As most of you know, I haven’t been in the ring with a dog in about a year. Family health issues kept me from showing most of last year and Jazz’s large litter took me out for a few more months. In any case, Heather McQuiddy, who has Quincy, emailed me about 3 weeks ago and reminded me a show was closing down in San Antonio and she was going to enter Quincy if I wanted to join in. I mulled it over. Jazz hasn’t been in any obedience class in a year. Should I enter her and risk developing bad habits or just toss caution to the wind and go for it? With intact girls, generally if you enter a show, they come into season. I knew it was to soon after having her litter for her to pull THAT one on me, so I decided what the heck, let’s go for it. While we are at it, let’s just totally toss caution to the wind and enter Advanced Rally and Beginner Novice Obedience.
For those unfamiliar with those classes, a generalized way to think about them is:
Advanced Rally – Off leash but you can talk to your dog the entire time.
Beginner Novice Obedience- All on leash (except the recall), but you can only talk at the start of each exercise to give one command. You get docked points for talking or giving extra hand signals.
It is obviously more complicated than what I have said, but that is a basic overview. To make this even MORE fun, I have never witnessed a Beginner Novice class, much less taken one with my dog. Also, I have never taken an Advanced Rally class, so the signs were going to be challenging. I’ve never shown Jazz off leash and have just spent 4 weeks in Nose Work class with her off leash hunting for scent! Even with all that, I decided to do it anyway. Yeah, I am crazy like that. I mean really people, what is the absolute worst thing that can happen? She could leave the ring (or attempt to), or go romping around in zoom mode having a big time without working with me. I could live with that! At the very least it will show me holes in my training, and as you will read there were some pretty LARGE holes.
DAY ONE: There were two Rally classes on Saturday. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. When I picked up the course sheet I noticed something that just might be an issue. The jump (All Advanced and Excellent classes have at least one Jump) was the second obstacle on the course. Up until 2 weeks ago, the only jumping I did with Jazz was at distance. She wasn’t use to jumping and heeling. She was use to seeing a jump, going away from mom at a dead run, looking for the next obsticle and listening for direction. This ‘could’ be an issue. Yes I had worked her at home, she was very much improved, but I wasn’t sure having a jump so soon into the course was going to work out for us. She wouldn’t be in ‘Rally’ mindset just yet and because we haven’t shown in a year, she wouldn’t be in ‘show’ mode either. I was right. As I was waiting for the dog ahead of us to go, Jazz noted the dog going, saw him jump and turned into “THIS IS AGILITY” dog. She started whining under her breath, quivering with excitement, and I knew I had lost her. Jazz is very much her own dog. Once she gets something in her mind, it is difficult to bring her back. In any case I decided we were going to have fun and I would do some training and see how this worked out. She absolutely rushed past me for that jump, blowing the first station. I called her back, got her refocused, tried again. Better, we survived the Right Side Step. Next was the jump, which she took with easy, but she took her time coming back into heel. We repeated it, with better but not steller results. Next was a 270 left turn, which was really sloppy, but we completed it. After about 5 stations I had her back. It was like the light clicked. OOOOOHHHHH Rally!! I had my dog back. We finished with style and managed to qualify with 87 points. Much better than I thought we deserved.
We had about an hour break before Beginner Novice, so I let her rest then got her out for some Obedience refresher work. I knew with such a green dog I needed to refocus her and judge her fatigue level. Heather was able to video this for me, because she was already finished running Quincy.
This was really nice. Her automatic sits were slow, but she did ok for a dog who had never trained for this before 2 weeks prior. I had to watch a few YouTube video’s on the class because I have never shown in Beginner Novice. I knew it was suppose to be easier than Novice, but I wasn’t sure how. In any case, she rocked it, scored a 194 and 3rd place even with her slow sits.
Last show of the day was the second Rally Advanced class. Jazz did amazing. I mean AMAZING. It was beautiful. The problem was her mom, who incorrectly did a sign wrong, but didn’t realize it until she checked their score and saw they lost 10 points on a station (meaning we did not do it correctly and lost ALL the points). I was kicking myself, but again a learning experience. We had a respectable 89 out of 100 points.
At the end of the day we walked away with 2 qualifications in Rally Advanced and 1 qualification in Beginner Novice!!
DAY TWO: I had two classes. One Rally Advanced and one Beginner Novice. The first was Rally Advanced, but it was going to be within minutes of the Beginner Novice. I wouldn’t have any time between classes to refocus or relax my dog. This is something that happens often, so I was ok seeing how Jazz did in this situation. As they were laying out the Rally course I noticed them tossing 2 toys into the ring. WHAT IS THAT!!! TOYS!!! I asked Heather what was going on and she explained it was part of the figure 8. Again, everyone needs to realize I have never taken a ‘real’ Rally class. I’ve watched a couple You Tube videos and sometimes watched it at shows, but the shows I have attended have never had this obstacle used. I have the sign at home, but I never read the RULES on the sign. The sign has 4 large dots on it, which I always assumed were 4 cones. I had never read the description, because most of the signs in rally are pretty self explanatory. If it was a toy or something, they would have said something on the sign. NO NO NO. I was so very wrong. Those toys… oh boy I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had never practiced this. Sure I had taught my dog to leave it… with food. No one is cruel enough to leave a toy on the floor of the show ring. HAHA Oh the irony. Jazz has major toy issues. I’ve spent her entire life attempting to convince her the kids stuffed animals are not hers. She doesn’t get it. She believes “If it is soft and cute, it is MINE!” The toys are in the center back of the ring. We enter on the left. She doesn’t catch sight of the toys until the second station, but once she sees the toys, I have lost her. She mentally GONE. Oh, she doesn’t break heel, but she is giving me the barest sliver of her attention. Her mind is GLUED to the toys. she starts to lean, cheating on her heeling. Her sits are nonexistent. Her neck is breaking as we go around the ring, so she can watch the toys as she sloppily does what I ask. The moment of truth arrives. I have to enter that death trap with my unresponsive poodle. I decided to take the long way around and put her between the cone and myself first. Then we pass the toy and she attempts to snatch it while still holding heel, splaying her legs wide, ducking, walk, snapping at that toy. I raise my voice and give a very firm “LEAVE IT!” and she snaps out of it, we make it around to the other side. Thankfully the other toy was a rope toy, not nearly as appealing as that stuffed squeaker on the other side. Looping back around, we make it past the toy with less drama, I think she grasped I wasn’t going to let her have that toy. The rest of the course was easy. She was back with me. As the judge handed me my leash she had the BIGGEST grin on her face and she said “Your dog saw that toy the moment you walked into the ring!! I couldn’t’ believe how good she did with her attention glued to that toy! She told me our pivots were really sloppy, that we should work hard on those, and congratulated us on Qualifying!!!! I couldn’t believe she passed her!!!
We leave the ring and walk over to Beginner Novice. I was the next dog in the ring! No time to prep Jazz and refocus her, I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me. Sure enough, she was a distracted mess. We were holding it together ok, but at the sit stay, where I had to walk around the ring, she stood up and turned towards the Rally ring and faced the TOY!!! Standing up is an automatic Non-Qualify. I’m just glad she didn’t run over and try to crawl under the fence to get it. Seriously. I think she realized that was going to far and held it together. On the recall, I had to stand right in front of where the toy was in the other ring. She came screaming over to me, did not sit in front, she stood next to me and looked at the dang TOY!! The judge and I had a good laugh, I explained what she was doing and gave my silly girl a hug. She had a good time and I felt she had great restraint all things considered. I know what we have to work on, that is for sure.
Heather and Quincy also had a great weekend. Heather entered Quincy boy in Beginner Novice on both says and 2 of the 3 Rally shows. She decided to keep him in Rally Novice instead of moving him into Advanced. It has been over a year for him as well and she wanted to start his show season off with on leash practice.
He Qualified in Beginner Novice both days!! The first day he was a bit distracted and lost his sits. You can see a video of him here
The second day he did AWESOME. His sits came back and he was much relaxed. I totally forgot to video, bad breeder!!! He ended up getting 3rd place on Sunday out of 10 dogs, it was a fabulous run. He qualified both days in Rally and his Sunday run was spot on. Heather did a sign wrong and cost him 10 points, but even with that he pulled off a 4th place! Not to shabby.
Overall it was a great show weekend for the Anutta Poodles. Jazz now has her Rally Advanced title and one leg towards her Beginner Novice. Quincy has 2 legs towards his Beginner Novice!! A wonderful start to a good show year.
Was it worth taking the risk and going out on a limb, doing something I had not trained for? Absolutely. The judges were great. All of them said Jazz was a pleasure, even if slightly out of control at times. You could tell the dog was having a great time and that is my goal in all this. My only regret is not having a local place to train. I think I might have to bite the bullet and take a few weeks of Rally down in Austin at Austin Canine Central. It is so hard making that 2.5 hour drive several times during the week. I’m already going down there for Nosework on Thursdays. The Rally class is on Tuesdays I believe.