Monday, March 7, 2011

Hardy's first competition

Hardy and I are home from our first weekend of APDT Rally trials. I had considered competing with him in the Puppy Level in November and decided against it. Now, he is almost 11 months old and I decided to give it a try with him in order to see where he is right now. We left Laurel home because I wanted to be able to focus on Hardy. I find the facility where the trial was to be difficult for dogs. It was a World War II manufacturing plant and although the training club has done extensive improvements, the building is still less than perfect. The hall is long and narrow with big pillars in the middle and things tend to echo. However, it is accessible and no longer has a chemical smell and was nice and warm. Laurel never does her best there but she also got her first rally and agility titles there. 
The puppy course on Saturday was nice and flowing with space to move. The judge emphasized having fun with the puppies and making it a positive experience. I was not surprised that Hardy was distracted and interested in sniffing but he did all the exercises and the bonus. We got points off for tight leads but I was very pleased. We Q'd with a 2nd place.
Sunday, the puppy course map indicated it would be much more challenging. 1/2 the exercises were stationary (at the most 1/3 are allowable) so I talked to the judge about it. She changed a couple signs and emphasized all the things we couldn't do. Hardy was less distracted and we had fewer tight leads (since I have only one hand to use on the leash it's hard for me to let go and take it up in order to avoid a tight leash) but I got tons of "extra cues" deductions. I'm not sure I deserved them but I have to keep my goals in mind - I wanted to see where Hardy was even though I knew he wasn't ready to really compete yet. Only 2 puppies Q'd and Hardy was one - with another 2nd place. I was very pleased with my boy, even if I wasn't thrilled with the score. I think Sunday went much better than Saturday and I think it shows an inconsistency between judges that we got a 197/200 on Saturday and a 180/200 on Sunday. So, I need to let go of being annoyed by that and remind myself that Hardy did lots of good things - he was super in his crate, he walked on a loose leash everywhere (not just in the ring), the pillars and strangeness of the building didn't bother him and I think he's doing great for the amount of work we've done with rally. 
I probably won't start competing much with him for awhile - I'd like him to be really ready before we get serious but in the meantime, we might try a Zoom class in C-WAGS (no stationary exercises). Again, I have to manage my competitiveness and remember our goals - he is my next service dog, before anything else!

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