Monday, January 5, 2009

Practicing Does Actually Work!!

My poor dogs -- they are always subjected to the pressures of the show ring with very little work. I've been very fortunate with my Wonder Dogs that they seem to have been born knowing what to do. Both dogs sailed through Novice in ASCA and AKC very easily, and then Kaylie made it through Open with very little practice. She had her CDX in both ASCA and AKC by the time she was two years old. I then tried to rush Kaylie through Utility training, and tried showing her a few times just after her 3rd birthday. I quickly learned that Utility actually requires WORK -- and not just a week before the trial!!! I would sometimes go gung-ho for a week or so with the training, but then things would just come up, and although I would go through the exercises in my head, and think about how I would train Kaylie to do them, osmossis just didn't work!! I don't understand why! I ended up focusing more on agility over the next couple of years and didn't think much of Utility. This past fall though, I figured that Kaylie wasn't getting any younger, and I really want to get my first Utility Dog ("UD") title with her. Some other friends wanted to really get serious about training their dogs too, so we decided to meet every Monday morning at the park to train. I'd show up every Monday to work my dogs, and at first my friends showed up too. But as the weeks past, fewer and fewer of them showed up, and eventually just one other friend would show up (and I think that's only because I'm making her show up!) But I kept practicing with Ms. Kaylie. My goal was to be ready by our January ASCA trial, and I think we're actually there!! I went to a fun match yesterday, and I was amazed how well she did. She did get one of the wrong scent articles, but she was in such a hurry to get back to me, she just grabbed any article -- we'll work on that. And then her go-outs were a little shaky, but I think with hard work over this next week, we'll be there. I'm looking forward to this Sunday to see how it all comes together in a real show situation!!! I'm thrilled to see that our hard work has actually paid off!

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Kaylie - The True Wonder Dog

At our last DOCNA (Dogs on Course in North America) agility trial in Prescott, Kaylie did fantastic! We are trying to be the first team to earn the MEX (Merit of Excellence) who started in the Beginner level. We are getting VERY close. All the other teams that have earned the MEX were grandfathered in at higher levels. Kaylie was just starting her agility career when DOCNA was created, so we had no choice but to start at the beginning. And as it is, I believe there are under 20 teams that have even earned the MEX to this point.

Well, going into the trial at Prescott, we needed 2 Specialist Gamblers legs and 2 Specialist Standard legs. In DOCNA, there are two types of Gamblers runs -- Traditional and Strategic Timed Gamblers. Unfortunately, we have only earned 3 Traditional Gamblers legs -- one from the Beginner class, one from the Intern class and one from the Specialist class. All the other Gamblers legs have come from the Strategic Time Gamblers. So, I knew going in that the chance of getting that Traditional Gamblers leg on Saturday was slim. We walked into the ring, and I knew Kaylie was on fire and ready to go. The Gamblers class is usually the first class of the trial, and Kaylie is usually absolutely wild in the first run. Well, this was no different. She was incredibly fast, and I was not -- I kept getting in her way, and things just fell apart. At 30 seconds, the buzzer rang, which meant I had to get to the gamble portion of the course. I sent her over the jump to the tunnel -- she took the wrong end of the tunnel, then came right back to me over the wrong jump and that was the end of that. No MEX for us this weekend. BUT, she did qualify in the two Standard runs she needed, getting First place both times, and she got her Strategic Timed Gamblers leg on Sunday, earning a Second place. Wooo hooo Kaylie!!! Out of 10 runs over the weekend, we qualified in 8 of them, placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in all but one run -- our Jumpers run on Sunday. I got lost on the course and just got confused. Luckily, Kaylie can read the numbers on the cones (that's the only explanation I can come up with) because she ran the right course despite my mess ups! Hence the name "Wonder Dog." So we still Q'd, but got 6th place. Still, not too bad!!

So, our next DOCNA trial will be in Pinetop the end of August. Hopefully we'll get our MEX there! Just one Gambler leg to go.