Friday, May 13, 2011

Devon's adventures in the rally ring

This winter I decided to pursue Devon's Rally Advanced title. I was chairman of a local obedience and rally trial, and I didn't want to be 'bored.' Devon is a very environmentally-aware dog. She tested this way in her puppy test, and Gayle warned me I'd love it for field work and tracking, but it would be difficult for obedience.

As wonderful as Devon is in training, she is very distracted in new environments. She sees the smallest things I never notice, and that nose has gotten her in trouble! At a show and go this fall, she was obsessed with the high jump during and open run thru. She was so obsessed, I could not get her to heel at all even on leash. I decided to try a retrieve and go back to heeling later. As soon as the leash was off, she took off across the ring to the far standard of the high jump - there was a black wheel on the metal jump! I had not even SEEN the wheel, but she did from outside the ring. She had to go see it.

And as I mentioned, that nose gets the best of her, too. Here is her first attempt at Rally Advanced. The off-set figure 8 was 30 feet across the ring, and she had not been in that area at all, but she spied it off the startline and took off to have lunch!

Needless to say when your first run ends in being excused from the ring you have no where else to go but up! And this run became legendary during the weekend, with the judge even telling the utility B competitors about it the next day!

Devon's second trip in the ring earned her first leg with a 92 and a second place. She was better, but I think she was still trying to see if she would get lunch in the ring. She was also very distracted by the chalk in the ring mats. I'm not planning to "fix" this until she earns her VST, because sniffing chalk is something we've encouraged in that sport. But after the disaster of the day before, I was pleased she was with me and tried.

Devon's third trip into the ring came at a local Sibe specialty. It was a very small trial (19 total entries in all 6 classes). I had taken the girls to a show and go in Dayton the night before and got home at midnight, but it was worth it to continue taking Devon to new places.

I tried a new strategy at this trial to take her up to the ring and show her where she would be working. This was a great idea, because when she walked into the ring, she was more focused than I'd seen her in the past. She had a really nice run, with some sniffs and wide turns in the beginning. But she finished strong, showing what a nice working dog she is. Devon earned a 94 and first place for this run.

On May 8, we went to Ft. Wayne for Devon's forth time in the Rally ring. it had been 6 weeks since she'd been in the ring, and we'd done less training in those 6 weeks. I was concerned about how she'd do. I shouldn't have been.

I used the same philosophy of showing her the ring before we went in, and I worked her in that area. This was clearly her best run yet, with only a couple of sniffs. Darn that sniff before the jump causing her 3 points, because she ended up with a nice score of 96 and 3rd place to finish her RA!

I'm really proud of Devon earning her RA. She progressed well with each time in the ring. I feel like we learned a lot about each other, and it gives me good insight into what she'll be like preparing for obedience (which is a long way off).

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