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MN April 2017 :: Out of State WCRL Judging

look at the nice hanging tag!

One of our activities last weekend was judging a rally trial in MN for the Minnesota Mixed Breed Club.  This club is great- they hold different kinds of trials and events open to all dogs. This may seem unusual for people who are newer to dog activities – but many years ago, AKC events were only open to purebred dogs and a group like this brought together competition events that are available for all dogs. Many people involved in the club do have dogs of specific breeds – but they enjoy the club and activities. Our friend we visited has been a member for a very long time and so we’ve heard great things about this group for many years.

On Friday I arrived early enough to help the group set up the rings and then we came back early on Saturday to start.  This was my second judging away from ‘home’ and my first out of state judging opportunity. The club is very experienced at holding trials and at a point where they have systems for doing things but are also flexible and not stressed by any slight changes.  It was a very good environment for judging and hopefully a good environment for exhibitors

It was interesting to see a very different group of dogs and handlers than the “usual” here.  A few observations:

  • Even though the obedience trial was going on nearby (as in on the other side of a wall), not very many dogs were doing both.
  • MANY fewer teams working towards multi-level titles. I’m not sure what this means, but it felt like a good thing. I didn’t see the sadness about not getting the qualifications that I often see elsewhere.
  • Lots of A dogs!  Lots of level 1 teams!
  • Several people who are experienced at trials but new to WCRL rally.
  • Several people who calmly and politely left the ring when it was in the best interest of their dogs. While it’s unfortunate the dogs weren’t ready in the moment to be trialing, it wasn’t a bad choice and likely a great choice.  Use the information to modify training but not create additional stressful/incorrect experiences in the ring. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in Ohio – I’ve seen some teams NQ and pull out treats to reward a lot through the rest or teams get sad/unhappy and leave the ring.
  • A new exhibitor was working with her 3-legged dog.  We see a number of these dogs in regular manners training or behavior classes at home, but haven’t persuaded them that there are all kinds of other fun activities to do too.
  • They thought I was very fast.  I did not think that I was!
  • Many more teams who attempted the retrieve bonus exercise – and very, very well.

I had a great time seeing so many teams!

Viktor’s Rally Level 1!

Photo by Megan.  Adorable.
Photo by Megan. Adorable.

We hosted a World Cynosport Rally (WCRL) trial last weekend. It was our first time ever hosting a 2 day trial – and it was easier than we expected!

I had all three dogs participate –  Griffin did well but not our best, mostly because I was distracted. We broke our streak of 60+ qualifying scores in a row –  but it was going to have to happen eventually!   Tonks had a try but just wasn’t ready.

Viktor did reasonably well!  He did a few puppy runs about a year ago – but this was his first time in level 1.

‘We had 4 passing scores and decent performances. This one was his poorest – he had a loooong sniff near the beginning and partway through.

I need to work on duration and work on calmer heeling – but his little howls are so adorable. He can’t walk and bay so he does tiny little stutter steps.

I do love his heeling. Griffin is constantly almost too far ahead or definitely too far ahead of me, but Viktor spends most of his time at the same exact place just behind me and moving very comfortably at my side. His funny legs give him a silly looking prance and it just seems easy for him to move with me.

Unfortunately we haven’t done enough to be ready for the obedience trial this weekend, but I’m looking forward to next year and what we’ll be able to do then.

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.

Rally World Championships!

This is the third post on our adventure!  Click here for an overview of the event. Click here for the agility overview. 

On Friday a regular titling trial was held and one run for the start of the tournament. On Saturday we did three runs and on Sunday we did our final two. Initially I was a little annoyed about this being stretched out over so many days – especially considering some Level 3 dogs often are doing 6-9 runs a day at a normal trial!

The titling trial seemed to go well – we saw quite a few people attend that event that were not participating in the tournament. Some of the tournament teams used the trial as a warm up. We did not enter the titling trial as we were doing so much agility.

Three rings were set up side by side using normal ring gating. Griffin hasn’t ever done rally in adjacent rings and I knew he could easily leap the gates if he wanted. His last attempt at rally (off leash) away from home resulted in him leaving the ring… but that wasn’t a good day for us and he’s had a lot more training since then!

Photo by WCRL.
Photo by WCRL.

The tournament was set up with scoring that was different from the normal rules and supposedly some of these will become rule changes next year. Breaking stays would be a retry (-3) rather than a nonqualifying score. Bonuses would be within the course and timed as part of the course. Revised standard course times. Over the days, scores would be added up to determine the placements for the tournament classes.

I didn’t feel like I got to see/interact with the judges as much as in agility – so I don’t have much to say about that part of the experience. I know that they each had slightly different preferences for when to enter (be invited in vs come in once the other dog is leashed) and when to take off the leash – and with everything else going on, I just forgot which judge had which preference and that part was a little difficult. The courses were fairly typical for WCRL, though I did think it was weird to see paired signs like “Halt-Sit” and then “Halt-Sit-Walk-Around” where there really wasn’t a point to pairing them other than you could give an extra treat after that first sit and before walking around.

The staff/judges/everyone was so very nice about being accomodating for ring conflicts. A handful of exhibitors were doing both agility and rally and they did long walk-through times, let me have a separate walk through on one course, and moved the run order as needed so that everyone was able to show.  I know some exhibitors were very stressed about missing things but it really wasn’t an issue for me and as long as I let the ring stewards/etc know – everyone was so, so nice about it.  At one point on Sunday I had walked 2 agility courses and needed to get right back (2nd and 4th dogs in those rings) and I was supposed to be walking a rally course.  But it all worked out, we had enough time to do what we needed to.

We didn’t see very many people we know. Despite a lot of WCRL in Ohio, the participation has gone down a lot since I started in 2006 with Luna.  Even though there are quite a few trials up in that part of the state, we didn’t get many of those people attending. I didn’t watch much of it – the agility had my attention!  But my favorite moment was seeing a young Terv gently nibble the corner of the sign, look at the owner, and take another gentle nibble.  So, so cute!

Griffin was amazing! He did better than at our normal trials, he never thought about sniffing or moving away!  We had to retry two signs when he stared at me and kept heeling instead of doing a task and he had a hard time with the bonus for call front and backing up – he did it perfectly outside the ring but somehow I cued him differently once we were in the ring.

I didn’t check scores other than the very first day. Unlike in agility, our runs don’t count towards titles, so results only mattered for the event. I’m guessing/hoping in future years these runs will count towards titles and that will likely encourage more teams to enter. At $150 for the tournament – it’s a bit hard for some people to want to participate without “getting” anything other than the experience, a neat shirt and a pin.

On the first day I did check our score – I wanted to see if I had lost points for Griffin bumping into me. The judge had not counted off so I knew I wouldn’t be too careful about that for the rest of the weekend. Looking at scores was probably a bit of a mistake – I saw that for the Level 3 tournament we were in first place (3 tied) with the best time!   That made me a little more nervous!

Most of the exhibitors!  Photo by WCRL
Most of the exhibitors! Photo by WCRL

Even when we had mistakes, we would just retry and keep going, I tried not to think about it very much. I wanted to stay focused and do the best we could, not losing additional points if I was thinking too much about the the ones already lost.  Like a training friend says …it’s often about “making less mistakes than everyone else” rather than being perfect.

The awards presentation was nice, almost all the teams were there, a few who checked results and knew the outcome did head out early.  It was a great experience to be there for the first event and to see the proud teams get their recognition for the weekend – and some agility exhibitors stopped by to watch as they passed by.

Later in the week we were emailed the final results – I didn’t read the title of the email before opening but was happy to note we were only 4 points away from tying for third place and not too many points away from the other placements too.  Considering how much agility we were doing, the few mistakes we had in rally, and his overall focus, I was so happy!

On Saturday night they did a get-together for the rally exhibitors and the WCRL staff and some of the USDAA staff were present. I will admit I arrived late – Tonks and I were watching agility and having an awesome time watching some of the MC classes there – it was hard to break away!   I ended up sitting at a different table than most of the group – but was able to hear some of the conversation about the WCRL program, opinions about this event, and potential changes.  After a while, Ann Allums who is the coordinator? for WCRL came and talked with me. She’s been very helpful for us while we’ve been learning to host  trials and while I’ve done my judge’s application process.  She’s just as helpful in real life!  I got to hear about some of the upcoming changes (new rules, sign changes!  better judge’s training!), how some groups handle trial registrations/scheduling, and other things too. There’s going to be a modified program that’s going to hopefully better help beginners get into rally that I’m especially excited about!

Overall:  I’m glad we entered rally and that we did so well. I didn’t leave inspired to drive across the country to do it next year, but if we go for agility we will be entering and encouraging everyone who is in the area to participate.  I’m hoping I will have Tonks ready to participate and I wished Blaze’s health had been a little better so he could have at this one.

Griffin – AKC Agility, WCRL Rally

DSC_0509We did AKC Agility on Friday. I’ve been arriving at trials too late, this time I arrived many, many hours earlier than needed. It gave me time to watch quite a few of the Excellent dogs, train my dogs (outside – the trial site was very crowded), go on a long walk with Griffin, and send a boarding puppy home. “B,” a 4 month old Aussie puppy stayed with us for one and a half weeks. His family came to pick him up at the trial so that they would have a chance to see some agility.

Griffin did really well, Jumpers felt out of control but we finished and didn’t really have any real problems in execution but I wasn’t confident in our plan.

Standard again was the challenge – we had  a few interesting and “hard” parts on the course. We did the hard parts well but completely failed on a long straight line. One challenge was keeping up with him on a long straight line – and that he wanted to turn back towards me when he got ahead (into an off course tunnel). The other challenge was that his contact behaviors are still a problem in trials. He sometimes stops and sometimes doesn’t. As the day goes on, his contacts get stronger and stronger – but in AKC we only really get one run with those obstacles.

We left the trial to go and get Blaze – he hadn’t left home in 11 days because the boarding puppy got to go everywhere with us. We went to the training center to clean and do trial  prep – Saturday we did 3 trials of WCRL rally and over 100 runs (maybe our biggest!).

The trial went fairly smoothly, we met quite a few new teams, and had many special recognitions to others (two ARCHMX, an ARCH, and 4 Level Champions).  Griffin was great. I didn’t get much time with him due to judging, helping with the event, and everything else going on. He seems to do very well with that – 9 runs and only lost 21 points (5 for doing a wrong way turn, and 10 for giving the wrong cue during a bonus). Later I counted and we probably finished our ARCHX. Yay Griffin!

I had hoped to participate with the puppies but that just didn’t happen. Viktor now can actually heel with duration and do most of the skills – but he needs more training around people. He easily gets excited and starts howling. Tonks doesn’t know about heeling yt. She can have somewhat decent leash walking – but almost only on the right. Next trial!

More obedience! First CDSP trial and Blaze RL1x

Last weekend was yet another trip up to Minnesota. Our primary purpose was another check for Viktor. As always, we try to fit in as much adventure as possible!

Photo by MN - my dog at a pet store.
Photo by MN – my dog at a pet store.

We left Ohio on Saturday afternoon after classes and headed to Chicago. We were just a little late for an evening training lesson with a puppy there. It was a perfect break location. Both Viktor and Griffin got to spend time as a helper dog. From there, we continued North with a few stops for sleep and walks. We arrived in Hugo, MN just a few minutes before the trial started!

Griffin and I participated in a Companion Dog Sports Program (CDSP) obedience trial. We first heard about this when I attended a seminar on the program way back in 2007. At the time, this was one of a very few obedience options for mix breed dogs and it provided some alternative exercises to AKC. Some of the exercises are a little easier, others are a little harder and some parts are just different.  Food is allowed in the ring, but must remain in a pocket until the end of an exercise.

We went in with very little warm up and got our best obedience score to date – 197.5!  And a lot of our points were lost due to handler errors!  I made a big mistake in not reading the rules before we left home – I did look at a score sheet but apparently the one I read was out of date.  We got to briefly meet Laura and her dogs. She was a great ring crew person and I’m glad Griffin didn’t jump on her or the judge (my obedience fear!).

Key variations: No group stays – the dog stays in the middle of the ring while the handler walks around just like in AKC Beginner Novice/Pre-Novice. There is a person distraction during the heeling (walking past) – Griffin didn’t even notice.  The stand is from heeling, the handler should stop and tell the dog to stand – this is where I messed up – I kept walking instead of stopping with him!  And the recall is over a jump. The dogs get lower jump heights and exceptions are made for even lower if needed. I was puzzled by Griffin’s 14″….and then found out that as a veteran dog of 7+ years, he was automatically given an even lower height!  What will he think when we go back to AKC and he’s jumping 20!

I really liked the CDSP trial and this is something we are hoping to bring to central Ohio in the very near future. Griffin did well on his second run. I went to register for a third – but there were only two events that day!

The event also had a World Cynosport Rally (WCRL) trial. I didn’t enter Griffin because we have many opportunities to do that at home and I’d rather spend my trial fees for other events. I did desperately want to participate during a level 2 course where the dogs had to heel past bowls of food – we’ve never seen a judge brave enough (me included) to offer that at home.

Blaze was entered in a Level 1 B run and got his tenth passing score in that level – which makes him a “Level 1 Champion” – it’s been almost 14 years since we did his first show (early August 2001), he’s very much the same dog!

Photo by MN - Viktor and his giraffe while at the vet.
Photo by MN – Viktor and his giraffe while at the vet.

After the trial I did as many social things as I could with my friend (pet supply store! running errands! cleaning the car! grilling dinner!) and then on Monday we did our vet appointments.  We had interesting perspectives from the orthopedic surgeon, but thankfully the xrays weren’t much different than our previous trip and his growth appears to be slowing. At the rehab vet, we modified his exercises, made some changes to his diet, and I was surprised to see that some of the measurements were actually improved from last time. He doesn’t look better, but the numbers can’t lie!  We also are likely having some problems with pano (growing pains) and while I feel bad for Viktor to be in more discomfort – at least this is a normal challenge! We have two months until our next trip for Viktor.


WCRL March Trial

photo by nm
Level 3 Blaze! photo by nm

We did our first WCRL rally trial of the year today. Three trials in one day – I judged a whole trial (my first time with Level 3), ran Griffin in all 9 classes and Blaze in two! Because all of my hosting and judging responsibilities my dogs didn’t get a good warm up or even the planned exercise that morning.

I had planned to enter Griffin in all 9 classes (3 levels, 3 trials). WCRL is interesting because judges can be evaluated on their courses by another present judge – though we aren’t eligible for placement on our own courses (which makes sense).

Blaze: At the last minute I decided to add Blaze into Level 3. After our last trial I had debated about the sportsmanship of entering him with a 0″ jump height. Our March vet eye exam did show his cataracts have progressed somewhat and will impact his depth perception – so that made me feel okay with a 0″ jump. We tried – and got our Level 3 title!!!  I didn’t think it was going to happen – he’s now 14 years + 1 month old!  We had a 188 which was reasonable, especially as we didn’t even try the bonus. He was so happy that we did a level one run later and he was more tired but did fight me the rest of the day – every time I took out Griffin, Blaze was sure he should come too.

20150329_164528Griffin Overall: He had a great day  – even without proper warm ups (or maybe because of that?) we had all scores 204+ out of a maximum of 210 points. Best things? His fronts, his retrieves, and 0 running away!

Griffin’s Training List:

  • Position changes – specifically his down. He was not always all the way down. He was possibly the reason the other judges mentioned in briefings that dogs needed to go all the way down. This has been a more recent problem area.
  • Heeling – he was bumping me so much. The judges didn’t seem to score it or his hair hid it. But I know we lost points for me tripping over him at one point. I would way rather this problem than him running off and sniffing though! I know exercise and a warm up would have (likely) made a difference here.

20150329_164717Things that are improved: No running away! Horray!  He was very attentive and responsive.  He only anticipated cues once. His right turns (90 degrees, 180, 270, 360’s) were really great – I lost 5 points on a course because I did a 360 the wrong way, I was so excited about this new skill!

Results: All our scores were great. We had two perfect scores! We got our ARCH (Rally Champion) which requires a number of points that we easily got and qualifying in both Level 1 and 2 in the same trial. Looking back at our results, we actually finished this in 2 days of trialing/5 trials.  It will be interesting to see if we can continue to progress at this rate!  We also finished his Level 3 title which was exciting too.

Misc: We have a great ring crew and very enthusiastic participants. I wish we had better ways to build interest in our students. We primarily started hosting events to give students a good trialing opportunity but it’s been harder to create the interest than we initially expected.

Hopefully we’ll do our next event in May and Viktor will be old enough to participate then if he’s ready. We’ll see how that goes!

20150329_164631Goals for me:

  • After the next trial I should be able to finish my paperwork and be a full judge!
  • I want to be more focused during the walk through – I get bored easily and am not as careful as I should be. “It’s just rally” – but I need to practice the focus I will need for obedience and agility. Most of our points lost are due to handler errors vs. training weakness
  • Find a better course design system. I have a good program for AKC courses (the style used when I judge 4-H), but the WCRL programs that we were given are not very good and are quite hard to use. if this is easier, I will procrastinate less and do a better job designing courses.


December WCRL Trial

We just had our last 2014 WCRL trial – the third one we hosted this year and my second time judging. It was a very fun day, we had quite a few students participating and they did very well – both in terms of having some great behaviors from their dogs and in placements/qualifying scores.

Blaze needs one more qualifying score at Level 3 – but it didn’t happen. We had knocked bars (eyes? mobility? over excitement?). He did the directed jumping successfully (his hardest exercise!), didn’t run away, and refused to leave the room when we were done.

WCRL Dec 2014Griffin had a great day – 2 runs for placements and two runs in “judge’s class” (courses I planned, judged by another judge – not for placements).  All of his scores were over 200 (maximum is 210), one perfect score, and all our errors were handler errors or Griffin anticipating. I was very happy with how he did – he was very attentive, responsive, and engaged.  We tried to do more AKC-obedience type handing off our leash and at the end of the course heeling to where the leash was located to help prepare for our upcoming AKC obedience attempts.

We still have things to work on!  I neglected to appropriately use our warm up – instead of calm and focus activities I did quick heeling and turns which did keep him focused but probably got him more excited – which led to anticipation errors and increased excitement. I wish I had thought about this better – it would have been good to test our calm warm up, especially knowing that he will be even more excited when we’re in a new environment. Another part we need to work on is calm heeling – in an obedience ring we would have lost points for the forging.  I’ll take that over him running off or being disinterested – but as I was telling people all day – it’s fun to handle a dog like this – but it’s also not really what you want!   Stand at heel is another thing to work on – we’ve been working on our moving/jumping stand but not the sit to stand. Each time Griffin did a giant (adorable) leap and landed very crooked.

He is so adorable!

March WCRL Trial

Blaze and Griffin

Last weekend we hosted our third rally trial through WCRL.  We invited students of all the classes to come and watch, trying to describe it as a type of “heeling competition event.”  We ended up with a handful of spectators at various points and one of our young class attendees helped with time keeping for a big part of a day. He went home that night and was reading the rules and hopes to enter the next trial!

My favorite part was that we had four instructors/assistants participating in the event. In the past there have just been one or two of us.  We had two people participate who watched in August and have been working on the skills since then. Both had great moments on course and those teams had a 100% qualifying score rate!

I had my first real judging assignment.  I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy judging ‘real’ events as much as I love judging 4-H, but it was a lot easier and almost as much fun. I need to judge three more Level 1 classes before I can go into the process to start working on Level 2. It was challenging to be hosting the event and judging and trying to work my dogs.

Blaze had two really beautiful runs – we’ll ignore the crooked sits because at 13 he just isn’t able to move all the way into heel position. In his first ever attempt at Level 3A we did great with the directed jumping (his weakest exercise) and he did a really nice job with the position changes at a distance- I was worried about those because breaking a stay is a disqualifying fault.  On our second run he had a moment of running out of the ring right after the start – right into the arms of the designated dog catcher.  In our last run of the day (Level 2B) he had a really beautiful run, staying focused the entire time. I’m really sad we don’t have his good runs on video – our video person only remembered to get his run away!  I really like that we were able to get in two bonus exercises that day. In the past trials I didn’t risk it. I really hope he will be well enough to run in our late August trial. In the past few months he’s slowed down quite a bit.

Blaze didn’t want to pose for a photo.

Griffin alternated between being very sharp and being incredibly sniffy (on the freshly mopped/vacuumed floor!).  When he worked, the quality of the work was very nice, including position changes. In the last trial we had a few situations where he would do the wrong behavior (sit/down/stand) – this time he was 100%.

Goals for the next trial:  Blaze being in good health to work- Blaze getting more Level 1 Q’s and Level 3’s if he has the endurance. Have his directed jumping stronger as well as the position changes.  Griffin getting trained for a leave it, a better warm up routine, and fixing the anticipation in his moving stand.