, 2012
Judge: Barb Burri
UKC Rally Obedience
Trial 1 - Level 2: 95
Level 3: 99, 1st place
High Combined score
Trial 2 - Level 2: 100, 1st place
Level 3: 98, 3rd place
High Combined score
Highest Scoring Dog in Trial
On Sunday, we entered an agility trial at All Dog's Gym. Tripp had a little more fun, of course, but our results didn't turn out nearly as good as they did in rally. His behavior was no less crazy, although he's always wicked amped up in agility. Still, he was a bit more over the edge than usual. As always though, he proved to put on an eye catching performance regardless of scoring badly. And as usual, most of the faults were due to my handling, but a couple were all him!
I included details of our performance (and my frustration ;-) in the video description.
For best viewing, and reading about the day, go to http://youtu.be/Z7Wae7ofP_Y.