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AKC Farm Dog Certification Program

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has been creating more new programs over the last few years. Part of this is to provide opportunities for people with varied interests and dogs with different strengths.  (And part of it is suspected to be for financial reasons…)

One of these new programs is the AKC’s Farm Dog program. This is similar to a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test but with an emphasis on skills that are theoretically useful on a working farm like walking over varied surfaces, walking past livestock, being calm while tied up for animals to be fed, manners at a gate, and a neutral response to a loud noise.

While volunteering at a 4-H event in April we had an opportunity to take the test and Griffin and I were able to get one of the two passes needed.  We’ll hopefully have another opportunity this year. The livestock part was a little harder than I expected. Chickens were used and we had spent the previous two days doing field training so his interest in birds was much higher than usual.  I had not been present for the morning test so missed the part that during “Feed the livestock”  we were supposed to scoop food and pretend to feed.  I actually fed the chickens some of their feed which made them more active and noisy than usual!  However – Griffin was a responsible adult dog and while he showed interest, he was able to turn away when asked.

I enjoyed the event and hearing an AKC rep discuss the program. I’ve applied and been accepted to be an evaluator for the program.  For the most part, they’re taking herding judges or CGC evaluators with livestock experience.  I grew up on an Angus cattle farm and still occasionally handle animals. The primary disadvantage of the program is that like most AKC events, it has to be planned 6 months in advance and typically hosted by an AKC club.  So unlike CGC, I can’t set up a test myself.

I think this makes for a better display for the public than the GCC test (sit on a straw bale! Walk over surfaces! Other kinds of animals!).  I could see my students loving the opportunity to work towards this test, but I don’t know how often it will be offered in our area.

My previous dogs spent more time on a farm – Blaze and Luna (and occasionally young Griffin) spent time going with me to feed cattle. They had to be tethered on a gate or staying while I did that. They needed manners at a gate and to be comfortable around large equipment. They needed to occasionally ride on the gator (like a golf cart – but more serious!), be held by someone else, and be calm if the bulls charged towards the fence. Farm scenarios vary so much depending on the situation, the type of livestock, and the type of dog.

This test does fit in very well with the 4-H program – many (but not all!) 4-H programs conclude with the youth showing at the county fair – often with livestock in a nearby barn (sometimes very, very close!).  It’s a great way to merge the dog program with the rural background of 4-H.  The AKC has been very supportive of the Ohio 4-H Dog Program and has provided opportunities for us to do tests for youth at events separate from herding events.

Have you tried the farm dog certification or does your dog spend time on a farm? What skills are useful in that environment?

Griffin at AKC Obedience – RN, BN PCD

One more “Griffin is the best” post is necessary.

On Friday we did an AKC obedience trial. He was great. We need to do more training but also were able to show many things we can do well.  We did Novice, Pre-Novice, Beginner Novice, and Rally Novice.  We got a leg and finished the titles for everything but the regular Novice – 3 titles in one day is kind of fun!

In everything his on leash heeling was the weakest part. Luckily we won’t have to do much more of that. In Novice he broke his long down to sit up and scratch about 2 minutes in, but did remain sitting after that.  My favorite part of the day was probably his Novice recall which apparently looked nice and we heard the audience clap –  I’m not entirely sure why, but I guess they liked it.

I’m really excited to try Pre Open when we do obedience again and to move up in rally. I’ve not done any AKC rally higher than Novice so it will be a new experience for me!

Summer Dog Shows

Summer has been so busy!

In June we did one day of a CPE agility trial that went fairly well – the jumpers course was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The next weekend we went to watch some of the CPE nationals (30 min away!), taking 4-H’ers and students to observe. It wasn’t quite as exciting  as when we were able to go and watch AKC nationals in 2007.  The CPE format makes it hard to build much suspense while watching and it had the feel of a big but local trial. I also left feeling not-so-great after some students make comments about how unengaged, unhappy, and slow many dogs were. That’s not the kind of impression I wan them to have while watching their very first real trial.

Puzzled  look from us.
Puzzled look from us.

The next week Griffin and I went to the USDAA TitlleMania event. I don’t know that I’ve had more fun at an agility trial. Great weekend for us!

In July we did one day of UKI – four great runs. We did an AKC obedience trial that was one of my worst trial experiences. Griffin did great. Someone made a not-so-nice comment – mistaking my distracted/stressed expression as being dislike to the person and/or her dog. I missed a sign in rally and when I exited I had 4 people come up and thank me/joyfully comment about the  missed sign because it gave them a placement in the class. In Novice we got our first ever qualifying score – and somehow a 1st place- with a great score (193 – losing at least 2 points on the Stand for Exam).  During the awards there was the awkward moment of the exhibitors in the ring doing the ritualized “congratulations” while some were obviously unhappy they didn’t score better. I didn’t want to politely reply back “Thanks” to a person I saw fairly severely correct her dog in the ring and yet not get too penalized for it. I like training obedience. I like being in the ring at obedience trials.

Tonks and a Friend
Tonks and a Friend

We hosted a WCRL rally trial the next weekend. Some judging for me, some great runs with Griffin, and Tonks did her first trial – and last chance in the Puppy class. She does not have good (any?) heeling yet but somehow it came out fairly well. I’m excited for her to grow up and be ready for more!

Last weekend we drove 3 hours to Indianapolis to an AKC agility trial to try and finish our Open Standard title – this would allow us to have a more entertaining time at a trial next weekend.  During our Standard run Griffin went off course at the very beginning so I thought we were disqualified –  I pushed him on the rest of the course and he ended up  coming off the table early. But apparently those errors still allowed us t qualify!  In Jumpers we had our first Excellent run which was great. I was very happy with how well he did in a new location. I was really tired so we spent most of the day sleeping int he parking lot.

We hopefully have a few more trial days this month – those are going to be extra exciting and we’ve been practicing a few additional skills to be prepared.  This year is going by so quickly and we definitely won’t be reaching all the dog show goals for the year, but I’m happy with the experiences and opportunities we’ve had this year.

Trial Catch-Ups

End of December we did UKI and are now going to be in Senior. All the runs were great with very tiny things to fix. 1) I walked a wrong class – luckily I noticed before we ran. 2) I didn’t feel confident enough to get the higher-point gamble (distance challenge).  3) His contacts weren’t as sticky as they should be. We’ll get to do another UKI in a few weeks, I can’t wait!

Early January we did USDAA. We haven’t done it for three years!  No Q’s that day, again handler errors. I missed the first walk through. We did a back jump during snooker and while we didn’t get whistled off, we also didn’t have enough points. I learned a few things about snooker and regretted not running for more points. We finished in almost the exact amount of time I expected!  In our standard run we had one off course with an aframe/tunnel discrimination. He missed a few of those in a recent lesson so we’ll be doing a lot more training there. It used to be a strong point.

DSC_0509Last weekend we did AKC obedience. Similar challenges to our trial in October (down stays are weak) – but I haven’t worked on it much and he was much better than last time. As usual, his on leash heeling wasn’t so great but the off leash was much better. I was especially happy with his long stays – he was really interested in a pointer a few dogs down.  No Q’s but lots of great things and more training for the next one. Training focuses: 1) Down stays 2) On leash heeling 3) Figure 8 distractions. Something we don’t need to work on – his stand for exams and sit for exam were perfect! I was upset with myself for entering preferred open. Before December anyone could do it but now a CD or PCD are required so we didn’t get to run. I’m really excited for obedience but unless I drive far we’ll just have to wait a few months to go again.

Yesterday we did AKC agility. We finished our novice jumpers title and did our first open standard run!  The ring was really tight and slippery. Most of jumpers I had a good plan for him without getting too fast. Standard wasn’t as pretty, some handling errors and some are just training holes (straight lines, tempting off course options, start line stay). It was a really weird day, the judge was new to AKC judging so a rep from AKC was present and that resulted in some extra time/talking/interesting things. I enjoyed watching how she helped him and listening to her comments about his course design, safety, and ring flow. I loved the courses and wish we had run them on better footing.

Minnesota October 2015: Obedience

We make a few trips up north each year so that the dogs can go to their wonderful rehab vet. We’re most concerned about Viktor’s legs right now. We like to time the trips with dog show opportunities.

DSC_0138 Friday: We entered an obedience trial somewhat close to home. Griffin was entered in Beginner Novice, Pre-Novice, Pre-Open (first try), and Rally Novice. I realized I had left my only 6′ leash at the training center, so we detoured by to pick that up on our way to the trial and arrived at the trial site during the Pre-Novice and Beginner Novice judge’s briefings (separate rings). I wasn’t too worried about missing most of it because I’ve done both classes before. We were first dog in one ring and second in the other. The judge said they were not allowed to start early and would be starting at the listed time, which gave us about 5 minutes to get inside.

Beginner Novice – Not so great. We have been very focused on Novice and I had forgot that the BN exercises are in a different order. This resulted in some interesting handler errors and a non-qualifying score. His attention was good, I just made too many mistakes.

Pre Novice: Heeling was again lacking. A perfect score on his stand for exam!  A few years ago I thought that we would never be able to do it! We ended up placing in this big class even with our poor heeling.
DSC_0509Pre Open: One of the biggest changes from lower levels is that the rules say handlers cannot hold the collar between exercises – so I was worried about keeping him with me. It wasn’t a problem – he was so happy and on task. We had NQ’s on two exercises – he didn’t do the drop part of the drop on recall and he managed to touch the broad jump with every single paw. His retrieves were excellent!

Rally: I did a great job walking the course – we managed a 99 (of 100). There were many parts I wasn’t happy with but that is a personal best score for AKC rally.

DSC_0096Sunday: We had entered another day of AKC obedience – this time up in Minneapolis. While this is only my fourth day of trialing in AKC obedience, it was my absolute favorite trial day ever – I had some not so good experiences with a judge, but it was so much fun to be there with friends. We didn’t get any qualifying scores but we had many great parts. We were there with friends (from different states!) and had carefully planned to enter Novice – including the long stays – so that we would be next to a dog we have trained with many times.

Pre Novice: The judge didn’t do a walk through (explaining starts, stay position, which direction to circle for the stay, etc) – or she did but started early which isn’t allowed per the rules, but apparently sometimes happens . On leash heeling was awful – he even stood on his hind legs to look over the fence!  But off leash heeling was much better. We lost 17+ points for on leash heeling and only 3 for off leash!  We had a perfect score on our stand for exam. His figure 8 was much better than on Friday. I think we also had a perfect score on the recall.

Novice: This class was in the same ring as Pre-Novice and very soon after our first event. One of our friends was very nice and convinced the judge to start on time as was printed in the premium and to not start early – that gave me enough time to get back inside for the briefing. Griffin did well – not much was different from half an hour before – other than the on leash heeling was better, probably because he had time to get used to the room. Another perfect stand for exam score!  We were allowed to move onto group stays. However- we were counting on our friend being there and a known dog next to Griffin – and our friend chose to not move onto stays!  Griffin was near a calm sheltie. That dog stood up right away and I wasn’t worried – I knew any mistakes on our part would not impact their score at this point. Griffin did the sit well. On the long Down he did change positions – but he remained in the same location. That change of position resulted in a NQ. I’m feeling much better about entering Novice in the future!

DSC_0422Pre Open:  I made two big changes from Friday –  I chose to use a verbal Down cue instead of a hand signal. And I used a “Jump” word instead of “Over” for the broad jump. Both of those were successes. We NQ’d due to wandering on heeling. I did learn that I can call him back once and still pass – but also that judges are more picky about this than they used to be. I’m really happy with how well he handled moving around the ring and the different exercises. His retrieves on both days had no mouthing!

After the trial we went to a park and took pictures. I’m really excited to train and enter more trials!

DSC_0030Things we learned:

  • Rules say the judges cannot start before the printed time. But some do. Be alert!
  • My dog can do group stays.
  • Our heeling has been deteriorating. We need to address that.
  • His retrieves are great!
  • Especially in higher level classes there will be exhibitors who want to ask judges about their scores – this means that if I’m in the next class there is going to be a delay – and it’s hard to predict how long of a wait.
  • Judges and stewards like to give advice. They know things about rules. But they aren’t always going to know the best thing for your dog.
  • My dog can do perfect stand for exams!
  • It’s way more fun to trial with friends than by myself.

More AKC Obedience for Griffin

Last month we did our first AKC obedience trial. It was very small – I thought that was probably due to the show being on Friday. I’ve learned that it was probably more about the trial grounds/location. Yesterday’s trial was also a Friday but much bigger! Many more dogs entered, 3 separate rings and 3 judges – we got the opportunity to be in each ring!

DCIM298GOPROWarm Up: The last trial was very, very hot and held in a barn at a fairgrounds. We went later in the morning so I had time to exercise him both at home and at the trial site. Due to the heat he was a little more ‘flat’ than usual.

This time the weather has been much cooler and our first class was at 8am (2 hour drive from home). I exercised him heavily the day before and gave him a 5 minute off leash frolic on the way to the trial. When we arrived we didn’t have time for a walk or much of a warm up – I estimated 4 more minutes but one of the dogs before us wasn’t showing.

Pre-Novice: Great! His on leash heeling was the worst part and everything got better and better as we went along. He had some expected errors (first heeling as the poorest, moving on the stand for exam) and mostly very great things. I was very, very happy and will be entering this class again soon for more practice before we go to real Novice!

Beginner Novice:  I accidentally entered us in “B” instead of “A”  – so we were in a class of 13. Like before – initial heeling was the poorest piece but things got stronger from there. I missed awards because I was in the rally ring and we left before scores were posted. Some parts of this were better than last time (figure 8). I wish I would have stayed or asked about our score to compare it to our first experience in this class. I do know we qualified! One thing we observed was many dogs NQ’ing  – during the “stay walk around the ring” portion several dogs got up as the handlers passed the ring gate – the dogs seemed worried about the handlers leaving.

Rally Novice: B: Huge class! 20+ dogs!  I almost missed the walk through and was the very last one. The course was much, much shorter than the WCRL ones I’m used to. We ended up with a Q but a low score due to some serious handler errors. I went slow at a fast sign….realized that when I got to the real slow sign at the end of the course!). I also didn’t think carefully enough and on a “Call Front Return to Heel” I did the similar WCRL sign of “Call Front About Turn.”  His overall performance wasn’t great – disconnected heeling, but very passable for rally and I don’t think it was a bad experience for him.

DCIM298GOPROOther Notes: I’m new to AKC obedience trials – I repeatedly got ‘in trouble’ with the stewards for not knowing my numbers that had been emailed. It was a little stressful that all three had to question me and didn’t want to look it up (or let me borrow a judging book to look it up myself). Next trial – I will write them down on a paper and keep that in my pocket!

I also had one of my most unpleasant experiences – a large dog of a breed known for being…not so friendly with strangers… was hanging out with owners/friends in the bathroom. The dog growled at me and the handler barely glanced at the dog. I didn’t want to push it, so I left and came back later.

What’s Next: I’m ready to enter more! I want to also try the “Pre-Open” class.  Being at trials is addicting. I used to take a lot of agility classes and when classmates were competing it made me work harder and want to be doing that too. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in that type of environment. Attending events of the last few months has been very motivating – “I know we can do better next time!” This has helped our training and helped to prompt me to send in more entries.

Griffin and I need to work on our heeling. In familiar environments we need to work on lowering arousal and 100% focus. We also need to work on good starts in unfamiliar environments. And we need to go back to doing more distraction training.


Finding Competition Obedience Events

Stay training. I still need to share about the seminar!

Griffin’s training is coming together very well, even with all of his time off this year. We’re looking at event listings and our calendar for the next few months to try and decide which events to do.

Unless you know how to look, it can be quite hard to find events. When I’m looking for competition obedience events in my area (Columbus, OH), here’s the process I use.

1) Check AKC listings.   The American Kennel Club website is a little difficult to use. By clicking on the right tabs you can end up on the page that lets you look for events.  Click here for a link to that page.  Click on the state/s you would travel to. Above and to the right of the US map, click on the  Search For  “Obedience” box. If you would also like to search for rally – click on that box as well.  After you have clicked on your state and obedience, click on the “search”  button that is above and left of the US map.

This opens up a new tab that lists the event, who is hosting it, opening date [when you can submit an entry] and closing date [when your entry must be received by], event date, classes offered, judges, etc. I look for the city/club hosting events (to pick ones that are closer to where I live), the dates of the event, and the classes I want to enter. Sometimes if I’m looking for a less-offered class I will search the page (ctrl+f buttons) for the specific class.

I know the clubs closest to me – but I fink the AKC page is often updated much sooner than the club websites.  Once I see an event posted on AKC I can then go and look at the club website to get the premium and any other information about the event.

Three dogs, leashes dropped, attentive, happy.
Pretend group stay for red dogs only.

2) Check the UKC listings.  The United Kennel Club is not as common as AKC and I know I’ll have to drive a little further for those events. Some of their beginner classes may be more appropriate for a beginner dog starting out and they are more likely to have 2 trials in one day than AKC (meaning more participation options).

Click on their events page.  I find it easiest to then go to the “Search by” box (under the “Dog events, displayed by month” heading) and click “by state”. Then go to the search box below that and click on your state. You will get a listing for all of the show/obed/rally/agility UKC listings for your state – read carefully as it’s all events combined. You can then go to the club sites to get the premiums. If you live near enough to borders to travel to other states you will need to do an additional search for those states.  The site does let you do a search by type of event, date of event, etc.

3) Check the CDSP listings. Companion Dog Sport Program isn’t as common in this part of the country – I know I’d have to drive out of state to participate. This program is a little different – more similar to UKC than AKC. Food can be used in the ring between activities which may help make it a better introduction to the ring for some dogs.

Visit the event listing page and click on your region. Trials will be listed – usually you have to go to the club/host’s website to get the premium.

Note – this isn’t currently being offered in Ohio – if anyone in the area is interested, let me know – we’ve considered hosting trials.

4) Other: 

Sometimes I look at WCRL rally (World Cynosport Rally – formerly APDT). It’s not as interesting to me as obedience, but will be a good start to off-leash-away-from-home for Griffin.   Their event listing page lists events by date – you can do a search by state.

C-WAGS (Canine Work and Games) is a mostly-regional program – unfortunately for me their scent programs are more popular than their obedience programs. There’s not enough time for me to do everything so I haven’t looked at this one as much. They have an event listing page – be sure to read carefully about what events are being held at each trial.

What’s next? Well – we’re looking at a few events, waiting to hear back about a few other commitments, and diligently working on our challenge areas to be ready to actually go to an event soon!

CCA and Visiting an Agility Trial

Griffin and I visited an AKC trial today and saw more people than we expected to! We saw lots of golden retriever people we know, lots of people we know from training and class, and some of his family!

We were able to talk about the Certificate of Conformation Assessment (CCA, which is given by the Golden Retriever Club of America. The test is designed to compare dogs to the standard, not to compete against each other like in conformation. A dog has to get three scores of 75+ (out of 100) from three judges. It seems like most tests have three evaluators presents, so often dogs are able to complete the CCA at one event.

It looks like Griffin and I will try to get into a spring test, and should supposedly do quite well. He’ll need a good bath and grooming (it’s not really judged…but…is definitely important!) and more practice with standing and being touched and gaiting. I have a feeling that the waiting-for-our-turn part will be the hardest.

Back to the trial, Griffin did way better than I expected, he worked with me for a while, asked nicely to go outside, was seeking out doors (one didn’t have a handle, it was a door and a door frame… and half hidden behind a vending machine, the door frame must have cued him it was a door!), he didn’t jump on some people, he walked past a lot of dogs. He watched dogs do agility. And he only barked a little.

The hardest part was seeing dogs nearby tugging or if they asked him to play. We did a little tugging inside, but there were also several moments where he would not tug and a few moments where he refused to work (…but his response was to move away and lie down in a relaxed down while watching me… so it was a very nice way to refuse!).

If we do the CCA test, we will not go covered in mud and/or cow poop.

So today was a success in a lot of ways…the trial environment is very manageable, artificial turf is FABULOUS, and after too many years in agility, I finally made it to an AKC trial. It looked just like all the other trials I’ve been to, agility almost all looks the same to me!

We need more tugging, more working in new places and way more training.