We weren’t as prepared as I would have liked but we entered an obedience competition this weekend anyway. Risa’s physical therapy exercises have taken up most of my available training time. While she knows most of the exercises that were required of her, she was out of practice. The last time we competed in Preferred Novice was 2 years ago (and it was still called Pre-Novice then). Physically, she’s also not the same dog. However, I knew she wasn’t ready to give up the game just yet. She still wants to compete. I gave her the chance.
I’ve learned a lot in regards to training since our last time in obedience and I was eager to apply what I’ve learned. I knew it was going to be a bit out of the ordinary as far as what’s typical in obedience. I didn’t care. It was our last hurrah in obedience; I wanted to make sure it was fun for us both! Between each exercise, regardless of how Risa performed, I whooped and played with her. I think I took the judge by surprise!
Her heeling on Saturday was awful; she was very disconnected and spent a lot of time sniffing the ground. She absolutely ROCKED her stand for exam, recall, and sit/stay only losing 1 point between all three exercises. Risa qualified with a score of 179 and actually placed 3rd in her class! We’ve never really practiced much in regards to obedience (we’re not even remotely serious competitors when it comes to that) so I never expected a placement rosette to bring home!
Sunday I expected her to be a bit worse. It’d been a long weekend and, even without her back injury, it’s tough to keep up the energy that long at her age. Heck, even I was dragging a little. Fortunately, she was actually a lot better. I had a dog, a connected dog, with me during the heeling exercises. Her figure 8 was pretty sloppy but her on lead and off lead heeling were so much better today! She didn’t move a toe on her stand for exam (first time for that!) but she didn’t do the finish correctly after her recall. Her down stay was perfect. I was surprised her score today was worse than yesterday’s as she earned a 174.5 (same judge and everything) but I didn’t care. She qualified. She earned her Preferred Novice title and earned her official retirement from AKC competition.
On top of all that, she was also perfect both days around the ring. She never had a single reactive moment even when dogs got close. Several people, many of whom she’d never met before, were able to pet her. She was relaxed and happy to be there and enjoyed herself immensely. I couldn’t be happier of how far she’s come and the fond memories we’ve shared on this journey. There are no more titles she can pursue in AKC (they all involve jumps or group stays neither of which she can do) so I’ve retired her. We’ll still compete in other venues until she tells me she no longer wants to do it (or I decide that she is done because she might not tell me!).
Icing on the cake was when someone approached me and told me how much they enjoyed watching my obvious happiness with my dog in the ring. Comments like that really make my day. We may not always look pretty but we’re out there to have a good time. Hopefully, that enthusiasm is contagious.