Hmmmmm.....well, I've meant to blog the past two days, but things have just been plain busy. And now I'm beat. And also had the brilliant idea to schedule all sorts of work for myself at work for tomorrow, which is also a holiday. After a busy dog show weekend. Yes, I am truly brilliant!:oP
Lets start with Friday shall we? Friday after work I decided to grab the bull by the horns and head off to a local training facility for what I thought was going to be rally run throughs. I had briefly thought about bringing both dogs along, but it's really more ideal for me to just take Bess and sort of scope the place out ahead of time and have a game plan for how to manage Heffner. It was definitely a good idea because the rally run throughs that I thought I was signing up for was actually an obedience show and go. Yes, the all mighty traditional obedience. The epitome of precision obedience work. The dog sport that has intimidated me for so long and that I wasn't really sure I was made of tough enough stuff to compete in. So I was a little unsure when I showed up and they told me it was actually an obedience show and go. But I figured heck, I'm already here and I want to compete in obedience with Bess anyhow. We'll give it a whirl and see how it goes! Thankfully, the people who were putting it on were incredibly nice, helpful, and understanding when I told them I am very much a rank novice and had only been working with my dogs on these exercises for a brief period of time. They were encouraging and I am very thankful for that!
As I sat on the bench with Bess and watched some of the other handlers warming up with their dogs, I was just in awe! The kind of precision heeling work these people were able to do with their dogs was just amazing to see! All the dogs were so excited and happy to be there. Their attention was RIVETED on their handlers. They were reading every little body cue and staying in heel position so well with their handlers regardless of what they were doing. I was just blown away! I was also thinking "I want that!" :o)
Since Bess and I are so new to all of this and I've been pretty clueless about what to work on on my own (we will be taking some competition obedience classes once I get the basics firmed up), we did some easy heeling patterns, a figure eight, a stand for exam, a recall, and the long sit and down. I have been working both of the dogs in situations that have either limited distractions or are devoid of distractions. Practicing in this type of environment was pretty distracting for Bess and it took a little bit for her to get into work mode. Our heeling pattern was a bit rough, but we made it through and did decently. Our figure eight was pretty good, but still kind of rough. The stand for exam went well considering that I've never had her stand stacked for a stranger to go over with me not baiting her or otherwise distracting her. Her recall was GREAT! And her long sit and down were also GREAT!:o) I learned a whole lot about the areas that I need to immediately work on as well as things to start incorporating into our training and getting a game plan for. The biggy was to WALK FASTER while heeling. More recently she has started lagging a little bit on the heel. When they told me to pick up my pace, suddenly I had that happy, exuberant dog heeling at my hip who's attention was totally on me. It was amazing!
At any rate, I now have what I've been looking for, which is a weekly obedience practice group that will give me good feed back and let me practice in the very type of environment that we'll be competing in. And the great group of people there is a definite plus! It was a great experience and has really gotten me excited about training and eventually competing in rally and obedience.:o)
After the fun and excitement of the show and go, we headed home so that I could get a quick run in with the dogs. I really don't want to skip any exercise with Heffner because I really want to get him back up to snuff. What I picked up on Friday evening is that his pads have definitely softened with his reduced exercise. So that will take a bit of time to harden up again to where I want them to be. After our separate runs (some quick laps around the local high school track), it was time to clip and bathe Bess for the dog show this weekend. By the time I got everything done and set out for the morning (lovely 8am ring time!), I was too tired and out of time to do any blogging.
Then it was up and at 'em early Sat. morning, leaving the house by 5:45am so that I could get to the fairgrounds early enough to get set up, get a little practice in with Bess, and just chit chat with people before our ring time. While Bess won her class, we didn't do anything after that. It was a small enough show that I opted to handle her myself. In part because we have the Corky Vroom handling seminar coming up the 6th and 7th of March, so I need to make sure that I get the practice in.
After breed, I hung out for a bit and watched Georgia, Bess' breeder, show a Scottish deerhound. He was such a sweet dog! And they're so light on their feet!
Once dogs were walked and put away, it was off to the obedience rings to watch and learn. I've found it immensely helpful to watch competitions ahead of time so that I can start to mentally prepare myself and also see the various little things that I need to proof the dogs for. And of course, having a reactive dog, I need to always plan things out in advance so that I can best manage him and keep him well behaved so that no one even knows that he has some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moments.;) Once I get him into that work mode, he's usually quite good at tuning the other dogs out unless someone walks their dog up his butt. But again, I usually am on the alert for possibilities like that and it very rarely happens. Anyhow, I was having a great time chatting with my friend Andrea who just finished her Rally Excellent title on her bullmastif Brody (way to go guys!!), and another bullmastif competitor who has quite the formidable reputation with his dogs. I tried to alternate between watching rally and watching the open obedience rings. So much to take in! I think that's going to be one of my new goals for every dog show that we're entered in. I'm going to try and watch some of the obedience and rally competition so that I can pick things up along the way.
By the time I left Albany, it was getting well into the afternoon. I had a brief rest period at home and then Adam and I were off to get some dinner and see Avatar in 3D at the IMAX theater. Amazingly enough, the showings are still selling out at that theater two months after the release of the movie! And I have to say, after seeing the movie, I can see why! However, by the time we got home again, I was just zapped. It had been a long day of running all over the place and I was too beat to do much other than crawl into bed.
Thankfully, today we had a ring time of 12:35pm behind the tibetan mastiffs, so I was able to sleep in. While we won our class again today (not really hard when you're the only one in it!), we didn't really even get much of a look in the winners bitch ring. A fact that is always disappointing to me when it happens. There are times when I've wanted to throw something at the judge just to get their attention and get them to really look at my dog. This has been the case regardless of whether I'm showing her or Georgia is showing her. On the up side, danes are really strong in bitches right now. On the down side, danes are really strong in bitches right now. It's tough competition, even at small shows. But I do have to admit that I am slowly getting more and more disheartened. While I enjoy going to the shows, I enjoy showing, I enjoy chatting with people; it's getting old to have my dog get over looked time and time again. She's got a great body, she's solid of temperament, and she moves effortlessly. Unfortunately she's starting grow less fond of the conformation ring and she lacks some of the showiness that a lot of the other bitches out right now have. Regardless, it is getting old.
Once we got home I took a little break to catch up on some email and then I loaded both of the dogs up for some off leash time in one of our favorite little foresty areas. This was Heffner's first off leash outing since December! It definitely did him a lot of good to get out and just meander around unrestricted. And Bess was very obviously much happier having him along on our jaunt. Previously, when it was just her and I doing these outings, she would wander around, but stayed surprisingly close to me. Unfortunately she also didn't get as much exercise that way. With Heffner along, regardless of where he was, she was all over the place. Running here and there, and always sort of competing with him if heaven forbid, he got ahead of her! It was great to see and I'm happy that we're starting to get back to a more "normal" routine.:o)
And with that lengthy post, I've pretty much summed up my weekend. Next weekend is a "free" weekend and I just don't know what I'll do with myself! he he he I'm actually really hoping to get some light hiking in or possibly something snow related if we could get some actual snow this week! We'll see. Incidentally, I did decide to send in my registration for the skijoring race at the end of the month. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will yet again get cancelled due to lack of snow, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed! If nothing else, there are some matches that I can take the dogs to.