Ring Expectations

Dawn asked a question on her blog on whether one of her dogs was ready to enter a obedience trial. This got me thinking since I haven't really thought about when I would be ready to enter Vito in novice. I have decided that the following are my criteria, in some what of an order from most important to least:

1. Vito must know that the ring is a fun place to be. It's not a stressful place where mommy acts all weird, but a predictor of fun things! I don't really care if we Q in the ring but want him to be relaxed and confident. To do this I will need to go to several fun matches or at least run throughs and play!

2. We have a way to transition between exercises and keep his attention. I am a big attention trainer and this point is one I give the biggest attention to in deciding how well we did in the ring/practice/anywhere. Lance does tricks in between exercises; I'm not sure what Vito will do. I can easily get Vito excited without any toys or treats but he can get too revved up and I'm not sure that's what I want in the ring. I am partly debating if I want to keep Vito in constant "working" mode and never release him between exercises. This would be a lot more training though to keep his attention for the full novice ring time.

3. He can do a full novice heel pattern without verbal encouragement during it. I learned with Lance that I want silence to be seen as something good and not as a lack of feedback. Actually this point also extends to all of the other behaviors in the ring, but it's most obvious during heeling. Overall we're pretty good on this as I've kept this in the back of my mind from the start when teaching heeling.

4. I'm confident in his ability to perform each exercise to a level that could maintain itself many trials without needing to be retrained. Basically I want a heel that I would be happy with to take into the utility ring. It doesn't need to be perfect, and never will we reach perfection, but I want something to be proud of and don't want to have to retrain everything down the road. His foundations need to be strong so that we don't have as many issues cropping up later. I expect issues to crop up down the road, but I want them to be more proofing issues rather then figuring out he never knew something in the first place. This is much more ambiguous criteria but I think I am getting close.

Anything else you would add? Or what is/was/will be your criteria and why?

Kathie R  – ( April 23, 2010 at 9:55 AM )  

Good question Laura, here's my take on that:

If I waited until Jackson was having fun in the ring - I would still be waiting to enter my first trial :) No, he's not having fun, but since I provide a luxurious standard of living for him, I don't think it's asking too much that he spend a few minutes working in the ring with me. I'm having fun; he has fun in training; and he is becoming much more relaxed and less worried in trials. Overall, his confidence level in all situations has improved immensely due to training and trialing.

I train with people in our club that train their dogs to utility level before they ever enter Novice, because it's important to them to be competitive in the ring with high scores and placements. That's not me. I train the breed of dog I have and love - not the dog that's going to be competitive in the ring.

This is my first dog to train for competitive obedience so I'm really just feeling my way along and taking it one day/title at a time with no long range plan or goal. I do believe basics are important, however, I believe training is a process, and foundation skills are not necessarily set in stone once they are learned. They need to be revisited and retrained throughtout the dog's obedience career.

just my 2 cents worth :)

Honey the Great Dane  – ( April 29, 2010 at 12:43 AM )  

Gosh, I think this is the heart of my struggle with Honey! Like Kathie R said, if I waited for Honey to show big animation, then I would probably never do ANYTHING with her (including her daily walks! :P ) - but on the other hand, I am now seriously re-considering competing with her in Freestyle as I don't like the way she "demotivates" in the ring, compared to how animated she is during normal training. I'm not fussed about getting titles or competing anyway - certainly not at the expense of demotivating my dog.

I'm really struggling with her seeing the ring as a fun, rewarding place - and not just somewhere where I go all uptight (not helped by the performance pressure from Freestyle with audience, etc) and where she has to work without treats/rewards of any kind for an extended duration...all in all, not adding up to a positive experience! :roll: I've just had some very interesting advice from one of UK's top freestyle trainers at this camp we just got back from - I posted a long comment on that on Jackson's blog so I won't repeat it here in case you read it over there (you may find it interesting - it is after your comments on the "Have to Vs Choose to" post) - but essentially, he believes the only way to keep v low drive dogs like Honey enthusiastic is to spend as little time in competition as possible and to do as little repetition as possible, coz they get bored & demotivated very easily.

This ties into what you said about not re-training - I find with Honey that I do often have to "retrain" old tricks/moves - not because she didn't have a good foundation for them but because she gets bored easily and is very lazy so the longer she knows a trick, the more sloppily she performs it. It's not that she doesn't know it or is confused - she just can't be bothered to make the effort to do it properly coz it is no longer new & fresh & exciting. Therefore even if we started out training it very solidly, after some time, she will 'develop' new issues around an exercise - her performance actually deteriorates - and I will have to tackle that. So training with her really is a constant thing.

eg. at the moment, she is still learning "Side" (Heeling on the right) and she does that with her head up, all attention on me, great energy, often even surging ahead of me - coz it's still new and exciting - compared to good old-fashoined left Heel, which she tends to just plod along, head down, often lagging - unless she is very hungry and I have treats head to her nose...of course, not something we can do in competition!! :P

Anywaym, none of this is probably relevant to your dogs as they are nowhere near as low drive as Honey. I think your criteria are very good and you're much better organised in your mind to think out these things than me...I wish I had given these things more thought from the beginning! Like I agree with you - it would be good for the dog to see silence as positive...I have to walk around squeaking like a demented mouse for Honey to Heel with attention!


Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( April 29, 2010 at 5:39 PM )  

Yes I read your comments (or novel!) on Jackson's blog and loved it. There really is a huge difference in what your criteria and training plans need to be for a high drive dog vs a not so much dog :) I really like the idea of not trialing very much so the dog doesn't learn that the ring has different expectations then training.

I think my re-training comment is more so to just get solid foundations so he really knows what he's doing. I expect to have to constantly train and improve exercises, for things to be break down in the ring, and etc but I want him to KNOW exactly where heel position, front, and everything is so when things break down it's more of a proofing issues then going back to kindegarten.

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