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Cupid's Rally Scores and Life Update

I wanted to write a life update about Cupid in honor of his AKC Rally Excellent title, which we did virtually, but the timing has ended up a bit funny. I am currently prepping him for AKC Obedience (in person trials!) which means that every day that I think about writing this blog, I oscillate between feeling extremely proud of him and us OR frustrated with our training. This is normal for a competition obedience nerd, as far as I know…

Cupid was supposed to be my Schutzhund/IGP dog, but I had to wash him due to chronic lameness - likely a pinched nerve in his shoulder. We did thousands of dollars of diagnostics including driving across two states to get a fourth vet opinion, and we attempted rehab for over a year. He cycled between being on rest, building him back up, starting “real work” again, going lame, and repeating. It was torture for both of us: For me because I had big hopes and dreams for his sport career, and for both him and I because all of the rest was incredibly frustrating with his drive and energy. 

The periods of crate rest gave him an aversion to the crate (even with drugs) and he began to experiment with using his mouth to protest going inside, which…. … Gave me better handling skills, let’s put it that way.

So anyway, I officially washed him from IGP at two and a half years old in the summer of 2022. In October 2022 we got our BH, and I went crazy resting him for 3 months beforehand to make sure he wouldn’t be lame before his trial. Now that he doesn’t do bitework, his lameness flares up much less dramatically - though still on a regular basis. I’ve traded off feeling like I have to micromanage him to keep him sound enough to do bitework for a life where I let him do more of what he naturally wants to do (run around, be stupid, run into stuff, jump, fall…) and if he is a little lame from time to time, I remind myself that it bothers me more than him right now.

I had in my head for a long time that I would start thinking about AKC Obedience with him when he was something like seven years old. I think I heard some other IGP trainer say that about their own dogs and it stuck with me as making sense. But with Cupid’s early retirement, I started thinking about doing it sooner, and after taking an AKC OB group class, I am about to nearly confidently say that I am ready to bring him into the AKC ring… 

The problem is that what started as me being proud of his stellar judge neutrality and level-headed stand for exam thoughts (this exercise is not about biting people, actually!) has spiraled into me spending too much time thinking about being able to get a UD with a dog who is lame half the time. OOPS!

And then I get frustrated with his sloppy heeling, which is a complicated subject because his bad shoulder is certainly a factor, but it’s not really possible to tell how much of a factor it truly is. I know that when he tries to lean very heavily on me, he is having a bad shoulder day. But on a more normal day, he is still very pushy and constantly tempted to forge and lean, partly because of his temperament and of course also because of my own training’s failure.

I have been experimenting with all kinds of techniques for him, a big one being retraining a nose target in heel, and there are days where I feel really good about our progress. But as I started prepping for a CD, which includes quite a bit of heeling, I think focusing on bigger chains with straight lines and no rewards until we did a stand for exam made him lazier and sloppier in heel. So, we’re back to the drawing board. It happens! I didn’t even get super grumpy about it yesterday when I did 5 different heeling sessions, really! I suspect a key factor is going to be going back to food rewards for heel more regularly, which is so oh-em-gee snooze fest for my bitey boy. 

But really, I am so proud of him. I waited longer than normal to put a lot of pet manners on him because I was scared to mess with his drive when he was younger - being my first bitework dog and all. He’s a very sharp dog who is great at what he is bred for, which is being aggressive (in certain contexts). In retrospect, he would have had plenty of drive even if I had put more control on him at a younger age, but I pretty much let him be completely crazy until he was a year old. And yet lately he has been my primary helper dog for leash reactivity cases, calmly hanging out within feet of dogs who are sometimes lunging, whining, and barking at him. Cupid is a good boy! Allegedly. 

Anyway, here are all of the scores for our Rally titles. The main things that we lost points for are: 

  1. Handler error: Boy oh boy did I learn all about the handler errors that they will hit you with for virtual submissions. I would do the same thing in three videos and not get dinged for it until the third judge but, you know what, I respect it. 

  2. Touching: Touching is a judge discretion thing, and as you can see in the scores, 1 judge really penalized us, and some judges didn’t penalize us at all for him touching me. There is some variation in how he is heeling in the different submissions, too, but it is clearly a judge thing. (For our last excellent run, Cupid clipped a jump, landed weird, and started doing a heavier lean, and I knew we would likely be penalized heavily, but I was sick of recording runs at that point, so I still submitted it.)


Event ID:  2023746455

Class Level: Rally Novice B

Course #: RNV1                     

Judge: Pamela Regan-1

Qualifying Score: 80

Points lost information: Exceptional teamwork, just had to score the body contact (touch). T-20.

Event ID:  2023746465

Class Level: Rally Novice B

Course #: RNV2                     

Judge: Sharon Redmer-2

Qualifying Score: 97

Points lost information: Fabulous attention!Remember in intro you must SHOW the collar/lead not just describe them HE-2; IT-1. What a lovely performance! 

Event ID:  2023746464

Class Level: Rally Novice B

Course #: RNV4                     

Judge: Cathy Caballero-1

Qualifying Score: 98

Points lost information: Nicely done! 2OP

Event ID:  2023744953

Class Level: Rally Advanced B

Course #: RAV-1                     

Judge: Pamela Regan-2

These preliminary results are unofficial pending AKC eligibility verification, and may be viewed on your dog's AKC record once confirmed.

Qualifying Score: 84

Points lost information: Lovely teamwork! HE-3 (give dog/jump ht in intro, show exit on leash), HE-1 (can't see sign 3), T-12.

Event ID:  2024746418

Class Level: Rally Advanced B

Course #: RAV-4                     

Judge: Karen Wrey-3

These preliminary results are unofficial pending AKC eligibility verification, and may be viewed on your dog's AKC record once confirmed.

Qualifying Score: 97

Points lost information: HE-3 (You mentioned the collar, but did not show it which is required).  Otherwise this was a perfect performance.  Great teamwork!

Event ID:  2023744954

Class Level: Rally Advanced B

Course #: RAV-5                     

Judge: Karen Wrey-3

Qualifying Score: 98

Points lost information: HE-1 (it is required that the exit with leash attached be shown).  HE-1 (There needs to be a 5 sec pause after the finish before filming ends).  Your dog's attention is awesome.  The run itself was perfect!

Event ID:  2024746420

Class Level: Rally Excellent B

Course #: REV-3                     

Judge: Carolyn Wray-2

Qualifying Score: 97

Points lost information: HE -1 video did not show dog enter area on loose leash under control; -1 handler did not state dog shoulder height; -1 on # 16, handler did not pause before attaching leash.  Lovely teamwork. 

Event ID:  2024746425

Class Level: Rally Excellent B

Course #: REV-5                     

Judge: Nancy Watson-1

Qualifying Score: 92

Points lost information: HE-3 #1 incorrect cone spacing,T-1 Tick jump #14,B-4,FYI: people should not be in performance area Nice team/run

Event ID:  2024746428

Class Level: Rally Excellent B

Course #: REV-2                     

Judge: Pamela Regan-1

Qualifying Score: 90

Points lost information: That was such fun to watch and a pleasure to judge! T-10.

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