Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our First Try at Rally Advanced

Leo is a willing partner and good little worker. That said, our heeling needs work and my only true goal for today's show was that he not be afraid. Afraid of the orange cones. Afraid of the white picketed gates around the ring. I figured if he was happy in the ring then I would have a chance to learn what we needed to work on the most. At this point, I figured it might be regaining our heel after the jump, better pivots, heeling period.
We arrived nice and early although the estimated ring time for Advanced A was 11:40. Leo and I loaded up our stuff and headed in. We found the obedience area right off the bat and lucked out on a spot for his crate. I got it all set up, offloaded his water bottle, bowl, and buckle collar for later, and we headed to the conformation building. On the way there we ran into our friend Shana, her husband, and their Tibetan Mastiff, Wally. After helping them find the grooming area, I then made my way to the conformation building.

We got in while they were just finishing up the Bullmastiff class and things were already heated up in the building and there were a lot of people there. We stood and watched the Bullmastiffs for a few minutes as I didn't know if our friend Andrea was showing her bitch, Tonka. We then moved on and did a bit of browsing. Dog shows can be dangerous for me because of all the vendors but I had a goal of finding just one thing this weekend and that was training dumb bells for both dogs. I found them but decided I would wait to purchase until I was ready to leave. We wandered some more, chatted with the amazing number of agility competitors we know that were there, and then ended up being able to watch Shana and Wally in the ring. After Wally's class we went back to the obedience barn to check in and pick up our map.

There were only three dogs entered in Advanced A and we were to be the first. I wasn't thinking about the walk through plan and was pleasantly surprised they grouped A and B together so that I could watch and learn from the Advanced B competitors regarding some of the signs I was less familiar with. After we walked I got Leo out and was playing with him and warming him up just a bit. He was doing well and was very happy which was nice. I wanted him comfortable and having spent the hour or so prior to our run in the obedience area, he was not acting concerned about anything. I should probably mention, it's not like Leo has a temperament that I have to worry about or that he's a fraidy cat or anything. But the dog show world is all new to him, being indoors is a little unnerving from time to time with all the unknown sounds that are so big up above and around him. And yet, being in the conformation building was more comfortable because there are no crazy, scary, unidentifiable noises....
The first exercise I knew we would try but didn't expect us to get it. I've never taught a stand command and am not really sure how with Leo now based upon the other commands he knows that mean other things (touch, high five, gimme ten). No big surprise. He didn't get it. He sat, he stood and sat again. He was supposed to stand for the walk around and since I couldn't get it, I walked around with him in a sit. No biggie. Moving on.... We were doing okay. He was lagging some but keeping with me better than I expected. We got through the third obstacle and were facing number four when it happened. The wall we were facing was actually the back side of stock animal stalls being used for grooming.
At this point I have to express my frustration. The green box above represents 3/4 of the Cascade Livestock Pavillion. Yep, the livestock building. That green box is where all of the grooming space was. The blue spaces are two other, concrete-floored buildings where all the vendors and conformation events were held. The pink box? That little, itty, bitty pink box is where the 202 (Saturday's entries) obedience-related entries were to be held. Did I mention it was their livestock pavilion? Did I also mention half the obedience rings shared a "wall" with the stalls filled with people with extremely noisy pet dryers?

Did I mention Leo and I have bad luck in the rally ring? And that the most important thing to me for my little guy today was that the experience be positive? Of course that couldn't happen then! Somebody, of course, kicked on the loudest dryer I have ever heard right during our movement toward the fourth station. Yep, right on the other side of the wall came a great and ferocious sound that Leo couldn't identify. Of course it couldn't just turn off. It had to keep going. And what did I want him to do but to go toward it. At this point it was just me and him. The judge wasn't in our world. The spectators and other competitors weren't in our world. It was just Leo and I against the beast.

I managed to get him somewhat close to station four and went with it. His sits were lagging by then and extremely hesitant requiring me to tell him at least twice. We moved toward the '360 left' and he was even more concerned. What? You mean I'm supposed to turn sideways to something scary that I can't see? After standing at the station sign and calling him to me over and over, I decided to step out sideways to him and attempt to complete the exercise. That as successful as possible we moved on the '270 right.' Partially successful, we continued on. We got through the 'straight figure 8' and went toward the jump. I knew this could be a problem, dryer aside. And it was. I couldn't get Leo to take it. I repeated the exercise but I think his concern was over the panel design. He'd never seen one before and on top of the anxiety it was just too much. I thanked the judge, picked up Leo, and left. The judge was kind enough to smile and say, "Another time, another day," to which my response was pretty much, probably not, but not loud enough for her to hear. Mostly I was saying it to myself. At least not any time soon.

So in retrospect, that part of our day was completely poopy. Yes, I know I'll need to work on the obedience ring jumping with Leo. I'll definitely be introducing him to all the types of jumps very soon. And yes, our heeling will continue to be a focus as is learning to stand on command. I can work on focus, I can work on desensitization, but dammit, is it too much to ask to pay good money to be treated equally amongst participants? Ten hours later and I am still so frustrated. My little boy deserved better than that and now I get to work double hard to combat something that is almost impossible to train against.

So no score. No positives. And not a good feeling either for someone new to the sport of obedience and who was hesitant going in but gaining a respect for the work it takes to do what these dogs and handlers do.

After we loaded the crate in the truck we did head back to the conformation building to try to catch the Danes and the Pomeranians. Unfortunately the Danes were not ready yet and I was starting to feel crunched on time. We went to the smaller conformation building which was much quieter and found Leo's breeder. She hadn't seen him since he came home with me almost a year ago and I wanted to be sure to make that happen. As it happens, I was able to get some pictures of the Poms in the ring shortly thereafter.

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