A couple of my favorite (well, really, you're ALL my favorite LOL!) clients and I were working with their dog in Laurelhurst park and they mentioned craftily, "So! We saw in your schedule that you sent, that you have a few days off for competition...that's exciting!"
Oh! Right! Competition! Yes, there's a possibility of a Rally Obedience competition in July, with Halo. What goes into the decision of when a dog is "ready" for competition?
Let's talk about it, using Halo as an example!
First off, the dog needs to actually know how to do what it will be asked to do in the ring. She has to know it cold. Forwards, backwards, in her sleep. Halo is exceptionally strong on all the rally behaviors. The only ones I've seen her miss lately are the Halt-Sit-Walk Around Dog exercise (that's basically the "Round-the-World' sit-stay from beginning obedience class) where she sometimes thinks she's supposed to be doing a left turn in heel instead. VERY occasionally she misses a forward heel on the Halt, Sit, 1,2,3 exercise (that's the one where you heel for 1 step, halt, heel 2 steps, halt, heel 3 steps, halt.) But even those errors are rare. I think I can safely say that she knows how to do the exercises.
Second, she needs to be able to do them without treat rewards and for only praise. We're on track with this one -- we're currently doing a series of 6-10 exercises sans treats, and she seems to be sufficiently rewarded by a big praise/handler engagement funtime at the end.
Third, she needs to be able to work around distractions. Scent distractions! A judge moving around! Dogs lingering outside the ring! Distractions everywhere! We're "kind of" on track here. When Halo's on, she's really on. Her focus, however, isn't 100% reliable. If there's a problem in the ring, my guess is that it's going to be a focus problem.
The tentative plan is to enter her in the competition, and then if it doesn't feel right for any reason (if she appears stressed, or if she just completely falls apart) to scratch her from the competition and just hang out and soak in the atmosphere. If all seems well, then we'll do the course with the goal to be have a good time and make sure she's having fun in the ring. That's the plan! Wish us luck!