25 February 2012

Agony & ecstacy

In addition to the 10 rally trials (Papago Labrador Retriever Club of Greater Phoenix, Sahuaro Kennel Club and the Lost Dutchman KC) that I participated in with Tyro at the beginning of February, I also competed with Miska in 5 obedience trials.  She was entered in Open A (this is the second level of obedience competition in the AKC & CKC).  Last year Miska earned her first leg in Open at this same venue and at the same trials.  After all the training we had been doing lately, I was confident she would finish her title.  OH, SO WRONG!!

In fact, for the most part, it was an extremely frustrating and very disappointing time, to the point where I wanted to cry. It went from "not bad" to "absolutely terrible" and then finally to "elation".  Lately, we've been training outdoors since there are no indoor obedience facilities here.  And outdoors, Miska had been doing very well. As per the H (Habitat) in Susan Garrett's DASH principle, we were practicing in different locations around town, albeit on our own, without others dogs as distractions.  But Miska is used to working with / around other dogs so I wasn't worried about that part.

Anyway, there is a world of difference between practicing outside the ring and competing in the ring.  My dogs are capable of completely changing personalities.  Outside the ring, they are absolutely brillian; once they step inside the ring and take their first few steps heeling, they act like they have had lobotomies,  Their brains are replaced with ones that have never had any obedience training.

Dogs always surprise their humans in the ring and Miska is certainly no exception, doing or not doing things she'd never done before.  But the main problem lately has been the broad jump with her often walking through the gaps instead of clearing the jumps.  In addition to that undesired behaviour, she also failed to come on the drop on recall and often her heeling was terrible at these trials.  These was something about the ring we were in that she didn't like because in one corner where we had to do an about turn, she was never beside me on the heeling pattern.  (Wait until we compete in outdoor trials!!)

After four abject failures (NQ's), I seriously considered pulling her from the last trial but decided not to because, what the heck - I had paid for it.  And I am so glad I didn't because she finally passed!!! But the trial wasn't without a major hitch.  We were the first Open A team in the ring after lunch so the stewards had to set up the jumps.  When I sent Miska over the high jump, she stopped between the jump and the dumbbell and started to eat something.  In a loud voice I said to the judge, "Is there food in the ring?"  Of course, there shouldn't be any treats or food in the ring but she was definitely noshing on something.  The ring steward thought it was some dog hair but someone else said it was definitely something edible.  Anyway. the judge allowed a re-throw and she did the exercise perfectly (well, maybe her front or her finish was crooked but she did the hard stuff.  When we reached the broad jump, she sailed over it!!  Hurray!!!  But it's never over until it's over and we still had the long sits and downs to do. On the first day of trials, she was sitting perfectly when I left the building and in the same position when I returned to the ring but the judge said to me, "Oh don't let her fool you - she got up & then sat back down again!"  That results in a fail although we had failed on something else prior to the out of sight exercises.  Anyway, to make a long story short(er), Miska did her group exercises perfectly and as a result, she got a qualifying score.  Whereas the day before NO Open A dogs qualified, 3 of us qualified.  Miska's score was 184 and she got a second place.  I was so ecstatic!! 

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