Rally Trials

The girls and I crashed and burned at our Rally trial.

I feel like I ought to say that the trial itself was awesome, really well organised and friendly people. The venue was good, but the ring was in a self-contained hall and that freaked a lot of dogs out, including mine. That was not good, but considering the size of the ring required for Rally (it’s huge, seriously), I’m surprised they managed to find a decent indoor venue at all.

I need to say all the above, because Rally? Absolutely not for me.

Kim and Rio were way too distracted or disturbed by the venue and environment to qualify, and I’m good with that. Those are things we could work on for next time! I’m pleased with various bits that each of them did, and I know my nerves didn’t help at all. I feel pretty positive about what went wrong and how we could fix that … if we were going to do any more Rally trials.

I got to watch most of the other classes, and the standard is very, very, different from what I believed it would be. I was under the impression, from reading the rules and from watching AKC Rallyv videos, and from our training classes, that Rally was a more relaxed style of obedience. The kind of thing where precision heelwork and so forth was all but discouraged, and that the idea was to provide pet dogs at Good Citizen type level obedience with a competitive scene which focused on teamwork and attitude (and offered a potential stepping stone to more the more precise and demanding competitive Obedience). That is definitely not the case.

Everyone who qualified had the “obedience style” heelwork, sharp sits, etc etc. I got to watch most of the classes at my level, and dogs who I expected to have qualified did not; I’m no judge, obviously, but I watched a few dogs work who were clearly enjoying themselves, focused and listening, responsive, just occasionally a bit wide on turns or lagging on heelwork (and thereby causing a tight lead or so forth). They got handed big NQs. Likewise lots of dogs getting marked for crooked sits/downs/etc, when they weren’t sat perfectly straight or right next to the handler = big NQs. I knew Rally in the UK had changed as it crossed the pond from America (no treats allowed, stricter rules on multiple verbal/physical commands), but I didn’t realise how different it is.

I am disappointed, since I hoped Kim would get to learn some new things in her retirement from more active sports, and we could spend some time together competing for some basic Rally titles. But there is no way I have the patience to – or want to! – teach the kind of precise heelwork that is apparently required. Not only that, but if I did teach proper heelwork, it’d be easier to enter Introductory or Pre-Beginners Obedience classes. In Rally, the course takes about 2mins to complete, so the heelwork section is a LOT longer than an Intro or Pre-Beg heelwork section, and a lot more complex (with the stations and turns). In Intro Obedience, you can even take a toy in with you, or food in a sealed container to be given between exercises!

I’m not sure if things will change as the sport evolves, especially now that it has been adopted by the Kennel Club. I hope the KC will take it back to the AKC roots, but I don’t think that will happen in time for Kim and I to get to enjoy it, sadly.

Unexpected Weekends

Dylan and I were supposed to spend this weekend at Ribble, getting back into our competitive groove and admiring all the excellent partnerships who had travelled north (and south) for the G6-7 Olympia Qualifier. However, Dyl came up very lame on Friday morning.

Friday was a Day of Rest, but Rest did not help. Dyl wasn’t weight bearing at all by Friday evening. Naturally, I panicked, and I envisaged Dylan’s life from now on as a relaxed and happy retired dog. I inevitably do this when my dogs are injured, but I do it more often with Dylan. I did it especially this time, because I am 99% sure his injury was in his wrist. I say 99% because I’m not a vet and Dylan hasn’t seen the vet, but I am obsessed with watching my dogs’ gaits, and I know a shoulder/elbow/toe injury when I see one. Wrist injuries are new to me, and in my mind, they shriek “ligament damage! Hyperextension! This is down to agility and his poorly constructed shoulders!” and so forth.

We spent Saturday alternating between cold and hot compresses. Thankfully my family is a sporting one; we have a lot of bandages, heat pads, ice packs, and so forth for human based injuries. We also have a lot of vet wrap, although we now have slightly less. This lead to dramatic improvement, and by Sunday, Dylan was only limping a little bit.

However, no Ribble.

Instead, I spent Saturday portion of the weekend at a practise Rally session. The trial is next weekend and I offered to help the organisers with their practise set up today. That sounds very professional, what it really means is a small group of friends spent several hours drinking lots of hot beverages and eating Mini Eggs and considering rolls of rubber matting. But we did get to do some actual practise with the dogs.

Kim was surprisingly good. She isn’t the neatest, but I am hoping that the judge will view her efforts as being in the spirit of Rally, ie. a sport for pet dogs who are not precisely trained in the fine art of obedience. She can do all the exercises however, and despite the lack of room for interpretation and creativity (and noise) that Rally presents, Kim had her competition head on. I love her.

Rio was not good at all in terms of good meaning “able to do anything other than be overwhelmingly excited”. Everything was Exciting with a capital E. A new venue, new people, new smells, Kim working first … too much. Bits of Rio brain all over the place, but definitely not in her head where I left it. Our first attempt involved Ri doing each station at 100mph whilst making a squeaking noise continuously, and then rampaging in any direction she fancied whilst we were supposed to be doing heelwork to the next station. Eventually we got some semblance of focus and managed to complete the course, but it was not pretty and it was not a qualifying round.

I am revising my earlier predictions and counting Rio as a NQ now. Especially if the continual under-the-breath singing throughout falls under the auspices of the “Excessive Barking” rule, which I strongly suspect it will even though Rio didn’t technically bark.

So, in the next 7 days, not only do we need to polish up our basic station work, but I probably need to teach proper heelwork to Rio rather than just loose-lead walking, and I also need to properly break her habit of offering a down when we come to a halt. It should be a sit. This isn’t too much of a problem when she’s focused and working at a respectable threshold, but when she is overdosing on life, she defaults to hurling herself into a down (hitting the floor with audible wince-inducing noises. I wonder if that counts as harsh handling?).

Dylan, please be fixed promptly and with no lasting effects.
Rio, you can continue to be crazy but please be crazy with some level of focus and the ability to remember things we have actually worked on before.
Kim, continue being perfect in every way. If I have to criticise, it would be good if you could be more accepting of lying on the dirty floor and give me less evil glares, please?

Quiet

Rio is still being unnaturally quiet. She was very flat at agility training and then very distracted at rally this week.

Agility was just a bit odd, she tecnically worked very well, did all the sequences etc, but just seemed extra sensitive and flat. It’s weird working her when she’s being quiet, I’m so used to the barking and shouting and little growls. There was definitely no fizz to her on Tuesday, anyway.

At Rally she was a bit more noisy and enthusiastic. She was actively seeking out her tug and offering behaviours, but she was also very distracted by things like chairs and radiators and Bryn. We have been working on her distraction levels as she can get caught out by food smells (ie. other people treating their dogs whilst she’s working) but it’s usually a very minor problem.

Everyone has suggested she’s still just settling down hormonally – five weeks after her season ended? – but it could well be the case, I don’t know much about intact bitches. (I have everything crossed it’s not something like a false pregnancy, because that would be a nightmare of epic proportions). I’m also wondering about the change of food, but I don’t think that would kick in over a four day period, I expected to see any potential changes after a week or more. I’ll keep an eye on it and hopefully she’ll come around. I feel like I’m probably overreacting anyway, which is probably normal considering.

Kim and Rio have an extra Rally training day this weekend, which is really just a chance to practise some full courses. We’ll see how we go! Our class next week includes a bit of proper scoring on half a course, and fingers crossed we’ll get round without losing more than 14pts.

Level Unlocked: Weaves

Rio can weave! Well, she can do four upright poles, and that counts in my book. We’ll work on taking her to a full set of 6 this week, and then progress will slow down again as I don’t have room for 12weaves at home.

Thus far, I’m pleased with how effective the 2×2 method has been, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the be-all-end-all method. I have been lucky enough to a) have relatively nice weather over the past month, and b) been able to steal 6 weaves from my agility group to bring home. If I didn’t have equipment which was easily accessable for very short, frequent sessions (ie, if you only see equipment when you’re at class once a week), I’m not sure how well it would have worked. I don’t think I’ve really gained the biggest advantages that this method should bring, either, because I have very limited space which means working on entries, and approaches at speed, has been impossible.

Rio also begins Rally this week, which should be fun. Mollie’s class finished last week, but due to her health, she wasn’t able to attend the last two classes so I took Kim instead. Kim does not have the heelwork for Rally, but she’s really cute at doing all the station exercises, and she really enjoyed her trips out, so she’s going to continue as well.

I’m very much enjoying not having flyball training or competitions to attend. I didn’t want to blog about my decision to leave my team – and the sport – before; it was both a very difficult decision, and a very, very easy one. I’m not going to another team and I’m not missing anything about flyball, at least not right now. Whilst I was sort of aware of it at the time, it’s only in leaving that I truly understood of how stressful flyball had become for me.

Mollie + Rally

I sort of forgot to post and say that in a moment of madness, I started taking Mollie to Rally classes. My original plan was to take Rio, but I’m still waiting for her to come into season (as well as now worrying in case she had a silent heat or something to confuse me) and I didn’t really want to have to miss four classes of the six week class. Classes in a hall aren’t Dylan’s kind of thing and Kim hates heelwork, so Mollie was the final choice.

We have our third class tomorrow and it’s going really well. Mol is really enjoying her trips out and she’s actually good at it! Her heelwork is nice, and we need to work a bit on changing positions (Sit-Down-Stand) as she’s got old creaky bones and it takes her a while to shift.

I have to admit I didn’t expect Rally to be something I particularly liked. I just thought it would be nice for Mollie, and I definitely thought it would be a bit boring and maybe a bit little-old-ladies with Border Collies they can’t control, sort of thing. I’m still not sure about the ladies and their wild Border Collies, I haven’t come across any just yet but nobody has been able to promise me they aren’t lurking, but I can say it’s not boring. The exercises have been fun to teach and it has been really nice to start as a newbie again in something. And Mollie is having a lovely time!

I’m crazy enough to be entering Mollie in a trial in February anyway, and I’m even contemplating entering Dylan as well.

Reruns

My last post apparently ruffled a lot of feathers, which is sort of funny really, since most of the offended parties weren’t the people I was thinking of when writing. Strange how that happens, isn’t it? None of the offended people spoke to me directly either in response. I stand by what I said however. There are a lot of issues in flyball, some which are just topics of debate that I haven’t made my mind up about (ie. the NAFA/European swing) but some which are genuine problems (and the issues which aren’t problems are much less pressing than those which are, but that also seems open for debate). I heard lots of stories at Drax about all the temper tantrums from various people, and whether those things happened or not, the fact I was being told about them was a case in point. And yes, this all happens in agility too, and yes, I know I’ve participated in being part of the problem. Whether I want to continue to be part of that kind of community is one of the many questions I’m considering with regards to my future to flyball.

Either way I’ll be going to the Rocket Relay seminar (hopefully). It’s too good an opportunity to miss, Kelly and Aaron are amazing trainers and I do tend to feel all motivated after the seminars!

Now that’s all cleared up (hmm, I’m sure!), I have been working on heelwork with everyone bar Kim. Rally isn’t something I’m wildly enthusiastic about, but it’s definitely offering some training challenges. I try and remember Silvia Trkman’s attitude to heelwork: “It’s much harder to motivate your dog for long minutes of just heeling. If you want to learn about motivation, obedience is a way to go.

So, my rough sort of goal is to enter a few Rally trials next year, just the local ones. Rio does not find obedience very exciting, but again, see quote. I am trying to make it exciting, and I just liking working with my puppy. Mollie will be able to play as well, since she has great heelwork (she came ready trained), and there is nothing a partially sighted dog can’t do in Rally. Dyl and I are practising as well, but Dylan’s stride is too long for my stumpy legs, we aren’t good partners for heelwork!

I’ve also been working on Rio’s target for boxwork again, we haven’t done anything in months and it’s a bit shaky. Need more hours in the day to do all this training.

Raining Again

Waiting on Rio to go into season at the moment. I sometimes can’t remember why I’m bothering to go through this! I’d really like her to come in any day around now, really …

Ri is running super at agility, we are starting to string together our foundation work into longer sequences now. She ran at small height for the first time this week and after jumping the first one or two she decided that crashing through the poles was easier. It’s a novelty to have a dog who knocks poles! I do think she’s just figuring out her legs however, and she made a much bigger effort to keep the poles up with a bit of selective reward placement. My handling and timing is not great with her, we still haven’t really figured each other out and she’s a lot faster than Dylan.

She is also doing really well at her obedience class, and I’m hoping to start Rally with her in October! It’s actually something I’ve been wanting to do with Dylan, but he can’t cope with a class environment. I popped into the hall with him after class one week, with two other dogs present (one he has known for 6yrs, one he doesn’t) and he has a meltdown. I don’t really want to spend the whole class with Dylan trying to sit on my head, so Rio is going to go instead, and hopefully I can teach Dylan the ropes at home.

All the rain over the past couple of days means we haven’t been able to get out and walk the dogs safely, so they are all going a bit stir crazy. Thankfully Rio and Dylan could burn off some steam at agility (which, being on the tops, is safe from flooding!) but it will be nice to get them out into the wilds again.