RULES OF COMPETITION:
1) Train for the title, not the judge
2) If you are worried about passing, you are not ready
3) No excuses. Be a good sport
Last weekend, Tom and I packed up the van and headed for the Quad Cities of Iowa. Where we landed was Moline, IL, to be exact. I had wanted to get Cooper's BH out of the way this year so we would be free to pursue our working titles in 2011 but time was running out and this was the last opportunity in our area. In fact, Machtig Strom is not even in our North Central Region.
The office of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America was outstanding. Because I didn't yet have Cooper's DVG scorebook (don't even ask me to explain what a debacle that whole membership has been, trying to get paperwork from Germany!) and suddenly time was upon me and I needed a book. I contacted the USA office and profusely apologized for my tardiness, prepared to just put down a deposit at the trial. Not only did they take care of my scorebook, they expedited it. THANK YOU, USA OFFICE!
On Saturday, Cooper lost his sit in motion. I don't know where it went, but it was lost. However, I knew that everything else was in order and if we missed that exercise, it would still be fine. I felt very confident that he would pass. In our club, we do not train for a BH. We train for SchH3. We also train for the requirements of each level, without worrying about having to find Santa Claus. If you attempt a BH wondering if you will pass, you are not ready, in my opinion. Schutzhund is a balancing act; for every minute you address an issue in one phase, there is something to be challenged in another. Sometimes you have to step forward knowing that things are not perfect, but you try to ensure that they are as close to perfect as they can be at the moment.
It rained hard on the drive down. It was raining still on Sunday morning and although I had my lovely pink and black rain suit, I hoped not to have to wear it all day! Luckily, the rain stopped before we began. The trial field is at the airport. Obedience was done in a clearing between two stands of trees. Immediately on the other side of the trees was an unfenced football field, complete complete with goalposts where the protection work was done, so I am not sure why we didn't use that instead.
The area where we did obedience felt more like an area you would take your dogs for a break, and in fact, a dog was doing exactly that before we began. Instead of complaining, you ask: what does this teach me about being prepared? You need to practice in areas that do not have visual cues for the dog so that they understand that, no matter where they are, if you ask for obedience, that is what they do. The caution to that in training is that you must reward the dog for simple exercises they know when you first do this, so that they learn new places are FUN and not a source of correction.
So, I took Cooper out and did a little heeling there, fast and happy and with reward. If I was trialing for a working title I get the dog over the jumps and do a send-away. I had Pre along, and since he needs new field experience, I did a send-away for a pillow there, as well, and a little heeling. Cooper was competing opposite another dutch shepherd and a very nervous handler. I won't go into detail as to their work except to say that the judge did grant them a pass, but they were not ready for a BH on a new field. Cooper did very well and I was so happy with his performance! He remained attentive throughout the routine, which is quite lengthy as it involves both on and off leash obedience. He lost the sit. I turned around, and there he was, standing. He was rock solid, and didn't move, and it was indeed an incredible stand in motion, but he had been requested to sit. I could only smile as I walked back to him. That is one thing I have definately learned in competition; don't let the dog see your worry or anger, no matter what they do. My little Cooper-man would melt if he saw me walking back angrily. If it was Quinn, he would be up on his toes, ready to defend his honor! Either way, I just paste that smile on my face, make a conscious effort to relax my body posture, and just go on from there. Yes, we have things to work on, but they are all easily worked and not a lack of foundation.
The judge complimented Cooper's drive and training. The traffic portion was a breeze in comparison to what he had just passed in CT with the FSA. In fact, this traffic portion was shorter and easier than most. We walked in a parking lot as a car, bicyclist and jogger passed and then we stopped to converse with the vehicle driver. We moved the dogs informally in and out of a group of people, and did a tie-out with a neutral dog.
In the tie-out, you are able to tell your dog to "down" (unlike the FSA), so I removed Cooper's leash, told him to down and walked away. Let me repeat: I removed Cooper's leash, told him to down.... and walked away. Did you catch that? When I returned, after Al had walked his adult male dog back and forth in front of Cooper, I noticed that the tie out was laying next to Cooper. Not attached. Oops! I had forgotten to secure him! Thank goodness, he knows his long down!
I'm glad to have that step behind us. I love medallions and certificates, and things that document that first step for a dog but we didn't receive any. I might have to visit the trophy shop and make my own! I was once again, very proud of this stripey boy that I bred myself, who is so willing to try whatever I ask of him. He's a darned good dog.
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