Jazz and I entered the Des Moines trial last weekend both Saturday and Sunday. I promised myself and him, that qualify or not, we will rebuild our heeling between now and next spring. We will stick to agility in the mean time.
We went into the obedience ring for Novice A on Saturday morning. I felt very calm and relaxed because I decided that if we failed to qualify, I could sleep in on Sunday. If we qualified - yippee! Jazz was mediocre in all of the heeling patterns. He did stay more or less with me, but did his usual lag around the ring about four feet back when the leash came off. He did a great stand for exam. He ran right to me on the recall and I was so excited that I took my eyes off him. He went right on by and galloped over to the ring gate. Bless the judge for waiting a while, because Jazz came back to see why I was just standing there. He sat down on my right side and poked my hand with his nose. I remembered my class teaching and signaled for a finish. He popped right around to a nice finish on the left. He did a very nice long sit and long down. I have taken to staring at him and grinning like a fool while he looks at me. The judge told me this is legal and it seems to help him focus on me. We qualified with a whopping 171! The judge apologized to me for such a low score and I just laughed. I am certain we did not earn any higher than that. It was a fair score for a border line performance. The Des Moines club gives very nice prizes. We got a lovely, handmade, wooden leash hook for third place. How very generous of them!
So - up at 5AM for the drive back on Sunday morning. Sunday was not very good. Jazz did an OK job of heeling on leash and the other exercises were fine. He sat in front after a slow recall and did a very nice finish. Unfortunately, his heel free was dismal. He was fairly tired of the whole thing. He drifted around, stood gawking over the ring gate, and eventually caught up to me for the end of the pattern. The best thing I can say is that I continued heeling at a brisk pace. I am very well trained and can follow the judge's direction. I wish the dog had come with me. Oh well.
The thing that makes me laugh is that I think we have turned some kind of corner. I have been rewarding volunteered attention from him at home and around the show site in Des Moines. If he looked at me and got close, I gave him praise and a treat. He now follows me around the house in heel position. I tell him how smart he is, make him heel a little way and then treat him. Today, I started teaching a "Place" command so he sits down in heel. This is the very first time in his life that he has volunteered to sit in heel and if the treat is slow coming, he sits closer! Hurrah!! Such joy over such a little thing. He is a good boy and will really come along now that I have a training plan. (Or he won't and I'll try another plan!)
Either way - agility here we come and we will keep training.