I may have found something that Tripp enjoys as much as agility. Of course, at first he thought it WAS agility... LOL
Over the weekend we attended an Intro to Barn Hunt workshop at Fit-N-Trim Dog Training, just over the MA border. Barn Hunt is a fun, new, fast growing sport in which dogs climb and tunnel through a hay bale maze to search for a live rat hidden in a safe, aerated tube. Empty or litter filled tubes are present as well, to test the dog's ability to sniff out the correct one. Training for the sport is relatively easy, and most dogs love the chance to use their natural hunting instincts. Check out the BHA's official site at www.barnhunt.com.
At the seminar, we learned the basic rules of Barn Hunt and how the trials are run, then the dogs got a chance to try out the hay maze. I made the mistake of pointing out to Tripp what was happening, using the word "tunnel" and letting him see a dog go through the bales... of course, he automatically thought it was a unique agility course and started screaming. Ok, back to the crate for you, mister loudmouth! LOL When it was our turn, he was in full on agility mode (dang, it's been 2 years, you'd think he'd forget, but no, that Poodle brain just went nuts - can you say "agility withdrawal"? ;-) After nearly dislocating my arm & tripping me several times we finally made it into the "start box" where Tripp continued his noisemaking. (Seriously, you'd never know this dog had a single obedience title, or training even!) After he eventually shut up for two seconds, I let him go. In Barn Hunt trials, dogs are required to show willingness to go through a hay tunnel as well as put all four feet on a bale. Obviously, no problem for Tripp. He shot through the tunnel and immediately started searching for the next agility obstacle. Soon he spotted the A-Frame against the wall, thankfully well fenced-in, and he ran to that trying to figure out how he was supposed to get on it. LOL I did manage to convince him that jumping on a hay bale would be fun too, so he did that a few times, and offered to repeat the tunnel as well. ;-) Getting Tripp to leave the ring was a little more difficult, but nothing compared to what was to come...
For the next session, dogs were introduced to the rats. The trainers stood behind the ring gating with a securely caged rat, while the handlers brought their dogs up to the other side of the fence to see the rat. Some dogs were unsure, just needing some encouragement, while others were enthusiastic about getting that critter. Can you guess which group Tripp was in? hahaha Yup, he was so enthusiastic that within a few seconds he managed to knock over the fencing into the trainer & rat. (They were fine.) Ok, apparently we have little need for practice in this sport!
After the introductions, an instinct test was set up. In this first level, 3 tubes are placed in a row in plain sight; the dog simply needs to navigate the easy course and indicate which tube contains the rat. The tubes are solid & camouflaged, with only small slits for air, so the rat is not visible to dog or handler, therefore the dog must rely on his nose AND the handler must trust the dog's judgement! Tripp checked them all out, and quickly found the rat. His signal was pretty clear - he stomped the tube. LOL I had to basically drag him out of the ring as he obsessed over the rat tube, which the trainer now held. That will be our biggest hurdle in trials - calling off the hunt.
On the plus side, Tripp was no longer in agility mode - by now he figured out this was a different sport - but just as exciting! :-)
Next they set up a novice course and scattered the tubes in hiding places amidst the hay. This was a very interesting run, as I learned to distinguish between how Tripp indicates a rat vs. a tube with just litter in it (when they aren't right next to each other & easy to compare). First in the course was the empty tube, placed in the same location the rat was last time (to really test the dogs). Tripp checked it out briefly but moved on as I told him to find the rat. By his reaction to the tube, it was pretty obvious that it was empty. After sniffing around for a bit (I think our "find it" games at home have been good priming!) he found another tube wedged between some hay bales. He was very curious about it and soon began pawing at the tube. I wasn't sure if he'd found the rat or not. I don't think he was either. LOL After asking him a few times "did you find the rat?" he moved away, so I figured it must've been the litter tube. Sure enough, after a bit more searching, he found the rat, and starting digging a bit more quickly, plus wagging his tail and generally acting more intense overall. The difference was somewhat subtle, so knowing his "tells" might be a bit tricky when we first start trialing. It definitely demands close attention from the handler.
I think Barn Hunt may be one of those sports that has many unexpected benefits, beyond being a fun new titling venue. Owners may learn more about reading their dog's body language. Dogs may gain confidence by learning to work independently, and navigating the course, which can be scarey for some sensitive dogs. Surely it fosters a stronger bond between dog & handler, as does any activity, but especially ones that requires trust on both ends. And of course it is an outlet for a dog to express natural instincts, which may not be allowed in everyday life (critter chasing, sniffing, digging, etc.). Plus the bonus of nosework sports being surprisingly tiring (despite being low impact, physically) - and a tired dog is a good dog! And a happy dog!
I wished I had brought my camera... Not just to capture Tripp showing yet more versatility (are we really surprised? haha), but if only to get a photo of his smiling face. He was SOOOO HAPPY! Obviously, he adores Barn Hunt, so of course we will be getting into trialing soon. Like I said when we started agility, Tripp is a natural, and loves it so much, how can we NOT? :-)
Those tricks are certifiable!
You all know Tripp does a lot of tricks. You've seen many in his freestyle routines. He knows so many that I can't even remember half of them without looking at a list. But ironically, with all the filming I do of him, I have never compiled a video specifically of Tripp's tricks. Until now...
For some time, I had intended to apply for Trick Dog titles through DMWYD, partly because they count as points towards VIP's versatility certificates. As of Sept. 3, 2012 Tripp officially became an Advanced Trick Dog, thus giving him more than enough points for his VCX. (Now I still need to apply for that. Don't hold your breath. ;-)
As DMWYD states, titles also offer training goals to keep handlers motivated and focused on, well, doing more with their dog! No other organization offers recognition for the "sport" of dog tricks. I admit, I have heard the rare brush-off that it's just a "buy-a-title" thing, since lower titles are given basically on the honor system (you just have a witness confirm performance - which could be "fixed" - but really, why would anyone do that? Meanwhile Championship application requires a video submission to ensure correct performance.) But it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to have video capabilities for even Novice level, and I don't forsee organized trick dog competitions popping up across the country (how would you even judge that?)... So how else could it be done? Besides, if these weren't respectable titles, VIP would certainly not be recognizing them!
Not everyone wants to compete in mainstream trials, but many people enjoy teaching their dog tricks. Even if it only takes place in their living room, it still makes for great bonding and mental stimulation. Titles are something tangible for us humans to get in reward for our training efforts. And as previously stated, it keeps us motivated to go futher.
Ok, so getting down to the technical details... There are 5 levels of trick titles - Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, and Champion. Each level is successive to the one before it. There is a long list of tricks, organized by difficulty, from which to choose behaviors to earn the titles. Each title requires a certain number of tricks at the given level or higher. Novice requires 15 tricks (Tripp is adept at 26, and can do more - imperfectly), Intermediate requires NTD title, plus 12 tricks at the appropriate levels (Tripp knows 18, and again, a few more still in the learning stages), Advanced & Expert require the previous titles plus 5 more high level tricks (Tripp now has 8 advanced tricks and 6 expert tricks, plus a few of his own). TDCH reviews all levels and has more stringent, specific requirements and some more difficult behaviors. I'd like to get that far with Tripp some day.
So why the extreme delay in announcing this new award? I mean, besides being a master of procrastination. Well, making movies takes time... but I certainly couldn't tease you all with so many fun tricks without providing a video montage of the talented Tripp showing off! ;-) Our latest movie includes the tricks used for credit towards his ATD title, as well as a few new & original ones thrown in... after all, it's been almost a year, we've learned some new things along the way! But if you meet us on the street, don't ask me what tricks Tripp can do - I still can't remember them all! LOL
Round 'em up, Trippee!
On 4/21 we were lucky enough to attend a beginner herding workshop with Tenley Dexter, one of the top stock dog trainers in our area. I didn't know what to expect out of Tripp, but figured it would be something fun and different to try. This boy never ceases to amaze me; he truly is a testament to the Poodle's endless versatility.
After an educational morning learning about herding, training and behavior (much of which was applicable to other sports, or simply living with dogs), we got to try the dogs on stock. The Poodles (mine and a friend's pair) were the only non-traditional herding breeds there. Most of the dogs were inexperienced. Even after learning that herding is not all instinct, but requires more training than most people think, I was astounded at the seeming lack of instinct, or at least initial desire, for herding in some of those sheepdogs. Incredibly, there were several dogs in the pen who would not even acknowledge the existence of the sheep. Or simply couldn't care less about them. These were Border Collies, Aussies, Shelties, and the like! Of course some others were naturals, and most showed some degree of interest, but the fact that any of them didn't even try to herd was so surprising.
And then enters the Poodle. Tripp remained well composed, full of unfamiliar drive, and went right to work. He certainly has what it takes. Obviously it was somewhat crude, being untrained, but there was a definite attempt at controlling the movement of the sheep. Not just chasing, but actual herding. He circled this way and that, maintained a good distance, and took direction from the trainer well. It was very exciting to watch this new instinct surface, and Tripp obviously had fun. He was so happy afterwards, even into the next day. And I was happy that he actually didn't get filthy, and could postpone bathing for another day. LOL
Hopefully we will find other opportunities to do more herding in the future. (Many of the herding people encouraged us to continue - me, with a Poodle - that really says something!) I would like to at least try an official Instinct Test (for HIC or HCT title - oh yeah, we need more titles, LOL) although I'm not sure I have enough interest - or time to commit to training - for actual herding trials. It would be facinating though. Regardless of where we go from here, it was an awesome experience. We both had fun, and that's what really matters.
Most of these wonderful photos were taken by Lisa Tofsrud. I am so thankful, because I only got a couple good shots on my camera. Unfortunately video was not allowed at this workshop.
On Mar. 3, Tripp and I ventured to Finish Forward Dogs in Saco for their UKC Weight Pull fun match. We'd been practicing at home with a lightweight sled, as well as working out in the swim therapy pool, and Tripp had managed to gain even more muscle, so was definitely ready for a trial environment. I was looking forward to getting some training tips and practice on the cart. He's been improving, but he still flies at home and usually his form isn't perfect. (When working with heavier weight, we want good form to avoid injury.) I had no idea Tripp would be so competitive at this event, and turns out he just needed a little more weight to get really nice form. He still managed to zoom through each pull at a speed that surprised the trainer. I love her comment of "holy moly!" at his first time in the chute. Too funny. After a few pulls, increasing weight by 3 cement blocks each time (I think they are around 30 lbs. each), on top of the 200 lb. cart, Tripp was still enthusiastic. As we neared the end of the event, I was ready to stop at any point, giving him every opportunity to tell me he was done... we were up to somewhere around 900 lbs at that point! I wasn't sure if he could or should do it, but I left it up to him. I asked him if he wanted to do more weight pull and he literally dragged me straight into the chute and set himself up. Well I guess so! :-) By the last pull he was still happy to work, but I could sense he was physically tired, so I didn't let him continue. He finished by pulling 1040 lbs! Crazy! I still can't believe my baby did that. His previous top weight pull was "only" 445 lbs. Enough to qualify in a trial, but nothing like this - apparently we could've earned like 20 points toward WP Champion if we were in that class! I reiterate - crazy! I didn't even have plans to go beyond the basic title! LOL I'm not sure if we could ever repeat that performance, or if I'd let him pull that much again even though he suffered no consequences. I'm still new at the sport and I never thought I'd put so much weight behind my dog. I'm still learning that it is entirely dependant upon each dog's physical conditioning and willingness to perform. Tripp certainly had both going for him that day. If nothing else, we will keep it as a really cool memory. His Papa esp. enjoys bragging about how this Poodle beat so many tough bully breeds in weight pull. Oh that's right, we also came out in 2nd place in the match! :-)
I know last time I moved Tripp up only one block per pull. This time, as mentioned, we moved up 3. It seems he has more of a certain number of pulls in him than a certain weight limit. Not that I could move him up 4 or 5 blocks per pull and expect him to do even more weight. LOL I think this was pretty much his limit, and I can't really fathom letting him do more than a grand. 3 block intervals seem perfect for him, so I will remember that for our next trial. And I think a reasonable expectation is closer to 800 lbs. max. But who knows? ;-)
Incidentally, Tripp was zooming around the next day with just as much energy as ever. Which is funny, because we've had rally trials that have him lazing around for days afterward.
So why do weight pull? Many people don't understand the sport; some even think it's abusive. Certainly there are macho handlers who give such extreme sports a bad reputation, who push their dogs too far and do other things they shouldn't. This is not confined to the sport of weight pull however. Even traditional sports such as obedience have their overbearing handlers - for that matter, sometimes regular ol' pet owners do idiotic things to their pets. But most of the people involved in dog sports are out to have fun, and know that you can't make a dog do something like this if he doesn't want to. Even those who train with force (which I do not condone) know it's up to the dog in a trial - you hook them up, then can't touch them, and the dog knows this - he either pulls or doesn't. Just another reason to train without force, as the dog will work for joy and not fear, and not say "neener neener, you can't make me" in the show ring, or weight pull chute as it may be. But I digress...
So again, why do weight pull - with any dog?
1. A competitive outlet. Titles. I'll admit this is the main reason I got started in it. UKC offers Total Dog award for versatility; dogs who place in conformation and qualify in performance at the same event. I wanted the opportunity to try for that. I had no idea the sport would be so addicting, or beneficial in other ways.
2. Conditioning. Weight pull is a great muscle builder. Practice is done at low-moderate weights that do not strain the dog, but only offer a good workout. It is an excellent part of cross training for other working/sport dogs, as well as strength training and weight loss for pets. Strength training is just as important for dogs as it is for humans - it keeps us healthy, and supports our bones and joints. These benefits are not just for the active competing canine; they are just as helpful for the couch potato housedog.
3. An outlet for excess energy. Your couch potato may not need this, but many people have dogs who would enjoy a bit more activity. (And even most couch potatoes would enjoy doing something!) Some people have high energy pets who absolutely need something to do, or else they destroy the house, or simply drive their owners mad. Some bored, frustrated dogs end up having issues such as self-mutilation or other emotional imbalances or behavior problems. Yes, really. They were bred to do a job, thus they need to channel that drive into something. If it's not provided, chaos ensues, in some form or another. Weight pull is a great outlet, as it maximizes the amount of stimulation in a minimal amount of time. All without a whole lot of effort on the owner's part, if you are not inclined to join in any activity. Even "energizer bunny" dogs generally are ready for a nap after a good amount of weight pull. ;-)
4. Physical therapy. The muscle building that results from doing weight pull is particularly beneficial to dogs with certain structural problems. It supports the entire body, esp. hips and legs, not only improving condition and possibly slowing degeneration, but also reducing the odds of further injury due to slips and such. Therapeutic pulling is of course done at very low weights. The reason it is an effective therapy is because it is slow, controlled movement in a straight line. The resistance from the weight stengthens the body better than walking alone. Weight pull is approved and recommended by many veterinarians and physical therapists.
5. Confidence building. There are many sports that can help build up a meek puppy. Weight pull is one of these. Any activity that gets the dog working, overcoming challenges, and building a better partnership with her owner through positive training will increase confidence and help her true spirit shine!
6. Fun! Weight pull really builds up the bond between dog and handler. I've felt this effect on Tripp's and my partnership, even with all the other training we do. Obviously not every dog will be interested in weight pull, but those who are introduced to it properly generally become as addicted to it as their owner. No matter the amount of weight they enjoy pulling (some may prefer just recreational pulling of low weights, and not competition, which is fine!) they are quite obviously having fun. Most get excited at mere mention of the sport, or sight of the equipment. Many thrust their heads and bodies into the harness, eager to get started. If you watch these dogs pulling even heavy weights, anyone who can read body language can see they are happy dogs.
Ensuring safe, fun pulling: Weight pull should always start at very low weights, working up gradually as the dog's condition improves. A vet check and approval may be warranted if the dog is out of shape or has any sort of health condition or structural issue. Always let the dog be successful and don't push your dog beyond it's abilities. Know how to read your dog - you must be able to sense when your dog is stressed or tired and not get too caught up in the activity to stop. Cool downs are imperative! After any workout, just as with humans, dogs must have a cool down period to avoid soft tissue injury. Walk it off, keep those muscles loose. Massage your dog. Teach him to stretch on command, and/or learn proper manual stretching techniques. Work with a good positive trainer to help you learn weight pull techniques and guide your dog into correct form. Weight pull is generally a two person job - most equipment requires someone to act as a brake to prevent the cart or sled from running into your dog. That certainly would not be conducive to having fun! Meanwhile you should be holding the dog on leash when first training to keep her under control until she is confidently and properly pulling. Reward each pull with a great treat or play session, or both - whatever motivates your dog. Make sure you are having fun too. Don't get overly focused on competition. Remember, it's all just a game!
Give weight pull a try... your dog may surprise you! Any shape or size breed can do it, from Mastiffs to MinPins to mutts inbetween. So don't count out your fluffy little lap dog! :-)
WCFO Musical Freestyle
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! :-)
Tripp goes to the shelter...
Monadnock Humane Society is a beautiful facility in Swanzey, NH. Not only do they provide excellent rescue and adoption services, they are one of the best training resources in the area. MHS offers classes of all sorts, wonderful seminars, and a venue for performance trials. They also hold special events, such as their autumn walkathon & fundraiser, which Tripp & I attended in late Sept.
We were invited to perform a musical freestyle demonstration. The PomPoms got together for our group routine, and "Team TnT" offered our singles routine. It was super fun, and a great opportunity to practice for upcoming competitions. My first lesson was not to overdo the warmup! I should've taken video of that - Tripp was lovely. But by the time we were called to give our demo, Tripp was a bit bored. "What, more dancing?" LOL So he was less rock & roll today. At least I learned something for the future!
We also did an APDT Rally demo. Like I always say, I'll take free run-thrus anytime! Agility was on our to-do list as well, but unfortunately between everything else I missed that demo. Too bad, I was looking forward to that the most. But the trainer was kind enough to let us play on the course after the show, so we still got in some practice. :-)
It was quite an event outside the rings... lots of vendors, contests, and other goings on. Fun for everyone. A great turnout for the shelter. I'm so glad we could be a part of it.
(Excerpt from www.vipoodle.org)
The Poodle is the consummate versatile dog, beloved for centuries for beauty, unique sensitivity to people, and brilliant performance in widely diverse activities. In support of the Versatile Poodle, the Versatility In Poodles, Inc. established on August 5, 1994, the Versatility Award to give special recognition to Poodles who have excelled in multiple areas of achievement.
On Aug. 8, Tripp was awarded VIP's level one Versatility Certificate. Though I had my eye on this achievement for a while, it took some time for me to gather the necessary information, submit an application, and await approval. In actuality, Tripp had qualified for VC as of May 22, 2011, just shy of his second birthday! The certificate may be a couple months late, but it is regardless another proud accomplishment. :-)
Tripp's qualifications include show championship, rally titles, temperment testing, and health clearances. Ten points are required for VC, fifteen for VCX, both from multiple categories. I am hoping to achieve this second level some time next year.
T'was like a midsummer's dream;
Poodles spinning pirouettes,
performing heelwork to music,
(people dancing with their pets).
We joined in the PomPoms,
our all-Poodle team,
for musical freestyle
and great fun, it would seem.
With dogs fluffed and primped,
and on necks a pink sash,
pink barets on our heads,
and scarves that didn't clash,
we all looked divine
and knew that somehow
our performance would be
one that'd make the crowd "wow!"
With can-cans and spins
and a kiss on the nose,
we danced 'round the ring
on the tips of our toes.
I admit now and then
the beat may have been lost
and some pups got distracted
but at what little cost?
We may not have been perfect,
but by the time we were done
everybody was smiling,
because what matters is fun!
July came in the blink of an eye, it seemed, and we found ourselves at the PomPom's final rehersal before a performance at an event in Brimfield, MA. A friend of Honey's captured this footage of our practice.
She also asked for some video of Tripp showing off his tricks. I've never made a list of everything he can do, so it's sometimes hard to spontateously come up with an impressive montage of behaviors! LOL
The demo in MA went well. It was a very nice, farmer's market/family day type outing. A small crowd gathered around for our two performances. Other freestylers put on shows as well. We all had so much fun, and looked forward to our next gig.
Just a few weeks later on Aug. 6, the PomPoms attended Cumberlandfest, a large fair in RI. It was an awesome venue with a larger audience. With nary a rehersal, the team breezed through our routine. Perhaps we fumbled a bit, but it was still a blast and the spectators were happy, so that's all that counts. ;-)
Tripp and I also debuted our singles routine to TNT by AC/DC. It was an exciting opportunity to perform at this event, and great practice for future demos. We will be entering in the fall WCFO freestyle trials as well, so just as with any other sport, I will take all the "run thrus" I can get! It wasn't perfection (as expected our first time out), but again, lots of fun, and the audience was impressed. With a couple tweaks and some more practice, Team TnT is really going to rock!
ATTS Temperament Test
Yesterday Tripp had a fun new adventure. Well, perhaps adventure is too strong a word, as he took everything in stride like it was any other day. That is, of course, the intention of the American Temperament Test Society's evaluation process; to simulate everyday life experiences to gauge the dog's innate temperament. It is a judgement not of behavior or training, but of a dog's instinctive reactions to various stimuli. While many things play a part in how a dog will respond on a given day, from previous socialization and training, to recent activities, stress, or even weather, a temperament test is a wonderful way to judge basic stability. It's also an easy and fun activity to do with your pet; one that can give you more insight into their natural behavior. Which makes it useful for just about everyone.
For more information on ATTS and their tests, visit www.atts.org.
Tripp's evaluation: passed, all scores average or above average. That's my boy! :-)
Unfortunately my video did not come out well. But here is a description of our test...
1. Neutral Stranger: Person approaches, shakes hands with handler, ignoring dog.
Tripp wiggles with delight.
2. Friendly stranger: Person approaches dog with enthusiastic greeting, ignoring handler.
Tripp is thrilled that someone wants to say hi to him this time.
3. Hidden Noise: Station worker shakes a metal bucket filled with rocks and sets it in dog's path.
Tripp alerts then proceeds to stick his head in the bucket.
4. Gunshots: Handler stops at station and starter pistol is fired (3 shots) from a blind 15 feet behind dog's back.
Tripp finds something interesting to sniff and shows practically no reaction to the gunshots.
5. Umbrella: Sitting person opens umbrella as dog approaches.
Tripp pauses to look for a split second before investigating.
6. Plastic footing: Handler and dog traverse a long strip of plastic laid on ground.
7. Wire footing: Dog walks over an unfolded ex-pen flat on ground.
Tripp is unruffled at either change in footing.
8. Non-threatening stranger: A weirdly dressed/behaved person crosses dog's path some distance ahead.
Tripp alerts at my side and remains focused on the apparent drunk.
9. Threatening stranger: The weird person turns and approaches dog & handler, yelling louder and waving a stick in the air.
Tripp stands his ground, watching this silly display with curiosity.
10. Aggression: The weird person approaches closer in a more threatening way, hitting ground with the stick and yelling at dog.
Tripp seems to wonder if she is playing, then decides otherwise. He steps back with suspicion and lets out a few good barks.
End of test. TT title earned! :-)
Taken at Finish Forward Dogs in Saco, ME at 22.5 months old.
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