Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Algonquin von Schoerling, UCD,11xSchH3/IPO3,MR1

WOW! We did it!  Quinn earned his MR1 by earning qualifying scores both days.  Granted, they were nothing to write home about but he did pass!  And the only other dog to trial both days was not successful in his bid.  Lisa Geller said later that she didn't think I realized what a big deal it was to have taken an almost 8 year old experienced schutzhund dog, with not much training, and earned a MR1 in his first weekend. 

The other thing that Lisa said was that I am responsible for Mondioring in the Midwest. I hadn't considered that, but I suppose it is true.  When we began bringing in Michael Ellis for seminars, after Ivan became unavailable, our area had never heard of ringsports.  Michael introduced it and we began to teach our dogs proper entry on leg sleeves and how to do positions. We started to train a twisted schutzhund version combining portions of mondioring, including the environmental challenges, with the schutzhund requirements.  I firmly believe this makes a well-rounded dog.  Michael also sold his Loups du Soleil dogs to club members and I think that has forever changed the sport landscape as well as the presence of the malinois in this area. Ultimately, members who only wanted to do MR broke away from our schutzhund club and look where we are today!

I can't believe how nervous I was! In schutzhund, I am a zen goddess (though anyone who knows me understands not to talk to me before or immediately following my turn).  I was so out of my element and sooo nervous. It is a little funny to look back on when I recall that I wasn't so nervous about Jinx but yet she failed her second day's attempt! I was petrified what Quinn might do, and he did even better the second day.  I was very concerned about whether to even try again on Sunday.  I had wanted to do some "clean up" to make sure I had an "out" since he had not been reinforced with multiple grips on Saturday.  The last thing I wanted to do was to create the same problem we had in schutzhund where Quinn decided that releasing was not a priority. I spoke briefly with Michael Ellis on Sunday morning and he encouraged me to give it a try. I'm glad I did.

In two days, Quinn did NOT eat the food on the food refusal. That is our biggest accomplishment, as he is a total chow hound!  I had learned (darnit! have to read the rules some time!) that in the MR1 I could pick my dog up from the guard, so I opted to try that. I also decided to use voice only, rather than whistle. Clearly the whistle was not working for me the day before.  Once the decoy hovered over Quinn and made eye contact, it was game on and he wasn't going anywhere.  Of course, I will have to reinforce the whistle for the MR2 level, but in order to pass, I let him do his schutzhund guard and walked up to heel away.  He released perfectly, too! I was so proud of him!  The poor boy was handicapped by a stupid handler who cost so many points we are lucky to have passed.  Score-wise, we did worse than the day before by 1 point, earning 168 points. 160 is passing! whew!  However, on Sunday, it was almost all on me.  Quinn did super but I lost my brain, failing to acknowledge the horn that signaled the start and end of the exercises. I have to admit that Melissa Mims had told me to practice with the horn, and I even bought one, but I was worried the dog would learn to pay attention to the horn and perhaps release too soon, or recall too soon.  In the end, what I discovered was that because I had not practiced with it, it became back ground noise in my nervous head and I paid no attention to it!  The one time it pierced my subconscious was in the heeling pattern, where it actually startled me and I stopped abruptly.  My stop startled Quinn, who apparently thought he had screwed up and he remained sitting when I continued forward. We lost all the heeling points because of that error.  No kidding, my awesome heeling dog failed heeling! arggghh. dumb handler!

That morning, Steve Garvin, who was an apprentice judge and a super nice guy, asked if I was excited.  Excited? no. Nervous? you betcha.  I just wanted it all over.  I didn't even break my camera out of the case on Saturday. I just wanted the whole thing to be done, pass or fail.  On Sunday the MR1 competitors were just me and Scott Dunmore, who did double duty as a decoy, as well, and has a very nice V litter LdS dog. I asked to go first, to get it over with! Once my turn was done, it took awhile to work up the courage to go look at our score but once I did, I was free to relax, chat and take photos.  It felt so nice to be finished!  For our troubles, and First Place, we received a nice bite pillow.

The location was lovely and Ed and Cindy were great hosts.  I would have loved to have had the time to look around more, maybe even taken a drive around the area. Maybe next time. What?? next time?  Obviously a glutton for punishment, we are now planning our move to MR2. Call me crazy.....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quinn's First Mondioring Trial

This is one of those rare instances where having a one-legged dog is a good thing! Quinn made his Mondioring debut today at the Competitive Canines Mondioring Trial at the Leerburg propery in Menomonie, Wisconsin and earned a qualifying score.  It wasn't pretty, and we were in last place, but he passed.  That means he has one leg toward his MR1 title.

I am very proud of my Quinnster.  He retired from schutzhund with 11 SchH3/IPO3 titles, including many regional championships and a number of National events.  While earning our FH is still on the agenda, I thought we would make a detour into the world of Mondioring after discovering that Quinn really seems to enjoy the longer fight and grip of MR. I am doing this for him. I have not found the fun and comraderie in MR that I have in schutzhund and dislike intensely the concept of having to pay a decoy to get anywhere in the sport. And there seems to be a whole thing to which decoys work with which group's dogs. I just want to train my dog.

You would think that with all the competitions behind us, I wouldn't have been so nervous. After all, I competed in MR1 with Jinx, as well, but for some reason my stomach was bound up in knots this morning as I waited my turn.  I was very worried about all the things that could go wrong with Quinn.  We first walked through the exercises and were allowed to ask questions of the judge, Margaret McKenna. I scribbled what I needed to remember in a small notebook and innocently asked the judge whether I could review my notes between exercises.  She looked at me as if I had suddenly sprouted a third eye and asked "are you serious?"  She did not appear amused.  Next the "Dog in White" walked through the same exercises. Finally it was time to draw for our positions. I thought I would be able to watch several other teams and confirm the exercises in my head...until I drew #1!

In MR, you report in to the judge and introduce yourself, your dog, club affiliation, your jump choice and whether you will use whistle or voice to recall.  When I told the judge I had no club affiliation, she asked "then how do you train, if you have no club?" I told her I attend seminars.  No need to explain that I am Switzerland. That I don't need the drama associated with club membership and prefer to be able to go where I like to train, even if that means I am an outsider.  Or that I have not been asked to join any mondioring clubs!! haha!  She didn't look as if any of that would have either interested or amused her.

The first excercise actually began when I reported in. Contrary to the way we had trained, with being able to cue the dog at the prep line, we had to place the dog on a down as we reported in and that was part of the food refusal exercise.  After the introduction, I turned around to face Quinn-- which was helpful--- as the food was tossed.  When the exercise was finished and I went to him, he was still focused on finding the food, though.  Next was the retrieve.  Quinn likes to retrieve and the object was a plastic candle, so quite like a dumbbell.  Quinn also did his positions on the first command, and I was very happy with that but since I had to whistle him to position and had forgotten to move my feet apart, I did that after I took my initial position earning me criticism from the judge.  She was correct, of course; I simply forgot.
Next came the absence.  Thankfully, it was not behind any objects tempting Quinn to peek over the top, but instead was also very schutzhund-like in that I placed him on a down and then walked to a blind. whew~!  The send-away followed.  I have had to work on this particularly, as in schutzhund we often send TO a cone or marker but in MR you are sending the dog between markers. The markers were plastic Santas, not cones and the handlers had elected to whistle back the dog once he crossed the line, without signal from the judge.  Wouldn't you know, I watched Quinn run and was so happy to see him run past the Santas that I forgot briefly!! Then had to quickly grab my whistle. And oh yes, move the damned feet apart AGAIN.  Quinn did turn back quickly but meandered his way to me a little, but that does not cost points, I learned. It is all about the dog running straight and crossing the line between the distractions.  The judge also considered it "training" if your dog continued to touch the fence or look for a marker after you whistled back and took something called "allure points".  There is a category outside the written rules, termed "general allure" which apparently allows the judge personal latitude.  I learned that you must wear capris or long pants, no shorts, or you will be docked "allure points."  Tell that to the gals at Hooters, I say!  At any rate, the judge gave me a very strict "this is your last warning" for having moved my feet.

The heeling pattern was simple and I finally felt I could breathe!  Quinn knows how to heel. I march right out there, moving quickly, getting it done.  I've heard comments about that because the MR folks, with their leaning dogs, don't heel in the same manner. But in MR it doesn't matter, only that the dog stays with you and stops when you stop (without command). The hurdle was the last exercise in the obedience portion.  I have not taught markers to Quinn so I relied on throwing a toy one way over the jump in training, expecting him to go further away thinking it was out there.  He didn't go quite as far as I expected today, and nicked the jump slightly on the return.  I was still very happy with his performance. To that point, the greatest detriment had been me!!

The order of the protection exercises were face, flee and DOH. In the first one, Quinn released on the whistle but needed two to leave the man and get back to me. After that, with the decoy bent over him and making strong eye contact, there was no leaving.  Quinn guarded instead.  In the second, I ended up recalling him by voice and in the last he didn't return at all. I had broken my whistle and replaced it with a different type that did not carry as well, but I don't believe that was it. Quinn just got stuck.  I did not believe we had passed after that performance but we squeaked it out.

There is no critique, so you don't learn from the mistakes of others in the same way you do in schutzhund, but they do post the score sheets following each performance. That is more like AKC, but at least you do find out where the points were taken, if you didn't already know.

The weather has been ungodly hot. Today my van temperature gauge showed 99 degrees. I don't know if that is accurate, but it sure felt like it.  By late afternoon I couldn't concentrate on anything but the sweat running down my back and I took a brief trip back to the hotel where Quinn and I could cool off in the A/C.  When we returned, the group was clapping and celebrating and concluding the awards celebration. Aida and Bordeaux, after much work and persistence, achieved their MR3, so it was a particularly touching moment.  My brain was so fried, I had entirely forgotten about any closing ceremony. 

At this moment, Quinn is sacked out for the night and I am listening to the thunderstorm, trying to decide whether to risk competing tomorrow without having been able to clean that up. I'm not convinced he will let go two days in a row without reinforcement.

Sam, if you read this-- thank you!  I know our scores aren't anything to be proud of, but we did pass, and without your assistance that would not have happened.