A month or so ago I was pondering whether or not I should enter the Poodle Obedience Training Club of Great New York's (say that ten times fast!) rally-o trial with Perri. I really wanted to go. I really feel that Perri is not ready for Advanced. So, I entered her in Rally-O Novice B for just the first trial. That would give me plenty of time around the mass amount of poodles, and their people, and also give us some ring time. A progress check.
We arrived just as the Excellent Rally course was being set up. There were only about 3-4 dogs per Rally class, so things went quickly. Perri was the first Novice dog. I noticed that, while Perri was concerned about some dogs and people, she would reorient to me really nicely ringside. She enjoyed doing her pivots and spins and swinging her back end into position. First sign, we had to do a front and a left finish. Straight straight straight. A Figure 8 that I almost lost her on mentally, but I said "What a good girl!" just at the right moment and her head came up and she heeled with me. I felt so proud of myself to have reconnected with her at just the right moment. Her 270's were great, her turns were great. She had to do a Down-walk around and that was just fine, too. We got a 99/100 and 1st place. Our lost point went to a tight lead on the Left About Turn, and that is on me and how I was holding the leash. I wish I had this on video.
Perri has pulled off a nice performance in the ring in the past. It's hard for me to gauge progress. Her ringside behavior is what I am very proud of, and where I saw some great behavior. She crated quietly. She played tricks with me and worked with me. She did not shut down. She did not zone out staring at other dogs. To get to the ring we had to walk between three large spoos and she just trotted by them, and that was huge for me. I still won't do Advanced with her. Novice was the right choice for today. To build up Perri's ring confidence. And to build up my ring confidence.
Since it was a double trial I stayed to watch the Utility B class run a second time. I have seen, at various trials, many poodles not looking very engaged in their work. I was hoping to see some happy teams today. I saw a mixture! Just like with any other breed. A very spunky and happy minipoo. And one white standard with a handicapped handler that was absolutely exploding with joy to do her work. Go Out? She ran out and sat with her whole mouth open in a smile, hurtling back over the jumps to front. Scent articles? She galloped to them with tail wagging as she searched through them. It made me smile, it gave me hope.
I enjoyed talking with the poodle people. They seemed to enjoy that Perri was my first poodle. I told them where she came from. What we have worked through. Where we (...I?) want to go. Why on earth I came to a trial 70 miles away and entered a class that my dog already has a title in. To make my dog feel brave, to make me feel brave. To learn more about this beautiful, silly, strange breed that I dove headlong into without having a clue in the world.