Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Competition Obedience, the REAL Class # 7

Apparently I was ahead of myself last week - last night was class # 7.

After having such a terrible class last week, I was very seriously considering shelving obedience for a while (see previous post). So, of course the performance dog gods conspired against decisive decision-making and we had a great class last night! Hmmm...deep thinking will be required this weekend.

I arrived to class at exactly 5:45. Typically I try to get there a little bit early; I like to give Ike an opportunity to sniff before we go into the building. I walked into the training area and everyone was sitting outside the ring. Feeling as though I was late, I sat down in the closest available seat. Yuck - right in the path of travel for the drop-in agility session in the ring next door. A few moments later Esther suggested I move Ike to a seat that was right next to the ring and set a bit back. She then discussed the atmosphere at trials and being aware of your dog's personality when setting up a crate/choosing space.

Last night we went over small pieces of what we have learned, individually. Esther had a cd of trial sounds playing in the background during our class. Before our first exercise Esther said that after every directive a judge gives during a trial, we as the handler should hear, "when you are ready." She said it was more important for our dogs that we do things at our pace than doing them immediately.

During the first exercise we started in the Set-up position, had our dog heel walking straight forward, halt, heel, turn left, exercise finished. Ike and I didn't do too poorly! Hurray! I was a wreck - Esther reminded us all that we were to do these exercises at the level we are working with our dog and if the means heeling while feeding with two hands, that is fine. Deep breath.

Second exercise was a Figure Eight while heeling. Yipes. Ike and I have never done this. Deep breath - Esther says don't worry (oye....). Esther explained that she would like us to start the Figure Eight set slightly back from the center (of two jump poles), bear to the left and when coming around the pole make a straight line diagonally between the poles around the other pole and halt. Well, Ike and I forgot to halt. Of course, I blurt out "I'm sorry!" Esther said not to be sorry and she hadn't told me to halt. Okay, do it again. All in all, I didn't think it was SO terrible. Especially considering Ike and I heeling is like a fish biking....at least during this stage of the game.

Between exercises there was a really interesting conversation going on between the students about leashes. It seems people in class prefer a 3 foot leash. Karen with the Keeshonds let me borrow one of hers (she had 11 with her!); much better than the 6 foot one I am using. It was nice to feel included in a bit of the camaraderie that the students who have known each other and competed with each other for a while have.

For the third exercise all of the students entered the ring and spread out to try "Stand for Examination" at whatever level we're at. I immediately volunteered that Ike and I are only at the "Sit for Examination" point! Esther recommended practicing Fronts, Finish, and Stays while she worked with each student individually. Since Ike would not allow me to walk behind him during a stay last week at class I practiced that - and we were successful in the ├╝ber-exciting classroom environment. Yippee!

When Esther arrived at our spot, she asked me to put Ike in a sit-stay and only walk the length of the leash away from him. Ike stood up the very second Esther touched his head and was obviously uncomfortable. She asked me to put him in a sit-stay again but stand directly in front of him, my feet nearly touching his paws, and feed him while she approached and touched his head, shoulders, and back. Ike would not eat one bite as soon as she reached him. Esther had us try once more, this time she said she would not touch his head, just his shoulders and back - Ike was able to eat. Yay! Obviously I need to find scarier people to help me practice this exercise!

The next exercise was the long sit. Esther placed Ike between the Keeshond and Taz, the Australian Kelpie. I was a little nervous about being next to Taz because he is young, but he pays excellent attention to his mum. Ike was very good and successfully completed his long sit. Unfortunately I praised him a bit too much afterward when we were going directly into a long down. Ugh! I will learn - I swear. Ike was very good about the long down, as well. We have to practice these things at home more. Ike sometimes thinks if I return he can pop up from his long down/sit.

All in all the class went really well and I ended up feeling like I definitely want to just keep chugging along, trying to learn. As I said - I will have to think about this over the weekend.

No comments: