What was supposed to be a three-day, five-trial obedience weekend in Jackson, Mississippi became a two-day, four-trial weekend. My Border Collie girls earned titles and ribbons and even cash but unfortunately developed fixable training problems. There was no need to show again on Sunday and hope they didn’t make the same mistakes. I hate to take a dog into the ring and hope. It’s better to be confident that my dogs know the obedience exercises. But little things can show up on the road that can lead to bigger problems if not resolved immediately. So I chose to leave on a high note after two days and with ribbons and prize money in hand, drove the old Subaru south toward New Orleans and then east toward Pensacola.
Once again I find so many parallels between dog shows and life. It’s not always about winning although who doesn’t like blue ribbons. It’s about learning to lose gracefully, as well as learning to applaud others who have worked hard and enjoyed success. Competition is not only about being the best at your sport but being able to be humble whether losing or winning.
The first problem that appeared was when two-year-old Tommie became enamored with the drop on recall exercise, which I taught her for a week or two this summer. Two out of three recalls she happily dropped on a straight recall, without a command from me. Unfortunately there is no drop on recall in the Beginner Novice class. Fortunately handlers are allowed to give a second command to the tune of a two to three point deduction. While I had to smile at her enthusiasm and confidence when she dropped, as anticipation is not always a bad thing in training, we still need to go into the ring as a team. So the result was, very cute Tommie, but wrong.
Fourteen month old Razz developed a lack of confidence on the stay exercise, which in Beginner Novice requires the handler to leave the dog who remains sitting on lead, and for me to walk around the perimeter of the ring. I thought we had that exercise in the bag. But Razz popped up each time I returned to her. I was able to temporarily fix the problem but she needs long term repetition of the stay exercise and the confidence to trust that nothing bad will happen to her no matter where I am in the ring. When she finally qualified her score was a fantastic 197 out of a possible 200 points, beating her older buddy, Tommie, for the blue ribbon.
Dog show environments bring out different quarks and personalities in the dogs. Neither of my dogs was bothered when I walked them around the show site where a few hundred dogs competed. But something as minor as a baby ringside drove Tommie into spasms of wiggly-butt happiness. When she was a puppy the neighborhood kids used to play with her. She can’t help herself now. She loves kids, something we will have to proof for future competitions. She can visit but then it’s back to work, which is pretty much what happened, thank goodness. But again, I don’t like to hope she behaves in the ring. I want to know she’ll be fine.
Razzie is better than Tommie at focusing on me in a loud environment. Her temperament is that of a willing, happy follower, always keeping tabs on me even in the yard. She also has a joyful attitude about her in the competition ring, working with me as a team, her cute brown face looking up at me. We feed off each other as she completes each exercise. I praise her and she holds onto that praise and tries even harder on the next exercise. She hates being wrong though so I have to be careful not to look scornful if she doesn’t remember a command.
There are always funny episodes that happen on the road. On this weekend the hotel staff gave me a room with a king size bed which I thought would be perfect. It turned out to be high enough for a king sized person, since the mattress top came up to my waist. I had to take a bit of a running leap to get into bed. Even the girls missed a perfect landing.
Hotels, young, inexperienced dogs and elevators sometimes don’t mix. In spite of asking for a first floor room, the hotel staff gave me one on the second floor, which made me very nervous. I walk the girls in tandem. If one dog balks and the elevator door closes what would I do? The answer was to quickly drag the scared dog into the elevator, not an optimal solution. Plan B was to take the stairs which it turned out were slippery and stinky (for some unknown reason). But after a dozen trips both dogs made do with the situation, dealing with the less than perfect traction too. With me hanging on to two leashes, this time they dragged me down the stairs in a hurry. Note to self: next hotel demand a first floor room.
We’re back home and I’m already preparing for the next trial, proofing stays and recalls, and also building up their stamina. I found a three day, five trial weekend was tiring for not only the dogs but for me too. Lucky for them they got to sleep on the four and half hour drive home. When I released them into the big back yard they ran in circles and happily looked for squirrels to chase, while I hung their ribbons up on the training building wall.
Why do I do this? I can only say that training and showing dogs is an addiction. Surely there’s a twelve step program to end the insanity but then what? I’d call my dog, she wouldn’t come directly to me and sure enough, I’d spend an hour working on recalls. Hey, there are crazier ways to blow money but I’ll be darned if they are more gratifying than loving, training and showing off my smart Border Collies.
New titles: Claudia’s BFF- BN RN (Beginner Novice, Rally Novice) and Infinity’s Little Heart Throb-RN (Rally Novice), 1st leg toward Beginner Novice