Monday, March 18, 2013

Sonic's 1st Beginner Novice leg

I showed Sonic yesterday in obedience for the first time. Beginner Novice is an optional titling class, new since I started a new dog in obedience (Ty, back in 2008). Sonic is the fourth dog who I've started in Rally before doing obedience. The Flat-Coated Retriever National Specialty is in April this year, and I wanted to be able to enter her in something besides Rally. BN seemed a good possibility. Early last month, I did a novice run-through at a match at my building and it went so well, I considered also doing  regular novice at the National.

I want to pause to reflect back to last October, when I showed Sonic in Rally Novice for her title. We showed 3 times, earned some nice scores, but it took a lot of verbal help and guidance to get those scores. She was also barely under control outside the ring. I realized it would be a while before she was ready for any off leash work required to go into Advanced Rally. A funny thing happened over the next several months. I focused almost all of my training time on her field basics, doing obedience once a week in class and then doing most of the demos required in my classes through out the week. In December, we ran a fairly complicated Excellent course for class off leash, and I thought, "Hmmm, I think Advanced will be possible soon!" We showed in conformation at the crazy-busy Novi shows in January, then spent some time heeling and training around the crazy-busy obedience ring area. What she showed me there also encouraged me.

She got two Advanced legs in February, doing very nice work. Then on February 20, we headed south for 2.5 blissful weeks of field training. We did a teeny-tiny bit of obedience work, but not much. We got back less than a week before our next rally trials. With classes starting last week, there wasn't a ton of training time, but I fit in what I could. She had a fine finish to her RA title on Friday, earning a perfect 100.

We moved up to Excellent B for her 1st Excellent leg with a 99.
On Saturday, I attended the 1st day of a Connie Cleveland seminar as an auditor. During each 15 minute break, I'd grab Sonic out of my vehicle and we'd do some heeling. If I put in the needed training time, I think she will be a wonderful heeling dog. She still needs quite bit of support from me, but it is getting better.

So Sunday, off we went to the Toledo KC for a try at Beginner Novice. While I've been feeling quite ready for Excellent rally, I knew our heeling isn't nearly as polished as I'd like it to be for obedience.  She's been doing so well on the sit and stand for exams with our class instructor, and quite well with classmates playing judge, that I haven't been good about getting new people to do exams. I got a bunch of people to do sit for exams, and she got better each time we did it.

Yep, I corrected her in the ring - after the first about turn, I think I said, "Hey, WATCH!" which did get her back on track for the rest of the pattern. I used my one legal "phrase of praise" after the next about turn to good effect, I think. I am not happy that she paced the whole first leg, but that is a work in progress. It simply isn't habit yet for her. I also praised (legally) as we headed toward the 1st right circle on the first Figure 8. The sit for exam was excellent, but then Jim Ham doesn't dilly dally around on his exam :-). The small amount of work we did on it during our Florida trip wasn't exactly promising, so I was pleased she pulled it together.

We ended up with a score of 194 and 3rd place, all 6 points lost on the heeling pattern. I'm glad I made the choice I did to fix her as I did, since she really seemed to get her head together after that.

We show again in Rally Excellent next Friday and BN on Saturday. My goal is to have two legs on each title going into the National in late April. We'll be showing somewhere she hasn't ever been before, which will be good experience for her.

While I'm a trifle disappointed in the heeling pattern, I am also realistic about why it went as it did. Lack of experience. Time and effort will fix that.

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