Friday, September 30, 2011

Our First Schutzhund Trial!

The long awaited "blow by blow (by blow") account! (Yes, it is that long.)

I got up at 5:30 on the day of our first SchH trial. Actually, I had been awake since 4. Fancy had woken me up with a particularly violent case of reverse sneezing (explosively sucking air in through the nose) and usually I can make it go away by holding her mouth and nose closed. But that didn’t work so I let it run its course and eventually she stopped. But I was too nervous to fall back asleep. I stayed in bed, hoping for sleep until my alarm went off. We had to meet for tracking at 6:30. I let the dogs out to potty and wondered why the sprinklers had gone crazy and gotten the patio all wet. When I went out the front to load the car up I realized it was not sprinklers, it was rain. I’ve trained protection and obedience in the rain, and I’ve tracked after the rain, but never had the opportunity to practice tracking while it was raining. Would the rain wash the scent away?

We got out the door by 6:15 for the short drive to the McDonald’s were we were meeting to caravan to the tracking location. It was still raining and there was some concern that the access road to the tracking field was dirt and would be inaccessible. The SchH 3 competitor was missing, the freeway was shut down, and no one could get a hold of her. After some people had breakfast (and I made the mistake of trying someone’s tasty looking iced coffee- gross!) the trial secretary decided we had to leave without her since the judge had to be done in time to catch her plane ride home.

We caravaned to the field. I spotted the sign for the road but everyone else kept driving so I followed them as to not be left behind in case they knew something I did not. However, when the leader made a U Turn, it became obvious we had just accidentally passed it. The car in front of me was too busy following the car in front of her and was not paying attention to traffic. She almost pulled out in front of an oncoming car and that car had to swerve to avoid her. Yikes!

When we reached the fields without further ado, it transpired that the access road to the field was dirt, but the main road was paved. However, it was not raining hard enough to make the dirt road muddy and everyone was able to park on the dirt road without fear of getting stuck. The SchH 3 competitor was waiting for us there. The rain had cleared to a mist which I knew would make the tracking even easier. I say even easier because the field was beautiful. Rich, dark, moist, scent holding, flat dirt, that showed every footstep. There were occasional furrows, but my dogs have been exposed to those. Since I train mostly on grass, this dirt was going to be easier that what we are used to.

First up was the tattoo/ microchip check to make sure you are not substituting dogs and the impartiality test to make sure your dog is neutral towards neutral people. Pie stuck her nose through the round microchip reader and Fancy pretended to be afraid of it. Other than that, not much to report. My dogs got tracks number 2, 4 and 6. The tracks were laid in groups of 3 so Fancy went first, then Pie, then Dottie.

The field was a bit confusing because the furrows went one way, but the judge wanted us to lay our tracks not parallel to them. Instead we went sort of at an angle. It was hard to keep track if you were going in a straight line when the visual lines you had did not line up with where you were going. The person who drew track number 1 did not follow directions, and her last leg ended up ending a short distance down Fancy’s first leg. I didn’t think much of it, but Fancy did. When it was her turn (her track aged 20 minutes- piece of cake) she started off correctly then got very confused. The judge helped us a bit by telling me it was ok to call her back to me then tell her to search again (apparently this is up to each judge) and with that help we moved on and completed the track with just a tiny bit of searching at the corners. Other than that she was very correct and did a great job. During the critique the judge told me Fancy was probably confused by the scent of the other dog’s last article since it was so close to her track. Interesting. I believe that since once we got past it, she had no trouble.

Fancy shows off her deep nose.

Fancy coming across her second leg.

Fancy's last article!

We were both pleased.

Back at the peanut gallery, my friend and mentor and the one who helped us so much with tracking, K, was apparently going into cardiac arrest thinking Fancy was not going to pass. But she did, and with a respectable score too- 88!

Next I laid the track for Pie, another competitor laid the track for his dog, and then I laid Dottie’s track. Pie was amazing. A little searching at each corner and fidgeting on the article, but such a good girl. As we came down the last leg and I knew nothing short of a direct impact by a falling satellite or possibly an earthquake would throw us off the track, I got a tiny bit emotional. Pie’s tail wagging, nose deep in the dirt- this is what all those hours and hours lead up to. I told myself I refused to fail tracking and at that moment I knew my goal was achieved. She downed on the last article and we got a cheer from the gallery. A 94 for Pie!

Pie walks (er drags) me out to her start.

Pie starting off.

Pie starting up again after her first article.

Pie's last article- we did it!

And finally, Dottie. By this time, the tracks were pretty far from the main road. Dottie gets very excited for tracking and I had to put up with being drug all the way out to the start pad. She was on her fur saver in the dead ring, but even so by the time we approached the start she was gasping a tiny bit. Turns out this actually settled her down (guess chocking will do that to you.) I was sure Dottie would be almost uncontrollable tracking on a fur saver, when she is usually tracked on a prong collar to help slow her down. And even then sometimes she needs several strong corrections to settle down and do it right, rather than rushing here and there and sniffing everywhere. But the long walk settled her brain and she actually started off slower than Pie. One thing I was concerned (just a tiny bit) with her was the field had many berries laying on top of the dirt, and tilled under. We never did determine what type they were, but would Dottie spend the whole time eating them? She’ll eat anything so I thought for sure she would, but nope- she was a Malinois on a mission! She also had some searching at the first corner, but her second corner was perfect. Also a little fidgeting on the articles but actually not as bad as I expected. Dottie finished her track with a score of 96! We missed High Tracking by 2 points to a German Shepherd. Not very surprising. They are bred to track in the methodical style rewarded by SchH. It is a sport designed for GSD, after all.

Dottie's deep nose.

Dottie shows off her tracking chops.

I get a hug from K and Dottie gets excited.

I am so proud of all of our tracking scores. We worked long and hard for those scores. We overcame the Mals natural desire to go fast and sloppy, and Fancy’s natural desire to quit when it gets tough. I must say I earned those scores though hard work, not luck.

After everyone finished (Dottie and Pie had 2nd and 3rd place tracking scores and Fancy was not the lowest!) we all caravanned back to the club. I stopped to pick up some donuts and ffluffy stopped to get a coffee. I ended up not eating any of the donuts because even though I was hungry, I was suddenly still too nervous to eat.

Pie and I went first in obedience and I got to pick if I wanted to do my moving exercises first, or the long down. I picked moving. Pie’s heeling was not her best and she got distracted by a gopher mound. The field owners put a lot of work into maintaining the field, so there are usually no distractions like that. Just too bad for us the gophers got busy. Her sit and down in motion were fine and so were her retrieves, but she did hit the 1 meter hurdle on the way out for some point deductions. Her go out was good and her long down was fine, although I heard her whining quite a bit. She got a score of 91 in obedience.

Nice attention from Pie.

More nice heeling.

Returning after the sit in motion.

Pie gives me a bump in front.

Pie's finish boing was not quite as high as Dottie's.

Nice pick up on the dumbbell for Pie.

Pie shows us how it should be done.

Pie over the hurdle.

It looks like Pie is struggling to get over the wall, but she was not. (I can - gasp- make it!)

The send away- she went!

The down at the end of the go out. She looks happy with herself.

Next was Dottie’s turn in obedience. Dottie is a bad little dog who takes advantage of the lack of corrections to get away with stuff. Or at least that is my interpretation of her behavior. Still trying to figure her out. Her heeling was distracted and I don’t think her ears came up at all. She downed on the sit in motion but did the down in motion correctly. Her recall was blazing fast but she forgot to stop and almost knocked me down in the front position! During the critique the judge called it a "slight bump." More like a "slight tackle!" She did her retrieves with a bark before each one which caused us points but showed she was excited to do them. Phew- good thing we had over a week to fix our retrieves when she stopped doing them. Dottie got a score of 80 in obedience. Oh- she also inched a bit on the long down. That dog...! I am a bit disappointed in her obedience. I very much want to figure out how to get the same good results in shows as in practice. I sort of get the feeling Dottie just doesn't care. Pie gets distracted but remembers her job and gets back to it. Dottie gets distracted then when she does not get corrected it is as if she becomes lazy because she doesn't care do to it just because, and there is nothing forcing her (a correction) to do it because I said so. At some points between exercises she drifted over 3 feet away from me and I had to tell her heel again to keep her from going away completely to do her own thing. I don't want to detract from our success, but Dottie is a frustrating dog in many ways.

The slow with Dottie.

Dottie in the group.

The "slight bump." Hmmm...

Dottie on the wall. Lucy for her the dumbbell did not drag her down!

But onto better things. The last phase- Protection! In order to pass protection you must get 80 points, not the minimum of 70 needed in tracking and obedience. Once again Pie went first. We heeled on to the field and Pie was riveted to the far side of the field. Eyes starting, ears and tail up. Her crittering pose. She seemed to be convinced there was something worth chasing up in the orchard. I pointed her at the first blind but she wouldn't look at it! I had to mark it several times and she finally glanced at it. I took that opportunity to tell her "Search!" and she took off. At first I thought she was going to veer in the wrong direction and run into the orchard but she went around the blind. She even gave an excited little pounce as she came around. The Pie Pounce. She came towards me correctly when I called her and I sent her to the blind with the helper. She started barking as she came around, then I had to wait out in the middle of the field until the judge called me over. Pie correctly kept barking the entire time, and did not stop barking as I came around. The judge signaled me to call her and she came to heel very nicely. I had the helper step out and we set up for the escape. She did the escape bite but slipped off the first bite which is unusual. However, she re-gripped very quickly, outed, started barking, took her drive (whined and moaning about it) then outed and barked again. All good. I walked it, and picked her up to heel her down the field for the long bite.

I kept waiting for the judge to tell me to stop walking but she didn't. I actually wasn't sure where I was supposed to stop! So I stopped 1/2 way down the field but she told me to keep going. Yikes- it was going to be a full length field long bite on Pie's questionable back. Pie did not want to leave the helper and the further we got away, the more heel commands I had to give. Pie was eager for the long bite and on the judge's signal, I let her go. The judge actually delayed her signal until the helper had come about 1/2 way up the field so it was not as long as I thought it would be. Pie went very fast, slipped off the sleeve, re-bit then outed.

I walked up for the transport and she kept her barking up the entire time. We transported to the judge. Usually I say "transport!" but I could tell Pie needed a firmer command so I decided to use heel. At the end of the transport, Pie had ended up on the incorrect side of the helper. Ah well! During the critique it was of course noted she came off the sleeve which is bad, but she re-gripped nicely. She mostly had good, full grips and was fast. She outed correctly and guarded well. We passed protection with enough points- 80! And my Pie became my first SchH titled dog. It couldn't happen to a nicer dog. What a good, good girl.

Pie running the blinds.

Escape grip.

Right before the out for the escape.

Pie drive.

Eager Pie gets ready for the long bite.

Pie gets him.

Pie starting off the transport.

Um, Pie? What are you doing over there?

I got a break and watched Hank run his routine. He is a real SchH dog and very serious with good grips. He got high protection!

Next it was Dottie. Unlike Pie, she was ready to run the blinds and I actually couldn't get her to face away from it to wave our readiness to the judge. I sent her around and she was off like a shot. She also correctly came to me when I called and then went to the hot blind. Her barking was also good, just not very scary. When it was time to call her out, I took a deep breath, and said in my most loud, commanding voice, "COME HEEL!" It worked. In fact, it was probably our best call out ever!

The helper stepped out of the blind and Dottie tried to excuse herself for an unauthorized bite. I had read the rules (always a good idea) and knew the only thing you can say is Come Heel. So I said it and she came back. We heeled over for the Escape Bite and I stopped and Dottie kept doing to try for ANOTHER unauthorized bite. I confess instead of telling her what to do, I giggled quietly. Because she wasn't jumping right in there- Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead- she was inching quietly, stalking almost. The judge probably saved our protection passing score by telling me to call her back, which I did. The escape was fine but her grip was not full. She outed, did the drive, then outed again. When I came in for the pick up she was very dirty, taking extra bites. She needed tons of extra commands to heel down the field for the long bite. Dottie did not think it was a good idea to turn her back on the guy who was just whacking her with a stick- PLUS she never got to make off with the sleeve- what gives?

This time I knew to go all the way to the end of the field. Dottie was eager to be let go and was noisy while waiting. She also came off the sleeve on the long bite (I'm not sure she'll ever figure that out- too much speed combined with a genetic poor grip no matter how much our helper works it) but re-bit and outed when I told her, even though I was 1/2 a field a way. I walked in quickly while Dottie barked and took some dirty bites. The closer I got the worse it got. Naughty Dottie! We set up for the transport and she... well... I don't think I'll even discuss the transport. It was that bad. We reported out and I leashed her up for the critique. Even though the helper left the field, Dottie would not stop staring at him! Dottie was critiqued that her grip is not very full and she needs better obedience, but even so she scored an 81 with an pronounced rating. Not bad for a 40 pound weakling. Until you see this dog in person I think it is hard to appreciate how small and delicate looking she is. There is really nothing to her except maybe some ears and legs. And a bent tail. Her teeth are the same size as Fancy's! So a pronounced rating for courage is pretty sweet. When we were given our score Dottie became my second SchH dog!

Dottie runs the blinds. Very fast.

Dottie's escape grip.

Guard after the out.

Reattack on the dog (Dottie.)

Another Dottie grip.

Coming in from the long bite.

Dottie starting off the transport.

Dottie starting to get out of position.

Reporting out. Quick- leash her up before we loose even more points!

Dottie during the critique eyeballing the bad guy.

So that is our account of our first SchH trial. We also had a yummy lunch which I couldn't finish because I became too nervous. We had lunch before protection so the titles were not secured yet. After the trial during clean up I had some more.

The GSD who got high tracking got High in Trial and the SchH 3 dog ended up being disqualified due to being out of control during protection. He had passed but his owner didn't leash him up in time after reporting out and he re-attacked the helper and wouldn't out the sleeve. So close yet so far. Hank had high HOT- Handled, Owned and Trained. The High in Trial GSD was being trialed by a pro-trainer.

So happy with our results and proud of my girls!

Pie- SchH1
Dottie- SchH1
Fancy- TR1

Some really nice memories of my first SchH trial- passing scores, family and friends present, and new titles!

I don't know why I have to be so short.

Dottie did not want to be picked up. Poor older younger brother. She got his nice black shirt and dark jeans all dirty.

Proof my family was there.

Birthday Pictures

The cake was particularly yummy!

Pie was licking my ear, which is why everyone is so amused. Also note Fancy's tail. She's never far from me. Dottie was locked in the crate so she didn't run off with the cake or some other badness.

Almost matching shirts on Dad and youngest younger brother.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Schutzhund Trial!!

A "blow by blow" account will no doubt follow, but for now, the photo below sums up my feelings!

Fancy got an 88 for her Tracking 1 (TR1) title. The photo is after her track and she had a nice deep nose and the dirt made her beard all muddy.

Pie got 94 in tracking, 91 in obedience, and 80 in protection for a total of 265 and her SchH1 title!

Dottie got 96 (!) in tracking, 80 in obedience and 81 in protection with a pronounced rating for a total of 257 and her SchH1 title!

My very first tracking titles and very first SchH titles. Phew- that is a lot of work!

My Mom, Dad AND elder younger brother all came out to support us. That means a lot to me. Hope it wasn't too boring for them.

What good dogs and great family I have. I am so lucky.