Sunday, April 21, 2013

Obedience Trials

I spent yesterday at my NEW dog club, stewarding for the obedience trails. Wow. Obedience is a lot busier than conformation. I’m not quite sure what I was doing, but there were three distinct levels that I worked.

  1. The first was Novice. While on leash, the dog and handler performed a series of heel exercises with which included moving forward at normal, slow and fast paces, with various turns and halts. When directed, two stewards would enter the ring and stand as posts, approximated 8 feet apart. The dog/handler team would figure eight around the stewards. The same heeling exercises were performed off leash as well. At one point the handler would put her dog in a sit/stay, cross the ring and recall the when directed. The dog was supposed to run straight to the owner (some did not) and sit in the "front" position. After each team has performed these exercises, all participants returned to the ring and performed two exercised together. The dogs were put in to a sit say and the handlers crossed the ring. The dogs were to stay where put for one minute. Then the exercise was repeated for a three minute down/stay. A perfect score is 200 and points are deducted for incorrect moves. Some things (like getting up during the stay) would count as an NQ (not qualified). Apparently anything over a 170 counts towards the title.
  2. Things got more complicated from there! Next was the Open level. The dog would heel off leash and figure eight, similar to the Novice. During a recall the dog had to drop on command -- this tripped up several dogs. The dog also retrieved a dumbbell, jumped over a high jump, and jumped over a broad jump. (The jumps are set at certain heights/lengths depending on the size of the dog. The stewards have to adjust the jumps in between dogs.) Like in novice, the dogs had long sits and downs, but the times were extended to 3 and 5 minutes, respectively, and the owners had to leave the dogs’ sight during the exercise. One of the jobs the ring stewards do is block the entrance to the ring in case a dog decides to make a run for it -- and we had a few that did just that!
  3. The last level I worked was Utility. This was the most impressive of them all. The dog had to respond to hand signals for sit, stay, stand, down and come – no talking was allowed. The dog was required to heel, stand and stay in place as the handler moved away for the judge performed a hands-on examination. The broad jump was removed, but a bar jump was added to the ring (at the same height as the high jump still in the ring). The handler would send the dog across the ring and direct it to sit. At the judge’s direction, the handler would recall the dog over the specified jump (bar or high). Another exercise involved three gloves placed at the opposite end of the ring. The dog was directed to retrieve a specific glove. Most impressive though, was the scent discrimination. The handler provides the steward with five metal and five leather dumbbells. Each set is numbered 1 through 5 (though I saw some numbered 6 through 10). Two dumbbells with the same number (i.e. the #4 leather and #4 metal) were removed with tongs. Then the steward scattered the other 8 dumbbells in a circle. The handler picked up one dumbbell and rubbed her scent on it. At that point she and the dog turned their backs to the pile as the touched article was placed among the others. This is done without anybody else touching it (this judge used a pencil and her clipboard). The dog is sent to the articles and must find the right one (in this case #4). Then the exercise is repeated with the other dumbbell. Every dog I saw was able to get the right one!
I worked the trials for one day and came home with my head spinning! Apparently each level has different classes as well. There's Pre-something and Graduate-something.  . . . Holy cow I thought Conformation was confusing! It was really neat to watch. However, Jedi and I are going to have to work A LOT harder to even get to the Novice level. He’s smart enough, but am I? Do I have the kind of discipline needed to get there? I'll let you know! -- K

One day this will be Jedi!