I just got in from our second rally trial, this time at the Red Barn Event Centre in Barrie, ON. It’s a really nice venue (though I drove past it three times before I finally found it!) and, like my previous experience at The Poodle Farm, the event organizers were lovely and helpful. It was a very small trial with 5-7 dogs each in Novice and Advanced, probably because of the cold weather (-22C with the windchill).
Even if courses themselves were disastrous, I would have been thrilled by Elsie’s behaviour in the building. She can be reactive, particularly indoors around other dogs, but today she didn’t show even a hint of it! It was also helpful that the space was large and the competitors few. We encountered some difficulty at the last trial because Elsie’s stress levels sky-rocketed when Jen and I parted ways (for instance, when I left them to walk the course). Since it’s not a ‘daily problem’ I haven’t put much effort into training that issue since the last trial, so to manage the situation Jen stayed out of Elsie’s sight for the duration of the event. That worked out very well and Elsie was able to keep her head about her.
I had entered two Novice runs in the hopes of getting Elsie’s last leg for her RN title, and luckily that did happen. Instead of staying in Novice 2 as FEO (“for exhibition only”) as planned, I decided to move up and enter the second Advanced run as well. According to rules, I could only enter Advanced 1 as FEO because I qualified in Novice 1. It’s a technicality thing, but that worked out fine for me.
In Novice 1, we were off to a shaky start when Elsie investigated the very first sign, 360 Right (-2 points) and then sat down to scratch herself (skin problems). We got back on track from there, and things went pretty smoothly, with the exception of a down instead of an auto sit (-1 point) and Elsie trying to do a go out around a pylon (something we’ve been working on recently, and obviously need to do more work on stimulus control!). She didn’t knock it over, so no points were deducted there. We scored 197/200.
In our FEO run during Advanced 1 I decided to feed ‘illegally’ a couple of time just because I could. I wasn’t training for this trial with the expectation of doing an Advanced run and I was concerned about how a couple of the stations would go. Since I wasn’t being scored, there was no problem feeding in the places I did. Just after sign 14 I felt like my legs were moving faster than my brain (you know that feeling?) so I stopped to regroup and Elsie sat. If I had done that sign properly, I should have walked out of that station and kept going. Had I been judged, that would have counted as an NQ (non-qualifying). Good thing no one was keeping score! All the go out training we’ve been doing paid off when she was able to take the jump confidently in this run and the next.
The third run was Advanced 2, in which we took first place with a score of 199. Go Elsig! The one point was deducted for a crooked front from the recall. I was thrilled with her focus during the food bowl exercise (far right corner of the ring in the video), we haven’t trained for that one in the least and I was expecting that we might NQ during that exercise. She took a peek going in but came back quickly and maintained a tight heel for the second and third pass by the food bowls.
Overall, I was quite happy with how today turned out. As I mentioned above, even if we’d bombed the runs, she was on her best manners and her stress levels were low and I would have been happy with that. My nerves, on the other hand, were still jittering. I’ve never been one for exhibition or competition! I’ve continued to use food in the ring though the next level after Advanced doesn’t allow for it. I’m thinking I’ll pitter around here in Advanced for a couple trials, FEO after the next two legs, until I find my own legs in this trial environment. I did, however, find this one more enjoyable than the last simply because Elsie and I were less stressed. I’ll certainly be back to the Red Barn for another trial in the spring, I think the whole process is growing on me!