This morning the dogs and I headed down to Albany, OR for a rally trial and conformation! It was a painfully early morning, with us needing to leave the house by 5:30am to make it down there in time for me to get crates set up, potty the dogs, take care of my ring conflicts, and just generally be where I needed to be. It was a pretty hectic morning that was filled with managing ring conflicts.
I had originally entered both dogs in rally at this trial because lately rally hasn't been starting until the afternoon. Since I'm pretty much guaranteed to have a morning ring time for conformation, I thought it was the perfect fit. I have since discovered that when you are most counting on NOT having ring conflicts, you are guaranteed to have them!
I started the morning off by getting to take a mastiff into the conformation ring. OMG! I have such a new found respect for mastiff owners (that most definitely goes out to the Relentlessly Huge's mama!)! It's one thing to see those guys at the shows, it's a whole different thing to put your hands on them!
After taking care of my dogs, I went ring side to meet Razor, a cute brindle boy with a ginormous head. Bess' breeder had been called in to help handle Razor because his original handler broke her leg. Unfortunately Georgia had a ring conflict with another breed that she was showing at the same time. She asked me if I would help out, and I was excited at the opportunity. It was crazy to work with a breed that is just so overall massive. Everything from moving them to hand stacking them is so different. It was a really neat experience and I am just still amazed at the size of his freaking head!
After Razor's mom took him back, I had to run out to the truck to grab Bess (I hadn't crated the dogs in the rally area just yet because I wanted to limit the amount of time that Heffner had to spend in his crate and I also didn't want to have to leave him in it without me around for very long) and get ready for her Excellent run. The ring stewards for the Rally ring were awesome and so willing to work with my ring conflicts and the fact that I wasn't entirely sure where I was going to have the conflicts. Bess' Advanced run got moved around I think three times. Our judge was also super awesome and told the stewards to move dogs around as needed to help with conflicts. Unfortunately I ended up missing the walk through for Excellent, but the course had such nice flow to it that I knew I wouldn't get lost.
As I mentioned, our first run of the day was Excellent. My only concern with this course was that I had a happier Bess in the ring. She is fully capable of doing all the stations, even in stressing down robot mode, but I wanted at least a little hint of the happy crackhead that I see more frequently outside of the ring (unless you count agility ;0) ). Overall we're starting to see some improvement. I played with her lots outside of the ring, but she still gets serious as we enter the ring to set up and we have to build from there. I sense some crazy excited set up work in our future!;0) Her final score was, I believe, an 89.
After our run, I played with her some more and then put her in her crate and ran to the conformation ring to see where they were at. It's a major in dogs all four days and I was counting on all those dogs entered to help buy us enough time that I could hopefully be done with both dogs' runs just in time for conformation. That did not seem to be the case. When I got over there, the judge was already on breed for the breed ahead of us. Crap! This judge was really cooking along. I asked my friend Marian to text me right before winner's dog went into the ring so that I could gauge where I was in rally. I then ran out to the truck to grab Heffner who would be running first out of the two dogs for Advanced.
Thankfully this was another nicely flowing course, because I again missed my walk through since Heffner was going to be the first dog in the ring. The course maps were posted on a board right outside the ring which did help me immensely. Even though Heffner has been edgier at home since the incident on Wednesday, he was a lot better at the show. He hasn't had any bad experiences at dog shows or trials and seems to be able to differentiate between what's going on at a show versus seeing another dog while out on a walk. He doesn't shut down, it's just kind of like he understands the setting and understands that the other dogs there are also there to work. It makes it somehow easier for him to see all these other dogs and still go on his merry way of doing whatever, versus having these same dogs setting him off the way many of them would if we were out on a walk in our neighborhood.
Back to his run.:) My only concern for this run was that I had a dog who was working with me and not shutting down like he did at the last trial. I didn't do a ton of traditional warm up with him, just mostly focus work and playing our little games that he likes to play. He was happy and working well with me. Right before we went into the ring there were some dogs making a fracas in rather loud and booming voices in the grooming area that had him concerned. I was a little afraid that I was going to lose him to his worries, but he got it together. I was a little frazzled because I had just gotten a message that winner's dog was about to go in the ring. Crap! I took several deep breaths and then we were off. While he was still a little disfocussed at the beginning, he had an otherwise great run! I used certain parts of the course to my advantage to get and keep him happy and with me (things like the fast and the jump). The best thing was looking down into that ridiculously cute face staring back at me, with his little tail tip wagging!:0) There were a couple of times that I wanted to just reach down and hug that happy head. But I refrained, because we were having a good run and I didn't want to ruin it. We crossed the finish line and I threw a little party and told him how wonderful he was. He was happy and indicated to me that he was already aware of his wonderfullness.:) Heffner's score was a freaking 92!! And to make my high even higher, he took first place in his class!! (sadly I missed the giving out of awards because I was waiting ringside with Bess to go in for conformation)
After much telling the big boy how wonderful he is, I put him in his crate and got Bess out so that I could run over to conformation. I waited a bit out of his direct site to make sure that he settled down in his crate and wasn't going to create any problems. He settled down pretty quickly and Bess and I were off. I was a bit frazzled when I got there, but had a few moments to collect myself and get Bess ready. Not that she needed much readying. For a sport where you can take food and toys into the ring, can touch your dog as much as you want, and talk to your dog as much as you want, she didn't need any prep time.;0) I had her entered in American Bred and there were two others in our class. Unfortunately this judge didn't care for her that much, and put us third out of three. I have a feeling that it was more of a head thing than anything else based on the other dogs that I heard she put up. Definitely not an ear thing though. The bitch that won our class and then went on to take Winners Bitch and Best of Winners is a natural eared harl. Something that most people consider a double negative. (mayhaps one of these days I should go into the intricacies of color versus ears in our breed in respect to the conformation ring. It's interesting to me, though not always to people outside the breed)
Though I wanted to stick around to watch everyone show, I had to run back over to the rally ring to see where they were at and get ready for Bess' Advanced run. I ended up having a little time to kill, but soon enough we were up. The goal again was to have a happier Bess in the ring. Her Advanced run was definitely happier than her Excellent run. I think the key with Bess may be using more of the verbal markers in the ring that I use in training. I use a lot of yes' to mark correct behaviors. I realized this week while working on the various tricks, that she still doesn't entirely associate the sound of the click with having done the correct thing and therefore getting the treat. When I pair the click with my verbal yes, she totally gets it and is more willing to volunteer behaviors. I just randomly started doing that more during her run and she seemed to respond pretty well. She was still less than the happy and more precise girl that I get while practicing, but I'm hoping that we're working our way towards our goal. She also got a party when her run was over. I think her score was a 91. Which means that she now has RAE leg #3!!
So overall, even though it was a crazy and hectic morning, I'm incredibly proud of my dogs for a variety of reasons. Regardless of how things go competitively, at the end of the day, these two rock my world!