The dogs had fun hanging out at my parents', but were restless because they obviously knew we came there for a reason and hanging out at grandma and grandpa's wasn't it. So we headed back to the trial site and I got them settled into their crates. Heffner had another great day in the crate, especially in such tight quarters. First up was Bess in Excellent. We were also the very first honor dog, which made me a little nervous since this was our very first time doing the honor position. Thankfully she's got such a solid stay that I wasn't worried and she did great! In the course map that I posted above the finish looks like it's behind the honor spot and a mostly comfortable distance away. Unfortunately it didn't translate onto the course that way. The finish sign was about two feet to the side of where the honor dog was sitting. A slightly uncomfortable position, but Bess did great!
I wasn't sure how quickly things were going to move along, so I sat on a bench outside the ring with Bess to wait our turn. As I said before, things were VERY crowded. There wasn't really a whole lot of space in the aisle way there, or anywhere, so I finally gave up and put Bess back in her crate. It's not worth it to have to constantly readjust your dog while you're waiting to try and avoid them getting stepped on or bumped and jostled.
When we did get into the ring, I was pretty nervous. This was our first crack at the Excellent ring and while I felt that Bess had a good understanding of the stations, I was just plain nervous. Unfortunately my nerves got the better of me on the very first sign. ARG! It's a halt to a stand to a down. I skipped right over the stand part and put her into a down. Which she dutifully did. Only for me to realize that I screwed up and needed to redo the station. Lovely, screwing up right off the bat!
I was pretty happy with the backing up three steps. She didn't do it as straight as she can and I was really hoping that she would knock that one out of the park. When she's on with it, she kind of crouches down and just hauls butt backwards. I have to move pretty quickly to keep up with her. But the backing up was okay.
My next foible came at station 14. And yes, if you look at the course map, it's a VERY simple 270 degree left turn. How could someone possibly screw that up, you might ask? Well let me tell you! By turning 360 degrees and ending up facing the wrong direction and not being able to sort bluff through the mistake. There's another station that had to be redone. Oy! Seriously!
Our next tricky move was the moving down. Bess picked up on this soooo quickly! With her I can actually use the obedience signal for downing and she will do it. We didn't get it completely on our first try. She actually sort of stopped half way down in a crouch, so I opted to redo the station. The second time around she totally nailed it! I most definitely was proud of that.
In the end, we qualified and took first place! Not our most brilliant moment, but that's entirely my fault. D'oh!Next up was Heffner. We did a little warming up before going into the ring and I felt that he was paying attention really well considering all that was going on. We managed to squeeze our way next to the ring while the dog ahead of us was finishing up and then we were in. Once we stepped into the ring, things pretty much went down hill from there. Getting him to sit at the start was a struggle. He pretty much didn't want to make eye contact with me at all. At our very first station, I had to repeat it twice because he didn't want to move from the down position. I finally just resorted to giving him the command "up," to which he responded by jumping up ON me. We made it through the next three stations some how, though he was really slow to sit on station 3. By the time we got to station 5, he had decided that looking any where but at me was the name of the game and sitting was completely optional. After wasting what felt like an eternity trying to get him to sit for the first portion of the sign, I finally gave up, thanked the judge, and we left the ring. This is pretty much the scenario that I most dread. This would be our worst case scenario. Heffner just totally checks out. At this point, I'm pretty sure it's stress related. That was a really stressful environment with a lot of people and dogs crammed into not a lot of space. I was definitely on edge.
I've been toying with the idea of just pulling him for tomorrow. However, all the utility and open obedience people will be packing up and leaving, so there will be fewer dogs, crates, and handlers about. And I plan on just going in with a different attitude. I'm going in with the plan to pull him from the course on a positive note. Somehow, some way I will find a really positive note to end on and then we will leave the ring. At this point, qualifying with him is not a high priority. I've thought about trying to go to more matches, but we have NONE of these issues at matches. I've also decided that I just won't enter him in any trials being held at this location. I have to be more careful about the locations that I trial him at. They need to be positive experiences, and I just wasn't creating the right atmosphere for him today.
So fingers crossed that tomorrow goes better, regardless of the results!