Today Ein and I earned our third qualifying score for his AKC Companion Dog title!
I have to be honest, I enjoyed our first and second legs more. The trial environment (four rings, louder, more distractions) seemed to make Ein more comfortable. The place that we went to today was at a small obedience training club (one ring. Quiet.) There seems to be a fine line to "way too noisy" and "just the right amount of background noise/activity". "Silent as a tomb" is actually worse than "too noisy". Ein can be so environmental, so it is important to choose well!
Ein was happy enough ringside. His heel on lead was decent as was his figure 8 with a lot of happy smiles and tail wagging as he worked. He was doing some glancing around and had one no-sit on each exercise. That was my first indication that he was more stressed today than he was last weekend. The Stand for Exam. He rotated out of his stand-stay when I returned to heel position and my heart sank. Bless the judge! She told me right away, "It is just points off, you are okay!" She read the mind of a Novice A handler (smile.) It still chipped a little piece off of my heart because I knew that Ein was stressing. I should have not scheduled our trial weekends one right after another - if I could do it again, I would have left a few weeks in between and built in some training sessions/ring times with more heavy reinforcement for his stand-stay. (versus in the ring where he is doing a Very Hard Job for "free".)
Next was the heel free, and it often happens that if something goes "wrong", Ein's stress intensifies. And it did. I cued him to heel forward and he stopped for a stress sniff. He caught up to me and did the rest of the pattern rather nicely until we had to heel towards ring side and he saw the People! looking at him. I lost him to major stress sniffing on the about turn and felt that I needed to call him to me. He came and we finished with a sit at halt. Whew.
The recall came straight to finish - no front. He did that on all three legs. The group stays were just dandy.
We earned our Companion Dog title with a score of 175. (wince!)
But that is our journey! It is a miracle my boy could do this and I am grateful for our time together. I said he never could do this, and he proved me dead wrong. This is our new work, our new challenge. I am considering showing him again in Novice B later this year. I would like to see how being outdoors would affect his stress levels. And the bottom line is that my Ein is a worker, and so am I. We both love to train. I can see our problem areas highlighted consistently after these last three trials and I would love to try to work them out. I would love to earn a score about 190 with him. We will see. This is what some people find some aggravating about Obedience, but I just love it. The nitpicky point deductions, the desire for perfection. Well I just see it as the opportunity to train more, and Ein sees it as an opportunity to play with me and eat cookies so...we all win.