Idgie went to her first AKC trial about a month ago.  I always tell my students to set goals for a trial weekend, and the first time I ask what a student’s goal is, I usually hear something like “complete my jumpers title,” or “do the weaves correctly in every class,” or “hit every contact.”  I used to set goals like that too, until I realized something important; those things are outside of my control.

A goal for you and your dog should be something obtainable!  It should be something that you can achieve because it is within your realm of control.  For Idgie’s first trial I had one goal in mind; stay present for my dog.  That seems vague but I know it means specifically to not get caught up in the trial scene, and just be the kind of trainer my dog needs.  I met my goal in a few big areas; I maintained connection with Idgie on course at all times, I maintained connection with her outside of the ring, and I made sure she was happy and relatively stress-free the whole weekend.  We walked away with some great performances and a leg in both Standard and Jumpers, but more importantly I walked away knowing I was there for her at every step and didn’t allow her to be put in difficult situations.  I am really excited with how well that went.

Our next trial is coming up in a week and it is a big, busy 3 ring, 4 day trial (we are only entered 3 days).  I have no doubts that my Squidge will be a rockstar, so I have a new goal.  I like to maintain what I acheived with my last goal, though, so I will again stay present for her at this trial and protect her and make sure she feels safe in what is guaranteed to be a much busier arena than we usually experience.  But my new goal is to run her all-out.  I was a little conservative in my handling at our first trial, and that is not how I usually run at home.  I will run her this weekend the way I know I can.  It will be one fast ride!

In other training news, I have been working on some Obedience.  I am on a clicker obedience Yahoo! group that is inspiring me to get back into that sport.  We have worked heeling since she was a puppy; I love it and she likes it too.  We’ve had some sub-zero temperatures around here so I have been working her dumbbell training in the house.  She loves playing fetch so this was an easy transition.  I am very into making ring objects into toys, I feel that Kelso’s performances got much better when I realized that.  Most obedience people are pretty opposed to allowing dogs to “play” with the ring objects, but if it’s what you have in the ring to reinforce with, why the heck not?  So we tug on the DB, do restrained retrieves, and it is generally a ton of fun.  I have also trained her to do a “swimmer’s turn” on the wall for go-outs and she thinks it’s a blast.  I added one jump to this behavior this week, and she thinks it’s even better now!  I also  had her fetch a toy she is comfortable with over the high jump, which was a learning curve but she got it.  I will do that more before I have her do it with the DB.  Signals are a favorite of mine, so we work those all the time.  I haven’t added a heel pattern to them, or much distance, but she is getting good at random signals.  Another favorite exercise of mine is the drop on recall.  I like to set it up this way; I put Idgie on a sit-stay with a high-value toy right behind her.  I call her and when I feel like it I ask her to lie down.  As soon as she’s down I say “yes! GET IT!” and she leaps up, spins around, and grabs her toy.  I feel like this accomplishes a lot, but mainly I think it puts the idea in the dog’s head that the reinforcement is not on the human, so there is no need to creep on the down or down late.  The faster you do it the faster you get to turn back and grab the toy.  Of course sometimes I make her come all the way in, give her a cookie for a good front, then send her racing back to the toy. 

As for Kelso, he is perfect, as usual.