The Lethbridge Dog Show and a Lesson Well Learned...

Finn and I headed down south on November 18, 2011 to attend the Lethbridge & District Kennel Club Dog Show.  Now, when I had registered for this dog show back in October, Finn and I had been working hard on polishing our Obedience skills to earn our CD (Companion Dog - Novice Obedience).  As an afterthought, I registered Finn for one Novice Obedience trial on the Sunday, along with the two Rally Advance trials on Saturday and Sunday that we were originally heading down for.  I will spoil the ending by saying we didn't Q in our very first Novice Obedience trial, but we did learn a hell of a lot for the future.

So, how exactly did the weekend go?

We arrived in Lethbridge around 4:30pm on Friday night which gave us plenty of time to attend a Obedience and Rally fun match sponsored by Go!Dog!Go! K9 Sports at the show grounds.

After realizing I still had an hour or so to kill before the fun match started, we headed back to the hotel to drop off our bags and set up Finn's crate.  The hotel was absolute chaos.  Apparently not only was it a dog show weekend in Lethbridge, there was also a girls junior high sports tournament going on.  Now, I can handle (and enjoy) kids one on one, but put a group of preteen girls together and I am very adamant as to why I only want "fur children".   :)

Back at the fun match we signed up for one round of Novice Obedience and a round of Advance/Excellence Rally.  The Rally run was fun as it always is, but I made a mistake on the entrance to the serpentine (entered with the first cone to my right, instead of my left  /facepalm) which cost us 10 points.   First lesson learned, I won't ever do that again *hopefully*.

Our run in the Obedience Match turned out well with us getting a mock score of 195/200.  Finn still tended to  lag behind doing our about-turns (which we had been working on but weren't 100% there yet) and other than one crooked sit when asking for a finish, he was rock solid and very focused.  I was super pumped for our obedience run on the Sunday.

With dog shows, it is always hit or miss when it comes to ring times.  Sometimes you pull the short straw and you need to be there bright and early before 8am and sometimes you luck out with a nice 1pm start time.  We lucked out with ring times for the weekend with Rally not starting until 1pm both days.  Bonus!

Saturday, we had a great start to the day.  Finn and I slept in, got breakfast, played some tug and then we made our way over to the show grounds.

Our Advance run was fantastic.  I worried a bit more than usual going into our run as the show grounds were pretty busy with spectators and three sides of the obedience ring were open for spectators to watch.  That is a decent amount of distractions for a young dog like Finn.

In the end, we wound up with a 98/100 and high in class.  Our judge, Judith Snowdon, made the comment that "it was a joy to watch Finn and I work together in the ring" and that you could see the special bond between us.  As much as I was thrilled with such a high score and the High in Class, the compliments by the judge made my heart swell.  I tend to doubt my capabilities as a trainer, especially with a dog as talented as Finn.  He is my first dog I've ever seriously trained and sometimes I think he is training me and not the other way around.  To hear comments like that from a judge, someone who has successfully trained and trial dogs, makes me feel as though I am doing a great job with Finn and fulfilling his potential. :)

After the show, Finn and I made a detour to check out a dog park nearby and run off some excess steam.  The Lethbridge dog park was gorgeous and Finn had a blast running around like a mad man.  I wish Calgary and area had more dog parks like Lethbridge.  What fun and what a work out!


Sunday's routine was similar to Saturday, with the exception that we would have to be at the grounds for our Novice Obedience run at 11:00am.

After waking and packing up the room, I decided to take a couple pictures of the dog park Finn and I had visited on Saturday before heading over to the show grounds.

Now our beloved trainer, Kim, at Hyper Hounds, has always warned me about exercising Finn too much before a trial.  Have you ever had someone tell you something which you shrugged off because you think "oh, that will never happen to me"?  Well, that was me on the advice of exercising Finn too much.  I never imagined a scenario in which I would run Finn too hard and it would harm his performance.  I mean, Finn is a crazy Aussie boy, he can go all day and night and still be begging for more!

So as I'm sure you have figured out, Finn and I got to the dog park, I took some pictures and Finn found some buddies to play with and had a blast.  Our total time at the dog park, maybe 15 minutes.

As soon as we get back to the show grounds, I fall back into our regular routine.  Finn hangs out in his crate and I mentally prep (and panic) for our run.  The fun match results from Friday calm my nerves a bit, but I'm still popping lifesaver mints in my mouth like Gregory House pops Vicodin.

Then the ring steward lets me know that we're on deck.  I pull Finn out of his crate and like usual, we start our warm up.  As much as my heart is beating a mile a minute, I try to walk into the ring with mock confidence.  The judge was very friendly, he gave us a minute then asked if we were ready. I looked at Finn, gave this terse little head nod and the run began.

Well, our run was horrible. Actually I shouldn't say that, our heeling was a wreck, but the rest I can be pretty proud of.  Looking back, I think it was a combination of my nerves and Finn leaving his focus and energy at the dog park.

To me, heeling is the most dreaded part of the Novice run .  It takes a lot of focus and if the dog isn't there mentally and easily distracted, then the heeling falls apart very easily.  In our case, I'd tell Finn to heel, and he would stay sitting while I moved forward.  He would lag, sniffed the human "poles" on the figure 8 and get distracted by the spectators on our about-turns.  We weren't connected, Finn wasn't focused and it showed.

So the official end result is that we NQ'd during our off-leash heel exercise, and I am perfectly fine with that.  I wouldn't have felt good if we had pulled off a Q with that run.

However, things that I am proud of during our first Novice Obedience run:

- The sit and down stays were rock solid
- Finn's recall was quick and there was no hesitation
- When he actually heeled, his halts were awesome

The Rally run was similar, but at least I could talk to Finn and clap my hands to keep his focus on me.  We came out with a 92/100, and would have scored higher if a certain handler hadn't moved her feet during a halt/front/finish exercise.  Oops.  The judge bugged me about that one :P 

So in the end we left the Lethbridge dog show with 2 Q's in Rally Advance and a very big lesson I will never forget.

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