Pongu and I are still trialing every couple of weeks in Rally. He's doing well; his Level 1 and 2 scores are steadily climbing and his general happiness and confidence in the ring are improving. We pulled double NQs in our last attempt at Level 3, but that's okay, it's about what I expected. Other than the mistakes that earned us the NQs, Pongu did quite well, so even though those entries will show up as big fat zeroes on our scoresheet, I know they represent improvement.
We do still have a lot of trouble with the retrieve bonus exercise. Pongu has always been weak on the retrieve (fetching is not fun for him and it is a purely shaped behavior that he has never especially enjoyed) and it falls to pieces immediately when he's stressed. He's always stressed in the trial ring, so it will probably be months before I get a half-decent retrieve out of him. That's not such a big deal this year -- he can still earn his Level 3 AoE and ARCHEX QQs without the bonus, if he doesn't make too many other mistakes -- but next year, if and when we take a serious run at the national rankings, it will be imperative to have a good solid retrieve.
So we'll work on it, and maybe in a few months I'll start to get it more-or-less reliably and more-or-less completely even under moderate stress. I'm starting to see some (very small) improvement during our proofing sessions, so I have hope.
Meanwhile Crookytail is re-retired after being cute but hopeless (and I mean hopeless) at last Friday's trial. He's just a nice, easygoing, average-intelligence dog without a competitive bone in his body... and that would be okay if he didn't keep giving me tantalizing flashes of brilliance and persistent focus. It drives me BANANAS because I am of course the hyperdriven overachiever type myself, and so's Pongu (despite his crazy), and then... then there's just poor amiable Crooky, trying his hardest, and mostly not getting it except for glimmers that show just enough promise to make me keep trying even when it's really not good for either of us.
Currently we're working on a "birthday party" trick. It's only half-formed in my head, which is okay because Crooky is doing the first step and that means I'll have probably about a month to even figure out where I want to take the rest of it.
He's supposed to open a birthday-present box by whapping it on the lid until the lid falls off. This is a very easy thing to do, particularly for a dog who already knows object targeting with a paw. We have been working ONLY on the box-opening action for two solid weeks. Meanwhile, Pongu has had no involvement with the birthday party trick, other than watching me get annoyed with Crooky's slow progress; his job is just to hold a Stay on the mat until it's his turn to work again.
This is what happened when Crooky finally began to get almost-reliable enough for me to attempt making a Step 1 video.