Friday, June 15, 2012

FCRSA 2012 Day 1

I had the most aMAZing day today! Gryffin and I ran the Steady Singles, a competitive club event where the dogs have to be steady (off leash, no collar, no going without being told by the handler) and all the marks are singles - bird is thrown, the dog retrieves it. The first series had two land singles. Gryff went right to the left one, and overran the 2nd (in high grass) by a small amount, but caught wind of it and circled back and snagged it. Both marks were > 100 yds, I was told, though with the flat terrain, they didn't look that long to me. The 2nd series - by invitation only - was a single loooong land mark (240 yds?), past a large mound of dirt on the right about 1/2 way out, with the mark thrown right to left, and the wind blowing left to right. The test dog went behind the gunners, the 1st dog didn't pick out the mark at that distance, then it was Gryff's turn. He took a very nice line to it, fading a bit into the gunners once past the mound, but staying on the correct side, went just a bit past, then came in and grabbed it. Since I was also running Little in the Unsteady Singles, I left right away, so didn't see any other dogs run it. In fact, I saw very few of the other dogs run any of Gryff's stake. We were called back for the 3rd series, which was a single water mark, with land/water/land/water/land - i.e., they had to cross a peninsula. The bird was thrown a short distance from the water's edge. As he crossed the peninsula, Gryff made a little cut to the left, as I'd seen the one other dog I'd seen run do. He swam across the 2nd bit of water, emerged on the far shore, and though I thought he was too far to the left, he found the bird immediately. Invited back to the fourth series! I think there were 12 dogs back. It was a much longer land/water/land/water/land mark, probably in the 150 yd range. He took a very nice line out to it, but had his biggest hunt of the day. Once again, I immediately left to go back to Little's stake, so didn't see any of the other dogs run. All I knew was he'd gotten five ducks he'd been sent for, with almost zero hunting.

In the meantime, Little was doing an excellent job with her ducks. She was in the Unsteady Singles, which means I could hold her collar to help keep her in place. The first series had two relatively short singles, which she got easily. The 2nd series was a longer mark, though still not all that long. The first water series had a mark with a peninsula to cross, with the duck near the far shore. The peninsula was quite a bit wider than any of the ones we've trained on, and on the way back, she put her duck down a couple of times, once to shake, and once to... who knows? Talk to the duck? She went right to the 2nd one, which got us into the last series. It was similar to the 1st water mark, with a short land/water/land/water/land, with the bird about 20 yds from the shore on land. The whole thing was quite a bit tougher than the previous one, but the eleven dogs called back would all get at least a JAM (Judges Award of Merit). I really had NO idea if Little knew how to hunt that far from the shore. She took a very nice line, ran across the peninsula, jumped in right away again, then faded to the right some. Turns out there was something in the water that must have looked like a duck to her. After she discovered it wasn't, she reoriented herself, got back on line, got out and went almost immediately to the duck. She recrossed the far water, but then was very naughty and ran ALL the way around the right end of the pond. She just really didn't seem to be able to find me. She went to the nice men on the ATV, and I finally hollered COME, and then she came in my direction. Fortunately, she never once dropped her duck, in spite of the very long run around.

The end results of the day: Little earned a JAM, and Gryffin... he was one of two dogs from our division to get chosen to be in a runoff tomorrow, late in the afternoon, against the top two dogs from the other division. The winner will be the Steady Singles Champion, something Gryff's dad Chat won a bunch of years ago. I am over the moon with excitement about this opportunity. He did such a fine job today and I'm just so darned proud of the big lug.

The Expo center/fairgrounds where I'm camping has stock car racing going on. I was told it should end by 10 PM. I sure hope so, as I'd really like to go to sleep soon! Although it is nearly 10, and it sounds like it is still going strong... Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ty's 8th UDX leg & Sonic at 9.5 months

I am camping at the Toledo KC obedience trial this weekend with Ty and Sonic. Ty earned her 8th UDX leg this afternoon... slowly but surely, we are getting there. She NQed on a whole bunch of exercises in the 1st Utility class, some of it because she was so excited she wasn't thinking. We had a couple of firsts today: it was the first time Ty has Qed twice in Open on the same day, and the 1st UDX leg that wasn't the first (or only) trial of a weekend. We lost a 1/2 point off on the 2nd sit stay for shifting, which cost us a tie for 4th in Open B. But 1/2  point off sure beats 30! She is over halfway to her OM2. That and her UDX are my two goals for her. Someone asked what other goals I have for her once those are done, and I said, "None!"
I'm so happy with how well Sonic handles the obedience trial atmosphere. She's excellent in her crate, sleeping much of the time, quiet otherwise.

A couple of months ago, I was entertaining thoughts of entering her in Rally Novice at the National (which starts June 15). Then she was with me at a May 12 trial, and I attempted to do pretty simple concepts like sit and look at me, and heel for a few steps, with just a buckle collar (if we are around other dogs, I usually have a pinch collar on her because she is SO blasted strong and can move like a rocket and drag me somewhere fast. And I'm not a small person). I quickly forgot about Rally for this year's National :-). But today, I have to say, she was improved from that 3 weeks ago trial. We have been working very, very hard on walking on a loose leash, and when it is just the two of us and not too much else going on, she is greatly improved.

Yesterday evening after dinner, I took her out for session of my 20-treat exercise. I was pleased to see it took her just 2.5 minutes to look at me that many times. This is down from 3+ minutes the last time I did it. Today, I had her out in between Ty's classes in a big rec center building, playing tug some, and working some attention, fronts, and pivots. She was much more focused than at the May 12 trial.

I am running her in 3 field events at the Specialty: the Unsteady Singles (a judged competition whose rules are a bit on the vague side :-)), the Junior hunter test, and the WC (Working Certificate). She has to do a simple double for the WC, with marks at 40-60 yds. She did her first "cold double" last weekend. A "taught double" means you throw what becomes the memory bird first as a single, so the dog gets to retrieve it once, then you throw it again,  followed by the "go bird" to make it a double. A "cold double" means both marks are thrown right away, without teaching her the memory bird first. We did some more cold doubles on Wednesday. Each time, she did the 1st double without help. On the 2nd one, she needed some help, but so far, she always leaves my side, which is unusual for dogs at this stage, at least in my (limited) experience. I think it has helped a lot that I have taught her the mechanics of doubles using Pat Nolan's Marking and Memory drill. We've got a pretty well established set of cues that I use reasonably consistently.

Running the first cold double did make me realize that, while her marking is quite good, my control of her is poor even with a pinch collar and an e-collar. We have been working all week on pivots and self-control with bumpers on the ground nearby. When she pivots well, I send her to retrieve one of the bumpers.

While she is in no way guaranteed to pass the Specialty tests, I do think she will be better prepared at 10 months than Gryff was at 11 months, when he attended his 1st Specialty. It helps that I have learned a thing or two since 2004.