This evening, after today’s adventures, I looked back on the blog to just over 11 months ago, to the last video I have of Cooper working in the Rally Obedience ring. It was a big day. He’d just won his show championship at the Rose City Classic, and that same day, he qualified in his 2nd Rally Novice trial.
That old video is vintage Cooper: happy to go along, but really distractible. From moment to moment, he might be paying attention to what we’re doing in the Rally ring, but on the other hand, he might be more interested in something on the floor, something going on outside the ring, something that the judge is doing, some noise he’s hearing from across the room.
In that show, he earned a 86 out of 100 — a not-horrible qualifying score. We went into the Rally Novice ring one more time, the next month. We qualified with a 90, and that third pass earned Cooper his Rally Novice title.
At that point, I switched to competition Obedience. I wanted Cooper to earn a Companion Dog (CD) Obedience title so he could qualify for the AKC All-Around Irish Water Spaniel award. He earned that last March, and that was the last time I had Cooper in any kind of Obedience competition. I started working with Tooey instead.
Tooey is different from Cooper. When Cooper doesn’t understand what he’s supposed to do, he just tries something, anything — whatever seems most likely or most fun at that moment. Tooey, on the other hand, is serious and not totally self-confident. She wants to do it right, and when she doesn’t understand what she’s supposed to do, she gets a bit anxious.
I wanted to lighten up things for Tooey, so I started to take her to a Rally Obedience class. You can talk to and encourage your dog during a Rally trial, and there’s a lot of action and movement — I thought that might make it more fun and less anxiety-producing for Tooey. I took Cooper along to class just for the heck of it, and guess what? It turns out he loves Rally Advanced. Unlike Rally Novice, it’s off leash, you get to jump over things once in a while, and the moves are just a little more complicated.
He’s been doing so well in class that I took a deep breath and entered Cooper in his first Rally Advanced trial. It’s scheduled in just over two weeks, at the Western Washington Cluster of dog shows in Puyallup. We definitely need practice. The class we’ve been taking is run something like a real trial, but to get even closer to a real trial experience, I wanted to find a match — a practice trial that is run just like the real thing so that both dog and handler can have the experience at less cost and no risk.
So I was thrilled to find a match put on today by the Silver Falls Kennel Club in Rickreal, Oregon, just south of Salem. And I was lucky to find a bystander who was willing to video it for me.
We did OK — the judge even said that had it been a real trial, we would have qualified. As you can see from the video, there were 16 stations*. I was glad there was a “Send Over Jump” (#103) because that’s Cooper’s favorite. I was hoping that one station would be an “Offset Figure 8” (#108), where the team has to go around traffic cones in a figure 8 pattern while ignoring bowls of food and toys, but no such luck. But there was a “Halt Stand Dog Walk Around” (#105), where the team stops, the dog sits, then stands, and then stays standing while the handler walks in a circle around the dog. That’s been a hard one for Cooper, and he didn’t do it perfectly today, either — but he didn’t fail it, either.
I was glad for the video because watching it, I can see that on the call “Dog Front — Finish Left” (#14) station, Cooper returned to my left side, but pretty much sat in the heel position. In that station, the dog is not supposed to sit before moving forward with the handler. I’m going to have to work on that one. And I encountered a station I’ve never done before, the “Halt About U Turn and Forward” (#102), so that was good practice for both of us.
Cooper is still my boy Cooper, though. In today’s video, you can see him paying much better attention to what we’re doing in the Rally ring, but sometimes he still gets distracted by something on the floor or the chair, something going on outside the ring, something that the judge is doing, or some noise from across the room.
* You can read a description of each Rally Obedience station by reading the AKC Rally Regulations, accessible from the AKC Rules and Regulations page.