Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Exercise in Humility

This weekend reminded me why I haven't done any serious obedience with Tia in a few years. She got her Companion Dog (CD) title a few years ago, with terrible scores mainly because she refused to sit on the heeling. Tia's theory is that there's no point in sitting if she's just going to have to get back up again. Otherwise she did a pretty nice job, but those no-sits cost us a lot of points. Each run was also always a trial as she feels she shouldn't have to do anything for free (and unlike Flash or Queezle, she doesn't feel obligated to do something because I asked her to). But we got through it.

After that, we took a break to concentrate on more fun things like agility and herding. I gradually started teaching her the exercises for Open - she thought the dumbbell retrieves were pretty fun and has a fabulous drop on recall. This fall when my mom's dog Hokey got lymphoma, she was looking for dogs to work in obedience. Queezle was pretty much ready for Novice, so she entered her and got her CD. Next project - Tia. So Mom brought her out and had her do all the Open exercises, which she did beautifully! So we signed her up for a class to get more experience and started seriously working on it, mainly with me handling while I'm on break. This past weekend was our local club's (Syracuse Obedience Training Club) obedience trial. Since Tia knew everything and had been doing fabulously in class, we entered her. I figured she may not qualify because she hasn't been doing Open for very long, but was expecting a semi-decent performance.

She was awful. As soon as we entered the ring, my cheerful, perky Aussie deflated into some sort of furry mush. On the heeling she was barely with me, wandering around the ring looking lost. On the figure 8 she goosed both of the people acting as posts, which she thought was hysterically funny (they didn't). The judge's comment was, "It's like she's never seen people before!" Setting up for the drop on recall, she refused to sit, and even braced her hind legs when I tried to push her down. Once I finally got her to sit, she did do the drop correctly. On both of the retrieves she refused to sit, and needed a second command for one of them. When I said, "Over!" for the broadjump she just stared at me blankly.

In Wildcard Open - where you don't earn legs toward a title and can choose one exercise to get full credit for without actually doing it - she was even worse. I opted to use heeling as my Wildcard, but to do it onlead so she would be forced to stay with me. She didn't do anything the first time. For the retrieve on the flat, she just sort of meandered around the ring. For lack of a better idea, I ran up and "stole" the dumbbell, a technique often used to make dogs be quicker about getting their dumbbell. She didn't care and just sort of looked at me like she was saying, "Why would you want that?" When I finally got her to move on the broadjump, she zombie-walked over and through the boards. When the judge pinned the class and came over to give us our score, he said, "Ah..." and sort of trailed off. I smiled and said, "Yes, we were the disaster." He laughed and just left it at that.

Her only redeeming quality for either run was her stays, which she did perfectly, even casting disdainful looks at any dogs that got up or moved. Despite this minor victory, we did not show again Sunday.

By classtime on Thursday I'm sure I will have the attentive, eager-to-work Tia back. However, it will be a long time before I'm fooled by her cute face again and take her out in public. While Flash and Queezle can be taught something and be able to fairly quickly do it in a competition setting, Tia is clearly the type of dog that has to go through much more training and proofing and drawing-the-line-in-the-sand before she'll quit the mind games and work. My dignity in shambles, my wicked grinning dog at my feet, I am going to do what any self-respecting obedience handler would do in my situation -

Go to a conformation show. With Queezle.

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