Since February 2011, I’ve really been trying to change the way Bear and I ‘play’ the rally game. Our last successful run of trialing was back in 2009 and since then we have failed for Bear barking his head off in the ring, for Bear wandering around the ring like some sort of zombie dog (not a zombie rally dog) and once for taking the tunnel in a versatility run FOUR times.
If I were to see the silver lining in all this, I’d say at least these epic failures give me the right to tell competitors when I am judging that they likely won’t out do anything Bear and I have done – Judges are people too!
There’s another silver lining
Last February’s nonsense prompted me (with some poking and prodding by Renee Will of Two Brown Dogs Canine Consultants) to re-examine how I interact with Bear and focus on having a good time together. We’ve been working on having fun with tricks and tracking and we even went back to school to work on a few new games to help us have fun and keep it together long enough for to perform a rally run. The most interesting thing about our work in class is that Bear has made it painfully clear that in a contest between a good game of tug (with the right toy) and a bunch of liver, he would almost always prefer tug. He is a VERY, very food motivated dog but…playing tug really jazzes him up. This means I’ve had to change our pre-trial routine to one of some cookies but mostly playing tug and it also means that I needed to find a small, conceal-able tug toy for trials….and so I did some shopping and came home with a winner!
I think all the work is …working!
A couple of weekends ago, Bear and I were entered in a rally trial hosted right here at home. Since I was judging on Sunday I could only enter one Advanced C event and one Versatility event on Saturday. At this stage I’m not so worried about the exercises but my main goal for us as a team was to be able to keep our cool, thinking brains working and not to let panic or anxiety (in my case) or stress and frantic racing and barking (in Bear’s case) take over.
Here are the details
Since I was trial secretary, Bear came in early with me and puttered around the building until it was time for competitors to come in and set up. Then, I decided to kennel Bear outdoors in car which was parked in the shade (it was cooler out there than indoors!) until about 5 minutes before our run. He comes to work regularly with me so this is his second home but I knew that he would relax better outdoors with less noise.
- Our First run, in Advanced C was the first class of the day. I did my walkthrough and then brought Bear in as the dog before us went into the ring. We did a bit of “zen”, played some tug with our new favorite toy and practiced a few tricks because they always make me smile and they say that smiling is relaxing! We had a good tug and then the cookies and toys went ‘away’ and we set off on our run. Bear was focused on me while entering the ring and right up to the start line. Our run went quite smoothly with deductions for a slight pause and a double command on the moving down (-5) and for a crooked sits near a wall and a door (-2) and for a double command at a sit near a jump (-2). We squeaked by the C Stream requirement of a Score of 190 with a 191 but all in all, it was an excellent run and we played a big giant game of tug at the end.
- Our Second run was in Versatility and took place in the middle of the trial day. This time, I brought Bear in before just our walkthrough and while the dog before us went into the ring, we practiced more tricks and played some more tug. This run went VERY well although it started out with a stress scratch at the second station (-2). We also lost points on another crooked sit near a wall (-2), a double command to get Bear to weave through my legs (-2) and for Bear moving out of position towards the gate as we passed it (-2). The deductions were minor so I was very happy with this run – lotsa tug was played and then Bear got to relax in his crate for the reminder of the day with some yummy chicken backs!
None of the legs earned that weekend earned us a title, but we are now only one leg short of a Versatility title. Unfortunately both of our Versatility legs are under Renee so I’ll have to travel or wait until our trial in June to qualify under a different judge.
We are going to travel to Regina in a few months to attend the KAOS Dog Sports trial. My plan is to enter two Advanced Team runs and also one Excellent C run each day. My plan for the next couple of months is to keep up the training we’ve been doing to keep Bear ‘ready to work’ and to refresh our sits in tight spaces and moving downs. The sits and downs will be easy enough to fix with a clicker and a handful of cookies. We’ve been using the Give Me a Break Game from Leslie McDevitts book, Control Unleashed to get that ‘ready to work attitude’ using distractions such as other dogs and food bowls but I think I might start adding other things in like toys, balls and other things one sees at a trial like a stewards table with goodies on top and underneath in buckets, boxes and Rubbermaid containers.