Friday, 27 July 2012

Obedience practise

So Spryte is definitely pregnant!  Spryte went on Wednesday for an ultrasound and it showed at least 3 or 4 puppies.  I was able to see heartbeats and moving paws, it was really neat.  At this point I was pretty sure she was pregnant as she is getting bigger and bigger by the day.  But I wanted to know for sure that it wasn't a false pregnancy and a rough estimate of number of puppies.  It was a trip worth making for my peace of mind and that of the people on the waitlist.

Well needless to say now that Spryte is for sure pregnant there have been some restrictions imposed on her life. No more agility (we haven't done any for weeks just in case she falls off the equipment), no more playing fetch (she runs to hard and often skids into the ball), no more sleeping on the bed (can't risk a fall) and no playing with dogs other than our own (can't risk being body checked or rolled).  Right now there isn't much mental stimulation or physical activity going on in Spryte's world, so I have been trying to break the doldrums with obedience practise.  That is one great thing about obedience, it really works the mind, but it's not too tough on the body.  So we have been working all the Open and Utility exercises to varying degrees.  Spryte is loving the work and she is tired enough after that she sleeps for several hours.

This morning we had one of our practises and it went well. I wouldn't say she did perfect on everything, but we got to work through a few weak links and her understanding of the exercises will be a little stronger each time we work through a problem.

One example was on the retrieve over the high jump (jump is only a few inches off the ground). I wanted to work hard angles over the jump, so if the dumbbell falls wide, she will know how to find the jump after retrieving.  So the idea is to set the dog up on the far side of the jump, lateral to the jump, holding the dumbbell and then recalling her over the jump. She would have to make an effort to move towards the jump and take it, instead of coming straight which would bring her around the jump.

So I brought Spryte to the far side of the jump, put her in a sit/stay, gave her the dumbbell to hold and started walking away to the other side of the jump. As I'm walking I hear "thunk", I turn around and she's dropped the dumbbell on the ground. She gets a "what was that?" and I try it again.  Again I walk away and "thunk" she has dropped the dumbbell again. This happened once more and then it became clear, that we need to work on holding the dumbbell while I leave (she hates holding the dumbbell, so it's something I am constantly trying to build value for). 

So back to baby steps. Hold the dumbbell and I turn my back on her and turn back, Spryte is still holding the dumbbell, good girl! click and treat. Then I take one step and turn back, she is still holding the dumbbell, click and treat! I basically did this a few feet at a time until I could walk all the way to the other side of the jump and recall her over the jump with the dumbbell in her mouth.  This part she does perfectly as jumping is her favourite thing to do.

This was not what I expected to work on during my training session, but I'm flexible and work what needs working. In the end she has a better understanding of what her job is when  given a dumbbell and she has worked through failure until she found success.  Both are lessons well learnt and worth the effort.  And I enjoyed our time together training and bonding.  And I think she is happy for a chance to act like a real dog during her pregnancy term.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

EKKOC Dog Show Results

Last weekend I attended the Evelyn Kenny Dog show with Strider and Spryte.  Strider was there Friday and Saturday night to play scent hurdle racing.  He is retired from obedience and rally, but he was very happy to come out and spend some time with me getting cookies.  He ran well and earned his Scent Hurdle Dog Masters Excellent title (SHDMX).

Spryte was doing both conformation and obedience.  As most of you know, I just wanted to finish up her CD as she only needed one more leg.  We qualified in both the rounds finishing her title and earning a spare leg just in case.  She took two High In Classes with scores of 197 and 195.5.  Unfortunately the 195.5 was under an American judge and she docked us 1.5 points for barking. The other judge was more forgiving of Sprytes "talking".  Spryte's performances were pretty good, but to me she felt a little distracted. She hadn't eaten much in several days (morning sickness I'm hoping) and I think that was affecting her focus and overall performance. But either way she finished it and now I can move on to the fun stuff in obedience.

Our real success came in the conformation ring.  Spryte went from 0 to8 points this weekend. I am still amazed at how quickly she gathered points. I had entered her in 6 shows before this, starting at 6 months of age doing 5 shows as a puppy and one show last summer.  She had picked up some reserve wins and a Best Puppy in Breed but that was about it. At the time I was discouraged and thinking that this sport was way tougher than I first imagined.  So going into the ring this weekend I didn't have high hopes of getting any wins. I knew Spryte looked good (nice coat and she had filled out a bit), but in the end it all depends on the competition and what the judge likes.  So I was shocked on Friday when the judge picked Spryte as Winners Bitch and Best of Winners.  I was so excited to have finally got my first points on my dog.  Saturday my friend's Bi Blue bitch took the open class so Spryte and I were done for the day, which was ok because we were in the obedience ring twice that day anyway.

Sunday we went back into the conformation ring again.  This time we were showing under an Australian judge and I could tell pretty quickly that she liked my dog.  We won our class and then back into the ring for best of breed. I had my fingers crossed that we would get another best of winners and as we were gaiting around the ring as a group the judge pointed to me first.  I was thinking to myself, this has got to be good.  I didn't realise how good it was until the other dogs lined up behind me.  The judge had awarded Spryte Best of Breed! An incredible win as the topped ranked Sheltie in Canada was one of the dogs we beat. And now on to the group ring.

Up until this point the conformation ring hasn't bothered me one bit. I don't get nervous and I don't take it too seriously. However the minute I walked into the group ring and spied some professional handlers and the best dogs of each breed, I began to feel the dreaded ring jitters.  I wanted to do well. I wanted to showcase my breed the best I could and I wanted to look like I belonged there.  It felt like it took forever to get to Spryte and I.  We were the second last dog out of a group of 15 or so dogs.  I stayed calm, did my down and back and stopped in front of the judge. She took a long look at Spryte, she walked all around her, stopping a few times for a better look. And then we were back in line while the judge finished off with the Corgie behind us. 

The judge then picked the short list, and to my amazement we were in it!  How exciting and I was flying high at this point, making the short list was a huge honour in itself.  But again I stayed calm and kept Spryte focused and standing still.  Then the judge started picking for the Group placements.  First to the Bouvier, second to my friend's Kelpie, I was so excited for her I didn't even notice who she picked for third.  Then the judge looked over the other dogs at us and pointed to Spryte for fourth place. Wow we had done it! A group win with my first show dog and the best part is I handled her myself. I was beaming from ear to ear!  And I now just might be a little hooked on conformation shows :)

Here is a video of Spryte and I on Friday.