Obedience competition – The ups and downs
Many people see our results and think that we just go out and do our thing and all goes well so I thought I would share how this day actually went as hopefully it will encourage others to give it a whirl and also to realise that it’s ok when things aren’t perfect and its ok for things to go wrong as long as you are still having fun, everything else is a bonus!
It might take me a little while to finish this write up, but here goes!
So the day started with a hint of sunshine which, lets face it, is always better than rain. Parked up at the show which was fairly easy to find and had made it there early enough to set up the tent and ensure I heat proofed the car as I had all 3 dogs with me. I gave everyone a post journey wee break and leg stretch then with my tent pitched and all my silver covers in place I headed off to find my rings and book in for my classes. I had gone a little crazy for some reason and entered 3 classes!
I was in the running order for pre-beginners so after booking in I headed to the exercise area to warm Faith up and test out recalls etc, all went well and she was working nicely. Rewards were a mix of her ball, tuggy and treats.
I headed to pre-beginners in good time but had missed the heel work pattern demo so just watched those in front of me, I was 9th but as some didn’t turn up that made me 6th in line to work. I popped my bag under the judges table ringside (1st mistake of the day) then headed in, Faith worked into the ring nicely and I set her up for on lead heel work, that went really well, better than some of our past work and she was nicely focused… except for each time we passed the table with my bag under it as she knew her reward was lying inside and each time we passed her focus moved from me to the bag! Next exercise was recall, I set her up, gave her ‘wait’ command and strode off, immediately I could feel she had gone and yes sure enough I turned around to see her doing her (now famous) zoomies around the ring! Thankfully she didn’t visit other rings and I called her a few times and she came back and sat with me, I clipped her leash on and judge offered me a 2nd chance to do recall but training, I declined recall but said I would like to give up being marked for our round and would like to move on to off lead heelwork. Off lead heelwork went really well, it normally is better for us than the on lead and today was no exception.
So, having entered 3 classes I had 3 sets of stays to come, however as we knew Pre-Beginners had gone wrong I decided to strike those from the list. It was warming up fast and I didn’t want to ask too many stays of Faith and have her out in the sun too much and also have her breaking stays due to the heat.
First were the Beginners stays. Sit stay 1 minute was ok, however unfortunately upon my return she slumped from the sit to the down before we were told to release our dogs so she lost marks for that. Down stay 2 minutes again she managed, sadly once again upon my return she had other plans, this time it was running around, well less of a run and more of a trotting mooch! Still the fact remains it was broken on return and marks lost.
Last set of stays were our KC GC Special Pre-Beginners stays and I couldn’t decide which was more risky to try, down stay or sit stay :/ Eventually I chose the down stay, who knows what the outcome might have been if I had chosen sit stays but sadly Faith repeated her last set of down stays and upon return got up to moochy trot around, giving us once again a broken stay!
KC GC Special Pre-Beginners
I decided to do this class before the Beginners one as I figured she would be tired later and we wouldn’t be any good in Beginners anyway as it was above our level. I had already heard the judge was quite strict on criteria so did my best to focus less on Faith and more on the requirements i.e. show judge during play she would release toy, if I let go of it she would give it back, she was engaged well in play etc. Out of the criteria/sections, the gate exercise was perfect, going over my dog nearly (I missed lower leg from elbow to wrist and I also didn’t keep hold of my lead when I asked her to lay down so I could check tummy etc), on lead heel was good except for one turn when as I turn Faith had a bit of a cough so got left behind a little, recall was super and a lovely present finished it off, feed back from the judge as lovely, really positive and clear and Faith and I left to have a good game. At the end of the day it turned out that I had actually come joint 3rd so had to do a run off with my friend and her terrier (couldn’t believe that given stays were broken on return), sadly the task was a recall and Faith was back to zoomies, I didn’t call her back but just stood still in my recall position and when I could catch her eye in passing I casually asked if she was going to finish the exercise, 3rd time asking an in she came, beautiful straight strong present and lovely finish to top it off…..just a little too late for 3rd place! I have since been told that 1st and 2nd place have already qualified for the semi finals so am waiting to hear if that is correct and if we have qualified as one of the 2 next highest to place.
Final round of the day. I could have trained this round I figured, stays were already broken so no hope of a place, but the problem with training is I don’t get nervous so the things I get wrong don’t happen. Instead I decided to work it and hope that we could end positively with a good round just having Faith do things like actually recall properly, although I must admit I wasn’t feeling that hopeful especially given that the retrieve involves a dumbell that could be paraded around, ah well never mind. Our number was called and in we went, no real idea what quite to expect as this was our first ever beginners round. We started with on lead heelwork, it went well, I was pleased with Faith, she did spook when the ring sign came unattached and flapped as we passed but wasn’t marked on it as it was just an unfortunate thing. Next recall….sigh…then blimey she recalled! Perfectly, nice present, lovely finish, I was beaming! I can’t remember if next was heel off lead or retrieve, whichever way it went the outcome was this, heel off lead was lovely, she worked so hard for me and I was really proud of how hard she tried at the end of a really long and hot, hot day. Retrieve, well she not only went out and picked it properly but brought it straight back and presented it to me, there was a big gap between her and me but she held it up, no munching on it and waited for me to take it!!! I took it and she did her finish and I was over the moon. What a great way to end a tough day.
I went back to the car to check on the adults again as I had done loads during the day and suddenly a lady flew past looking for the lady with the Weimaraner, apparently we had won a place! Seriously I couldn’t believe it but even more so when the places were called and we had only gone and placed 3rd ! Over the moon, nothing else mattered anymore, wow!
What do I take away from these lessons?
I’ve learn’t over time that when things go wrong, whatever goes wrong, it is always down to me, to training and proofing and helping my dogs understand. Even zoomies are down to me, if they are only occurring at shows then why? if they occur other places then what am I doing to show her its better to come back than zoom.
Never give up. When things like zoomies keep returning, don’t give up, keep trying different ways to work it out. Talk to other competitors and trainers as there are just so many ideas out there that one is bound to work eventually. When one doesn’t work don’t give up first time, sometimes things just take time. With Faiths zoomies I tried calling, asking for a sit, hand touch etc and all worked briefly but the underlying desire to do them in the first place remained. One of the positives she got from her very first competition zoomy was attention from everyone. Now I am not even calling her back, I add none of my energy to the situation and I wait out where I am for what I’ve asked for, time will tell if this will work but for now they are less intense, less far ranging and almost a little just like its habit rather than the pure enjoyment of the original ones so I, for now, feel hopeful.
Always try to end on a positive, on something you wanted to achieve i.e. when the stays were broken on my return I popped her back down, walked away, waited a very short time (as ring was clearing), went back to her and stood by her side briefly then gave my release command, praised her as we ran out to my bag and her reward and had a good time.
Remember you are a team in whatever you do. We went through a phase were heelwork was a bit more of a struggle, I stepped back and looked at what was happening and I realised it was me. I was encouraging and praising her but worrying so much about my heelwork position etc that I was just going through the motions. Next time we went in the ring I really made an effort to connect to her and mean what I said and it worked instantly, we are back having fun.
Your dog (and you) will never be the same twice. Take each day as it comes, we have moods, health up and downs, things on our mind, different energy levels etc, etc, etc Don’t look back at how well you did on another day in the past, concentrate on the day you are having and make the most of it. Look at your dog, really look at them, if they are struggling call a short day, skip a class etc Never be afraid to adjust your short term goals because they won’t adversely affect the long terms ones, its the wrong choices that affect those.
It is supposed to be fun. Never be afraid to take a break because either you or your dog are feeling the pressure. Sometimes a break truly is the best thing ever for competition partnership, I’ve had them myself and coming back has been a buzz for both of us an we’ve really improved for it.
How to take a break. Take the kind you need. Complete breaks are fine, mine tend to be a complete break from class or competition but every so often we do little fun snippets at home to keep our hand in but that is all, just snippets and everything else is about unwinding and remembering to ‘just be’.