Utility Debut


 For the past 33 years I’ve been involved in dog obedience training and showing and have finally made it into the AKC Utility ring.  Levi made his less-than-stellar debut in Utility at the Tallahassee Dog Obedience Trial in June.  I knew when I filled out the entry form there was no way he was 100% ready.  But “I” needed to get the first time  jitters out of the way, making this an expensive match.  There were a lot of positive things he did that made me happy and a lot of things that still need work.  Again, his problems come back to my nerves in the ring.  There were many other people in the Utility A ring over the weekend who also flunked; the entire class to be exact.  None of us died and when we left the building there were no flashing neon signs on our cars announcing to the world that our dogs were less than perfect.  First and foremost the trial gave me an opportunity for some relief from my Alzheimer/dementia caregiver duties and secondly, to see where Levi needs more proofing in a show situation. 

 Unfortunately Levi is not a good heeling dog although his attention on me is fantastic and he always, always bring high energy into the ring.  Never has he lagged or seemed to dislike obedience shows.  However, he acts confused about his job in Utility.  My trainer has pointed out that Levi is selfish and wants to do things HIS way.  He works for himself and not for me, which comes down to teamwork.  But I have seen him put Open work together and do a pretty good job.  He knows what to do in the Open ring and does it quickly, losing few points on the jumping/retrieving exercises.  He also enjoys go backs, jumping and retrieving in the Utility ring.  He doesn’t feel a great need to wait for me to give directions though.  When I say “look” before the directed jumping exercise he whines.  His reward after going to the end of the ring is to go over the  jumps.  Gloves are a no-brainer for him.  Returning with the glove in a high stress situation without killing and dropping the glove IS a problem but his marking skill is excellent.  When he finally delivers it to me he lets me see that clearly the item is “dead”.  “Killed it, mom!  Here ya go.”  The moving stand is better now that he realizes he can’t suck up to the judge.  Oh that reminds me.  Did I tell you about the time he stuck his nose up the judge’s dress on the stand for exam?  I laughed all the way home even though at the time I was embarrassed. 

 I feel the scent discrimination exercise is almost set in his brain.  He is no longer kicking the articles to all corners of the ring.  He is scenting, not mouthing, each article.  But again, my trainer noticed that if Levi can’t find it immediately he just grabs anything.  I need to wash all the articles after each use and air them out completely.  He really does have a good nose.  Maybe he doesn’t need me scenting the articles for ten minutes before sending him?  Ya think?

 Flunking in the ring is frustrating and at times, cause for a few tears.  I have no thoughts of quitting.  It is just another incentive to keep trying, keep positive and love the process of training and spending time with my dog.

 There are a couple of videos of our non-qualifying runs in Utility at the Jackson Obedience Trial in July.  I will upload them at some point if  WordPress allows me to upload API files.  While I work on Utility exercises at home we’ll enter a few Versatility class at an upcoming trial.

Photo by Michael Loftis Photography

5 thoughts on “Utility Debut

    • Good for you for being so brave! I am inspired by your persistence. I got as far as Wildcard Utility once with Blackjack. When I realized this was going to be a loooooong road, I decided to switch my attention to my younger dog. I will say, though, learning to do articles brought us some nice prizes for “pet trick” competitions.


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