Cooper being Cooper, I entered him in Rally Advanced in today’s Rose City Classic dog show in Portland. When I was considering in December which shows I was going to enter him in, I figured that there was every likelihood that Cooper would not qualify in least one of the three Rally trials at the Western Washington Cluster of dog shows in Puyallup. And a dog needs three qualifying runs to earn a Rally title.
So, for a back-up, I decided to enter him in Rally Advanced in one Rose City Classic show. I picked today, Thursday, because Thursday is the least crowded, least trafficked of the 4 days of shows.
The Obedience and Rally rings are right next to all the vendors, where show people come to buy dog shampoos, try out new scissors or other grooming tools, find that special toy, or try samples of various dog foods. The general public comes, too. And all of them, many of them with dogs, travel the walkway between the vendors and the Obedience and Rally rings. Lots of traffic and lots of dogs mean lots of distractions for Mr. Distractible Cooper.
Thursday has the fewest people, which means the least traffic, which means fewer distractions. But that doesn’t mean no distractions. Nope, not at all.
To see why, look at the arrangement of the four rings. In the picture below, and you’ll see that all four rings are set up in a large square.
Obedience and Rally rings at the Rose City Classic dog shows
That means that while one dog is competing in Rally in one ring, other dogs would be in the other three rings, competing in various levels of Obedience right next to him. They would be retrieving dumbbells that have just flown through the air, jumping over jumps, running out away from their handlers and toward the opposite end of their ring, which just happens to be just over the white barrier from where the Rally dog is trying to work.
So Rose City is tough. And we didn’t really need to go to Rose City because Cooper passed Rally Advanced trials on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in Puyallup. He’d earned his Rally Advanced title. But, what the heck — I’d paid for it already, so I might as well go.
Fortunately, the AKC allows “transfers.” That means I could bump Cooper up from Rally Advanced to Rally Excellent instead. So that’s what we did. Here’s a map of the Excellent course we ran today.
Map of today’s Rally Excellent course
It was not easy. I was very happy that it didn’t include a Figure 8 with distractions, a jump using a broad jump, or walking backwards for 3 steps while the dog stays in heel position, but it still had its challenges.
The first was station #2. That station was just three feet away from the entrance — which is also the exit. Cooper had to turn toward the exit to turn around me, and he noticed the exit. I could see that he was thinking about simply leaving the ring. I called his attention back, though, and we went on.
Then there was station 5. In that one, Cooper was supposed to lie down while I keep moving. On our first try, he got very distracted by the dog running toward him in the adjacent ring and didn’t lie down. I took a few steps back, called him to me, and we tried it again. This time, he lay down very s-l-o-w-l-y, and he did so facing the adjacent ring instead of the the direction of travel. But he was down, so I walked around him, and we continued on.
We did well, including his usual favorite, the jump, until we got to station 12. This is a moving stand, and he’d never done one of those successfully until once last night in our living room. In a moving stand, he’s supposed to stop moving forward and stay in the standing position while I keep moving. He sat instead of staying in the stand position, so we went back to try that again, too. He got it on the 2nd try.
But then, in station 13, he was supposed to make the jump again, this time in the opposite direction from before. That completely confused him. I gave him the command to jump and he trotted right up to it, and then just stood there looking around. I asked him three times to jump, and finally he levitated himself over it cleanly.
After finishing the other stations and passing the Finish sign, we had one more exercise. At station 17, he’s supposed to sit and stay there until I go get his leash from across the ring, return to him, and then clip his leash to his collar when the judge says “exercise finished.” We’ve done this one so many times just perfectly that I let down my guard and didn’t notice when he started to get up.
Consequently, he got all the way up and walked several steps toward me before I got back to him. I took him back to the station, got into heel position, and waited for the judge before clipping on Cooper’s leash and walking out of the ring. The rules say there is no retry on the Sit-Stay, so I’m pretty sure the judge took off the maximum number of points for Cooper’s getting up.
Fortunately, I avoided some common handler errors. At the Excellent level, the handler is not supposed to pat their leg, clap their hands, or lure the dog with an “air cookie,” and I managed to not to do any of those. And I think I made some good choices about which stations to retry and which ones to just accept and keep going.
Today’s score sheet
So even with all the mistakes, do-overs, and lack of precision, Cooper still qualified. Irish Water Spaniel #R53 got the lowest score in Rally Excellent B, but anything over 70 qualifies.
I took the ribbon and smiled all the way home. We have some work to do before we go into the Rally Excellent ring again, but it’ll be fun.
Except tonight, I think I’ll give him a break from Rally class. He can stay home with Russ, eat some dinner, and play with his favorite rubber duck. He’s earned it.
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