Lately, I've been thinking a lot about starting Marge in Competition Obedience. She has been doing really well in her classes at the club (her reactivity is way down), and our bits and pieces of Obedience practice seem to be well-received by her - and I enjoy them, too. Lots of people at my club tell me that we'd enjoy it, it'd help us in our other training areas (Rally and Agility), and that my dog would be really good at it.
I never really considered it up until now, likely due to all of the stressed dogs and unhappy handlers that I see at shows and run-throughs (and, quite frankly, the over abundance of people using compulsion on dogs who aren't performing correctly BECAUSE they are stressed). But then, I see people like Petra Ford training her heavily titled, National Obedience Champion Lab, and I see how much fun they are both having. The dog isn't stressed to be in the ring. He isn't simply complying with her requests to drop on a recall or take a jump. He is thoroughly enjoying it, and it is really wonderful to see.
Marge and I did some heeling pattern practice with a friend last night, and I have to admit, I was really encouraged by how well she did. Honestly, her only heeling problems are lagging on the right turns and the about turns. She has great attention and sticks to my left side when we are practicing heeling.
Her fronts and finishes have come a long way, too. We could still use some work in those areas, but I don't think it's anything that can't be fixed by training under a good instructor.
And, her stays? They're solid. After some proofing (i.e. performing stays with groups of new dogs), I would feel extremely confident in her ability to perform a set of Novice sits and downs. She isn't stressed at all during them - last night, she actually put her head on the floor on the 3-minute down we did after Rally class.
This leaves one thing - the Stand for Exam. It is, perhaps, the biggest reason why I'm still hesitant to go on with Obedience training. Marge has come SO far in regards to her fears of people. I'm afraid of jeopardizing that. Maybe it's an irrational fear, maybe it isn't. I'm not really sure. I know how I'd train it (in baby steps - teach her to stand in place while a "judge" circles around her - she's got this down already, then to stand in place while a judge walks up to her side and then retreats, then a pat on the head, then a pat on the head and shoulders, then all three pats). But I'm just worried that more experienced people will tell me that my approach is bad or something.
I'm likely going to observe a class at my club to see what I think. I never thought I'd do it - and Obedience will NEVER take the place of our heart sport, Agility - but maybe we'll give it a try.