This past weekend was a road trip with Stella and a friend with her dog to attend a CARO rally obedience trial in Kelowna. We had successfully completed three rounds of novice at a trial a month ago but need to trial under a second judge to get our novice title. I decided to enter Stella in two novice rounds and two advanced rounds.
Saturday morning was our first novice round and Stella did very well scoring a 190/200 and successfully completing her novice title. This was a new ring for her and a dirt floor so she was interested in the smells but otherwise was good and I was pleased. When we had received our trial confirmation information I was informed that the facility is not heated. Luckily CARO permits dogs to wear coats but I was still worried that she wasn't going to complete any "down" stations but she did them!
Saturday afternoon was the first advanced round. I had minimal expectations of passing this but figured since we were there to try the rounds for the training experience. Advanced is off leash which we have not done in competition and it has harder stations such as sending over a jump from a distance, stand for exam, moving down, recall front while running away etc. A failed station in CARO will NQ the entire round. I have just begun training the jump but we have not worked up to any distance. The handler sends the dog from 10 feet in front and must stay six feet to the side of the jump. The facility was very cold and we had quite a long wait prior to the second class so I took Stella out for a lot of running around and playing tug before our round to make sure she was physically warmed up and comfortable in the cold. When we went into the ring I was blown away by the wonderful attention and attitude Stella had. We NQ'd on the jump as expected but otherwise would have had a 195/200.
Our last few trials Stella has done well and qualified with good scores but she has also been distracted by the surroundings and the smells. I knew she was capable of a much better performance and felt we weren't connecting as well as I hoped in the ring. I was super excited to have her connect with me on this round especially as she was off leash.
Sunday morning was even colder! I did the same warm up routine for her and we went into our second novice round of the weekend. Stella was fabulous and had the same wonderful attitude from the previous round. I was an idiot handler and side stepped on the pivot so NQ'd us but otherwise we were headed to an almost perfect score. Live and learn but honestly I was still so happy I almost bounced out of the ring. At this point it had become fairly obvious to me that the warm-up routine of playing lots of silly tugging and running around was working for us :).
Our final round was another advanced round and the first half went very well. Unfortunately half way through our round we had a major visual distraction that Stella was pretty sure everyone in the building needed to be told about. I did get her back but when we headed back towards that same line I opted to excuse us and end on a mostly good note. The total at the end of the weekend was one qualifying round for four total attempts. A lot of people would count that as a failure but I left the weekend absolutely THRILLED with my dog. Success for me was that connection in the ring that I wanted and feel that now I can just build on that. This dog sport stuff is supposed to be fun and I had a wonderful time with my dog and she really enjoyed working with me.