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A taste of judging

Last Saturday, I played judge for a Rally match at my dog obedience training club. It was fun. I enjoyed choosing and setting up the courses, running the people and their dogs through them, watching for errors where I might take off points if I were a real judge at a real trial, all to help my fellow club members improve their and their dog’s performance.

I discovered that I naturally see certain things, like inefficient or incorrect footwork on the part of the person, or the dog’s sitting at an angle at the Halts, rather than sitting parallel to the person. I saw incorrectly done stations and missed stations. But I realized later that I  hadn’t really noticed out-of-position heeling — as long as the dog was not really lagging for forging, as going along pretty much next to the person, I didn’t really see if the dog’s neck was right next to the person’s pants seam or not. Interesting…

But what I did gain was a pronounced appreciation for real judges. For their ability to stay focused, observe closely, treat every body with respect and kindness, all while standing on hard floors, for hours.

Thank you, judges.

I didn’t judge the whole time. In each of the courses, I took a few moments to run one of my dogs: Cooper in Excellent, Tooey in Advanced, and Carlin in Novice (sort of).

Each dog had a different experience:

  • Cooper: “Hah! I already have my RAE title. I don’t have to do this anymore. Except the jumps. I like the jumps. Let’s do that jump again!”
  • Tooey: “You really want to do this? You do? Really? Oh… okay…. But there will be food in the ring, right?”
  • Carlin: “Wow! Look at all these dogs! Smell all those treats! What are all those cones and signs all over the floor? Oh, you want some heeling? Ok, I can give you three steps. 1, 2, … Oh! Look at that puppy over there! Let’s go say hi!”

We all came home tired and ready for a nap.

No news is good news

In talking with a fellow IWS owner this weekend (from overseas, even!), I realized that I hadn’t written about Cooper’s SLO lately. I guess that’s because nothing is happening.

And I mean that. Nothing is happening. No nails are breaking. No nails are splitting or bleeding. It’s been wonderful. Some of the nails are a bit misshapen, but we’ve even been able to grind all his nails every week, just like we do with the other two dogs. Nothing special.

Well, nothing except that he’s still getting a bunch of medications and supplements every day:

For the SLO:

  • fish oil capsules, 3-1200 mg in the morning and 4-1200 mg in the evening (for a total of 1260 mg EPA and 840 mg DHA omega-3 fatty acids per day)
  • vitamin E, 400 IU, 2x/day
  • niacinimide, 1-500 mg capsule in the morning, and 2-500 mg in the evening
  • doxycycline, 2-100 mg capsules in the morning

For the low thyroid:

  • Soloxine thyroid supplement, 4 mg, 1x/day

For his coat and general well-being:

  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Ultimate multi-minerals and vitamins, 1.5 tsp, 2x/day
  • Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes: Gro-Hair, a source of zinc methionine, .5 tsp, 2x/day
  • Glucosamine/chondroitin powder on his breakfast

About maybe 10 months ago, we decided to just stop with the doxycycline and niacinimide. I just thought — all those antibiotics all the time. That’s got to be hard on his system.

But then, about 5 months ago, we noticed that he was breaking and splitting a lot of nails. While there was no infection and Cooper was never disabled, his nails were ugly and seemed to make him uncomfortable. He spent increasing time licking his nails and chewing off the broken pieces.

So, we took him back to the veterinary dermatologist, who advised us to get him back on the regimen. So we did.

I imagine that he’ll be on all these medications for the rest of his life. We’ve tried different combinations of the various -cyclines, and we’ve tried Chinese medicine and acupuncture. We’ve tried quitting all the medicines and staying with just the supplements. But it looks like he’s not going to be one of those lucky dogs who go into remission with just fish oil for maintenance.

So it’s just better to stay on the program, so that nothing keeps happening.

 

Russ showed Carlin in his first two conformation shows this last weekend at the Vancouver Kennel Club shows. They’re both newbies, but they both did a great job. Carlin, especially, had a good time. And he’s did pretty well, letting the judge examine him and mostly not bouncing on his way around the ring.

See for yourself.

Here they are in the Best of Breed ring on Saturday:

And here they are on Sunday, first in the Puppy 6 to 9 month class:

And again in the Best of Breed ring:

Just for the record

The following list of the dates, clubs, and scores for Cooper’s successful RAE legs are also links to the blog posts that describe each trial. In each post, you’ll find course maps, photos, and commentary about how the trials went.

AKC Rally Regulations define the qualifications for an RAE this way:

Upon completion of the Rally Excellent title, qualifying scores may be accumulated from the Rally Advanced B class and the Rally Excellent B class to earn the Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) title. To earn a Rally Advanced Excellent title, the dog must have received qualifying scores in both Advanced B and Excellent B at 10 separate licensed or member rally trials.

  1. December 7, 2013 – Sherwood Dog Training Club (83/89)
  2. January 31, 2014 – Mt Hood Doberman Pinscher Club (96/100&1st  – High Combined Rally and Rally High in Trial!)
  3. March 15, 2014 – Mt Hood Keeshond Club (93&4th/94)
  4. March 29, 2014 – Washington State Obedience Training Club (72/77)
  5. April 28, 2014 – Irish Water Spaniel Club of America (75/95)
  6. June 7, 2014 – Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers (87/88)
  7. June 21, 2014 – Clackamas Kennel Club (91/95)
  8. June 22, 2014 – Clackamas Kennel Club (88/89 — 1st time he succeeded two days in a row!)
  9. October 25, 2014 – Vancouver Kennel Club (79/96)
  10. October 26, 2014 – Vancouver Kennel Club (89/93&4th — two days in a row again!)

We also had several unsuccessful runs. Sometimes we qualified on only one trial on a day, and sometimes we qualified on neither:

Cooper RAE legs 9 and 10

Let’s just start out with the happy ending: Cooper earned his RAE title today at the Vancouver Kennel Club show at Ridgefield, Washington. Cooper has worked so hard for me for quite a while now, and I am thrilled to reach this goal at long last.

He earned leg 9 (out of 10 needed for the title) by qualifying at both the Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B levels yesterday. (For the RAE title, an exhibitor and her dog must earn qualifying scores in Advanced B and Excellent B classes at the same trial 10 times.)

photo by Jill Roman

unofficial photo by Jill Roman

The Excellent course had some tough sections to it. One of Cooper’s least favorite, for some reason, is the Send to Jump at station 9. I think that was at least partly my fault. For this exercise, your dog has to go out ahead of you to jump over a jump, while you stay behind the jump. There are ways to make your dog think that you are running with him, so that he’ll keep going, but I think I must not have done any of those. He got to the jump, stopped, looked at me, and then walked around it. Oh well, 10 points gone for that.

But beyond that, notice especially stations 11 through 14. At station 11, you take a left turn, then at station 12, start moving quickly for just a few yards. Then, you slow to a normal pace at station 13, but that normal pace lasts just a few feet before you all of a sudden have to put your dog into a stand-stay at station 14, while you keep moving. Essentially, your dog goes from a run to a sudden stand-stay, all within just a few yards.

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As you can see from the legend and score sheet below, Cooper actually did this tricky part with no errors. What really got us was missing the jump, plus some slow sits, a bit of lagging, and some sniffing in the ring.

Even with the score of 79 in Excellent, Team Cooper got a 4th place in the class. A lot of teams were challenged by that course.

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We did really well on the Advanced course, with a score of 96. Quite a few teams did that course really well. We tied with another team who also got a 96, and we were edged out of 4th place because that team did the course 15 seconds faster than we did.

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When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel quite right. Seemed like I had to go to the bathroom way too often, and I couldn’t get down more than a cup of coffee and half a pancake. Nerves. Today might be the day that Cooper finally got that 10th leg, but I couldn’t expect it. Only once before has Cooper succeeded at two Rally trials, two days in a row. Chances were good-ish that we would reach the RAE title today, but not great.

Today’s Excellent course was weird. Note the transition from station 2 to station 3. At station 2, you and your dog are facing at a diagonal to the ring. Then, station 3 (Spiral Left) requires you to heel for 5 steps or so, and then, just as you get to the first cone on station 3, take a sharp right onto the opposite diagonal, so that you can enter the spiral properly.

And later I got lost. After doing the 360* Left (station 13), I got myself all turned around and couldn’t figure out where station 14 was. I finally said, “I’m lost. Where’s 14?” The judge kindly pointed at it. And without thinking, I repeated station 13 (fortunately – the just told me later that we’d have lost 10 points if I hadn’t), and then went on to 14 and the Finish line.

But I will say this: this course was set up perfectly to allow Cooper to actually jump that Send to Jump (station 7), the exercise that confounded him yesterday. We had pretty much half the length of the ring to run toward the jump, and by the time I had to stop so that I wouldn’t go past the jump until Cooper had jumped and returned to me, Cooper was already mid-air and over the jump before he realized I wasn’t with him.

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I was very pleased with our score of 89, which put us just below the 4th place exhibitor, who had a score of 90.

While waiting for our turn at the Advanced course, I did everything I could think of to stay calm. Slow, deep belly breaths. Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose. Reminders to self that Rally is fun. Picturing Cooper when I first got him, and reminding myself how much I care for him, no matter what happens.

All the same, I kept thinking: If we can just qualify one this one last course, Cooper will earn his RAE title.

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But Cooper and I both kept it together in Advanced. He was very slow to sit at the Start line, and I almost lost him a couple of times when he got distracted by something outside the ring. But we didn’t miss any stations or make any horrible mistakes, and we got out of there with a 93 and another 4th place.

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So with all of that, Team Cooper earned our 9th and 10th RAE legs. As soon as the AKC records the RAE, Cooper’s full name will be CH Realta Rosario Cooper CD RAE SH SHU.

I started on the RAE path to honor Cooper’s daddy, Balloo, who earned an RAE. I was so impressed, mostly because at the time I was really struggling just to get the initial Rally Novice title with Cooper. Cooper did it because he loves me.

I am so grateful to Russ, who went along with my Rally goals; to Joan Armstrong, my Rally instructor; and to Rosemary Sexton and Tammy Lewis Walker who trusted me with this wonderful dog.

Cooper RAE

official photo by Elaine

I took the three dogs out for an easy-does-it training day last Sunday. It was bright, sunny, and warm (weird for this time of year), at a new location for us. Mainly, I just wanted to see the grounds where some friends of mine train, and give the dogs a little time out running around.

Joan brought frozen ducks and a chukar to train with, plus a winger (essentially a giant sligshot) with which to fling the birds into the air.

We started with Joan’s dog, a Toller who has recently learned how wonderfully fun retrieving birds can be. Then Donna’s black Lab, Turbo, who several years got his Master Hunter title, is now retired, and just enjoying a bit of retrieving in the sunshine for the heck of it.

Then Cooper. You know, it’s a good thing we’ve stopped trying to train and compete in hunt tests with him. Despite the years of training, he is still as eager and as unsteady as he ever was as a young dog. It took quite a bit for me to get him into heel position and to stay there until I sent him for his birds. But, oh boy, did he love being out there retrieving. Such joy to do what he was meant to do, and if it meant being corrected and pulled back into heel position many times over, that’s OK. The retrieve is worth it.

Then Carlin got to do a couple of short retrieves. I am so glad that he’s happy to pick up and hold a duck. So many dogs hate the taste or texture of ducks, but not Carlin. I held him by the collar at my side while we watched the duck fly up into the air and then come down. As soon as the duck was launched, Carlin leapt up himself, eager to Go! Go now! Go right now! But I held unto his collar until is butt hit the ground in a sit, and then I sent him off to fetch his duck.

He went out and picked it up with no problem, then turned around to come back. About 3/4 of the way back, he decided that he really wanted to keep the duck to himself instead of bringing it to me, so he tried to swerve around me.

Carlin holding his duck - photo by Joan Armstrong

Carlin holding his duck – photo by Joan Armstrong

Fortunately for me and his long-term hunting career, he was wearing a 40′ leash, called a long line, so when he started to veer off, I grab the end and pull him to me.

Carlin returning with duck -- photo by Joan Armstrong

Carlin returning with duck — photo by Joan Armstrong

I let him keep his duck for a few minutes, petting him and telling him “Good hold” as he held onto it. Then I said “Drop”, and he actually dipped his nose a bit and dropped the bird into my hand (which was ready and waiting right beneath the duck). He got in a couple more very good short retrieves. Good boy.

Then Miss Tooey. First she did a very workmanlike single retrieve with the chukar — out and back at deliberate speed. Then a lovely double retrieve with ducks. She doesn’t rush, she’s in no hurry at all, but she gets her birds and brings them back.

Tooey returning with the memory bird -- photo by Joan Armstrong

Tooey returning with the memory bird — photo by Joan Armstrong

After that, my friends had to leave, but they were happy to leave me with the birds, so I planted them out in some tall grass for Cooper to find and retrieve. I do believe he was in heaven doing that, and could have done it all day.

But we had to head home — laundry to do, dishes to wash, rugs to vacuum — all the usual excuses for not training longer on a lovely October day.

Stewarding at an Obedience trial is usually straightforward. You take and return leashes, lay out the gloves for directed retrieve and articles for scent discrimination, raise and lower the jumps. You check exhibitors in and mark them off when they’ve finished competing. You follow the judge’s instructions. Best of all, you watch the dogs and handlers perform, sometimes with delight and sometimes with commiseration.

But sometimes, something disagreeable comes up. My first experience with this was almost a year ago, observing some double handling in an adjacent Obedience ring and collaborating to report it to that judge. But this weekend, I had to handle it myself.

Here’s what happened:

Exhibitor A comes up to me and says, “You’re stewarding, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” she said, “I have to tell you something.”

“OK.” I’m thinking, Oh dear. This can’t be good.

She then went on to tell me that Exhibitor B approached her, and said that if A’s dog looks at B’s dog during the group stays, “there is going to be a blood bath.”

Oh God. Those two dogs, if entering the ring in catalog order (as called for in the rules) would be right next to one another for the group stays. How likely was it that A’s dog would not ever look at B’s dog during those many long minutes of the group stays? And if an attack were imminent, their handlers would be no where close enough to prevent it.

As soon as the exhibitor currently in the ring was finished, I called the judge aside and reported exactly what I was told. It put the judge in a tough spot because no actual aggression had actually occurred, so all the rules that she could otherwise use to excuse an aggressive dog could not be applied.

I don’t know exactly what happened (except through hearsay), but I observed that B, whose dog had not qualified in the individual exercises, was not in the lineup for the group stays. And A’s dog ended up qualifying and winning 1st place in the class.

But I couldn’t stop wondering about it:

  • Had A told me the truth about what B said?
  • If A had told me the literal truth, did she accurately convey the intent behind B’s comment? Was it simply a statement of fact?  Perhaps B’s dog hates A’s dog so much that an attack was likely. Or was it “merely” a threat of some kind to unnerve A, and an attack was actually not likely?
  • And even if A had accurately conveyed B’s intent, did intent matter in this case?
  • And why hadn’t B simply pulled her dog from the trial when she realized that A’s dog was there and that they would be right next to each other.

My first thought is that B had no business bringing her dog into the Obedience ring if she thought there was the slightest possibility of her dog attacking another dog.

But maybe B’s dog hates only A’s dog. Part of me thinks that if A is not there, and if B’s dog is OK with every other dog, then perhaps it’s OK to enter. It’s hard enough to find close-by Obedience trials that fits one’s schedule. Plus, once you’ve spent money to enter and traveled to the show site, it’s very difficult to just walk away. I would think it’s simple enough (although perhaps not easy or comfortable) to coordinate entries so as to keep these two dogs apart.

But then I think about all the innocent dogs whose show careers are derailed or ruined because another dog harassed or attacked them at a show, and that leads me back to my original thought: if you think your dog is at all dangerous to any other dog or person, keep it away from dog shows. And get help for the poor dog.

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