We just got home from trialling at The Poodle Farm, and I am knackered.
Yesterday Jen (partner), Nancy (friend) and I packed up Arlo, Sophie and Elsie into Bernard (tiny green car) and drove two hours to Debby DaCosta’s wonderful facility outside of Vanessa, ON. The trial started at 8:30 this morning, and we weren’t too keen on leaving the house at 6am to get there on time! We pulled in around 7pm to be welcomed by Debby and Al and directed to a grassy knoll behind the barn to set up camp for the night. I was glad to see the lay of the land before the stress of the trial the next day. The trouble is that sleeping moments were few and far between, interrupted by various dogs, outside noises, uncomfortable bedding, cold, and poorly-folded sweatshirt-pillows. For some reason, not so restful as camping usually is!
I signed up for three runs with Elsie with the hopes of getting a couple legs toward her RN title. The first run felt good, but unfortunately we NQ’d for the idiotic reason that I didn’t walk fast enough at the “Fast Pace” station. If I had gotten my little legs pumping just a bit harder we would have Q’d with a score of ~196. I felt like I was moving quickly, but I (like Elsie) tend to move a faster when stressed, so what I thought was a fast pace was actually the same pace that I held throughout the course. I can see from the video (below) how it looked to someone outside of my eyeballs, and it most certainly was not a change of pace.
The second run felt utterly disastrous. Elsie and I were functioning on totally different plains. Elsie was preoccupied with wondering where Jen-the-camera-lady was, and wait, who was that coming through the door? I was fumbling about being anxious while messing up the course – I started back through the pylons in a “Straight Figure 8” when I was supposed to “Weave Once”. I redid that station but that is better than an off-course NQ! Despite all that, we did Q with a 193.
The third run felt pretty good once we got started. I asked Nancy to film this run to see if Elsie would focus better if she wasn’t looking for Jen. I was also more conscious about feeding at the stations where that was allowed, that’s easy to forget in the midst of a course, and put in a better warm-up before getting on course. It certainly helped, as we Q’d with a perfect score of 200 and came away with a 1st place ribbon for that run.
I am inclined pick apart each of these runs, they certainly weren’t up to the standard that I would like in training, but I am trying not to. It was Elsie’s and my first trial and I was not exactly relaxed and on track for performance. Neither of us slept well, and Elsie did not get any ‘down time’ between the runs. Crating her in the crating area was not an option because she is not entirely crate trained and is a bit of a big-mouth around other dogs while indoors. Instead, after each run I took her back to the car/tent where Jen was with Arlo. I would then go back to the ring for awards/course walk through/etc. while Jen watched the dogs. While this sounds ideal, Elsie gets anxious when ‘her people’ leave. Instead of being able to relax in the shade with a bowl of water she was on edge due to my departures and arrivals. I think this played a part in her looking for Jen while we went into the ring. As I slow to “Normal Pace” at the end of the second run, Elsie tried to continue a Fast Pace (i.e. running) out of the ring toward Jen. I’d like to figure out a situation that will work with “Elsie + Other Dogs” as well as keeping her anxiety down while I sort out the details of walking the course and knowing when I am ‘on deck’ for my next run.
Trialling at The Poodle Farm was a really enjoyable experience. Debby is very aware that some dogs need more space than others and she emphasizes that participants should be considerate of other participants and their dogs’ space. There are only two dogs in the performance area at any time: the dog on course and the dog on deck who is visually blocked with covered ring gates. Having accompanied a friend to a trial at another facility that was bustling with activity and without ample space I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) at the emphasis on the emotional and physical safety and comfort of the dogs at the facility and to promoting the success of all participants. The judges, Debby herself and Lorraine Purnell, gave good feedback to participants after the scoring as well as ample time and instruction during the time we walked the course. It was a long drive, but entirely worth it!