My dog can read sign language: Me, not so much!

My dog can read sign language:  Me, not so much!

Last October, I posted one of my first blog entries for ChicagoNow.com about Rally Obedience as a fun form of continued dog training.  In the blog, I challenged myself to enter Wigglebutt Duncan into his first trial of Rally at the Tibetan Terrier Nationals in June, 2012.  Being a perfectionist at heart, I had never entered a trial previously because I was too nervous about competing in any event with my somewhat ADHD Tibetan Terrier and my personal propensity to not pay attention to the posted signs.  I had started training Dunkie at For Your K9 when he was about 2 years old and attended classes with some degree of regularity until he was three and we acquired the now infamous destructo-girl, Isadora Duncan.  Then overwhelmed with 2 dogs, a full-time job, a part-time job, and trying to blog intermittently, all formal training ceased.  Totally.  We had not attended one single class in over a year.  Izzy, while having completed Puppy Obedience at Playful Paws in Prospect Heights, never received further training.  She was, and is, great at going 'forward' (ahead of me), slowing down on verbal command, and halting and waiting using the 'wait' command, but was, and is, clueless about heeling by my side.  In all fairness to her, I had never taught her that command in the very frequent (albeit brief) daily training sessions at home in the evenings, and likewise, I had somehow stopped working on the 'focus' command, where you train your dog to watch you rather than everything else.  Please do not leave a comment that "it's the most important command to train" on this blog.  I know that.

Well.  I did it.  The 2012 Tibetan Terrier Nationals were held this past week in the wonderful city of St. Louis, Missouri.  And both dogs were entered in Rally Obedience Novice A.  I figured that this would be the best place to start because of a supportive environment and my ability to let go of all self-imposed expectations.  After all, these dogs are Tibetan Terriers - a breed more known for their independent nature than their willingness to subsume their needs to their owners.  They tend to do what they think is best rather than what you want them to do.  Sometimes you're in sync; more often you aren't.  So unless you have really worked at training them, in competition it's more like "Any Given Sunday."  And everyone who owns a Tibetan Terrier knows about their disposition.  In my mind, the Nationals would be the perfect place to begin competing because the playing field was a level one and my dogs would not be competing against these wonderful other breeds who are known for their desire to work, manageability, and compliance .... the opposite of Tibetan Terriers.

So now for the good news.  While I don't have any video of it, Izzy somehow managed to pass Canine Good Citizen test.  She was actually very sweet although a little ditzy, plopping down and wanting a belly rub when the examiner asked if she could pet her on the head.  And Dunkie managed to qualify for his first 'leg' (of three) for his Rally Obedience Novice title with a score of 75.  Most of the points deducted were because I didn't perform two of the signs correctly, meaning that points lost were due to 'handler errors.'  We actually placed second!  Here is a video of my errors and Dunkie's distractibility:

And then there's the 'not so good' news: Izzy.  We got off to a good start but it went downhill from there.  Izzy was far more intrigued by the shrink-wrapped floor than in paying attention to me and at one point, I think I picked her up to straighten her out (automatic disqualification).  The very kind judge pointed out that my lead was like a stick rather than a loose lead throughout our trial.  Ya think?  I was trying to go in one direction and Izzy was determined to go in another.  Am guessing I need to really work on the 'focus' command.  (giant sigh).

But when all is said and done, it was still a lot of fun.  Izzy was a hoot, Dunkie got great treats after his trial, and I'm still the happy owner of the ditzy TTs.  Maybe I'll continue on and see if we can qualify for the last 2 legs of Rally Novice.  Just look below for our second place ribbon.

Izzy watching Dunkie
Izzy watching Dunkie (see mirror behind). 

Second Place!
Second Place! Hooray!

Hooray for Team Dunkie.

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