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Category: Obedience

Griffin – Companion Dog!

Way back in 2001 when Blaze was a puppy, I did a lot of reading online about dogs and training – very quickly I learned about dog sports/activities – including competition obedience.  For many reasons (dog health! behavior challenges!  rules at the time prohibiting mixed breed dogs!) I just wasn’t able to do much with Blaze and Luna. 

Photo by MN

Finally, after all this time, we’ve been able to achieve the goal. Griffin and I finished the AKC Companion Dog title two weeks ago! 

It was a very hot/humid day. The trial was in a barn at a fairgrounds, no air conditioning but many huge fans. A conformation show was in an outdoor/tent area with announcements made through the loudspeaker system in the whole area.

It wasn’t our best performance – but we passed even with the challenging environment.  He did his best heeling in a trial.  The figure 8 was hilarious – as we went around a person the breeze changed and her skirt blew right against his face!  During the stays arm bands started to blow away and almost created a lure coursing situation!  The judge went and intervened to catch the escaping arm band.


Now we’re excited to move up and work towards additional goals.

MN April 2017 : CDSP Trial

On Friday we drove up to Minnesota for an action packed 3 days; participate in a trial, judge a rally obedience trial, go to the vet specialist, and visit with dog friends.

Yesterday we got to do two runs in CDSP obedience first thing in the morning before I judged. 7:30am  – which is 6:30 in “Ohio time.”   Griffin was great (because he’s Griffin) -we’ve never done training so early but I knew it was unlikely to throw him off.

The previous weekend we finished the Open level (with 2 passes) and so we were entered in “Open C for this trial. I wanted to see if he would do well away from home.

He was very good. Some of our details (heeling) have faded away in the last few year but his retrieves were awesome. I think it’s very cute that he goes around to the back of the dumbbell and scoops it up on his way back. I know some of our training friends intentionally teach that but I don’t know that we have.

Now onto Utility – we just need to train scent discrimination!

Bringing CDSP Obedience to Ohio – and Griffin in Open!

Last weekend we hosted what we think is the first Companion Dog Sport Program (CDSP) trial in Ohio.  One of our instructors and I (not knowing each other!) went to a seminar about it 9-10 years ago, but it seems nothing came of it at the time.

This is a competition obedience program that is beginner-friendly in that it’s less formal than AKC. Multiple trials are allowed in a day. treats in the ring at certain points. Fun things in the beginning levels (jumping!). And easier to host than, say, AKC.

We hosted our first trial – and learned a lot. We are eager to plan more and we have a list of changes to make. The exhibitors seemed happy – we had a nice balance of experienced teams (out of state!) and new teams (local!).  Many breeds and sizes, and participants in all levels of competition. There was a lot to celebrate from near perfect scores, new titles, and having beautiful behaviors hold up well.

New title.
New title.

Griffin and I didn’t do our best – we’ve not done much obedience training since going to Sweden and that prep was very different from what we need here. I thought we’d be able to carry on longer with what we have, but our performance showed what we need to work on and I’m excited to see what we can do for next year.

We did finish our last Novice run and moved up to Open. This means we got to do retrieves (yay – he’s so fast and sharp!), jumping, off leash heeling (yay!), drop on recall (magically decent!), and a go out (decent!).  This gave us our first open leg – and my first time doing Open level with any dog. It’s so, so fun to finally be able to do these fun things!


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!

Sweden 2016 – Obedience

During our trip we got to go to an obedience trial!  The first level has some similarities to AKC and some big differences – with the exercises and with the general trial.

Prior to the event we got emails about confirmation and a listing of all the dogs who would be participating – this made me a little more nervous because it listed the clubs/where teams were from…which again, would potentially draw more attention to us!

When we arrived at the dog club we had to check in. The club confirms that a team is a member of a club and vaccination records. Teams randomly pick a run order number. This was kind of nice because it made run order much more random than at AKC shows where I’m not sure how run orders are determined- maybe the order received? I had to talk to the ring steward. The club was so nice and going to give me the handler commands in English!

One fun thing about this trila was that it was in the evening.  There were two rings – one for Elite (…kind of a fourth level) and the the other ring would be doing Level 3, 2, and then 1.  Like agility, I saw small kids! I’ve never seen that at obedience trials! The dogs clubs we visited all had little tiny, fenced kid playgrounds.

The trial was outdoors. No real fencing around the ring. There were some fence posts stuck in the ground to mark off the side of the ring where teams would enter. Many teams would warm up in the area outside the rings – with dogs off leash!  Elite teams walked into the ring off leash.  Lots of dogs hanging out with people and some in car crates, but no dogs crated in that area.

It was really fun to see many different breeds – a few border collies, a few goldens, malinois, a German Shepherd, a Samoyed! Cavalier King Charles Spaniel! I think a yorkie in a higher level.  Super cute border terrier.  Lots of variety!

A few differences in how things are run:  The ring steward is much, much more involved than in AKC obedience. The ring steward would call out the heeling pattern, all the exercises, and handle props. Pretty much doing all the things judges do in AKC – except the actual scoring. This gave the judge a chance to focus on watching the team and not be distracted by other tasks.  After each exercise the judge would hold up a number so that everyone could see the score a team received.  Instead of arm numbers, we had to wear little vest-numbers like I have worn when I showed cows!

We did a few short walks to warm up. I brought Griffin near the rings so he could see the area. The week before we had the opportunity to come and train at the club  – so he’d had a few good experiences already in this area which I think helped.

Finally, our turn!  We had seven dogs in our class.  Initially they were going to do the down stay all together but then changed it to two groups. We were going to be with a dog I can’t remember ( a border collie?) and an excited Samoyed.  The other two dogs were doing a little warm up outside the ring – and so we did some stay practice with them too. Griffin was a little excited about the Samoyed.   I was worried about “training on the grounds.” as this kind of practice is frowned on at AKC events. First exercise –  2 minute down stay – so easier than what we do at home!  One hard part was I had to take my leash with me and in my pocket. I hadn’t brought a small enough leash/big enough pockets for this to be easy.  After a short time, the Samoyed broke and frolic’d to his handler. Griffin was excited but stayed. When we went back, we had to wait to have the dogs go into a sit and then we were released.

After that – waiting- we were 6 of 7 dogs. Entering the ring.  Sit at heel for hand shake with the judge and the judge looking at the dog’s teeth. This was kind of like the stand for exam, but more for temperament than actual staying.  One dog jumped on the judge in a friendly way and was still given a 10.  Heeling on leash:  Similar to AKC except a lot more space. We also had 90 degree turns and halts and a 180 halt. I hadn’t really understood the heeling scoring – watching the higher level teams, some that looked good to me did not score well.  Griffin was not as rhythmic and steady as other dogs, but he didn’t move away, had great focus, and definitely was his best trial heeling ever even though this was the hardest environment we’ve been in!

Next we did an exercise where a team heels, the handler cues the dog to down, leaves the dog, waits for permission to return and then has the dog return to a sit position.  I was a little worried about this – we do the down part in rally and sometimes it doesn’t happen. But, Griffin did great. Recall: Dogs are allowed to recall to heel or come to front.  I asked him to come to heel position. He did well.

Stand from motion: Similar to the down exercise above, but with a stand.  Another one to worry about! Not stopping would be a disqualification!  I considered doing a hand signal with our verbal cue, knowing that would be points off. But during a warm up test, he was heeling too far forward to easily see the hand signal so we went with verbal only. It was not as crisp as he can do, but he did do the exercise!

Dumbbell:  One interesting thing is that you don’t bring your own dumbbells/scent articles – the club provides them.  So we had to take a wooden dumbbell that probably smelled like lots of other dogs. Griffin had to sit at heel and then take it for 5 seconds.  Griffin has always done well with this in practice but I was worried he might spit it out – a few of the other dogs did that. He did not let go when I asked – I gave his cue ver quietly. Recall over a jump: Last exercise! I wasn’t sure how high of a jump he needed, but it was fine. Griffin was great.

We then talked with the judge/stewards for a moment. They were very nice. It was hard to get the leash out of  my pocket and back on him. I started doing our normal leaving-the-ring-routine but our friend prompted me to start rewarding right as we excited the ring.

DCIM460GOPROI hadn’t watched the numbers, too much else to think about. But we did pass!  After the last dog we went inside and there was a formal awards thing for all the levels. teams got score sheets. The score sheets are a printed paper with the scores, comments, etc.  A copy to take!

Griffin and I apparently did well – we got 2nd in our class and were half a point from the first place team! Not bad for our first outdoor obedience and with a new set of exercises. I’ve only looked a little at our score sheet – I’m still too nervous to look closely. We got a few perfect scores!

It was a pretty great day – and not bad for a dog who doesn’t have an obedience title yet. I’m really excited to do more AKC obedience soon!

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.

FetchMasters Seminar

When I was planning to go to the Titlemania event, I accidently cancelled my Wednesday classes, thinking the four day event started on a Wednesday. This worked out great, I found out about a Wednesday seminar in Kentucky that I would normally have not been able to attend.

DSC_0699For a few years, I’ve seen the Colorado-based Fetchmasters training facility posting about their successful, positive-reinforcement hunting training programs. They also started the (relatively quiet) Positive Gun Dog Association. More recently they have started doing regional seminars and longer events for dog trainers to learn even more about the Fetchmaster protocols/training. Colorado is far and without seeing as much video or writing, I haven’t been able to justify the trip.

Thomas and Linda are trying to do a few part-day seminars in different areas to build interest and enthusiasm for training hunting dogs with positive reinforcement. Hunting training is typically done with other training methods. They’ve been able to develop faster programs since switching training methods, dogs are performing better, clients are happier, and they’ve seen many people specifically seeking out this type of training (so- good for business too).

A few of the things that made the biggest impact on me:

20150405_091312Be selective:  Thomas and Linda have become more selective about which dogs go into which programs. This can increase success in terms of dogs, owners, and general perception of training. They now have a selection process for which dogs can go into their hunting board and train program and which dogs should do private lessons with their owners doing most of the training.

Measure: It was amazing to hear about where their programs started (a few months) and where they are now (a month – and dogs learning more). They shared numbers about dogs in programs, pet dogs getting to off leash reliability, ages of dogs, and it was nothing short of impressive.  Their field programs have some very specific measurable goals at each level – this is so necessary when there are multiple trainers and many dogs through the program (about 100 a year!).

DSC_0124Show: Thomas brought his dogs and did a couple demonstrations.  I wish he had videos of client dogs – it’s different to share with a trained dog vs a dog in training and considering the number of dogs through their programs, they should be able to get a lot of great video examples.

Add distractions quickly: This dogs (and handlers) to be ready for the variation and unpredictable real life scenarios. Some of this is very specific and some is just getting dogs out to do walking training in new areas.

Overall: I did not leave ready to go across the country and attend a longer seminar. There is not as much positive reinforcement as I see in other programs – I see how it creates dogs who calmly do the hunting tasks and do well as hunting companions and pets. I didn’t see the kind of sharp, responsive, ‘open’ dogs I am used to now.  I will definitely be attending another presentation/seminar in a couple years – I know this team will get more experienced at presenting and  seeing what they accomplish with their enthusiasm! They work with such a huge number of dogs, I’m really excited to see video and photos and hear more about what they do.

May Trials

We’re so busy!

May 8 – WCRL Rally –  We hosted a trial, I did some judging and I ran Griffin. Viktor was still young enough to get his last leg for his “puppy” title but the only other judge present had given him his first two legs so we didn’t try. He wasn’t quite ready for Level 1 – but maybe next time!  Tonks is not ready.

Griffin did four runs (no one to judge our Level 3’s) and had four qualifying scores (Q’s). Nothing too exciting.

May 15 – CPE Agility 

DCIM458GOPROFullhouse –  I was really happy with how well I had walked our course – I ended up with an almost perfect plan and heard the buzzer right when I expected it to. We were one of the highest points for our level even though he felt a little slow. Griffin was very focused and on task and did exactly what I expected.    Standard – Not so good. I got video!  But just a few obstacles and he left to the gate. And we were disqualified.   Snooker – I went with an easy plan rather than an adventures high-point option.  He did run off momentarily but I was able to get him back without any errors and we finished with more than enough time. We could have done something harder!  A Q and one of the higher point scores.  Jumpers – Again, he ran out after a few jumps.

This trial was a little discouraging. He hasn’t left me like that in months. My best hope is that he was sore from running in tall grass a few days before and didn’t feel his best.

May 22 – USDAA  – Starters/P1 Standard – The very last dog of the very last class!  Most of the starters dogs were having a hard day and not even getting off the start line. We had a minor detour near the gate and then back on task. It felt slow to me. But a Q, 1st, and a good ending to that day!

The local trial site doesn’t rotate the classes offered. We’re kind of stuck at this level until I drive far or take off a Saturday. I feel bad cancelling classes for my Saturday students but I also want to move up to the more fun courses!

May 29, 30 AKC – Two days of trialing in a row!  Not a good weekend with Qs but decent runs.  We missed one due to changes in the schedule and other conflicts resulting in getting there late.  Open Jumpers – He popped out of the weave poles at the end – I’m not entirely surprised. In training he wouldn’t do this with just me moving laterally but at a trial he’s different. On the way to reset him we had an off course. We did correctly complete the two areas I was worried about!  Monday – Open Jumpers –  Again, we did all the hard parts! We had a bar down and so no qualifying score. He was the fastest time by quite a few seconds – so again, even though he felt slow it might not have been as bad as it felt!  Monday – Open Standard – I was very worried about this course!  Again, we did all the hard parts and did have an off course (allowed) – mostly due to how much the gates attract him.  He held his contacts, stayed on the table, and we did well. This was our first Open standard Q.

Good things:

  • It feels like we haven’t done much, but that’s a lot for one month!
  • Our skills training
  • I wasn’t out of breath at the end of the runs – and often I was quite ahead. I’m not sure how this happened as my fitness hasn’t been a goal.  Maybe more playing and training with the puppies?

Now What:

  • We’ve set up a training schedule with friends. More sequencing!
  • Vet appts to make sure he’s feeling his best. I’m worried he’s not moving well but I could be imagining things.
  • We’re supposed to do CPE next weekend and then four days (!!!) of USDAA/WCRL in mid-June.  We’re looking at more AKC options, obedience for July. And now it’s time to look at August events too?!
  • Viktor and Tonks need more training!

Griffin – 2015 Obedience Rankings

We had some fun surprises this week when the 2015 rankings were posted for some of the programs.  In WCRL rally we may 6th in ARCH points – only the preliminary results are posted. I’m not quite sure how that happened as we’ve never had enough points in the past – I don’t think we did more trials this year, but each run we did was very good.

Screenshot 2016-01-28 at 12.09.43 AM




And even more amusing – in the Companion Dog Sport Program obedience, with only one event and two runs, we managed to be 10th in Novice A!   I’m most proud of us being the only Ohio dog to be listed (and maybe even participate?). I hope we can change that in the future and make it an option for dog enthusiasts in central Ohio. We had a great time at that trial!

Screenshot 2016-01-28 at 12.10.49 AM


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.