After our two class drop-ins in September, we sort of forgot about Obedience training and went back to focusing on our agility trials. Marge did NOT do as well in the second class as she did in the first (where she was called "fabulous" by the instructor), but she didn't do terribly and seemed to still enjoy it.
I watched a UKC Obedience trial at my club this past weekend, so once again, the activity has been on my mind. I actually went in to the ring with a friend's Dachshund, as the sit-stay exercise was condensed in to one group for the Novice dogs, and she had two dogs to show so needed another person to handle one of them. The Dachsie girl held the 1-minute sit for me!
I've started running through exercises with Marge again in my living room, drawing on the little bit of guidance I received from our club's instructor two months ago, and adding in some ideas of my own.
I think that, if I ever compete, I will choose UKC Obedience. The trials are smaller. We have two every year held at my club. And, from what I saw on Saturday, the atmosphere was very laid back. I'm not crazy about registering Marge with ANOTHER organization (it'll be her fifth one - NADAC, CPE, AKC, APDT), but getting to trial at our home club is really the most important thing.
So, if we were entered in a trial tomorrow, how would we do?
Heel on Leash
Pass. Marge's heeling has come a long, long way. Her about-turns look really good, providing I get the footwork right. Her left turns are also fine. I do tend to lose her a bit on the right turns, so I think she'd get some points off for lagging. She sits straight when we halt, too. The one thing I anticipate about competition is losing eye-contact with her, or only getting it some of the time. So, I think we'd pass, with some deductions.
Pass. We haven't actually done this with people yet, but my gut feeling says she'd pass this one, too. I don't anticipate her sniffing anyone, though we certainly would practice at matches and stuff to really proof the whole thing. She lags a bit on the rights - as you can see, it's a recurring issue that we're working on.
Stand For Exam
Fail. She might hold the stand-stay, but not without a lot of shrinking and lip-licking (which is not a situation I'll put her in). We won't compete until I am confident that Marge understands the exercise and realizes that all the judge will do to her is pat her three times on the head, neck, and back. Oh, and we sure as heck won't show under a male judge, either.
Pass. I think there'd be more lagging than with the Heel on Leash, but not enough to fail the exercise. I'm the kind of person who wants only to qualify without the finishing touches (I like my runs to look good and feel good), but, if we set foot in the ring today, I think that's how it'd look.
Recall Over Jump
Pass. Her fronts have gotten consistently more straight, and I'm not sure that the jump would affect her much in any way. She might need to get used to the idea of two people standing on either side of the jump, but I think she'd perform the exercise. Finishes are a work in progress, but she's absolutely doing them.
Pass. In UKC Obedience, the "Honor" dog does a down-stay during the first two exercises of another dog's run. I saw how it was set up at my club, and the Honor dogs in Novice were definitely not more than 20-30 feet away from their handler. She has no problem whatsoever with her down-stays. I'd just like her to get some practice actually being in that position while another dog is working.
Pass. I just participated in this exercise at the trial and am confident that Marge could hold a 1-minute sit-stay with other dogs around.
I'm toying with the idea of taking Marge to a match and just playing around with her.. having some people stand in the ring as Figure 8 posts, maybe just mill around the way a judge would, etc. My one concern is getting unsolicited advice and being told to do things in a way that I'm not comfortable with while at the match. If I need help, I'd rather ask for it or go to class. There are so many different ways to train these exercises, and it can get kind of overwhelming and awkward for me when a more-experienced person tells me something that I don't agree with. Constructive criticism is OK, advice is OK too (heck, I love getting advice on my agility handling), but something in me tells me to do this Obedience thing by myself.
I've changed up our training set up when we train Obedience. I rarely carry treats in my hand - sometimes, I don't even take them out of the closet at all. I want Marge to be focused on me with the possibility of reinforcement in her mind, not focusing solely on the cookie (which, I think, has affected us a bit in agility). So, we'll run though a couple of exercises, then she'll run inside with me to the treat cabinet and get her reward. We do this several times throughout the day, often at high-excitement times (like when I first come home, or before dinner, etc). Of course, this has all been in my house, so it'll be interesting to see what will happen when I finally get to work her during some ring rental time at the club.
It would be nice to add the letters U-CD to the front of Marge's name, but only time will tell how far we really get. The next trial at our club likely won't be until April -- and probably the same weekend as one of our favorite agility trials, so hooray for conflicts -- so we have lots of time to practice and mull it over. We'll update on this again after we do some ring time or attend a match. Guidance is definitely appreciated!