My experience at APDT Cynosport Rally this weekend was VERY different from my previous AKC weekend.  So, along the lines of always telling the truth and naming names I want to thank the members of Medina Swarm who hosted this trial.  Thanks Cindy Wilmoth for answering my initial email and encouraging me to attend.  There were not many workers there, but they were pleasant and friendly to a fault.  The trial secretary, Barb Kaplan, was absolutely amazing.  Even with last minute entries and a number of somewhat confusing changes she was unfailingly helpful and pleasant.  The judges were wonderful.  They actually walked the course with us and focused on helping new exhibitors (me!) understand the signs and requirements.  They explained, in advance, how they judged some of the exercises where there might be ambiguous guidelines.  Great job Carolyn Martin and Hope Schmeling!

I saw something that was truly impressive.  A woman showed up with a dog that was not registered with Cynosport.  The woman was confused about many aspects of showing.  Clearly, this was her first time in a trial setting and no one had mentored her.  The club members sat down with her, got her registered online, helped her fill out the forms, and found a legal collar for her dog to wear in the ring.  Everyone encouraged her and she ended up getting 3 legs for her Level 1 title!  I’m sure she is now motivated to train more and show more.  That would not have happened in other venues.  Mainly because of rigid rules about closing dates and entries.  But also because folks are less likely to drop everything to be helpful to a total newbie.

The feel of the trial was definitely more relaxed and easygoing.  It was small in number of participants, but so was the last AKC trial I attended.  Everyone seemed to know everyone, and all were nice to people and dogs.  Awards were given out by name at the end of classes.

I only intended to participate one day, but ended up going back for the second because it was such a nice experience.  Plus, Gail Jaite took her time explaining titling requirements (which are a bit confusing) to me and I decided I wanted to finish my Level 1 titles before the next trial.

I did finish them on both dogs and was able to move up to Level 2 in the last trial.  I hadn’t even looked at the exercises until about 15 minutes before going in the ring.  Luckily, my dogs have a pretty wide behavioral foundation to call on.  I spent a couple minutes with each teaching something we’d never done before (leave dog, run 2-3 steps, call dog while running, as dog catches up start backing up and call dog front, then finish).  They both did well.  I’m really looking forward to some of the new challenges in Level 3 as well.  Each level in Cynosport Rally is more challenging than analogous levels in AKC.  Plus, Cynosport Rally courses are longer.  The Level 2 course was 22 stations, and seemed like it went on for a long time!

What a contrast to last weekend!  I am already looking at several more trial weekends coming up.  I will definitely be spending my entry money in places that seem much more user friendly.  Plus, I have decided that I am sick and tired of the AKC traditional obedience culture that poisons the atmosphere at many trials.  Bitchiness and unpleasantness abound.  It is stressful and negative, and I don’t intend to be a part of it when there are much more pleasant options available to me.   Some people may strongly disagree with what I just wrote.  But this is my blog and these are my experiences.  If you disagree write about it in your own blog!  I want to trial at places where people are nice to other people AND to dogs.  I just want to spend my free time having fun showing.  That doesn’t seem to be too much to ask.

Some people might wonder why show at all?  Why not just train and play?  That’s a really good question.  I like working towards a goal of some sort.  I don’t have lofty goals, but coming home with a bunch of ribbons is really nice.  I like an objective measure of improvement.  I want to improve over previous trials.  I even like analyzing problems that develop and working on fixing them.  My dogs really seem to enjoy showing.  Star, who can be a bit suspicious and nervous, seems to be gaining in confidence and boldness every time she has a good ring experience.  She’s learning to stay focused and work through distractions really well.  And Zen just loves to do stuff.  So anything I want is fine with him as long as we’re active.

I was stunned that Star actually beat Zen 3 out of the 5 times they showed.  I was pleasantly surprised by her progress.  It’s fun to see a baby dog develop.  And Zen has his ups and downs, but every so often he has a fantastic performance and that keeps me going through the downs.  I am learning so much about how to manage and work with an extremely high energy dog from him.  Doing stuff is reinforcing for him.  Doing it right is another story.  So my challenge there is to get accuracy while maintaining all that fabulous attitude.  It’s a process.

Now I have more training to do before the next trial.