Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Southwest Region Working Dog Trial Report

*Disclaimer- I wrote this so people unfamiliar with IPO trials might have some idea what I am talking about.  And, this is only my second trial so I don't claim to know all or be the most knowledgeable person out there. I don't think either my dog or I am the best, but we try hard.  I hope my post reflects this.

From my previous post, you already know the results, and now you will know how we ended up with those results.

On Friday we arrived at the park for our preassigned field practice times.  We had 8 minutes for obedience.  B and I signed up back-to-back so we could share the field and maximize our time.  It turned out the go out spot was in the same general location as we thought, but much further to the left.  This gave Dottie some trouble as she wanted to go to the spot she had practiced last week.  I should have just let her, and moved the toy back to that spot, but instead I set about to fix it.  By the time our time was up, she was going to the correct spot, but slowly.  I'd rather have a fast, crooked go out, than a slow straight one.  Other than that, the practice went well.

We watched the other teams while waiting for our protection practice time slot.  Many teams had trouble with the go out and the jumps.  Being an agility dog, Dottie is used to taking strange jumps in strange locations.  AKC obedience helps with that also.  But many of these dogs only take their jump on their training field, and refuse jumps when presented with them in new places.  Since the other dogs in the competition are more experienced than Dottie, this gave me a little confidence.  If they have trouble and have been doing it longer than us, we don't look so bad by comparison.

Next up was our 5 minutes for protection.  We were not allowed to use the helper we would actually compete with.  One of the helpers from the other club stepped up to help us.  First, we frustrated Dottie by working her up and not allowing her to bite.  This was a new helper, in a location she has never bit anyone before, so that makes some dogs insecure.  An insecure dog will not bite, so we had to put her in the right frame of mind to give her more power.  Plus, this showed her the location of the find or hot blind.  Many dogs will refuse to search every blind when they know where the helper is, so I wanted to make the practice as much like the actual trial as I could.

After frustrating her, we ran down the field (running was necessary to save time) to the start location for the blind search.  Dottie tried to blow off one of the blinds so I called her back and we did it again.  She found the bad guy, barked, got a bite and we ran back to do it again.  This time she did it correctly.  At a regional level competition, the field is much bigger and the blinds are much wider spaced.  Then our time was up!

After practice was done we headed to the hotel to check in.  I usually stay at cheap-o, sometimes nasty Motel 6, but B booked the Red Roof Inn.  It was undergoing renovation and was pretty nice.  It even had a mini-fridge.  After lunch we headed back the the field for the draw.  The draw tells you which order you will go in.  I already knew I was "Flight 4" since I was going for IPO 2, but I drew Draw 4, which means I went last.  Last is ok.  Better than first.

Then it was back to the hotel for TV watching, being nervous, and Domino's Pizza for dinner.

After the first day.

Pie helping herself to a chair in the hotel room.  That doesn't look very comfy, Pie.
3 dogs and 2 people on the bed.  I think Hanky weighs more then my 2 girls combined.

I had a lot of trouble sleeping that night.  Yes, I was nervous, but it had more to do with the room being way too hot.  We had the A/C on, but it was broken and wouldn't work.  It was actually quite cold outside, so it must have been the doggie body heat making the room hot.

Saturday dawned cold and windy.  Windy enough to try to blow my car off the freeway.  We got to the field in enough time to watch the IPO 3s who were going first.  Then, quite suddenly, it was time for the IPO 2s!  They ran a head of schedule all weekend.  

Obedience was first.
My brother manned the video camera.

Dottie did the long down first.  No problems except she 
didn't sit up all the way at the end, then laid back down- 
I seem to remember her doing that during her first trial also.  
Not a huge deal.  For those not familiar with Working Dog 
Sport (the new name now that Schutzhund is not used any 
more- the sport is called Working Dog and the trials and titles 
are called IPO) it is not like AKC obedience.  You can
give second commands and even fail a section completely, and 
still pass.  Of course, your score will reflect that, but in some 
ways it is easier than AKC.

Next up was our field exercises.  During the heeling, Dottie kept stopping!!  Watching the video, it felt a lot worse than it looked.  I gave extra commands and off we'd go, but what gives?  The only solution I came up with is the last thing she did on the field was protection, and perhaps she was looking for the bad guy?  I really think that was the case in the group when she zeroed in on the people and gave each of them a hard look.  Other than the stopping, her healing was pretty attentive.  Forging, but  that is a known problem I am trying to work on.  Our score was high insufficient.  Ouch.  If you watch the video, keep that score in mind and compare what you see in the video to what you see in the AKC obedience ring and you'll see why I said "in some ways" AKC 
is easier.

During the sit while moving, I used handler help (shoulder motion) to make sure I got the sit, and it worked.  Down was fine, but I was quite loud to make sure she went down.  The stand while moving got us an "excellent" and the judge said it was perfect!

Retrieves were very good for Dottie.  They want the dog to be very fast, pick up the dumbbell and turn on a dime, and hold it very hard and tight.  She did not present that ideal picture, but again, for her, they were probably some of the best she's done.

And finally it was the go out.  I said, "Dottie will always go out, I'm not worried about that."  Famous last words.  We heeled out the 12 paces and I sent her.  And she went, then stopped, turned and faced me and stood there!!!  I was flabbergasted.  Everyone always says you should keep your hand out in the visual go out cue the whole time but I never do because 1) my dog always goes out and 2) even if the dog didn't go out, I did not think a visual cue, once they turned around to look at me, would be enough to make them go out more.  So, this day, as every day, I dropped my hand as she went out.  When she stopped and faced me, there was nothing else to do, so I put my hand back up.  If I was flabbergasted when she stopped to face me, I was dumbfounded when the visual cue caused her to turn away from me and continue going out!!   We have NEVER practiced a redirected go out like that. Wow, I was impressed.   I have absolutely no clue why she stopped like that, but since I only gave "handler help" with the arm signal, and not a verbal second command, the exercise was not a total loss.  We ended up with 86 points which turned out to be High IPO 2 obedience.  (There were 3 other dogs competing in IPO 2.)  At our first trial we had only 80 points, so this was quite an improvement for us.  That and the fact that they score tougher at regional and national events (another difference between AKC.)

Our club mate B with Hanky had second place- points lots mostly for going around a jump. That kills you in points.  The other 2 ladies had trouble with the jumps and/or the go outs and were in the 70s.
Forging a bit, but nice attention.


The wall.

We had lunch then it was time for protection!  B had trouble 
when Hanky refused to out on the long bite after 3 commands
and was disqualified.  I think the wind played a factor in that 
because the handler is so far away and the wind is so loud.  
However, everyone told B how her dog was the most powerful
dog of the day, and the most impressive in protection, so she 
felt better. 

Dottie and I came on the field.  During the blind search 
(and through out the routine) I relied on the premise that 
the louder you are, the more your dog listens to you- or so
I hoped.  There is only a few places on the video you can 
hear how truly loud I was (again due to the wind covering
it up for me.)  The loud, stern voice seemed to help, 
because she did listen.  It is a balance.  If you are too stern, 
the dog will think she is in trouble and will not be powerful
enough.  But if the dog is out of control, you will be disqualified
and thrown out.

Dottie did the blind search correctly and ran into the find blind and started barking.  Her barking was very rhythmic and never let up.  I used my huge voice to call her out of the blind and out she came.  On the escape, she inched over the line, so the judge made me come back and reset her.  I was afraid she'd use that as an excuse to go too soon, so again with the firm loud voice.  Her hit on the the escape was hard enough to draw gasps of approval from the crowd.  Atta girl Dottie!

She outed correctly each time and our back transport was actually quite good since there were no turns!  Usually a back transport has left hand turns, and Dottie tries to cut the corners so she can get closer to the helper.  No turns= no cheating on her part.

Next came the courage test, aka long bite.  She heeled down 
the field with me much better than her first trial.  The dog is
supposed to sit quietly until you release them, but she was 
wiggling, moaning and being very naughty.  The judge told 
me to let her go and I did.  I always give her a command
but this time I didn't because she obviously knew what
was going on.  Big mistake.  When I let her go with no 
command, it was as if she thought she accidentally 
escaped and slowed down for a stride or two.  But
when I didn't call her back, it seemed she decided it
was ok and picked up speed.  On the video it does 
not look as bad as it did in person.  She slowed down 
a bit as she came into the helper for the bite, which is 
unusual for her.  Probably she felt a tiny bit intimidated
by biting this strange man who was yelling at her.  That 
is why they call it the courage test.  Even though it is not
correct to slow down, it is much safer on the dog's body,
so I was actually happy.

Then it came time for Dottie's out.  The field is 100 yards long.  A football field.  The dog takes the bite around the 75 yard or between the 50 and 75 yard line, depending on how fast the dog
is.  You are not allowed to move from your spot.  The wind is howling, the dog is worked up.  How loud can you be?  I give my out commands in a short burst.  I don't drag it out like some
people.  But with the wind I decided to give that a try.  First command- "OOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUT!"  No out.  Hmm... that is a new one. I can see her down there, tugging for all she is worth.  (The video shows she has a bad grip, and when she has a bad grip, she actually tugs harder...)  The judge tells me to give a second out command.  I know this is it.  Will we go the way of B and Hanky?  If she doesn't out after this time, we get one more chance, but most dogs will not out after the third command if they have already blown off the second one.  Should I give another drawn out command?  Go back to my short command? I can yell pretty loud.  But I could tell the wind was whipping my words away from Dottie.  Did she even hear the first command?  I went for a second OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUT!!!!!!!!!!!  and low and behold she outed.  Phew.  I started down the field and crossed my fingers she wouldn't re-bite.  She did take a dirty bite or two, but nothing that required a command to out her.  We transported to the judge with a small bobble and then we were done.  A huge sigh of relief.
Searching the first blind.
Yes, the blind is inside out- for wind control.  They were also 
staked down, 
and tied down with a cable.
More escape.
Still escaping.

That looks painful.

Feet bumping while in the guard.
Re- attack.

Courage test.  Yes, she always uses her feet.

Another shot of the courage test.

Dottie is not the most impressive dog in protection.  She is 
small and a female.  But she has enough moxie to get the job
done.  We finished with a score of 80 Pronounced, meaning 
she had more than just sufficient courage and hardness to get the job done.  80 is the lowest score you can get in protection and still pass.  (It is 70 in the other phases.)  We got 80 at our first trial and this was 10 times better than that.  The things that hurt us this time were the 2 out commands, and the fact that they grade harder here.


Besides Hanky, another one of the dogs was disqualified during protection for "out of control" or no out (I'm unsure which, but it was a good DQ, not because the dog refused to bite) so there was only Dottie and one other dog left in the ruining.  That dog had a good protection score, so we were only ahead by a few points.

B and I went out to eat at Claimjumpers (yum, but my steak was not as good as it should have been) then walked around the Antelope Valley mall, then back to the hotel room.  I slept much better because we left the window open a crack.

Sunday came and it was hardly windy at all, which is great since today was tracking!  The dogs who had DQed in protection did not get to go onto tracking.  We found the tracking site ok, but couldn't figure out how to get onto the field.  Eventually we found one access road, but had to go through a ditch to get on it.  My car is not made for that kind of thing, but nothing was going to keep me from tracking.  I found the best spot to go through and made it fine.  Turns out there was another, easier way to get on, but I guess it was a secret or something because we didn't find it.

We socialized a bit, and I was wondering who was in charge and how I would know when it was my turn.  To pass the time I got my tracking line ready, put on my boots, and then stood around some more.  That is when B said, "That is the other IPO 2 out there right now!" and suddenly a random guy was telling me to go out there with Dottie.  I quickly pottied her and was very glad everything else was ready to go.  Turns out they were ahead of scheduled, and our trouble with getting onto the field caused use to not be there as early as we wanted to be, so they started with out us and let the other lady go first.  There is supposed to be a draw so no one is favored with an easier track, but that was not the case this time.  B told me the other lady looked like she had trouble, so as I was walking out there I was thinking we just might win.

It was a long walk out to our track, with Dottie dragging me the whole way.  Of course Dottie was ready to start and off we went.  Dottie put her nose in each footstep.  On the video you can see her head moving back and forth, and this is her nose going into each footstep in the dirt.  We had trouble right before the first corner and Dottie's line was getting caught under the rocks that we were now tracking over.  She downed at the first article, overshot the second corner by just a tiny bit, then we ran into problems.  The track went back into the rocks, and then when it came out, the ground looked soft but there were no footprints!  Dottie does not need footprints, as proven by passing her TD certification, but the lack of footprints on the soft ground had me worried.  I knew there should only be 2 tuns on and IPO 2, but what if they threw in an extra turn just because and we missed it?  What if we had missed the last article?  Surly the judge would say something??  But I trust Dottie's nose more then I trust my eyes, so when her nose got jerked to the side like it was caught on a fish hook and reeled in, and the rest of her body followed, I followed also.  And there was the last article.  She did it!

The judge gave us a 94 and said the conditions were like an FH (the advanced IPO tracking title) due to the change of terrain from sand to rocks to dirt and back to rocks.  The track layer said if we failed we could have asked for a retest since the conditions were harder  than they should have been.  The judge also complimented us and said I did a great job training her (thanks K!!) since she doesn't just want to be near the track, she wants to be right on the track.

A picture of part of our track.

After tracking.  Dottie carried her "start flag" all the way back to the car.

Walking off, I thought we had probably come out a head of the other competitor since a 94 is a pretty good score and B thought the other competitor had trouble.  I'm glad I thought that going in, since it turns out she got a 99 point track.  Wow! We only came out a head by 1 point!  Had I known that going in, I would have been much more nervous.


So, with that 94 point track, Dottie became the 2012 IPO 2 Regional Champion.  Not bad for a 45 pound female Malinois with an unknown pedigree.  Dottie was definitely the smallest dog in the competition, and one of maybe 3 or 4 females.  Male dogs dominate this sport due to the testosterone they have.  The other 2 malinois, who were in IPO 3, so we were not competing against them, both failed tracking, but had very nice obedience and protection.  Also in the competition was a female doberman (cool!) and 2 rottweilers.  The rest were German Shepherds since it is the German Shepherd Club.

To round out the weekend, I won 2 raffle baskets! The other happy news was B won the Sportsmanship Award!  Congratulations to them, they deserved it 100%!
Raffle baskets!
I really did not go into this competition thinking we would win.  If Hanky had outed, he probably would have won because his protection score would have been amazing.  But I wanted to go anyway to show off my little girl Malinois and to have the experience of being at a regional level competition.  To win at a regional level event, when it was the second event both my dog and I have ever been in, was a big surprise and a lot of fun!  B and I are already planning on going again next year.  I hope it is less cold and windy!

Accepting our award.
With our High IPO 2 award.

The results and I.

Results from the weekend.

B and I.  Look at the size of her trophy!  :)

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