Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014 - Full Speed Ahead

Busy busy past few days.

This little guy is still here, although hopefully not for that much longer. He has three serious prospective adopters and was supposed to meet with the first family today, but I think the massive deluge we're getting right now may ruin that plan. Even if the adopters were willing to put up with being soaked, Shakespeare hates getting wet and there's no chance he'd show well in such circumstances.

So, oh well, we're going to try to reschedule for tomorrow. Shakespeare is slated to meet the second group of adopters on Wednesday the 15th and the third group on Monday the 20th. I'm very much hoping he'll be able to go home as soon as possible after that. The rescue is getting a huge influx of dogs on Sunday the 19th (it's the big annual trip where all the available volunteers go down to North Carolina and pull as many dogs as they can) so there's been a call for "all hands on deck," foster-wise, and as a result I'm trying to get Shakespeare placed just about as soon as somebody's willing to take the little guy.

Mostly what I've been working on with him for the past few days is leash walking. It turns out that at least part of his pancaking outside was not due to environmental stress, but due to his extremely negative reaction to being on leash. I'm not sure whether this was a learned bad association (i.e., whether his original owners did something that caused him to have a very negative response to leash walking) or whether it's just so foreign and uncomfortable to him that the mere fact of having a leash attached was all the aversive he needed to shut down completely, but either way, when I first put a leash on him indoors to work on basic manners, Shakespeare pancaked immediately and refused to budge.

So we spent a while just getting him comfortable enough to stand up on leash, then taking a few steps forward in the hallway, then taking a few more steps forward in the hallway, etc.

Day One (this is actually the third session; the first two were so pitiful that you'd think I beat the poor dog to within an inch of his life before turning on the camera. This was the first time he was willing to move at all with the leash attached):

Day Two (this is maybe the fifth session?):

You can see he's getting a little more comfortable, although his body language is still subdued and not entirely relaxed. If the weather weren't so awful today, I would have tried to take him outside. As is, we might experiment with the condo hallway and see if he's willing to walk a little down there.

I've also been continuing to reward Shakespeare for default Sits. It isn't really on cue -- he doesn't have any concept that the word "Sit" is connected to the action of Sitting at this point -- but he offers the behavior whenever I stop walking, look at him, hold up a cookie, or otherwise do anything indicating that some response from him is warranted. It's still the same rolled-over hip Sit but I don't have time to fix that right now and none of his prospective adopters seem to care so welp, I guess this is just gonna be how Shakespeare does his Sit for a while.

IN OTHER NEWS, Crookytail was supposed to start his Agility Foundations class yesterday, but he had to miss the first session because I've been stuck late at work a lot this week. I have a bunch of case deadlines coming up in the next couple of weeks, plus my publisher likes my new story proposal and wants a full outline ASAP, plus I need to do some manuscript revisions for one of my 2014 books, so... there's been a lot on the non-dog-related work front lately, and as usual, Crooky is the one who gets shortchanged the worst.

Pongu also missed his first heelwork class of the year, but at least I made it to his Rally competitions.

On Wednesday we went out to the Bella Vista Training Club for a small weeknight trial. Six runs, six Qs. 210/200/205, 208/206/203. I thought those were going to count as his second and third ARCHMX QQQs, but apparently World Cynosport and I have different ideas about Pongu's current score tally, so I might turn out to be wrong about that.

It doesn't really matter, though. We'll get his ARCHMX when we get it. Hopefully before his fourth birthday, but that should be a fairly easy deadline to hit.

Then today we went to our first-ever AKC competition. Pongu was entered in Rally Novice A, which at first I thought was going to be kind of a joke... until I actually got to the venue.

This doesn't begin to capture what it was actually like.

This was the Princeton Dog Training Club's 57th annual obedience trial and 9th annual Rally trial, and it was a big event. Six rings all going at the same time, lots of the Big Name obedience trainers in our area (so many OTCH dogs! so many soon-to-be OTCH dogs!), lots of famous kennel names out there getting famous-er. Tanbark, High Times, Gaylan, Carousel, Sprite, Isengard. Dozens upon dozens of sporting Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Flatcoats, Border Collies, Mals, Tervs, Aussies -- i.e., all the Seriously Serious obedience breeds.

There were 139 obedience dogs and 72 Rally dogs. Zero of the obedience dogs were mutts. Five of the Rally dogs were mutts. I thought this was sufficiently hilarious that I actually bought the catalog to make sure. (Bonus hilarity: the catalog lists Pongu, correctly, as a mutt in the main listings, but then as a "miniature poodle" in the end-note summary. I have no idea how that happened.)

The other Rally Novice A dogs were, like Pongu, "fake" Novice A dogs who had lots of other titles, just no titles that counted for AKC Rally purposes. One was a Grand Champion in conformation, another had a bunch of advanced agility titles and belonged to a person who's working on an OTCH with her other dog (but had her husband showing this dog in Novice A), one was a TD, another was an MH, and so on and so forth. I don't think there was a single actual first-time-in-the-ring Novice A dog out of the 11 dogs in the group.

I still managed to get completely seized up with ring nerves, though, because I just had no idea how Pongu was going to do in that venue. The stadium was huge and loud, the ring itself was small (meaning he'd have to Heel right up against the ring gating, which always makes him freak out), crazypants dog was super stressy, there weren't any cookies allowed in the ring (which I didn't think was going to make a huge difference, but who knows, it's not like I bothered practicing to make sure), and we drew a course that had a bunch of AKC signs that I also didn't bother practicing because I am a big huge idiot.

So pretty much we went in there and it was super ungraceful and my brain totally stopped working on the Figure 8 so I got lost and had to do a re-try on that one (3 points off), and Pongu got so stressy that he refused to do a Front and we had to do another re-try on that one (3 more points off), and our heeling was a thing of sadness (1 point off on a wide turn, because the judge was kind and did not want to hit a Novice team as hard as we really deserved).

Final score: 93 out of 100, putting us squarely in the middle of the pack. If I hadn't screwed up that Figure 8, we would have had a 96 and first place (and a super nice ribbon -- this trial, befitting its almost 60-year history, seriously went all-out on its ribbons), but you know what, I will take the 93 with no complaints.

Because Pongu held it together in a huge scary loud venue with no cookies. He worked out a Q even though the fire alarm went off the first time he entered the building and continued to blare for a solid three or four minutes. He gave me nice straight Sits and a nice straight Front (even if he did blow it the first two times to veer into unasked-for left finishes...) and his heeling wasn't that bad, mostly, and overall it's just so, so far beyond where he was a year ago.

And now I know he can do this, and that means he can do even more.

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