The first part of this post is NOT a rant!  Went to Youngstown All Breed’s Rally Trials yesterday.  They offered two trials in one day, which was very brave and made for an extremely long day.  We got there at 11:30 and left at 9:30.  The Club did a really great job.  Their workers were all nice and efficient, even when things got really late and everyone had to be exhausted.

I was extremely happy to be able to go to a trial and spend the day with my dogs.  My life has been totally disrupted and dog training and showing fell far to the bottom of the list for quite some time.  You do what you have to do and set priorities as necessary, but I really did miss working with and showing my dogs.  And my dogs seemed very happy as well.  Some people get to do it every weekend.  I doubt I’ll ever get back to that, but I will never take it for granted again.  It’s a luxury many people don’t have.  

I’m veering towards a rant here, but will control myself.  While agility used to be my main focus I think that will change now.  I just don’t have the time and resources to get my dogs on equipment enough to feel that they are safe and well-trained.  Plus, I find it sort of lost its allure for me.  I’m not impressed by many of the trends I see in agility.  And I am more and more concerned about what people are asking their canine partners to do in the name of “fun”.  And mainly, I just somehow don’t feel up to it.  So rally is a nice compromise.  It requires more precision and control, but the majority of the training really can be done in my living room.  It still has quick changes and speed, so it fills a gap between obedience and agility, in my opinion.  

Yesterday was a much needed good day for us at the trial.  Zen got two more RAE legs with 2 firsts, a second, and a third.  He’s pretty close to earning his RAE2.  In the second trial of the day he won the High Combined award with two 98s.  This is the first time I’ve been to a trial that offers that award for Rally and I thought it was extremely nice and would like to thank the Club for that.  

Now for the rant!  What wasn’t quite as nice were the judge’s comments as she handed me the award.  She told me that if Zen were her dog she would have a “come to Jesus” meeting with him for “pushing me around” out there in the ring.  I had the presence of mind to tell her that I was happy he was my dog and not hers.  I think Zen would agree!  Why couldn’t she have just left it at congratulations?  She was, after all, the one that gave him the scores that gave him the High Combined.  If she found his performance lacking or unacceptable then she should have scored it accordingly.  But she didn’t because he meets the criteria for successful performance.  If I’m not mistaken, judges are there to judge performances, not to offer advice and opinions, unless asked.  So what was she talking about?  Zen forges, wraps, and bounces as he heels.  He is excited and enthusiastic throughout his performance.  I have been working on it and it has gotten better.  But as with all things, it is a work in progress that I hope to improve upon in the future.  I am assuming she was suggesting that he needed some sort of physical “corrections” to fix this problem.  It seemed implied that he was being bad or defiant or god forbid, dominant :-}  She’s barking up the wrong tree there.  It’s actually a good think she said this to me and not some other struggling positive trainer.  I can shake it off easily and move on.  But it might devastate someone that is working hard and respects the judge’s opinion just because she’s a judge.  

So back to more pleasant stuff, Zen was happy with the ‘swag’ he won, and so was I.  He won his first cash, $50, which I believe he would like to spend on more hollee balls!  And this was Star’s very first experience in any ring, her Novice debut.  She did great!  The first time in the ring she was a bit barky, and lost 3 points, which gave her a 97 and 4th place.  I was happy that she got over her excitement and settled down and worked nicely.  In the second trial she got a 99 with what I considered a perfect run.  I have no idea where a point could have come off of it.  She got first place, beating a GSD with a 99 also on time (by 20 seconds!)  She was happy and engaged and having fun.  Everything I hoped for the first time my dog has trial experience.  Image

My second rant would be about the level of training of many of the dogs going in the ring, which seemed to be either little to none or very poor.  I felt really really bad for many of the dogs.  They were clearly not prepared either through thorough training or positive experiences, for their time in the ring.  They were confused and stressed.  We observed lip licking, sniffing, zooming, slow responses, scratching, and just general disconnection from the handler in many cases.  We watched the performances and then looked at the scores and were just astounded when a horrendous and painful to watch performance earned a score of 90.  Really?!  The poor dog needed multiple cues for everything, and then only performed the bare minimum.  I’m guessing the judge was judging accurately.  And if that’s the case then the guidelines still need some work.  Scoring does seem to have tightened up some, but horrid performances are still earning legs.  Therefore, handlers have no reason to do anything differently in terms of training.  If they just want a leg and don’t care about the score then that’s easy enough to do.  In fact, a good friend of ours from agility decided to do rally with absolutely no preparation and she managed legs and titles on all her dogs.  I actually taught one of them a stand and wait for the walk around while she was in the ring with another!  The power of cheese is endless!  In her case the dogs aren’t stressed but they are confused.  Continued pressure without training is likely to lead to stress.  But we saw many dogs that are both stressed and confused.  

The thing is, I don’t think most owners even realize it.  They aren’t savvy enough to see what experienced trainers see.  All they know is that the dog is not doing what they think it should know well and they get frustrated.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Frustrated owner leads to stressed dog with leads to poor performance which leads to more frustration for the owner.  If we had good, solid training and instruction available everyone could be much, much happier!  Sorry for the long post.  Now off to do something fun and relaxing with the rest of the weekend.