Monday, June 29, 2009

NADAC Agility

Jazz and I competed in the NADAC trial this past weekend at the Quad City Dog Center. That is such a great place to show! They keep the temperature at 69 degrees. Jazz loves that and I do too - no hot flashes at that temperature!

I think our first love is NADAC agility. I really like being able to compete hourly (approximately) for a whole day. We always enter all twelve events over two days and I think I learn more in a weekend at a NADAC trial than in two weeks of training. This is our first agility trial since Jazz has been eating Science Diet J/D food (that's joint diet for you young pups!) Anyway - I think he ran more smoothly and seemed to have more fun running than he has in recent months.

I believe this is the first competition of any kind that I can honestly say went wrong solely because of me. We started Saturday in chances. I gave him poor direction, he went over a wrong obstacle, and I was totally unable to figure out where we were supposed to go next! He gave me at least 10 seconds and then ran his own course. His was a nice course, but the judge failed to appreciate his creativity. We had the same problem in the regular run that came next. I just felt dumb and disconnected from the dog. We managed to qualify the second regular run with a sloppy five point qualifier, but it was our NADAC novice regular title! I love those purple qualifying ribbons!

We finally came together again as the day went on and I think the problem may have been speed. It felt like Jazz was running fast, then slow, then fast. I kept finding myself sprinting and then getting too far ahead of him. Very odd. He usually blasts off and runs like a nut for one run, then settles into his fairly slow lope.

Last run of the day was jumpers. We were waiting our turn as it began to thunder. Jazz is terrified of thunder. I used the wait time to pop a piece of cheese in his mouth and say Yay every time the thunder rumbled. It was still pretty distant, so he seemed OK with it. We ran such a nice jumpers run. He ignored the thunder, ran with me, and I even managed a front cross without anyone getting hurt! I was so happy with the whole thing. We failed to qualify by 1.05 seconds. Still a nice run for us.

We weren't out of the ring very long before the rain came pouring down. Well - not actually down - more like sideways. What a storm! Lights were flickering on and off and there were a good number of scared dogs. I think a few scared handlers as well. Luckily, we were pretty close to the end of the trial and the storm blew through and ended quickly.

Day two of the trial was lovely weather, happy dog, and handler with her brain turned back on. We managed to run a correct chances course, but knocked two bars. We competed in open regular for the first time and I love running more challenging courses. We had a nice tunnelers run that was 3 seconds too slow and a jumpers run with two front crosses, on time, and one dropped bar. It's always something. I am happy to say that we salvaged the day by qualifying in novice hoopers. It's a silly event, but novice is pretty easy and no jumping or great speed is required.

Peggy and Judy came to watch us for a while. It's so much fun to introduce people to a sport that I love. Judy was kind enough to take video for me, so I can see what went right and what went wrong. All in all a lovely weekend. I think I'll do it again in two weeks!

Lessons learned this weekend. Watch the dog. Run the course the way you know it should be run, instead of trying to play it safe. Watch the dog. DO NOT try to speed him up by telling him to hurry - he doesn't go faster, he just knocks down bars. Watch the dog. Jazz really responds well to lots of tiny treats, praise, petting and fussing at the end of a run.

Finally - watch the dog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Qualifying in Novice Obedience for the First Time

I had always supposed that the first qualifying run in novice obedience would be a joyful experience. As usual, things didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped.

Jazz and I entered the Hawkeye Kennel Club trial last weekend. We were entered both Saturday and Sunday in Novice Obedience A. (The A means we are totally new to the obedience ring.) We have tried several times to get a qualifying score. Sometimes we are a total train wreck. Sometimes we get very close and one little thing goes wrong. Saturday was somewhere in the middle. We failed the recall. Jazz came straggling across the ring, but went right past me to stand and stare over the ring gates at .... something. He eventually wandered over and sat at my right heel. I have no explanation for this. The judge was trying to be kind and said that we had lost so many points during the heeling exercises that we needed a perfect score in everything else to qualify. That wasn't as comforting as she seemed to think it would be!

We stayed late to practice in the ring Saturday evening in hopes of showing improvement on Sunday. When the Novice A class was called on Sunday, we were the only team that showed up. I don't know why that bothers me, but I hate it! Usually there is at least one other team as bad as we are, and misery really does love company. The judge was very nice. This turned out to be somewhat of a problem. We began our heeling pattern and Jazz was wandering around and refusing to sit when we halted. Not new behavior, but I had hoped we were correcting this. Anyway, I won't go into all the painful details, but the judge basically said he wanted us to qualify. He kept telling me to relax, because the only way we could fail was if we completely screwed up an exercise. We ended up doing a little better at heeling than we have in the past. We did the stand for exam and the recall perfectly. The judge talked to me during the long sit and then went to write up the paperwork while we were still doing the long down. We did both of those correctly. He then came over and told me we had qualified. He warned me that another judge might not have seen it as a qualifying performance.

I was not overjoyed. I was not even very happy. I felt as if I had cheated. I did not want to be "given" a qualifying score. I wanted to earn it. Oh well. Every time I think we have reached the ultimate in ridiculous experiences in the ring - something tops it. This day just kept getting better.

I was leaving the ring with a blue ribbon (first place of course) and the lovely green qualifying ribbon and a nice squeaky toy for Jazz. The judge called me over and said the photographer was coming over from the breed ring and I should get a picture taken to commemorate this wonderful accomplishment. I declined. He insisted, while making charming remarks about getting his picture taken with a pretty girl and her handsome dog. I thought maybe we were going to get a 20 year old blond and a conformation Samoyed to pose for the picture. No such luck. I finally agreed and when the photographer was ready for us we went into the ring. I got all set for the picture and the photographer said, "You don't take a picture with the leash on the dog! JEEEZ!" So I took off the leash and had no idea what to do with it. I tossed it behind us. The lovely photographer said he couldn't believe what an idiot I was and went and picked up my leash. Then he started yelling at me to look at the dog's feet. I looked and there they were - big furry feet. He said they were in front of my feet. I was clueless. I tried to rearrange him and the photographer then said, "Do you suppose you could put that dog in the same zip code you're in?" I kept telling the guy to just take the picture. I would have walked away, but the dang judge had hold of me and the photographer had my leash! What a nightmare. I have not seen the picture yet, but I'll bet the look on my face is one of confused misery. Even the dog was having a lousy time by then. I have spent the last three days thinking up brilliant remarks to make the photographer feel as bad as I did. Alas - too little, too late.

I doubt if I will hang the picture on the wall when it comes. I would like to hang the photographer from a wall!

Thanks to everyone at the trial for your support and congratulations. See you in the ring.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A little history

I am a novice dog trainer. I have a Samoyed named Jazz who is six years old. I did not plan to enter the "sport of dogs." (I love that phrase - Ron Reagan uses it during his commentary on Westminster and it sounds so impressive!) I really didn't even begin training my dog with any kind of plan. I've tried to figure out how I got into this, but it all seems kind of blurry!

What I know is that I am now hooked. Jazz and I have completed our Rally titles - novice through excellent. It was an enormous struggle. Jazz jumped the ring gates and galloped around the building the first three time we went into the ring without a leash. Completing those titles was a very big accomplishment for us. I should have stopped there, but I am not that smart.

We also began training for agility trials. That is our first love. I think agility is much more difficult for me as the handler than it is for Jazz. He just runs and jumps and has a great time, except for the parts where he has to do what I tell him. Even those times wouldn't be so bad if he could figure out what I was trying to tell him. We have many misunderstandings. We are making progress and have actually earned a novice agility jumpers title. We could continue to work on agility and all would be well. Again - I am not that smart.

We are also working to earn obedience titles. Titles plural may be a little optimistic at this point, but I think it's clear that I am an optimistic sort of person. We have not yet earned any obedience titles. (See the definition of the phrase "you are excused" above. It's possible that the examples are real life experiences. They might even be MY real life experiences.)

I plan to write about my experiences as a novice dog trainer. Maybe my experiences will serve as a warning to others. At the very least, others who read this blog might end up feeling pretty good about their own accomplishments in the dog world.

See you in the ring.