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!"
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.