The Last Hurrah
If it wasn't already for certain, Tripp is now officially an International Superstar! We recently spent a long weekend in Montreal, Quebec for a big UKC event. This time I actually had a chance to see a bit of the city, Poodle at my side. Although I'm a country girl at heart, the architecture of the old urban buildings, particularly the cathedrals, was beautiful, and alone made the trip worthwhile. I just wish I had time to see more. Our hotel was excellent, and everyone enjoyed meeting Tripp. Even the owner herself fell in love, going so far as to invite us into the restaurant so the family could meet the amazing Parti Poodle, and insisted we return. As usual, we were also stopped countless times on the street and at the show for petting, compliments and of course photos. I will always wonder how widespread on the internet random images of Tripp have become! LOL
The show itself was once again held in conjunction with a huge Canadian pet expo. It seemed even bigger than in the spring! Every "domestic" critter imaginable was on display (including some not so domestic, like foxes and semi-wild cats), along with various vendor booths, and again they had pony rides and other family attractions set up adjacent to our show rings. The arena for the agility, disc dog, & freestyle demos was right next to our rally ring, but thankfully the view was blocked. Plus it was so noisy in there from the massive crowd that Tripp was oblivious to the nearby excitement, which worked in our favor. ;-) Certainly the whole thing is a testament to good temperament! It takes a very stable dog to handle all that craziness, including a majority of people & kids who are totally ignorant of proper interaction with dogs. Trippy put up with a lot more than he should have to. Such a good boy!
Show details below...
It was another long day - but this time mostly due to travel. I arose at 4 am (ugh!!) to drive nearly 3 hours to Westfield for a UKC show & weight pull on Sunday. The morning start was not exactly smooth (whataya expect at that ungodly hour?), but we made it in time to register and the rest of the day went ok. Weather was beautiful. And the Pittie club put on good show as usual.
A dinner break on the way home at the VT Welcome Center, with a good shot of caffeine (V8 Fusion Energy; I don't do coffee) - and cranking up some Nickelback - helped me make it home safely a bit after dark (ick, it's coming earlier every day now!)...
Vids and more below!
He's still a Total Dog to me.
On the first weekend in June, we "did it all" at the American Pit Bull Terrier Club of New England's UKC conformation show and weight pull in Westfield, MA. They offered a great, affordable package deal for all 4 shows plus both pulls that I couldn't resist. Running from one ring to another to keep up with the schedule is a bit hectic, but worth it for a chance at Total Dog. ;-)
It was a wicked heat wave, and we were all thankful that the weight pull trial was held under cover in one of the fairground barns. We were not so lucky in conformation, but at least there was a frequent breeze. On the down side, the wind continually blew thick clouds of pollen off the tall pines. Allergy sufferers were not faring well by day two of this!
Tripp did wonderfully despite the heat, moving well in the show ring, and working with his usual gusto in weight pull. Now that he is going for WP Championship, we follow a different strategy, building points rather than earning basic qualifying legs. The point schedule goes by increments of weight pulled - on wheeled carts, 10x the dog's body weight = 5 points, 15x his weight = 10 points, and then it jumps to 25x his weight for 15 points, and so on. Darn it, what happened to 20x? (Weight requirements are different for track systems and snow sleds, but the increments are comparable.) I'm slightly irked by this, because Tripp can do 20x under the right conditions, but I don't forsee 25x ever being reasonable for him. I know to never say never, but I will bet that we're stuck at 10 points max per trial. At that rate, I'm not sure if we'll ever make title (UWPCH requires 100 points) unless there's an upsurge in local trials - Tripp could very well be retired before we see 8 or more trials in the area! LOL Oh well, we'll keep trying anyway, having fun on the journey whether we reach the destination or not. :-)
Anyway, what this point schedule means is that if Tripp pulls 15 times his weight, he will earn 10 points - but if he pulls, say, 17 times his weight he won't earn anything extra, so basically the effort is pointless. So now at trials our goal weight will be 15x and we'll likely end at that to conserve energy. This should be easy enough for Tripp as he's just beginning to make an effort at that weight! LOL Although I did wonder if he'd make it that far in last weekend's heat. Luckily he weighed in at only 48 lbs (I'm pretty sure their scale was off, but no complaints here! hehehe) so he "only" had to pull less than 750# to hit 15x. I expected to need closer to 800, so one less pull was fine by me. Tripp too, I'm sure!
I will say it was an educational weekend... Part of my concern over hitting our goal weight in WP was the number of pulls required to get that far. The down side to Tripp weighing in light was that he got stuck in a lower weight class with the "little" dogs, which meant moving up weight increments just one block at a time. I knew you were allowed 2 "passes" - the choice of skipping 1 or 2 move ups - but was under the impression that this rule was over the entire trial. That still would be more reps than I wanted Tripp to do in severe heat. But hallelujah, come to find out, the rule is 2 passes only between pulls - you can skip 2 increments after your first pull, then do your second, then skip 2 more, then pull again, and so on. That was the best news I got all day! And we did exactly that. We entered at the highest weight allowed for Tripp's class, skipped all that we could, and ended up only needing to do 4 pulls to hit our goal weight on both days. Tripp says that was plenty, now bring on the A/C! ;-)
But WP was not the end of things. We also had two conformation shows each day. While Tripp looked great out there for the most part, we were somewhat less successful, taking Reserve CH in all 4 shows. Basically, runner up. (Well, at least he made good point fodder for our competition. LOL) I wasn't entirely disappointed at first, since he did win that placement over another Poodle, so I still expected to earn Total Dog for our competitive win plus performance Q. That was really all I wanted anyway. Alas, my education continued, this time not particularly to my pleasure. Turns out he actually must win his class (or take a group placement) to be eligible. In other words, Reserve counts for nothing, so that was just some expensive handling practice after all. Total Dog is slightly tougher to earn than I thought, no wonder it is so coveted! On the bright side, I should be even prouder that Tripp has earned it twice already, with limited showing. We'll keep trying for more. Why stop now?
No matter if UKC says Tripp is a Total Dog on a given day, or not... he will always be that and more to all of us who know him.
He is The Ultimate Versatile Poodle!
My Total Dog. :-)
Tripp Goes International!
I know, I'm weird. Most people dream of visiting some tropical island somewhere... me, I've always wanted to go to Canada. After 30-something years, that dream has finally come true. I can't quite cross it entirely off my bucket list, however, as I was too busy with a dog show to actually see any sights. Well darn, I guess I'll just have to go back... ;-)
Northeastern weather even in mid-April, though usually nice, can still bring stubborn remanents of winter. Lucky us, Mother Nature decided to bring sleet & snow on our departure day. We hesitantly ventured forward anyway, and though the drive was slow, we made it to Quebec safely.
A fairly new club, the Association Canine Canadienne Multisports, hosted a weekend UKC dog show in Sherbrooke - just over the border, a little more than 3 hours from here (in good weather) - which included Conformation, Rally Obedience, AND Weight Pull! Official WP trials have been scarce enough lately, but to find a show that holds more than one performance event is rare, esp. in this area. I could not pass up the opportunity to attend.
Saturday we started with WP under judge Robin Clark, who was wonderful. And I'm not just saying that because she later commented that Tripp was the best dog there! (There were other good pullers, but Tripp really gets in the zone.) I planned to do minimal pulls - just enough to qualify - since we had a very full weekend and Tripp is not quite back to top condition yet. I was ready to quit at 560 lbs (one pull more than we needed to Q), but everyone begged us to continue since he was pulling easily and in excellent form, plus they wanted to show off this great sport for the audience, as well as prove the versatility of the Poodle breed. I completely agreed with those points and, after making sure Tripp was indeed good to go, continued on with one more pull. We ended at 700 lbs. - over 13 times his body weight.
From there we went on to prepare for conformation. Mary King was our judge, and we had some nice competition; just a few puppies - Tripp was the only CH entered, but at least he wasn't the only Poodle, and the others were lovely. It was anyone's game out there. Though we didn't win today, Ms. King gave us a wonderful critique - actually apologizing profusely for not placing us! She absolutely adored Tripp, but due to his curled tail which is considered a "major fault" in the standard (despite being mainly cosmetic), she had to go by the book and put up the less faulted dog. Well gee, I certainly understand that! I had to tell her several times not to feel bad - I was actually thrilled for our opponant, as this was her very first show with practically no experience and a young dog - what a fantastic introduction for her! It's always more satisfying to beat competition, and not get what I call a default win. She went on to earn a group placement as well! I'm so happy for her. And I was just excited to be back in the show ring (after what? 2-3 years?) with Tripp looking awesome out there, and such great feedback from the judge topped it off.
Sunday was our busiest day, with Rally added to the schedule. Once again WP was our first activity. Tripp remained in near perfect form, with plenty of enthusiasm, but we stopped at 560 lbs today to conserve energy. This was more than enough weight for another Q, which finally completed Tripp's UWP title! It was a long wait for that one, as he'd earned his first leg when he was just over a year old! (To think back then I thought putting more than 500 lbs behind my dog was unimaginable. Ha! And now that's barely an effort for him. Mr. Tough Guy. This amazing Poodle continues to prove that it's all about attitude and condition.)
We continued on to Rally, with Mary King judging this as well. It wasn't the best start. In Trial 1, level 2, I somehow managed to miss a sign even during walkthroughs. Too focused on my dog (even the invisible one) I blew right passed a sign on my right shortly after an about turn. Hmm, well that explains why there was such a big gap of nothingness there! LOL I sure kicked myself for that one. Tripp did well, this one was all me. So NQ, which automatically gave us one less opportunity for a leg towards his Excellent title (which requires 10 double Qs in level 2 & 3 in the same trial).
Level 3 went better for the most part. At least we did everything we were supposed to! Tripp had several imperfections due to distractions - did I mention this show was held in conjunction with a BIG animal expo, with hundreds (thousands?) of people, tons of noise, pony rides, and kiddy bounce houses all just outside the rings. Not to mention the show photographer set up literally next to the Rally ring, intermittently squeeking toys during a shoot, and of course all the smells of cats, birds, reptiles, etc. along with the other show dogs being groomed nearby! Thank God they set up the Agility and Frisbee dogs on the opposite side of the convention center!!! Despite all this, Tripp managed to pull off a score of 97, only being docked for excessive sniffing during the honor down stay. Truthfully, he was totally obsessing and crept way out of position, so that score was very generous!
Improvement continued in Trial 2, level 2. While Tripp still was not as accurate as I prefer, he did do a great job considering the environment on top of not having much recent practice in the sport. Amazingly we earned a perfect score of 100. This brought us to just ONE point away from Rally Championship! So close!
By level 3, our final competition, we were both pretty tired! My feet were ready to fall off. Tripp still did wonderfully and finished with a 99. That made his UROC title! Yippee!!! It also gave us a QQ, bringing us halfway to URX. We will continue on to that goal.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, we entered conformation too, under judge Tina Camp. Another great, fair, helpful judge. Once again we got a wonderful critique after ring time, and she just loved Trippy (who did a good job sucking up to her, hehehe.) This time, much to my surprise, we won Best of Breed! Tripp moved very well and that was the deciding factor. (She "could care less" about his tail. ;-) We didn't get anything in Group, but our Breed win qualified us for the coveted Total Dog award!! This will be Tripp's second Total Dog, which is earned by a conformation win plus a qualifying score in performance within the same show/trial.
I have but one regret for the weekend... I forgot to have an official photo taken! How could I? (Exhaustion, that's how. ;-) I was a little bummed that the club didn't offer new title ribbons, but a picture with the judges and Tripp's prizes would've made up for that somewhat. Posing alone at home just isn't the same. Oh, I still got a nice pic of course, but I do kick myself for not capturing that moment IN the moment. Oh well. C'est la vie!
Of Dancers and Bodybuilders...
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Finish Forward Dogs Weight Pull Fun Match
The competitive pull which followed is based on UKC rules. We are hoping that a newly formed club will soon be able to offer sanctioned UKC weight pull trials in the area. These fun pulls in Maine have been proving a local interest in the sport and are establishing a base of competitors, so things are looking promising. It has been a long time since I've seen any trials offered in New England, and the few that I've seen in the past were often far away and rarely had a "great" venue. I would be so excited to see a UKC weight pull trial offered at a wonderful facility like Finish Forward Dogs. Here's hoping! Maybe one of these days we will actually get to finish Tripp's UWP title! And who knows, maybe more...
I never considered going beyond level one title into championship competition. It requires so much more from the dog, as far as amount of weight pulled. I figured Tripp's winter performance this year was a fluke; surely he wouldn't pull over a thousand pounds again - I probably wouldn't even let him try. So much for that - Tripp gave a repeat performance, pulling the same 1040 lbs. with very little trouble! No consequences followed. In fact, I swear his gait improves after doing weight pull.
Once again I paid no attention to the amount of weight he was pulling; rather, I watched his behavior and physical response. He actually did better this time, physically - while he was also fine after our previous match, and still working eagerly, he was obviously tired and muscles maxed out. However even after our last pull at this weekend's match, his muscles were nice and loose and remained so. Of course I cooled him down well and massaged him throughout the day. I'm sure he could've pulled more, but I wanted to end on a positive note. He was just a tad slower on the final pull, and worked hard to finish, so I was not going to push it. There was no reason to continue anyway, as he was the "last dog standing" so to speak - he took 1st place with that final pull, hauling 20 times his body weight. Incredible! That would've been worth 10 championship points if I understand the rulebook correctly. If he continues this trend I might consider aiming for UWPCH... although that is still a lofty goal, with so few trialing opportunities.
Regardless of any titling possibilities, we will continue doing weight pull as long as we can. Even if it's only in the backyard and once or twice a year at this fantastic FUN match. :-)
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! :-)
UKC Show & WP - APBTCNE
Conformation and our first Weight Pull trial.
Show 1: First in Class, Best Male, Best of Breed - New CH!
Tripp wins over a CH for his final competition credit towards Champion title.
Show 2: Reserve CH
WP Trial: qualifying score pulling 410#, 4th place in weight class.
*Total Dog award for versatility in conformation & performance.