Last Sunday I was finally able to debut in obedience. I did Beginner Novice A and Rally Novice A. It was held at Southwest College in Bonita, California (small town near east Chula Vista in San Diego County.) It was a very warm day. I had watched other dogs in the higher classes where their handlers were pleading to their dogs to do certain tasks. The dogs would phase out, and turn their heads away. It was hot. From experience, the more your dog turns from you, the higher your stress level goes. You have eyes watching you and when your dog doesn't perform, you become more stressed and exasperated. The handlers are thinking "Oh NO! not NOW!" Seasoned competitors have been there many times.
For Beginner Novice A, I got a score of 187 1/2 out of 200. Not too shabby for the first time out. Mickey certainly could perform better, but he wasn't completely engaged on me. He did his heel fine, but didn't look up at me. Although some will argue why do they have to look up at you? I find that when Mickey looks up at me, he's more engaged, and focuses on my body movements ready to move smoothly with me when I make turns. Dogs read our shoulders well in what we are going to do. Head down and looking forward he will not catch as quick, unless my feet tell him.
Mickey and I need more practice. Not drilling, practice. He needs to realize that we will be doing these activities in high distraction places. The more I get him out to places, the better he is in focusing. In the past month, I have been taking him out more and I've seen a huge improvement.
For Rally, my score was 70 out of 100. I just passed. Several times he and I bumped into each other. His focus was less. Was it from high distraction? Too hot? who knows. We need more practice. Not drilling, but practice. More fun games. I will break down the signs and do 5 at a time, then play, 5 at a time then play. We have always done the course in a row. My principles of training are kicking in here of bring down the criteria.
I am very proud of Mickey's performance, I couldn't be happier. He received a first place ribbon in Beginner Novice A and a white ribbon in Rally. Our next show will be July 7/8 at the Ventura County Fair Grounds.