Monday, June 24, 2013

ARCHX TDCH Pongu the Insane, RL1X2, RL2X

Meanwhile, Pongu's Rally career proceeds on a bumpy but generally upward trajectory.

We've been drilling harder lately, and with greater focus. It's starting to pay off. Our Q rate in Level 3 has improved from 0% to 50% in the last couple of trials, and when we do Q, we've been getting good scores -- 207 on our first successful run, 206 on our second try. We're still battling broken Stays and some reluctance around unfamiliar jumps, and the Recall Over Jump is a particular bugaboo because it combines both of those things into a single exercise, but I'm seeing definite improvement and I'm beginning to believe that we may be nearing the end of this particular plateau.

The Saturday before last, we did a double trial at the Positive Motivation Training Center in Washington, New Jersey.

This was a pretty big trial (almost 50 teams entered) with some excellent teams creating stiff competition for placements. Pongu earned Qs in 4 of his 6 entered runs (NQ'ed once each in Level 2 and Level 3 on, you guessed it!, a broken Stay and a jump runout) and took home two placement ribbons. It was an unfamiliar venue, and we got there so late that they were breaking down the Level 1 course when we arrived (the judge graciously put it on hold long enough for us to bumble through the course blind and cold -- we scored a not-so-stellar 198, but I'm just grateful we got to run that course at all!), which contributed to Pongu's uncertainty and wobbly performances early on.

But he recovered and gave me some good runs with happy start-line smiles, and earned his first-ever Level 3 Q at this event, so I'm more than satisfied with our performance overall.

Then last Friday we went back to the Bella Vista Training Club for another shot at ARCHX. This time, we got it -- along with Pongu's RL1X2 and RL2X level championships, another Level 3 Q (and first place!), and a perfect score of 210 (and first place again!) in his last Level 1 run of the night. We did NQ one of the Level 3 runs on (yep) a broken Stay during the Recall Over Jump, but whatever, I can't get too upset about that when Pongu did everything else so well that night.

Fewer than 100 mixed-breed dogs worldwide have earned the ARCHX. Pongu is muttpuppy #97 to do it. And yeah, I'll admit, I was secretly hoping we would squeeze in there before the hundredth dog did, and it was close enough to make me worry!

But earn it he did. And despite the venue being hot and filled with distracting bugs (including a big slow bumblebee that Pongu chomped right out of the air when we were waiting to begin our first run) and loud scary fans, he held it together well enough to pull a string of good scores on all his qualifying runs: 204, 205, 206, 208, 210.

I am so, so proud of my little crazypants. Anxious scaredybutt Pongu is out there competing, and sometimes winning!, like a Real Dog. He's on equal terms with everyone else now, even if he is a bonafide basketcase nutjob.

The next goal on our list is the ARCHEX. To earn that title, Pongu must get 10 QQs of 195 or higher in Levels 2B and 3B. We're not even in Level 3B yet, and we struggle with earning consistent Qs in both Level 2 and Level 3, so QQs at the higher levels may elude us for a while. I'm not really worried about the scores; when Pongu qualifies at all, he generally does so with plenty of room to spare score-wise. But NQs continue to be a problem, so I would be surprised if we get the ARCHEX this year. More likely, we'll earn it sometime in early 2014.

But that's okay. Eventually we'll get it. I'm in no hurry. As far as I'm concerned, Pongu has vaulted himself into the elite ranks of Rally, and I'm inclined to enjoy the rest of our journey for as long as we can. We've worked through the toughest part of the road; we've done the heavy lifting of convincing an anxious dog that the ring can be an enjoyable place sometimes. Pongu can do the exercises, and he likes the game. That was the hard part, and now it's (mostly) behind us.

While I imagine we'll have plenty of challenges and setbacks ahead, I'm still inclined to say that after this point, we're in the fun part of Pongu's Rally career. He's got the skill and, more often than not, he can muster up the courage. Now it's about chasing perfection.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


For the past couple of weeks, we have been playing host to a little mystery mutt from Robeson County. Her shelter name was Serendipity, which I'll confess played a small role in my decision to pull her; with a name like that, how could I not grant her the serendipity of a chance at a new life?

More important, of course, was that she was small and sweet and soft-eyed and female. But there are lots of dogs meeting that description at the shelter, and all else being equal -- as it was for several of them this time around -- the name made a tiny, crucial difference for this one.

So Serendipity got the golden ticket and came up to Philadelphia.

She turned out to be a charming, funny, adorable houseguest. And she quickly drew an adoption offer from a wonderful person seeking a first dog -- a role that Serendipity, soon renamed Serenity, was and is perfectly suited to fill. This little pup is a near-perfect companion dog, and it's no surprise that she picked up a great home in no time.

I never blog much about the ones that don't need homes, and Serenity was claimed within a few hours of being pulled, so she was already spoken for by the time she arrived in Philly.

But eventually she finished up her (very) basic training here (less thorough than usual, I'm sad to say; most of my attention lately has been absorbed with working Pongu through some competition problems) and it was time to book a plane ticket to Minneapolis.

She departed this morning and arrived, after some delays due to inclement weather, this afternoon -- maybe not all that happy with her epic journey (particularly as she's prone to motion sickness in her crate), but safe.

Here's hoping for a wonderful life.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Birthday Box Trick

It's been a while since I taught Dog Mob a new trick.

We've been working mostly on Rally stuff, because Pongu's still struggling to integrate the Level 3 exercises into his repertoire (he's doing very well in practice, but still falls apart easily in the trial environment, and is/has been temporarily regressing on the lower levels while he stresses over the Level 3 work), and I wanted to focus on shoring those up before our next trial. So that's where most of our effort has been going.

Also, until a couple of days ago, I didn't have any good ideas for a trick I really wanted to do.

But then!, inspiration struck, and we did the Birthday Box Trick as a quick little interlude.

This took three days to train. Pongu grasped the concept immediately, since he already understood receptacle drops from the Easter Egg trick, but he needed a few sessions to develop the mechanical skill of picking the box lid up by its ribbon and dropping it on the box. This was by far the most difficult part of the trick and the one that we spent the most time practicing.

But once we had that, we had the trick. So: three days and done.