Rally Advanced title and kids

This past weekend I went to another AKC trial with Zumi to see how she would do.  I like rally as a stepping stone to obedience for her as it lets me see how she's doing with the bit more formal and stressful AKC environment, yet is a much shorter time in the ring and with more opportunities for me to support her with praise if needed.

The trial was unexpectedly HOT.  It was inside, but not air-conditioned. Summer came back to MN and was even warmer than most of the entire summer was.  I know I was affected by the heat on Saturday and I think Zumi was too.   She was a bit sedated than expected but I didn't get the feeling that it was just from stress.  Overall she was eager to engage and I didn't notice any "broken" behaviors outside of the ring.

My main worry on Saturday was that the first sign in advanced rally was the figure 8 with toy distractions.  Zumi has done well with those signs before, but I've never seen it right at the entrance before.  It was definitely a case for needing a strong connection on the ring entrance and leash removal!!!

However when it was getting close to our turn in the ring I discovered that the toys would be the least of our worries.  There was young boy who walked up to the ring and I could see that his mom was going to be in the ring right before Zumi.

Zumi is terrified of children.  I didn't put as much effort into socializing my winter puppy as I should have and it shows with kids.  Getting gradually used to Netta getting more mobile will help, but I am doubtful it will generalize to other children.

I strongly believe that kids have every right to be at trials, from all ages.  I want more kids involved in dog sports!!!  And yes, I currently bring Netta to agility trials so that I can actually trial my own dogs and she will continue to come to trials as she grows.  Zumi's issue with children is MY problem, not the other family's problem.  I see it the same as if I were to have a dog afraid of black dogs, or didn't like men in hats, or....   Sometimes you can do training to help with the issue, but mostly you need to figure out how to manage it as you can't expect that trials are completely sterile environments devoid of anything your dog finds distracting or scary.

I have no problem with people coming up to me and asking for REASONABLE accommodation if their dog has issues with Netta.  (And of course some people give me evil glares no matter what.)

Since the child was extremely well behaved and already off to the side of the ring I couldn't reasonably ask the child to miss his mom's run.  And unfortunately Zumi had spotted him and was clearly nervous.   I tried to calm her with moving away and cookie scatters, but it wasn't enough.  When we went into the ring the boy was walking behind us and leaving the area, and Zumi turned to give a single bark to him.  I told the judge that I thought we were going to have to leave since she was worried, but he was generous enough to give us a few minutes to regroup.  I was able to get Zumi refocused and mostly pulled together so I decided to try our run.

The first half of our was held together with praise. She was technically precise, but not with the attitude I want.  After the first half she loosened up and finished pretty well.  The run scored a 99 and finished our rally advanced title.

Sunday I moved her up to excellent and was certain it wouldn't be an issue since we would be behind a different team.  Unfortunately for Zumi, there were about 4 different kids there (but YAY for the sport!) and once again a young girl was going to be watching the dog right before us.
This time I had a better plan for managing the issue so that Zumi would hopefully not notice.  I did end up apologetically approaching the handler to ask if she would station the girl a bit further from the ring entrance instead of right in front of it when it was closer to our run time.

I can't say our warmup was exactly what Zumi needed, but we did have a great focused ring entrance without any anxieties.  Her focus was better, but whether due to the warm weather or stress some of her energy was lacking.  We did qualify again for our first excellent leg.

I was honestly surprised by Zumi's behavior at the trial, minus the kid worries.  Based on her last CDSP trial where she was high as a kite, and then the AKC rally trial we did last month, and in general her higher intensity while training recently...I was expecting to work on calming her arousal levels down.  But mostly she was very relaxed outside of the ring.  I remain puzzled on how to best warm up Zumi for a trial.

All that being said, I did end up submitting my entry for AKC novice at my club's trial the end of October.  I'm not entirely sold that Zumi is where I want her to be before entering, but I was swayed by several outside factors including supporting the 2 provisional judges who need the numbers.
Now I just need to practice doing the stays as I can't say I do very much formal practice with it!

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