Zumi's First AKC Trial

This last weekend Zumi was also entered at the AKC obedience/rally trial for her very first AKC experience.  It wasn't until after the trial that I realized I'm not sure how many AKC trials she's actually been at just to hang out.  Lance was injured shortly after Zumi arrived in our house and Vito certainly hasn't been trialing in AKC.  Somehow it slipped through the cracks that while she's been to some CDSP/WCRL trials a puppy she likely didn't make it to many AKC.  Which really shouldn't be a big deal at all, except AKC trials really are a different environment.  As I mentioned in Vito's summary, the stress in the air is just higher.  Dogs are even more in tune to that stuff than we are!

Zumi was entered in rally novice for 2 trials on Saturday and 1 on Sunday.  I didn't expect her to have any issues and I figured rally was a very good introduction before we started obedience trialing.
Overall she was incredibly eager, had great focus, and did a really nice job in all 3 runs to earn her first AKC title, RN.

But I was also surprised to see the environment effect Zumi much more than I've seen at her previous CDSP obedience and WCRL rally runs this past year.  Stressing UP just a tiny bit.  I learned that Zumi's verbal down was broken, even when starting from a sit.  She could lie down 3/4ths of the way but just couldn't do a full down without hand help.  Didn't seem nervous or stressed in the classic way, but was stressing up that little bit and eagerly anticipating moving forward.  And this was outside of the actual ring!  Zumi's left-about turn was also broken which I didn't discover until we got in the ring for the first trial and she tried to weave through my legs, and then just happily bounced out of my way on the reattempt.  Outside the ring it remained broken until we got home.
Little things.
I used quite a bit more praise during her 3 runs then I've used at her other trials.  I just felt like while her focus was there it was more breakable.

Here is her first run of the weekend with the failure to do a left about!

And here is her last run of the weekend with me helping out her downs:

At this point I want to get her in quite a few more AKC rally trials and more CDSP obedience trials before I put her in AKC obedience.  I want to have the option of giving her some quick praise if I feel she needs it and just more support.  But overall I'm happy with her performances and think we're on a good track for a long and happy obedience career.


Vito's AKC Attempt

Yesterday Vito was entered in his first AKC trial (we did rally this time and not obedience) in exactly one year.
Last year at this time he had a complete meltdown at the trial, very worried about the judge in the ring and for whatever reason continued his panic attack even outside of the ring.  Usually Vito is pretty darn relaxed at dogs shows until he steps across that magical threshold into the ring itself where all the pressure of people watching and the pressure to work gets to him.  But for whatever reason he panicked that day last year.  And we haven't been back to AKC since.  Actually it was shortly after that trial that I began my obedience experiment with Vito and began to play with not his stress issues but his motivation issues.  That was extremely interesting but meant that Vito also did not enter any CDSP obedience or WCRL rally trials until last month.  I was excited to see that Vito was able to be a very sassy and happy Toller in his WCRL runs but also knew that it wouldn't really mean anything for how he could handle the AKC environment again.

The atmosphere of AKC trials are just different.  There is a lot more stress in the air.  Ring entrances are typically more crowded with nervous handlers.  Dogs are more "traditionally" trained and you will see a lot less play around the rings.  People still love their dogs and are trying hard to do what's best, but in general stress levels are higher even if you as a handler are able to stay relaxed. 

So at the trial yesterday I knew that we might not even make it into the ring.  If I was going to enter the ring with Vito I wanted to see if he would happily play with me outside of the ring before our turn and start the engagement on his own without needing much effort from me.  And I am happy to report that he was able to do that.  He even showed his sassy side again with doing a little bit vocalization at me and we worked on a few quick squish-release to play-reward sequences before our turn.  Our final release into the ring started great, and then he saw we were not just playing near the steward table (like we had successfully earlier in the day) but going into the ring and he lost a bit of focus.

Because I think it's important to share successes, mistakes, and in general what my philosophy is towards my dogs I'm going to analyze the video I have from Vito's run.  Pretty boring analysis but maybe interesting to some!

Video starts just a few seconds after my release, 360 turn with Vito (maybe with a high hand touch?), and about 3 steps of heeling.
You can see he's focused until we get to the table and then he starts staring. I pause and hope that it's enough for him to refocus on me. It is.

3-6sec he is capable of giving me pretty eager eye contact as we step through the ring and approach the startline/judge.
6-10sec is sketchy as the leash actually very lightly restrains him from greeting the judge. In Vito's case, and really in most dog's cases, greeting isn't because they are happy to see the person but because the dog feels stressed and conflicted.

10-17 is our leash removal. I pause my first attempt to remove it as Vito is trained to look at me during removal and I want to see if a quick restart is enough help to both remind him of his job and to also give him a tiny bit of time to settle in. I'm actually fairly happy that he was able to refocus so quickly. If Vito had not been able to offer me focus at this time it would have been a very time to re-evaluate and consider leaving the ring as odds of it improving are low if you can't get stationary focus.
18-22 Another sketchy focus area while waiting to start. Vito's glancing at the judge and worried about him standing so close. A point where I again should have considered leaving the ring. Ultimately I decided in those few seconds to see if moving out and AWAY from the judge would allow Vito to relax or not. Right decision? I don't know.

23- I praise Vito as soon as he moves with me at the start. But it's not enough as Vito does not feel safe enough to continue without checking out the judge.
26- Vito reconnects with me pretty much as soon as he gets to the judge. I actually ask him to do a hand touch to see if he can jump up in the ring and engage with me. He can't do it. More feedback.

30-36 For better or worse I decide to continue as he is giving me focus again. Unfortunately it's a crappy first sign that involves a stay with his back to the judge. Continued heeling would have been so much better! A few more glances at the judge and moving his feet to come to me but holding it together.
36-40 He connects with me as we move to sign #2 but energy is lower. Certainly not in risk of being a forging toller
41-42 Second sign also not a good one for Vito! He knows backing up very well but doesn't want to do it with the judge behind him. I am thrilled to see that Vito is still keeping focus on me though and I move on without any attempt at re-doing it. Praise to Vito for trying.
42- tiniest glance to judge as we move away. 44- Hand touch cue given to try and drive Vito up to heel and get him moving more. Of course I know that due to his lagging position at that time he couldn't actually do it and I take it away before he gets there. In this context it's a light and playful tease as hand touches are heavily rewarded with Vito and are used frequently with him to reinforce more energy.
45-50 Here I'm thrilled with the increased energy he actually did give me. Trotting more and feeling pretty good.
51- Looks away when I look away to see what's next and a bit slow to start with me.
56- Catches up nicely and then looks away again at the environment.

1.01-1.02- I know that if Vito isn't feeling it then downs are the first to go. Here he does his down pretty quickly but does need to look away again. I wait until he's looking back to cue the sit.
1.05-1.08- Happy prancing toller again!
1.09-1.21 two more glances at the judge. And another few seconds of needing to look around after his stand cue. I wait.
1.24- Left turns are pressure and you can feel Vito just lose a bit of energy on it.
1.32-1.36 is more pressure halting into a wall followed by a left pivot. Bit loss of energy from Vito again but keeps focus.
1.40- Connects after the jump but not completely focused on me until 1.44. I praise him again when he rejoins me.
1.49- much better left turn in terms of keeping up his energy level.
1.51-2.05 pretty good but 3 tiny look aways in this serpentine.
 2.05-2.07- back and doing pretty well.
 2.08-2.14 as we approach the gate Vito is a bit unsure again. Lots more looking around and conflicted between looking at me or looking at the people.

Looking at this, am I happy with Vito's run? Personally I am thrilled with Vito's recovery. He was stressed and able to not just go through the motions but actually give me many moments of nice enthusiasm. However I will not be showing Vito in AKC again for another long time. Vito is trained to look at me during heeling and it's pretty darn well proofed against distractions. If Vito is happy and relaxed his focus point during heeling is so second nature that he doesn't need to even think about it. Therefore deviation from that is a very good indicator for him on how he's feeling. Taking away the first 42sec of the run, the minor look aways he does during his run are just that, minor. But they still add up to extremely good feedback for me. If your dog doesn't have the same criteria then it's obviously not a good indicator for you! Adding in the issues at the startline and I don't feel comfortable trying Vito in another AKC trial at this time.

I don't need a perfect dog but I do need a happy and relaxed dog. Continuing to enter Vito in AKC trials would likely deteriorate his performance more. "Ring experience" is a myth. In a trial you're extremely limited on what you can do to support your dog's performance and overall you're not really helping your dog learn that trials are a happy thing. You may think your dog is learning that nothing bad happens to them in a ring, but dogs don't view events the same way we do. Now simple exposure to the environments with no pressure attached is a very good thing! IF your dog is relaxed in the environment you can work on your dog choosing to engage and play with you despite the feeling of stress in the air. And of course lots of ring confidence games.

If I wanted to prioritize Vito and really see if I can get him back to AKC I would need to put in a lot more work then I've done. Traveling to the traditional obedience clubs for their run through nights (lots of stress in the air!) and work on our ring games. Showing up to AKC trials and just hanging out, playing if he wants to. And lots more work with gradual people pressure in different environments. But the truth is that while I am not giving up on Vito and am still going to continue our work in obedience/rally, it's not a priority for me. So it may very well be another year before I see if we can try again. Hopefully I can continue to use CDSP/WCRL runs as a partial evaluation of how Vito does in a trial. In those cases the pressure of the judge and stewards remain the same but the overall stress in the room is WAY down. And with the allowance of food at certain points (or anytime if I go into training mode) I can actually reinforce Vito's good decision in a trial setting. Of course I still need a happy and engaged dog entering the ring or risk digging an even deeper hole!


First Obedience Title

Yup, Zumi now has her first official obedience title of CD-C!  Friday night one trial of CDSP/WCRL was offered and I took the crew after work.

Based on last weekend's success in novice I entered Zumi again for her 3rd leg.  I was getting her all warmed up and almost ready to go in the ring when I started to feel really light headed.  Damn hormones.  Thankfully I at least had the sense to tell the stewards that I would need to be moved down a few dogs and went to sit down, drink, and eat a little bit.  My crate was too far away so I put Zumi in a down stay in the corner next to me.  I honestly wasn't sure if she would be ok going into the ring with me when I started to feel better as my little Duck looked a bit concerned!  When I first stood up and released her she did not want to follow me.

But she's such an eager worker that once I got playing with her again she seemed just fine.  Indeed she pulled off another performance I couldn't have been more proud of.  One very happy Duck.

Halts need work, which I knew.  I was less surprised on the bit crookedness on her pop stand for the moving stand exercise based on last Saturday's trial.  And she also repeated that imprecise yet happy fling on her left finish.
But her 3rd Q with a 198 and high in trial again.

I also entered Vito on a whim this trial for rally again based on last week's fabulous result.  And again Vito told me he was ready!
Actually I ended up having Vito out of his crate a bit too early as it didn't take him that long to go from sniffing/looking around to asking me for work.  Of course it always helps that he can smell the ham pieces I had in my pocket for his reward.  Quite the step up from just kibble.

Vito had a very enthuisastic and forgey entrance to the ring! And overall was kinda pushy and not really wanting to backup on his pivots- which for Vito is actually a pretty good sign, even if it's a bit naughty!  His finishes were just as naughty as he forged/crabbed on every one.

And the corgi.  Sassiest he has ever been in a trial.  If I thought he was barky last weekend he pretty much doubled it.  Not just barking on the pivots and backing up portions which is pretty  much a given now days, but I think he barked at every single sit and every down.  Man he loves being out there though.  So,so proud of himself.

There will be yet another obedience/rally trial report soon as my club's AKC trial is this weekend.  I've entered Zumi in her first AKC trial, although rally at this point and not yet obedience.  There's 2 trials Saturday and 1 trial Sunday and she's in all 3 with the potential to get her rally novice title if all goes well.  I actually entered Vito too, well before he had an opportunity to do these 2 WCRL trials.  Vito is also just in rally. I admit I'm nervous to see if he can handle the AKC environment again.  Even though it's our training club it's also the site of his biggest meltdown ever last year.  I'm repeating to myself over and over again that if he is not pumped up and eager to go in the ring then we won't bother even entering the ring...    And the corgi of course is fully retired from all AKC due to the whole not jumping thing.  Plus I just have no interest in getting an RAE on him with AKC rally where he could jump 4in and possibly tempt me.


BOTH boys in Rally

Aww, I forgot to un-draft my brag on the boys last weekend!  I was very proud of Vito so here is my late brag!

The boys were also at the trial last Saturday but were in WCRL rally instead of obedience.

It's been 12 months since Vito has last been in a trial for obedience/rally with his last experience ending in a total panic attack after I excused us from the ring.  Granted that AKC obedience which is a harder environment for him to be in than CDSP/WCRL trials.  I debated about entering Vito quite a while before sending in the entry as I don't know that we have really made much progress in Vito's willingness to start work lining up with my timeline.  I was pretty sure general trial stress wouldn't be an issue in this environment as he had started to do really well in CDSP trials before his awful AKC meltdown.  But I decided to enter Vito in WCRL rally so that the work would be way easier for him. After entering the rally trial I looked and Vito hasn't done WCRL rally since 2013 when he got his level 3 title.

I don't really think of Vito as a "rally" dog like Lance and Zumi can be.  I think of rally dogs as "doodle" dogs getting more excited with all the rear end awareness tight pivoting, and ok with all the starting and stopping.  Whereas some dogs are more "flow" type dogs.  I wouldn't say Vito hates all the pivots and stopping but he doesn't seem to get as excited by it as the other two.  It's mainly the easier work and not having to deal with transitions that made me choose rally over obedience for him.
I was very much doubting my decision to enter Vito at the trial but decided that he would let me know if he wanted to try it or not.  If I couldn't get him to do a happy and engaged ring entrance than we would just be done.

It actually turned out that Vito was very excited to work and eat cookies before his turn.  He even barked at me a few times and we did several mini "Squish" practice with releasing to play then his cookies for his turn.  Our ring entrance was very excited!  And then he did look around a little bit so I waited to start.  But on our first step he forged!
And then of course he glanced away and found the food bowl distractions set out at a later sign.  Such a hungry toller!  I got him back, after he shoved his head completely in one of the bowls and quickly had him do 2 hand touches in play with him before continuing.  Vito was half with me at that time as his brain was still really on the food bowls.  Our 90 degree pivot Vito pivoted far enough so that he could stare directly at the bowls.  Starving Toller!  I chose to re-do it and then give him a cookie for his effort.  And then Vito realized that Mommy having cookies was way cooler than cookies he didn't know how to get from under a trap in a bowl...
By the time we got back to the bowls Vito was mostly back in good dog mode and did fine.
Despite Vito's little adventure I was extremely happy with Vito's run.  He seemed very relaxed and happy in the ring, not at all stressed about the judge or people outside.  Vito kept working after making a mistake and didn't lose any motivation.

There's another WCRL trial next Friday that I might do with Vito.  And then I had sent in a single rally entry a few weeks ago for my club's AKC trial.  With both I'll just have the same plan of evaluating how he is outside the ring and letting Vito tell me if he wants to continue or not.

The Corgi came along for 2 rally runs.  He loves coming to trials and hamming it up with everyone.
Trial #1 was extremely nice.  Great focus and really working some precision.  Just did a fun bonus jump towards the end when we were doing a "fast forward from sit" and Lance thought that would be a good time to run extra fast and out over the nearby jump.

Run #2 Corig was sassier.  Much more forging.  Several barks.  Very proud corgi.


First Novice Obedience Trial

Ducky had her very first time in novice obedience on Saturday!  We did 2 novice runs in CDSP where I felt brave enough to enter her due to the allowance of food between exercises and extra praise.  Technically this was her 2nd time in the obedience ring as I did the last minute entry a few months ago with Starters Novice at the CDSP trial.

The first trials she blew me away.  Confident ring entrance and beautiful heeling, just a tad forged in my opinion.  Happily played with me in between all exercises.  No issue with being interested in the stewards on the figure 8.  Actually we ended up with a "bonus" figure 8 as both teh judge and I forgot that it's off leash in CDSP so we had to re do it.  The exercise I was worried the most about, the moving stand, went beautifully as well.  Not even a glance at the judge during the brief touch.
Nailed her front over the jump (hard for her even in practice to collect herself!) and just didn't complete her finish properly.
Zumi ended up with a generous 199 and high in trial.

Trial #2 was a few hours later and I made a slight error in judgement before her run.  The CDSP ring and the WCRL rally rings were looking like they were going to start at the same time (the boys were in rally) and I kept looking back and forth to see if I should move Zumi down to the end of the obedience order or keep her where she was.  At the last minute I decided it would be easier if I ran her first so I could then fully concentrate on getting Vito prepared.  I ran to get Ducky out of her crate and warm her up.  I had a decent amount of time but I think she could have used more to settle her in and I'm sure my adrenaline was higher.

Zumi started to fixate on the nice steward (in a happy really want to greet way at least!) just moments before we were to enter the ring.  I waited a little bit after the judged called us, but she mentally wasn't where I needed her to be on entering the ring.  Thankfully she does have a trained squish behavior and that really did help get her to move with energy and focus past the steward and into the ring itself.  Then she had a few more glances at the audience in general and a bigger look at the walking steward as we passed each other, resulting in a poor halt.  For the most part I was proud to see how she was able to control herself and mostly focus.  In the first trial I don't think I gave any praise during the heeling (as is allowed in CDSP) but this second run I gave several words of praise during both the heeling pattern and figure 8 as I could feel that while she was doing a pretty good job of focusing her energy level was a bit lower.  This run she also slammed me on the recall, but did a better finish.
The judge scored us a 196 for her 2nd leg.


Last Agility Trial of the Year?

This weekend was our last USDAA trial of the year.  Possibly our last agility trial of the year depending on whether or not I'm able to physically run at the December UKI trial or if I"ll feel too fat and exhausted.

The dogs were good.  Vito had some mixed results in terms of running speed but he was sassy on all his start lines and actually kept up most of his bars.  In a total of 6 runs he knocked 2 bars.  I was getting worried about Vito being able to jump 22in still but I think he really likes running on the mats.  Vito went 3 for 3 on Saturday, but 0 for 3 on Sunday.

Zumi also had a very nice weekend.  Some very mature stuff, of course with little mistakes also thrown in to prevent us from qualifying.  I feel like we're getting there though.  Only sped by jumps in her zest to just run twice, both on the same course and first run of the weekend.  Got all her weave pole entries.  Nailed all her contacts.  Still liking her off courses but none of them were super crazy far off her line off courses so I'll consider that progress.  The only real problem that surfaced this weekend was seeing Daddy on the sidelines who showed up for 1 run on Saturday and 1 run on Sunday.  SO excited to see him there and had a very hard time focusing entering the ring, especially on Saturday.  I think that was her really only "naughty" run all weekend as she transferred that distraction level off her dogwalk exit to do a super tiny glance and then a much bigger run off at the very end where she skipped the last jump and went to a punch a bar setter sitting along that wall.


Zumi's last run on Saturday was Steeplechase and it felt like the first time we were truly a connected team on course in a trial.  On a Big Girl course too!  Sadly we were a little wide before the broad jump and she entered wrong.

And then Zumi's not super great standard run on Saturday with the Daddy distraction.

Zumi's jumpers on Sunday.  Just pulled off a jump after a rear cross which I actually should have expected since she's not super experienced yet with extending after them.  And then a bonus tunnel and what was her 2nd knocked bar of the whole weekend.

Vito had almost identical course in Master Jumpers on Saturday, just a few different angles.  I handled it VERY differently with the Toller!  Super fun to compare Vito's and Zumi's different styles!

Vito's Gamblers.  A Q!!  Very few dogs were able to flip out the farther end of the tunnel after the weaves but Vito did it!!

Saturday's Standard.  Vito was in no hurry on this run but we made it through.  Sassy on the table resisting the down.

Vito's Fancy Jumpers run on Sunday.  A refusal and a missed backside.

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