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.
I 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!