Shame About The Handler

This is what happens when you don't trust your dog. Even after proving to me time and time again that I CAN trust her. . .I failed to wait for her to come through before resorting to the back up plan.

It’s a small wonder she doesn’t give up on me. 😉 I think I’m bound to be spoiled with the next dog (never thought I’d say that!) since Risa seems to be incredibly good at covering up my mistakes and rolling with them. 🙂

Saturday was the start of another spectacular freestyle weekend. I can’t explain how much I truly look forward to competing in freestyle. More than any other sport we compete in. Risa does rally for me. I do lure coursing for her. Freestyle we both do for each other.

I wasn’t nearly as prepared for the trial as I would have liked. We’d only practiced the routine in full 2 or 3 times before the competition and I only nailed it down less than 2 weeks ago. Since we’re getting into the higher levels and we’re in a very competitive division, I wanted to be better prepared. I’m not complaining about having a job now but it was a lot easier to be ready last year when I was unemployed!

I got to the trial site early to give Risa some time in the ring with me alone. I worked her on a couple of the moves I thought we needed a quick refresher on and I allowed her to chase me around for her reward (no food allowed in the ring before a trial anyway). I then allowed myself to get a run through of everything without her to make sure I knew the routine. I claimed to know it before the trial but I still needed a run down of what we were supposed to be doing!

After Ris’ practice, I left her in the kennel for most of the day. She went out to potty a few times but I didn’t really work with her or warm her up. I had her jog a bit to get loose and do a couple spins and twirls. But, as we got ready to enter the ring, I didn’t ask her to do much. I sort of just let her be herself. Sniff, look around, do whatever. I tend to harp on her a lot right before we enter ‘demanding’ attention and behaviors to warm up. But she rarely listens anyway so I sort of stopped bothering. (Okay, I still asked her to do stuff and leave things alone but I didn’t really expect her to and I didn’t really enforce it.)

"Your morning smile. A kiss good night. . ."

I didn’t feel nervous when we entered the ring. I had been a bit anxious earlier but it seemed to mostly fade as we stepped into the spotlight. Unlike last year when I thought I was going to pass out as I was getting Risa out of her kennel. 😉 The routine went really well. Risa was a bit frenetic and amped up which caused her to do jump up on me out of control a bit. This tends to happen when she is not solid with the routine which I should have expected. But, for the most part, she really hit her marks and performed like a dream. If only the same could be said for me! I messed her up twice. The first time was not noticeable unless you knew the routine. I had switched her to my right side and then realized I needed her on my left. I didn’t get to do as many of the reverse circles as I wanted to because of it.

I really messed her up during the ‘blind’ portion of our routine. In this section, I leave her in a stand and I walk away with my back to her. I can’t see her and I jump up, spread my legs as I land, and cue her to come running through them. I wasn’t sure how long to wait for her to run through and I thought she wasn’t coming. I was wrong. When I jump-spun around to recue her to a front “through,” she was right there and almost collided with me. CRAP! I should have trusted my dog. I should have believed that she would pull it off. That cost us.

At the end of the routine, I was pleased with Risa but upset with myself. I messed her up. I wasn’t too down on myself; apparently no one else noticed the boo boos (except the really obvious one). Risa’s enthusiasm is infectious. 😉 When we were exiting the ring, I had Risa in a wait while I grabbed her leash and I accidentally knocked the ring gating over. It hit the floor with a loud WHACK. Sound-phobic, sensitive Risa simply stepped a bit to the side. No freak out. Just “Oh hey, that fell.” Pretty awesome.

We got a ton of compliments after we were done. So few people could believe she was 8 years old. People commented that she was in great shape (and here I am a bit concerned about arthritis in her knees) and athletic. One of our fellow competitors has known Risa since she was 4 years old and said she seems “ageless.” Still as bouncy and enthusiastic as she was back then. I was also told that Risa does well compensating for my errors too which makes me feel good. What can I say? The Mutt adores freestyle.

Big smiles for a great, 2nd place performance.

After we were done, I put Risa back in her kennel for some rest. I decided to allow her to be out in the crowd for the awards ceremony. A bit risky, I will admit. But she was pretty good overall. She did get a bit antsy around some of the dogs and made her react negatively. Nothing major or over the top. Mostly barking. I almost put her away but gave her the chance to work through it. She did absolutely insist on seeing the puppy that was there. I mean super tail wag, friendly ears, and bouncing up and down in place at the end of her lead. She really wanted to meet that pup but, alas, mean mommy said “No.” It wasn’t worth the risk of her getting scared and/or scaring that young pup!

Risa worked the human crowd, though. The way she was approaching people, you’d never know how fearful she used to be. She was still far from confident and a few people moved quickly and startled her. But she accepted some good pets from many people and handed out plenty of kisses. Risa even allowed two men to rub her neck (they were seated which helped). She’s come so incredibly far.

I’m so proud of her for being overall awesome. I was worried we might not qualify but we managed to do so and get a 2nd place finish. The only criticisms of the routine were on me. 😉 Me messing up my dog. Me not being as animated in the upper body (I hope to remedy that some tomorrow). And me picking a costume that, apparently, doesn’t really fit the routine. Eh, costuming is my least favorite part of the sport anyway and picking a good one ain’t easy! So, if I can get my act together tomorrow, we should be in for a really stellar performance! After all, Risa is better on the second day!

Saturday’s performance:

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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