It’s been another busy year with Tripp growing up and further broadening his horizons. At just 18 months, that boy has sure developed quite a resume of his own, plus given me a nice collection of show ribbons. I joke that he’ll have to retire by the time he’s 3, as I’ll run out of wall space! Of course you know that’s not true, at least about retiring… the wall space thing OTOH… ;-)
We got an early start to the season with an all day Musical Freestyle workshop on March 7th. The terrible teens had just begun to set in and I worried that the twerp’s brain would fall out in this class where there was a prerequisite for basic obedience and control. But as I have learned is his way, Tripp was a show off and did surprisingly well. We even met another Standard Parti Poodle, an uncommon but pleasant coincidence. My boy remained flashy looking in motion, regardless of what music played – ah, versatility; the very reason I own Poodles. LOL As always, it was a fun educational experience, made all the better by the fact that I finally have a dog to take seminars with. No more auditing – time to work! :-) I think we both look forward to more doggie dancing in the future.
As spring progressed, we returned to agility training classes, continuing throughout the year. Tripp and I should be ready to begin competition by the mid-2011 season (after post-winter break refresher training). We also started up in an advanced obedience/rally training course, which prepared us well for upcoming trials. The class was repeated in the fall for extra practice, and I look forward to getting back into it again next year. We also continued with occasional swimming lessons, which he enjoys. However I’ve found that he prefers the swim itself over jumping in, so we will not likely be getting into dock diving after all. Oh well, plenty of other sports to keep us amused. It’s all about having fun!
May Day, we have a show dog! May 1st took us to Westfield, MA for Tripp’s first UKC conformation show. He did a good job for his first time out at just under 11 months old, and earned 50 points in 2 shows towards his title. Handling classes back home definitely helped, and I really enjoyed showing, a bit more than expected! Some day I envision having a more “serious” show dog. For now though, I’ll stick with my guinea pig.
On the 23rd, we headed over to Saco, ME for a weight pull workshop. Not a sport I had any serious consideration of doing, but since UKC offers WP trials at some shows along with a versatility award for those who compete and place in performance and conformation at the same event, plus the fact that WP opportunities (both trials and education) are few and far between around here, I took the chance for a good introduction to the sport. Hey, why not? It was a lot more fun than I expected and I can see how it’d be easy to get hooked on. Tripp did a great job as well, seemingly a natural! Although I later found it was more beginner’s luck, as he has required further training (like any normal dog!). LOL Still, we learned a lot that day and I anticipate competing on occasion throughout his career.
June 13 brought us back to Saco for AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test. I can’t say Tripp performed as awesomely as I hoped, but as usual I was looking for a tight competitive obedience heel and perfect response. A lot to ask from a distractible puppy! He worked loosely but was well responsive and passed each exercise no problem. We returned home with his CGC title and the goal of better proofing his performance for the “real” trials.
Hocus Pocus, Tripp needs to focus! On the 27th I jumped at the chance to sign up for a nearby training workshop with Dee Ganley. It was great to finally work with this excellent trainer, and to practice focus under novel distraction. Tripp had fun as always.
July 10 found us in York, ME for morning agility run thrus. Tripp proved how important it is to practice on different courses in locations other than class. Let’s just say you won’t be seeing video of our warm up runs on youtube any time soon! LOL He completely lost his mind out there and had to be put back on leash for a few runs. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for us though, and lots of fun regardless of teenage behavior. Unfortunately my camera died before our final runs, just when he was finally getting good! We finished up on a Jumpers course, which we’d never experienced before, and ended off leash with a beautiful performance. Happy to end on such a positive note. Everything wrapped up just in time to beat the rain. As we left, the skies opened up and a downpour was upon us. Thankfully it was not lasting, and it eventually tapered off to light intermittent showers, allowing us to head over to Calef’s field in Barrington for a craft fair. It was great dog socialization, and we got in some early Christmas shopping.
We spent July 17 & 18 in Manchester, CT for Tripp’s second weekend of UKC conformation. Somehow I managed to miss the first ring time, which I was none too pleased about. But at least we had 2 other chances to show, so live and learn! Tripp racked up more “default points” as I call them, being awarded class placements with no other Multicolored Standard Poodles to compete against. (UKC awards points on somewhat of a merit system, judging against the breed standard rather than solely on who else is in the ring. Points may be withheld from dogs not up to par. 100 points are required for championship, but the dog must also have 3 wins against competition, so a dog is not automatically a CH at 100 points.) Day two made up for our missed show prior, as Tripp placed 3rd in Group, giving him his first competition credit. We received a nice critique from one of the judges on both his quality and my handling skills. That just made my day.
August 1 we were in Saco again for UKC Rally run thrus. Practice paid off and Tripp did a fantastic job, even earning a lovely compliment on heelwork from the judge. We’re ready for the real thing! I also got lucky and won the silent auction for a private “workout” with the awesome Barb Burri. All in all an exciting day.
Mid-August we journeyed further into Maine for a private weight pull lesson at a pet fair. It was good to get some more professional guidance, as we were currently unable to practice on our own. I also got some assistance in measuring Tripp for his own harness, which I later ordered (and it’s beautiful!) – now we’re committed to the sport! :-) During the pet fair, Tripp also helped demonstrate basic Rally-O for interested beginners, and got more all-important socialization.
August 14 brought more UKC conformation with the summer heat. Marion, MA hosted Silver City K9 Club’s all-breed show, and we dressed to impress; me in my new show attire and Tripp in his sexy new Continental trim. Continued handling classes paid off and we both showed improvement in the ring… after one initial hiccup. The pup was a bit over excited to see the first judge, which was cute but not exactly conducive to examination. ;-) Once around and he got his bearings, standing better for the judge next try. We got our class points, but lost to a CH in Breed, who showed wonderfully and deserved the win. The afternoon show put us under a well known Poodle judge, and Tripp did me proud. He looked better than ever out there, and it’s still our best performance to date. Even more exciting, we defeated the CH that beat us last time, earning our second competition credit with a Best of Breed. We continued to the Group ring, which was very large and full of excellent dogs, including Grand Champions. After reexamining everyone and sending around the ring, the judge picked his “short list” of those up for placement. My heart literally skipped a beat when he called us out first! What a moment! He sent the group around again with us in the lead. Unfortunately Tripp is accustomed to following rather than being followed, so he was slightly distracted by everyone behind him and didn’t gait quite as well. I think that played a big part in the judge’s decision to switch us with the #2 dog, although it was a beautiful specimen. Around again and Tripp moved better with someone to chase. I was still in a daze when the judge called the placements – we won 2nd! It remains our most impressive win, for all the competition we were against. If only that had counted towards CH credit, it would have been an awesome day to earn our title. But as we already got our CC in Breed competition, that was it for the day – we’d need one more at another show. (Oh darn, more showing? You know that just breaks my heart. hehehe) Another neat bit of trivia was that the judge was one who put up Tripp’s sire at the national competition for BOB. No wonder he picked us, those parti boys are memorable. So says the judge, “I know what I like!” :-) That is still my favorite show day, not only because of the big win, but because my boy just looked so good.
September was a busy month. We started off with our private lesson with Barb, giving APDT style rally a try. What fun! It’s definitely more challenging than AKC or UKC and I can’t wait to get started competing. Tripp does great overall, looks flashy as always, and has fun doing it, which I’m glad of because obedience is my favorite sport. Rally is reaching the top now over traditional obedience, as it’s much more interesting and varied, not just the same old routine every time. Plus the allowed communication between handler and dog is more enjoyable. I still would like to eventually try for some regular obedience titles as well though. Another thing I was happy to confirm is that APDT is welcoming to all competitors, and should allow us in trials with dyed hair. This was a big concern of mine, as I do creative grooming, and feared having to give up all dog sports while Tripp was in color. AKC is strictly against it, but surprisingly UKC has no problem (it’s nothing that interferes with ability to perform, so really!), but as usual UKC events are uncommon in the area. So I’m glad to have APDT rally available to us (“local” trials are held fairly regularly), and USDAA is also open to creative grooming so we will have an agility venue as well once prepared for that sport.
We headed back to Manchester, CT on 9/11 to join “The Pom Poms” all-Poodle musical freestyle team. Laurel Rabschutz & Nancy Triou taught a private workshop series at Tails U Win just for the group, founded by Honey Loring (of Camp Gone to the Dogs). It was a lot of fun and great practice. As always, the instructors offered great educational value (they also taught the workshop we attended in March). And how neat to part of a freestyle group made up of all Poodles! The plan is to perform at different functions as we progress.
On 9/12 we skipped over to Enfield, CT for another UKC event. This time we entered our first weight pull trial along with conformation. Either Tripp knew something was up that day or our lack of refresher handling classes really showed, as the twerp was an absolute fool in the ring. Maybe it was just the new haircut - I clipped him down for summer - so perhaps he just felt better in the heat, or figured why act serious if he doesn’t look it? haha No matter apparently, as the first judge put us up for BOB over another CH, finishing Tripp’s title first thing. After taking our win photo, it was on to Group, but alas no placements this time. We moved on to the WP trial, where his antics continued. What a nut. But considering how little experience we had, he did okay, and managed to accumulate just enough points for his first “leg” towards the UWP title. He also was awarded 4th place in his class, so not bad for our first time out! That also got us Total Dog award for showing versatility by placing in performance and conformation. So even though the puppy crazies prevented a truly “good” showing, Tripp’s quality shined through and it was a pretty special day. I hoped doing weight pull would tire him out enough to behave better in show #2, but his intensity lasted all day nearly until we packed up to leave, when he finally crashed. The second show went quicker as he went directly into the CH ring, where he was defeated by the other dog. Well, only fair we take turns winning. ;-)
Next weekend we did some rally run thrus, getting a little more practice under our belt before the upcoming competitions. At the end of the month we took a road trip to Agawam, MA for our first UKC rally trial. We finished with a score of 97 and 1st place. The weekend after took us to Saco for two more UKC rally trials. As usual, most points deducted were from handler error, in other words, it’s all my fault. LOL But we still got a very decent 96 in trial 1 and in trial 2, Tripp (and I) gave a great performance, earning a perfect 100 and his URO1 title! I so wish I got it on camera. His heelwork was just beautiful. :-) To celebrate our success, we detoured on our way home to catch the tail end of Dover Apple Harvest Day. I almost always miss these great local events (mostly due to work) and usually don’t find out about them until the last minute, so knowing the date in advance and having just enough time after trials to swing by, I certainly took advantage. Besides another great dog socialization opportunity, this is a particularly cool event. Even though we missed most of it, there was still some neat stuff going on, and plenty of unique vendors to shop at. Tripp of course still believes everyone ventures out in public just to see him… as well they should! LOL
Mid-October brought on our first AKC rally trials. And here we got all excited about moving on to advanced in UKC, now we were back to square one in AKC novice! LOL
On 10/14 we drove to Amherst for a fun practice show n’ go at American K9 Country. It started with a warm-up “aerobic heeling” session, which was totally cool! Then on to the matches. One flat rate for the day allowed unlimited entries, so I jumped on the opportunity to try everything. Along with all the rally I could get, we gave traditional obedience a shot, even Open! Tripp especially liked CDX level, and why not – it has jumps! LOL I admit it’s my favorite level as well. Considering we had zero experience with the exercises in Open, he did okay. The retrieve was amusing! The broad jump, which he’d never seen before, was performed very well. Just that agility ability showing through, I’m sure. Overall pretty encouraging for us to eventually give it a shot. Definitely need to clean up our performance a lot, and fade out all those cues we’re allowed in rally, but no hurry. Maturity and regular practice will naturally make Tripp improve, so perhaps some day we can try it out. We certainly aim for that level of perfection anyway, minus the stiffness and silence, so as long as we still have fun, there’s no reason to not do obedience. On that note, Tripp’s uncle Chase is a big time obedience star, having obvious fun in the ring, and trained entirely with positive/clicker training (which many competitors still stubbornly believe can’t be done) all the way to Utility Excellent level, and apparently shooting for Obedience Champion. He’s also earned the highest level AKC rally title and advanced UKC obedience titles, along with several others, all the while being a happy bouncy fun-having Poodle. What a wonderful role model!
We remained in Amherst the 15th through 16th for trials. Day one was tough, with a tricky course layout which caused many a competitor to miss one sign, automatically losing points. Well, at least I wasn’t the only one. Worse was when I did an exercise wrong, docking us 10 points, which I felt pretty stupid about because my trainer just went over that with me! Chalk it up to ring nerves. I made many more errors over the weekend, bringing our scores much lower than I prefer. Tripp meanwhile did a good job overall. Can’t be perfect all the time I suppose. ;-) We still qualified in each round, with an 85 on day one, and a much improved 94 on day two.
Later that month we attended a “training games” seminar in York, before heading back to Amherst on the 24th for our third AKC rally trial. Once again I screwed up on an exercise I shouldn’t have – just before ring time I was explaining to my mom how the call front/3 steps back was performed, making the point to be sure you get in the appropriate number of steps… then what do I do in trial, but miss that 3rd step back! *Sigh* Another 10 points lost. Maybe I should stick with UKC; that’s obviously where our luck is. LOL (Okay, so it’s probably more because of a bigger show causing bigger nerves, plus being relatively out of practice, as obed/rally class had ended by then, so I wasn’t reminded of handling skills on a weekly basis. ;-) Regardless, I was not the only one to make that error, and we actually ended up having the best time and high score. Although it was only an 87, Tripp earned his Rally Novice title with a First Place. I’ll take it!
17 months (almost)
Halloween weekend brought the final practice meet for The Pom Poms. This was our last chance to get organized and solid on routine before performing at the grooming show, which we had been invited to demo at. (See my groomer blog for more on that story.) I wasn’t entirely sure of our ability since we’d only made it to 2 meets, so remained on standby if they needed me to fill a space. Indeed that happened and we were up to bat. Thankfully all the other training we’ve done crossed over into freestyle easily and with Tripp looking flashy no matter how well he performs, well, there was little to be concerned about. All in good fun!
Nov 6 was the night for our debut. Due to a change in lineup we had to improvise a new routine, but I think it turned out even better than the original. The performance was far from perfect, but we all had a blast, and the crowd loved it. That’s really all that matters. :-) We were called back for an encore, which flowed a bit more smoothly. The crowd went wild both times when Tripp took a bow at the end and he got tons of compliments. What a show off. I could feel him puff up as we first entered the room, and he strutted around like a Champion. Of course – everyone was there just for him, right? A fun night for all, and I hope that the Pom Poms continue and we get to do more demos at other events. I hear there’s already at least one request from another organization for 2011. Hmm!
As winter set in we tried to hit more rally run thrus, but mostly just prepared for the holiday season. The days grow shorter and the weather forbids travel, so I generally back off on events and enjoy a well deserved break. It was a very full year after all, and Tripp definitely earned all those Christmas presents he got spoiled with! :-)
2011 looks even busier. Oh yeah, I’ve definitely gone to the dogs! LOL