Vito's Obedience Match and Ring Behavior

There was an obedience match today for novice dogs and open A dogs so I thought I would take Vito.  There are basically no matches around here and apparently I didn't know what to expect.  I thought I would be able to take some treats or a toy into the ring but I guess not!  When I found out I became super stressed as Vito hasn't been to an obedience class in a long time and has only done 2 run throughs at our club, both with plenty treats.  He certainly has never done obedience at a strange club before and never without rewards.  But I figured it was too late to back out!

The facility was very small and very hot.  I set up the crate in the small entry area but Vito ended up hanging out with me, and all the other dogs and handlers, in the actual ring area where it was a tiny bit cooler.  We were second in the ring and I hadn't felt so nervous in a long time.  But he did awesome!!!! 

The run down
I remembered to walk fast and Vito kept his eyes on me 100% of the time!  I thought his heeling was beautiful.  His sit was a tinge crooked and we need to work on not crowding on the left turns but it was really nice.  I even repeated my instructors advice to walk quickly on the figure 8 and it was probably the best figure 8 we have ever done  The judge took off 4pts for our heel on leash and figure 8 although I'm not sure for where.

No points were lost on the stand for exam.  He turned his head pretty far to see the judge but never moved a foot.

The heel free was also nice, and had great eye contact except for at the first turn.  You start by heeling right towards the door to the ring and Vito was a bit distracted for a second.  I gave him a verbal "vito" and he sprinted back to me.  I don't even think he needed the extra cue but since it was a match I figured I should use the moment to train.  From there on he was brilliant.  The "judge" took off 5pts for my extra command, but I always thought it was a 3pt deduction.  Does anybody know?  We lost 8pts total.

His recall was the weakest portion in my mind.  He came a bit slow (for him) although he still ran. His front was way crooked and I couldn't tell if he stepped on my foot for the left finish.  I even specifically watched to see if he would do so but I think with all my stress I just couldn't tell!  We lost 1pt on the recall.

Stays were also great.  I was pretty worried about the group stays considering the temperature and the fact that we really haven't practiced them in a long time.  But no need to worry!

I am so proud of my little toller!  I will be ecstatic if he does this well at a real trial.  We scored a 187 but it honestly felt like a 197!  Well maybe not quite that high, but pretty close.  I suppose that should worry me since I could be completely missing what the judge is seeing in our performance.  Or maybe I am so used to how bad Lance can forge that anything less then that I see as perfect :)

Thoughts on Ring Behavior
Now for a little rant.  I know this trial was for new dogs as they had to be in either novice or open A, but there was a complete lack of manners by exhibitors.  Because of the tight space dogs were very close to each other and none crated.  Some people did a great job and kept their dogs either right next to them or even under the bench.  But then others were clueless.  Unfortunately the woman who walked in and sat down next to me was an idiot.  She sat down about 2ft next to me as she knew the people on the end and then proceeded to chit chat away as her dog continually tried to invade Vito's space.  Vito was in a down under the bench and behaving quite nicely as the dog kept stretching towards his butt.  The woman would occasionally leash pop and yell at her dog but did nothing more about it and never took her eyes off of her friends to actually look at her dog.  I kept scooting farther away and having Vito crawl with me until we were now 6ft with no more room to move and still the dog kept stretching.  I shot dirty looks to no avail since she wasn't even looking our way and kept shoving my foot in between her dog's nose and Vito.  If her dog had seemed anything but overly friendly I would have said something.  Several other exhibitors there also seemed oblivious to their surroundings.  I know some people had Great Danes (there were 3, plus a puppy, cute!  Great to see the non-traditional dogs do obedience!) who obviously need much more space, but letting them sprawl out in the ENTIRE isle and not moving them for people and dogs to walk by is not appropriate.  I did feel bad for the poor danes in the heat though.

Rant 2 is on the use of corrections.  As most exhibitors use traditional based methods I was not surprised to see every dog besides Vito in a choke chain.  But what shocked me was the amount of corrections and the heavy force used outside of the ring.  These were 2 handed, let's jerk the dog off of the floor, type of "corrections!"  I may not be that experienced with the proper use of a choke chain but I'm pretty sure the goal is not briefly hang the dog.  At a trial people are not supposed to use corrections even outside of the ring so I haven't seen this heavy usage before.  I am assuming that what I saw is not normal and hope that most people out there know how to properly use one.

Rant 3 is the shark contrast between the huge corrections outside of the ring and the lack of any feed back in the ring.  Several dogs were leaping at their handlers and biting them, heeling on the wrong side, not heeling at all, etc. and the handlers did nothing.  This one woman was a huge chew toy the ENTIRE heeling pattern and she didn't pause for even a second or even say one word to her dog.  It's one thing if your dog jumps up in enthusiasm and is a bit pushy but if your dog is actually trying to knock you to the ground I would personally at least stop moving.  And since these people were the same ones hanging their dogs just a moment ago outside of the ring for the smallest sniff, where was the corrections here?  Or if your dog takes 2 steps with you during heeling and then stops, maybe you shouldn't finish the entire rest of the pattern without even giving a second cue as your dog stands at the start line looking at you.  Even if this was a real trial, just call your dog people!  Lots and lots of people unwilling to even say the dogs name.  I just feel that the dogs needed some type of feedback instead of leaving them floundering.  Ugh.  (And by corrections, I don't even mean physical ones.  Interrupting and redirecting a dog can certainly be done positively.  But the dogs were stressing UP or stressing DOWN, and needed support on what to do.)

Amy / Layla the Malamute  – ( July 9, 2010 at 10:53 PM )  

First, CONGRATULATIONS on a great match! It sounds like he did great. The fact that he kept his eyes on you that much is a great thing.

Your rants bothered me too.

Rant 1: I would've said something. Even if her dog is the friendliest dog in the universe, one day he might stretch towards a decidedly UNfriendly dog. I took Layla to an agility match this winter. She was in her crate and a lady with a little Yorkie walked right up to the door of the crate. The Yorkie's lip started to curl! The woman asked if Layla was friendly. Yeah, but not to snarling Yorkies. And you couldn't have stood 10 feet away?

Rant 2: I've seen some people do that and it's just so aggravating. I use a prong collar on Layla but I only pop it as a signal to look at me. They're not heavy pops either. She's got a ton of fur on the ruff of her neck and I use about half as much force as I've seen people with small, short coated dogs use.

Rant 3: I feel really bad for the dogs! How confusing must that be? Of course dogs can be "bad" and misbehave, but maybe if you give them a little bit of feedback as to what you want from them. It'll probably just end in a bad cycle, they'll increase the use of corrections to "show the dog" but not actually help them when it counts.

But on to the bright side, I'm so excited that he did so well! ESPECIALLY if he hasn't been to class in awhile and with no treats or toys. That's great news. I'm so happy for you both!

Honey the Great Dane  – ( July 10, 2010 at 3:53 AM )  

Congrats on your great trial - I find when I walk faster, Honey heels a LOT better too (especially as in my case, she has really long strides even when walking slowly)

As for your rants - I so agree with you. First of all, I'm always really conscious (and embarrassed!) by the amount of space Honey takes up and I'm always anxiously trying to make she doesn't block anyone's way or encroach on other's space. I think that's so rude of those Dane owners to let them sprawl out like that. I sometimes think owners of large breeds like that like to use that opportunity to sort of "show off" how big their dogs are - you know?

As for the corrections - I have to admit, I don't train 100% purely positive - I do believe in using corrections or deterrents in certain situations (although usually for everyday manners type things where the dog can be a serious danger, especially a large, powerful one - I don't use it for dog sports) - but I agree with you - a check chain should NEVER be used to "hang" the dog. Aside from being cruel, it doesn't teach the dog anything.

That's the problem with all these correction tools and why I hesitate to ever recommend them - not because they are wrong in themselves but because the majority of people just never use them correclty. It shouldn't even be called "choke chain" because if it is used properly, it should NEVER choke the dog - it should simply be a very light, sudden POP and in fact, the lighter the chain, the better - if you're using it correctly, it should always be loose, resting at the base of the dog's neck and never ever tight against the skin - but almost everyone I see with a check chain uses it to restrain the dog and the poor thing is choking and gasping and straining against the chain - and learning NOTHING.

The other problem with the correction method - as you saw - is that followers tend to focus too much on the correction side of things and forget about the reward side, which is just as - if not more important. It's crazy - just punishing/correcting a dog will teach it nothing and it annoys me because it's what these people do that give "correction" a bad name - but sadly, correction is one of those skills which is very difficult to get right - you need perfect timing and the right intensity/type for that individual dog and also to balance it instantly with reward/praise - but most people can't hit so many buttons, which is why I think it's not a good method. In the right, experienced hands, it can be an amazing method, combined with reward-based training but sadly, it usually falls into the wrong hands. I always try to train primarily by rewards and only use correction as a very rare last resort - but when I do it, I make sure I hit all the criteria. If you don't - not only do you damage your relationship with your dog but it's not effective anyway and you're just wasting your time.


Mina  – ( July 10, 2010 at 5:43 AM )  

I used to walk a Great Dane, and I taught her to curl up when she laid down with me. If it's hot it's not going to be much fun for her, and they need to sprawl.

I blame the organisers for not allowing enough space, rather than people with big dogs.

I would also have said something to the woman with the overly friendly dog. We owe it to our dogs to protect them, especially if we are asking something from them, even just a down stay.

Muttsandaklutz  – ( July 10, 2010 at 8:00 PM )  

Yay!!! to Vito's attention and his super time in the ring! That's gotta be a big confidence booster, for you both!

Booooo to the subjects of your rants, which I totally agree with... :-(

Raegan  – ( July 10, 2010 at 8:11 PM )  

Honey the Great Dane said it better than I could, so I'm just going to concur with her on that.

But congratulations Vito! Whatta dog. :)

Pepper  – ( July 11, 2010 at 4:13 AM )  

All I have to say is Yay Vito, you're a star :)

Cinnamon  – ( July 12, 2010 at 5:03 AM )  

It's so nice to hear that Vito performed very well in the trial!

I have started competing recently, and I sometimes find myself interfering or disturbing other competitors in some way, such as walking too close to a ring or laying my dog in front of me in a way that takes much more space than necessary on the ring side. No one has complained, but this post reminded me that I need to learn more ring side manners as well as skills for competitions.

Cinnamon's mum

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