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Tails from Trials: Sherwood Dog Training Club Rally Trial

The two-day rally trial was awesome, but it wore me out! It's almost two weeks later that I even have a chance to write about it!

This was my young dog Halo's second show. I was a little concerned about it. She'd been in a long heat last month, so was on "house arrest" and then there were a couple of weeks where I was just so busy with clients that I literally didn't have time to work with my own dog! (Excuses, excuses! But after working with dogs for 6-7 hours, I just don't have much more to give. Especially for competition stuff, if I don't have 100% of myself to offer to Halo, I don't think it's fair to ask for 100% from her.)

So, during the two months leading up to the show, we only had *maybe* two good weeks of practice time. I was really worried about this until the afternoon I took her to the vet for updated vaccinations. We sat in the waiting room for a while, and when it was our turn and I got up to walk her in to the vet...she thought she was walking into a ring! Immediately she got snazzy, moving into heel position, sitting when we halted, etc. Oh, Halo! Ummm... But knowing that she understood to be "on" in the ring made me feel much better (even though obviously she doesn't see the difference between "show ring" and "vet office.")

The trial was held at the Clackamas County Event Center (the fairgrounds) and the rings were set up in the Ely Arena. We always get there early for plenty of time to acclimate and walk around. Halo, who although a purebred Golden retriever is actually almost pure white, sniffed out some horse poop --  and rolled in it! Right before the show! When she got up there was a big green-brown stain all down her shoulder! Oh well -- she's still not more than just a puppy. And luckily Rally Obedience is more about what the dog can DO, not just what it looks like. And...well, aren't Goldens *supposed* to be kind of messy? That's what I told myself anyway, heading finally into the ring for our first run.

This course was incredibly difficult. There were so many 270-degree turns, and a complicated Figure 8. A lot of the handlers got lost on course and disqualified, just like I did at that show in October. But Halo and I managed to get all the turns, and even got called back into the ring for the presentations of awards! We got 2nd place. Great job, Halo!

The second day's course was much easier, and I don't think anybody disqualified. Halo was even more excited to be in the ring this day than yesterday, and in her excitement, kept leaping into the air. She wasn't leaping on me, exactly (she was still technically in heel position, just...airborne) but a few times she brushed against my shoulder and the judge marked that as "Handler interference," as in "The dog is interfering with the handler's ability to move freely" and took off a whopping 18 points. (Handler interference is usually a 2 to 5 point penalty for each occurrence, so you can see how much she was doing it. It was basically every time we turned left.)

With 18 points taken off our score, we were definitely out of the running for actually winning anything. But we did get a qualification score (which is the minimum score needed to earn points toward a title -- for Rally, you need at least 70 points out of a possible 100) so -- good enough!

I still felt great about the second day, even if we didn't win anything. The problem we'd had in the ring (all the jumping during left turns) was fixable. Looking at it critically, I figured out that when we were done with an obedience sequence, I would always turn (left) into Halo, dropping my right shoulder, and praise enthusiastically and allow her to bounce into the air in joy. So she must have confused my regular left turns with "happy praise/we're done" left turns. Totally easy to fix! And there should be plenty of time to clean it up before our next show, which will be in June.

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