Friday, July 8, 2011

Draft Test Report

On June 25th, (I know- it was a while ago!) both Pie AND Fancy passed the Bernese Mnt Dog Club's Novice Draft Test and now get to add Novice Draft Dog (NDD) after her name. The test was held at Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea, CA, hosted by the local Berner club. This was part of our San Diego trip.

This was my first draft test so even though I read the rules and watched the instructional video, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The freight haul was a bit difficult for Fancy as it started with a fairly steep hill and pulling 20 pounds is 2/3rds of her body weight. We waited in the shade as the Berner in front of us refused to pull the 20 pounds, then we went around and took the hill at a trot to make sure we didn't run out of steam. Of course Pie had no problem pulling 20 pounds.

Since Bloom was my first dog and he learned all his "new tricks" at over 10 years old, it is hardly worth mentioning that both Pie and Fancy learned carting at mid-life, with Pie being 5 and Fancy 8 years old (but I went ahead and mentioned it anyway.)

There were 20 teams entered and only 5 passed, so the test is not as simple as it seems. 2 Berners passed, including 1 who has tried and failed 11 times! In addition to the 2 Berners and my 2, the other pass was a Swiss Mnt Dog.

For those not familiar with the test, Pie and Fancy had to pass a basic control portion, consisting of obedience commands while unhitched; a maneuvering course while hitched to the cart, including a figure 8, moving an obstacle, accepting a load, traversing a narrow gate, right and left turns, and a slow (which was hard for her Pie;) a long down while hitched; and a freight haul for a 1/2 mile across the park, up and down hills and around the lake, tennis courts and past several large and noisy parties, with a 20 pound load- both girls pulled a 20 pound bag of bird seed.

The test is judged by 2 judges. One judge commented Pie was "beautiful to watch" and the other said, "Lovely! Wonderful teamwork." Fancy's comments were "Adorable! Great teamwork" and "Beautiful teamwork." Yep, we are a good team, and on top of that they are adorable and beautiful. Doesn't get much better than that.

One of the things that makes the test hard is you go straight from the unhitched basic control portion, to hitching up in the ring and you can't do any warm ups with the cart outside the ring. I just realized this a week ago... a somewhat unmotivated dog like Fancy feels the lack of food rewards. I've always practiced by warming her up with cookies while attached to the cart, then putting the cookies aside. So I had only a week to get her used to pulling the cart with zero cookies first. The nice thing about a Belgian is they should enjoy working for the work, and don't need to be bribed with food, so that was not an issue with Pie.

It was a great day and very nice to pass on our first try. Pie loves pulling and seems to enjoy the challenge of pulling a heavier load so I see the open test in our future. In open you pull your weight or 60 pounds, which ever is greater and for Pie it is the same. The only other difference is everything is off leash. I've always practiced off leash because the leash is actually a hindrance for me, trying to direct the dogs and hold the leash- so that will not be a challenge for us. Fancy will not be going onto open since pulling 60 pounds (twice her body weight for 1/2 mile) would be asking too much of her.

A note on Fancy: I always feel like she deserves extra credit since she is never working for the love of the work itself. She is doing it because she was trained to do it and because I ask her to do it (and because there are usually treats involved.) When she finally got her UD after 13 tries, and when she finished that 1/2 mile, 20 pound haul, I was so proud of her because she didn't WANT to do it. But she did it anyway. Thank you Fancy- you are such a good dog for me.
Since carting/ draft work seems to be a historical job of our breed, I hope someday the Malinois club will petition AKC to allow draft titles to be added to Malinois pedigree so Pie's new title can be officially recognized. Carting is not a historic function of Tibetans, so Fancy's title will never be official. But that is fine by us!

Since the test I've had several friends share our success with other friends, quite proud of the fact that of the 20 teams, while only 5 passed, 2 of those belonged to me, and neither was the "official" breed. I suppose I'm pretty proud also. But anyone who knows my girls knows they are good dogs, and will not be too surprised.

All the different carts.

My cart with our bird seed and harness.

Fancy doing a good job.

Moving the recycling cart out of the way.

Fancy sitting for the petting.

The narrows- she did it very well.

The big hill. At this point the Berner in front of us had already dropped out.

Up the hill on the freight haul.

Fancy getting a bit tired at the end.

Pie being commanded to stand for her harnessing.

Pie maneuvering.

In a down while I move the "movable object" portion of the test.

Pie greeting the stranger in a down since if the dog moves at all it is a failure.

Getting ready for the down.

The long down.

Pie posing with her new title ribbon, the judges, and the recycling.

Fancy was being a good girl to hold her bottle.

I like this picture of Pie better.

Here is a short video comprised of random clips from various parts of the test.

1 comment:

Older and Wiser said...

This would have been fun to wathc. Great job Fancy!