Trying Something New

Look at that focus on the startline.  If only I could get it, and keep it, all the time!

Look at that focus on the startline. If only I could get it, and keep it, all the time!

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a roadtrip with Risa. Wintertime around here tends to limit your traveling activities for sure. 🙂 Life’s been stressing us both out lately and I knew we needed to get away. It was perfect timing that, this past weekend, we had signed up for a C-WAGS rally trial. There are a lot of different versions of rally out there and I liked some of the unique options C-WAGS offered. Especially the ARF (Agility-Rally-Freestyle). I just wanted to have fun and try something new so we signed up for one run each of Zoom (no stopping, heelwork only), Starter, Advanced, and ARF. I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Besides the fun of trialing, I was really looking forward to going to Great Companions again. I’ve only trialed there twice before this weekend and attended two seminars there but I feel a strong connection to the two people who put in the heavy legwork to make this trial possible. I owe them both so much. Risa would not be the awesome dog she is today had Kim not recommended the book Scaredy Dog to me nor if Ali had not written it. Besides, they always host such fun events and are excellent judges to trial under. I had also met amazing people at the previous trials and was looking forward to connecting with them again. On top of all that, they also set up the event to run relatively smoothly for any reactive dogs in attendance (and there are usually several and no real incidences!).

Our weekend started off spectacularly. Gibbs, my foster dog, was adopted. He went to his new home on Saturday and I couldn’t be happier for him (he was too normal to stay here long 😉 ). When I got to the hotel, it wasn’t overly crowded (last time we stayed there it was graduation weekend) and we had a nice room. Risa was only mildly barky at the noises outside. I barely had to shush her. She was so good, in fact, that I didn’t make her sleep in her pop-up kennel. She slept out on the bed all night and I never heard a peep out of her! It’s not often we both sleep so well on the road.

The weather on the day of the trial was gloomy, damp, and cool. But it didn’t effect my mood. I was bound and determined to have a good time. I’d even written out some things for me to keep in mind while trialing. The stuff I usually forget about until afterward when I kick myself for doing them (like nagging Risa about her attention or talking to her non-stop in the ring). With the stress of the last month behind me, I focused on enjoying a day with my dog.

The competition at the trial was great; everyone seemed to have brought their A game. So many beautiful runs and great dog-handler teams. I enjoyed chatting with friends I hadn’t seen in years and found new people to chat with as well. Everyone I met was open, supportive, and many shared my views and experiences. The trial atmosphere was relaxed. It felt more like a bunch of friends getting together to host a dog event rather than a sanctioned trial. (This is something I usually only experience in freestyle.) My only complaint was that the trial was LONG. It was worth waiting for our turn as it gave Risa plenty of time to rest between events. Four events in one day is a lot and I know it is much more than she’s used to. Most of our trials are one and done!

Poised and ready for action!

Poised and ready for action!

On her first two events in the ring, she was pretty distracted and sniffy. I pretty much expected this. Her focus is notoriously poor in rally and we hadn’t practiced in an outdoor setting in months. I was true to my promise, however, that I wouldn’t nag her or get frustrated about her lack of attention on me. She did well in both Zoom and Starter. Her score in Zoom was 95 (lost points on tight leash, naturally) and she got 93 in Starter. Both scores earned her 3rd place rosettes. I was very proud of her especially since the competition was stiffer in Starter as we were in the B class.

We were not well-prepared for the Advanced and ARF courses. I knew going in that there were several signs Risa could not do or, at the very least, I couldn’t count on her doing. Of the signs on the course, I figured we could fudge through most of them and still come out okay. It didn’t matter anyway. I wasn’t looking for titles, Qs, or legs really. I was just out to try something fun and enjoy the weekend with the Mutt.

She started off well in Advanced now that she was finally off-leash. I don’t know if keeping her on the first two runs helped her remember she needed to focus or that, once it was off, she realized it was work-time. Most of our work is done without the lead. I had her focus right away on the start which was a huge improvement over the first two runs. She was also less sniffy and had several moments when she was totally with me. In fact, her halt 1-2-3 steps was AMAZING. I only wish I could have had that dog the entire run! She refused to take the jump. . .twice. I don’t know if it was because it was at a longer distance than I’ve worked with her on or if the dampness in the air made her sore and not want to take it. She does have some arthritis in her knees. We did not qualify on that run but only because we didn’t score enough points. We had 63 (needed 70). We didn’t do anything blatant at least!

Finally, it was time to try ARF. We were the only ones (besides the judges) brave enough to try it. Though a friend of mine did decide to do it for exhibition only with her dog. 🙂 I knew Risa would like this version of rally as it encompasses elements of agility (jumps, table, tunnel) and freestyle (working both sides and a mini freestyle sequence). Her focus was better but our lack of preparedness made things difficult. She was head-over-heels excited to find a tunnel out there on the course that she almost missed doing the first sign. Then, once she got through the tunnel, she had to go back in and do it again. *Sigh* She did pretty well though she refused the jump again. I even tried calling her differently in the hopes that she’d realize what I wanted. But no. Ris was not jumping anything. She surprised the heck out of me by performing the back up 3 steps in heel position flawlessly. I have barely worked on this with her and pretty much expected us to blow that sign. But she did it. Beautifully.

Once we finally got to the mini freestyle sequence, you could see Risa light up. She can do rally but freestyle is her thing. She got some nice audience feedback as well which just makes her even more into it. I have no idea what our final score was for that and I didn’t care. Clearly, she had enjoyed herself out there.

After events like this, I always try and figure out if she had fun. I know I did and I think, overall, she did enjoy herself. It’s just that rally really isn’t her thing. She’s actually really good at it when she’s focused and attentive. It’s just getting and keeping her attention is harder in rally because she’s not as motivated to do it. It’s frustrating, too, because rally is the easiest thing for us to trial in. We don’t have to travel at all or can stay relatively close by to do AKC rally. But she’s 2 legs away from her AKC Rally Excellent title and, once she gets it, we’re finished with AKC. I have no dreams of trying to get an RAE with Risa. Even the RE is further than I’d anticipated getting with her.

I don’t think we’re done with C-WAGS yet. I think I’d really like to brush up on her stuff and introduce her to some of the other ARF moves that she doesn’t know yet and try for her ARF title. I’d also like to start working her nose a bit more and see if I can begin introducing odor and give her the chance to try some of the scent games C-WAGS offers. Ris really likes to use her nose and I think it would be something else she’d really enjoy. Besides, we already know she’s good at sniffing around a ring and ignoring Mom completely. 🙂

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.
This entry was posted in C-WAGS, Dog Sports, Fear, Fostering, Rally, Reactivity, Training. Bookmark the permalink.

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