Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ridgeback Rodeo - Days 3 and 4

It has occurred to me that I never put the actual name of the site - Scattergun Reserve, which is an absolutely beautiful place and a paradise for people interested in hunting and shooting when it isn't overrun by Ridgebacks!

Saturday I had a full day with the Ridgies - lots of people showing up to try agility, and some repeats coming back for their dogs to get some more experience. There was only one dog the whole weekend who wanted nothing to do with agility - we were able to coax her most of the way up the aframe, but there was no way she was going to go in the tunnel and it was clear that she was only cooperating on other obstacles because her people asked her to and they were the lesser evils in her mind. Other than that every dog tried most of the obstacles, though for the ones that had trouble learning the tunnel I had them skip the chute - no need to have a scary experience before they have a chance to become more comfortable with a regular tunnel.

Dinner on Saturday was steak grilled to perfection, along with beans and salad. Afterward Eric hooked up the tractor to a hay wagon and took most of the rodeoers for a hayride. Queezle was sure that we would all die horrible deaths, but many of the dogs thought it was a good time. We followed a trail around the farmland on the property and bordering the woods.

Sunday was the fourth and final day of the Rodeo, and brought the ATTS evaluations. For the ATTS, the dogs go through a series of stations that simulate real-life situations that a dog might encounter, and the three testers evaluate whether or not the dog responds appropriately. The handler is not allowed to talk to or encourage the dog in any way. First was the neutral stranger, who approaches the handler and chats briefly, without acknowledging the dog. Queezle sniffed her but that was it. Next was the friendly stranger, who greets the dog. Queezle allowed her to pet her, looking back at me rolling her eyes (classic Queezle in public - she can't understand why strangers insist on drooling all over her, but since they are harmless she allows them to worship her).

At the third station a person shakes a bucket full of rocks while behind a blind, and then reaches out and puts the bucket on the ground. Ideally the dog will investigate and put its head in the bucket to see what's inside. Queezle looked up at the noise, and then ignored the bucket. She did eventually check it out after I made a fuss of admiring the bucket. Fourth was the gun test. A person behind a blind fires a starting pistol once, pauses, and then fires twice more. The dog is expected to startle, and should then recover. Queezle doesn't like thunder or fireworks, so I knew she would have the most trouble with this station. She startled and then plastered herself to my side. She was still a little unsettled after a few seconds, but was composed enough for the head tester to tell us to go on. At the fifth station a person opens an umbrella in front of the dog and puts it down. The dog is supposed to investigate and will ideally touch the umbrella. Queezle went right up to the umbrella and touched it, then continued on (I had to laugh at that - what with Ithaca weather Queezle is very accustomed to seeing and hearing umbrellas!).

The sixth and seventh stations test a dog's reaction to tactile stimulation. First they have to walk over a plastic tarp, and then over a wire ex-pen laid out on the ground. Queezle didn't blink about either one. I was kind of surprised that she did the ex-pen on the first try - I had figured that she would need to investigate that first. She was still keeping her ears turned toward where the gun had been though, so she may have been thinking that a wire grate was nothing compared to possibly getting shot.

The last three stations are all sort of molded together, and deal with a "weird stranger." First the person, strangely dressed, steps out from behind a blind while making noise. The stranger then turns toward the dog and handler and starts to approach while acting threatening. The testers expect dogs to react based on their breed and training (for example, a schutzhund dog would lunge at the stranger), but all dogs should register that the person is a threat. Queezle picked him up right away and moved close beside me, watching him carefully until he had turned back.

Queezle passed! The chief tester commented on how she is very aware of everything going on around her - that's a Belgian for you! The only people who know whether a dog passes are the testers and the handler, so I don't know for sure how everyone else did, but from the dogs that I watched most of them did well. It was really interesting to watch, as there were breeds other than Ridgebacks entered. The behavior and different reactions were fascinating.

After that it was time to pack up and head home. I had a great time, and maybe will be able to go back next year!

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