Over winter break (between what seemed like weekly blizzards), Tripp & I worked on further advancing in Obedience, preparing for our next season of trials. I finally ordered a set of official scent articles, which came just in time for Christmas. At last we could get "serious" with training for Utility, the highest level in Obedience. For so long I had denied any desire to compete in Utility, but everyone was right - it really is a ton of fun! I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say it's the most fun level, as I enjoy them all; but it definitely is a blast, and an exciting challenge. I'm also looking forward to eventually competing in AKC's new Versatility class which takes exercises from all 3 levels, mixing it up each time. That should be really interesting. Not quite ready for that yet, but we'll get there!
First up: our debut in CDSP Utility on Apr. 4. (Yes, I'm behind on updating... so what's new? ;-)
As I said, I never intended to compete in UKC Obedience, since it would only give Tripp a redundant CD title, after which we would not continue (we won't do the Open 3 min. sit, and UKC does not currently offer the variety of classes AKC does), so why bother? But when the UDSNNE show came, I figured why not? One more title never hurts! And that first entry paid off with a Total Dog Award, so I'm glad I went for it.
A couple weeks later we entered one more day of Obed. at the Marshland trials in Saco, hoping for a quick finish to that Novice title. Tripp did not disappoint. :-) Not only did he earn his UCD title, along the way he won TWO High In Trials! (I think that's his first in Obed., all his others being from Rally. But who can keep up at this point? LOL) Now, before you get too excited about that double HIT, you should realize that it was a very small show. However, among the handful of competitors, there was a rather low passing rate, so I would say those HITs are still worthy of some pride. After all, Tripp did well enough to qualify with a 191 & 190.5, better than the few other qualifiers. It may not be a really big deal (compared to wins at larger events), but it's certainly a nice way to finish a title!
The newest UKC club in our region, United Dog Sports of Northern New England, held it's fabulous inaugural event this Sept. in Scarborough, ME at Wassamki Springs. It was a wonderful turnout and a lovely venue to boot. UDSNNE offered Conformation shows, as well as both Rally & Obedience over the weekend.
I had a seminar planned that was cancelled, so I decided to do a day of show entry on Sunday. I never intended to get into UKC Obedience, but I figured what the heck. Go for one more title, and if we're lucky, Total Dog while we're at it. And of course it's good practice for our other trials. Plus entering conformation now and then let's me put to use what I've learned in workshops, etc. Well... at least TRY to. LOL If nothing else it keeps my handling "skills" from getting totally rusty!
AKC Obedience Trials, Aug. 30-31
Merrimack Valley Kennel Club
Judges: Lynda Moore (Sat. Graduate Novice, Sun. Pre-Open)
Linda Ferrullo (Sat. Pre-Open)
James Ashton (Sun. Graduate Novice)
This appears to be our new Labor Day weekend tradition - Obedience trials in Amherst. Well, you can't pick the show dates, you gotta take what they give you. Not that I mind one bit, of course... as if there's something better to do over a holiday? ;-)
Saturday Tripp did wonderfully. I wish the battery in my camera had held out, unfortunately I only got part of his first ring time and missed the rest. But you can see how well he did - not absolutely perfect, but upbeat, relatively attentive, and only a few of his typical minor positioning faults. He was like that all day! :-) What a bummer when he NQed in Grad. Nov. during the dumbbell recall. But how funny too - he sneezed the dumbbell out! It was just a little sneeze, but enough to make him drop the bell... poor boy wasn't sure what to do, so he continued coming to front as I had told him. Well, it wasn't a bad choice on his part. It wouldn't have made any difference anyway if he had picked up the bell and finished the retrieve, we still wouldn't have qualified. Oh well. Stuff happens, and it was pretty darn cute I must say! Every other exercise in the class was done beautifully - heeling patterns, drop on recall, recall over high & broad jumps, long down - our final score would have been in the 190's if we'd Qed... considering we're limited on practice, that's nothing to sneeze at. hehehe
Later in Pre-Open class (which is the same as regular Open, but without the group exercises, and lower jump heights) Tripp gave a repeat performance. This time his retrieves were solid, heeling & recall were even better than before, but for some reason he missed the broad jump (stepped on the first board). So yet another NQ on what would've been another high score.
Sunday Tripp became the most ironic dog at the trial. His performance was a stark contrast to the day before's. He was extremely sloppy, distracted, and even moody both in and out of the ring. Not like him at all (time to see the chiropractor again!) But even though he was as horrible as I've ever seen him behave, he qualified in both classes! I hardly think he deserved it, but obviously I will take it, and be thankful the weekend wasn't a total loss.
In Pre-Open we somehow managed to earn a 191 & 1st place, despite Tripp's fault-ridden performance. I think the judge was being generous (although she's not known as lenient, so maybe I'm being hard on ourselves as usual.) He just wasn't nearly as good as on Saturday. I would've expected to score that well in Rally, perhaps, but not in traditional, precision Obedience.
Things only got worse from there. In Grad. Nov. Tripp was an absolute mess. That's not nitpicking either. At one point I actually expected to get kicked out of the ring he was so bad. Seriously! But miracle of all miracles, he squeaked by with a 185.5, and as no other team Qed, we even got a default blue ribbon. Okay, whatever. Take the leg and run, I say.
I guess a 50% passing rate isn't too bad in these increasingly harder levels... but can I credit his wins to Saturday's performance instead? ;-) haha
After Tripp's initial enthusiasm at the Barn Hunt workshop in March, we tried a fun match at a different location several weeks later. This time in an actual barn! It was a very interesting experience, with the plethora of new scents everywhere. Tripp still enjoyed the game, but was much less intense... which for once wasn't a good thing. He actually seemed to lose interest in the rat after finding it, rather than stay put and obsess over it like he did at the workshop. Was it the distracting environment? Did I discourage him by not immediately trusting his nose? Or was it the lack of the visual stimulus of seeing the "prey" before hunting for it? (He got to meet the rat first at the workshop.) Perhaps all of the above.
I decided in June to give it one more try, and entered the first NH trial at that same barn, with a promise to trust Tripp's nose faster and treat him with a cheese stick after his turn in the ring. Unfortunately, his love of the sport seems to have waned even more. Oh, he still enjoyed playing around on the course and searching, but his indications were very brief. Even on our Instinct run, I didn't even get the chance to call it - Tripp found the rat, quickly gave the tube one little bite, and before I could think about asking him if that was it, he was gone and sniffing elsewhere. I tried to get him back but he was over it by then and we ended up timing out. :-( Next up on our Novice run he did a nice search, climbing all over the hay bales. This time I wasn't going to second guess him. When he stopped on one and started digging, I quickly called "Rat!" *sigh* Wrong tube, I called it too soon. So another NQ. At least the entry fees are super cheap, so I wasn't out too much cash.
After that disappointing morning, I decided to scratch on the second trial. The sun was moving past the trees at our shady parking spot and the car was starting to get a bit too warm. Just one thing I hate about having to work out of the car. Plus the back seat isn't quite as comfortable for Tripp as his crate. Not to mention we were both bored to death between turns! With the hunt in a small barn, there was little opportunity to observe the other teams, and you can only stand around chatting in the sun for so long. Meanwhile the poor dog is stuck hiding out in the vehicle. As we headed down the road with a cool breeze blowing in the windows, Tripp looked much happier, so obviously the heat was getting to him too. Glad we left when we did.
Tripp did at least have one exciting moment with a rat though... when I went to tell the stewards I was leaving early, he spotted one of the rats in a cage. Oh sure, NOW you want to get it. LOL
'Tis the end of an era. Tripp has finished his career in UKC Rally Obedience! On Mother's Day weekend (was this my gift as a dog mom?) we earned our last double Q for his Excellent title.
We had a fairly smooth start. It was a very small trial, so things moved fast, and unfortunately I didn't get a chance to ask anyone to film us during our first run in level 2. As usual, the best run was the one not on video! LOL Level 3 wasn't nearly as pretty, but we got the job done.
Both times we received a score of 99 and 2nd place. Can't really complain about that!
Now that Tripp has his URX, our sole focus will be on Obedience. Well... ok, so we'll do some other stuff too, but no more Rally... at least for now.
Our LAST Rally vid is below...
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? :-)
And I mean WAAYYYYY overdue! I think I may have set a personal record for procrastination this time - at least regarding dog stuff. LOL In my defense, I really was busy and it does take a bit of time to gather all the materials needed for this...
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. The Award has two levels: VC (Versatility Certificate) and VCX (Versatility Certificate Excellent).
As of Sept. 2012 (yes, 1.5 years ago!) and the completion of his ATD title, Tripp had earned enough points in various categories to qualify for VIP's Versatility Certificate Excellent. This is their highest award. Requirements for this more demanding level include 15 points in at least 4 categories, with only 6 points max allowed in each, therefore promoting true versatility. Points are earned with official titles & certificates through recognized organizations.
Since I postponed (understatement of the year? LOL) submission of his VCX application, Tripp of course continued earning points beyond VIP's requirements. His accomplishments include titles in Obedience, Rally, Freestyle, Tricks, Weight Pull, Agility, Conformation, and temperament tests, plus health testing, totaling 33 points by my count (at least 27 of which were "usable" according to the rules/limits) at the time of VIP's recognition of versatility. With no end to competing in sight, that number will continue to rise as Tripp continues to prove just how amazing Poodles can be! (Hmm... perhaps VIP should consider adding a "master" level certificate... ;-)
So remember how last year we were trying to make rank in UKC Rally? We came close, but "missed it by that much" come year's end. It was still fun competing, but man, it would have been so cool to earn that special award! Too bad. I figured that was probably our only shot at making national ranking in any sport. I didn't even think to look into other possibilities.
Well, who knew?...
Today I received a large envelope in the mail from CDSP. I thought, "what the heck could this be?" Tripp didn't have any new titles coming, and we generally don't get other mail from them. Hmm... I opened it up, and lo & behold, there were two certificates announcing that we made the Top 20! Wow!!! #10 in both Novice B (tied) and Open A. I'm not even sure how CDSP tabulates points for rank. Why would I even consider researching that when we just got started in the sport last spring? LOL
Of course, now I did have to look in the rulebook for info on earning points/making rank to see how we managed to do it. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything regarding making the National Rankings. The only thing I managed to dig up was this: "CDSP National top 20 Rankings will be published annually in Front & Finish" (a major obedience/dog sports training magazine). Well, that's cool too! :-)
Here is the official list for CDSP's 2013 Top 20 in each class:
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...