It was another exciting weekend for Brutus & me, this time with a brand new experience. The big news (sorry if I gave anyone the wrong idea, no puppies or babies!!) is that we competed in our first dog trial. It's something we've been preparing for over the past few months, and our hard work has paid off! I know that some of our blog buddies are fellow competitors, but even for those of you who are not, I hope you enjoy the story of our big day!
Over the summer I ran into an old friend of mine while at a dog show. I knew she had trained several of her dogs to major obedience titles, so we got to talking about Brutus. I mentioned that I'd like to do some more obedience work with him to make the little guy a better behaved pup in general, as well as a compliment to our agility training. We started lessons in August, and Brutus came along much caster than anyone expected. So much so, in fact, that our trainer suggested we enter a competition after just 2 months of obedience training! We'd been doing well in practice, but taking our "show" on the road is a whole different ballgame!
However we threw caution to the wind and entered a rally trial hosted by a local AKC club. If you want to learn more about AKC rally and obedience, click here. To describe it briefly, rally is a series of stations laid out in a course, which is negotiated by each dog/handler team individually. You start with 100 points, deductions being taken for mistakes as you perform the specific maneuvers. You can interact with your dog as much as you'd like, other than actually touching them or giving treats during the run (this is where rally differs from the more strict, traditional form of competition obedience). Prizes are awarded to the top 4 scores, and scores above 70 are considered "qualifying" - you collect "Q's" to win titles for your dog and move up to the next level.
Sorry, got a little sidetracked there! Now, back to our story.... Where was I?? Oh-
SO Brutus and I headed out to the show Sunday morning, accompanied by our good friend Courtney (who is also now considered our roadie and my body double). In case you are wondering, this is the very same Courtney that supervised Flat Brutus (check our her blog, Funny Farm if you haven't seen it)- we figured if she was so successful with him, we had to have her along for our debut!!
We got there early in order to let Brutus get used to his surroundings. He tends to be a little reactive - not aggressive, but easily distracted by things - and I was really (really, really) concerned that this would throw a wrench in the works when we showed. Thankfully Brutus proved me wrong and behaved like a angel; a good jog before we left home probably had a lot to do with that, also known as "operation wear-out-the-Frenchie".
Brutus chilling with Courtney
We checked in, picked up my armband (number 245), and course map for my class. I had plenty of time to study it to see where the trickiest areas might be for Brutus. It was a very complicated course, thank God you don't have to memorize them (there are signs in the ring to help direct you).
There is a course walk-through before the class begins, but it is for handlers only - no dogs in the ring. Thankfully roadie Courtney was able to take Brutus outside (he would have completely melted down if I crated him), and kept him happy & occupied so I could get myself ready. I've always loved competing, but it'd been a LONG time since I'd done something like this (I used to show horses). Courtney also made sure the butterflies in my stomach didn't get too active, as well as took care of the Brute during my numerous runs to the ladies room (darn nervous bladder!!).
Hey mom, make sure you get my attention before station 10, that looks like a tricky spot!!
We were all ready to go when the judge called our number. Despite an early hitch at the first station (thanks to an inconsiderate competitor with a black shephard who insisted on walking in & out the door that was inconveniently positioned at the edge of the ring), Brutus behaved beautifully overall, putting in an impressive run though the 15 stations that made up our "Novice A" course. It probably took about 3 minutes to complete the course, but it seemed like it was over in 3 seconds! I was pleased as punch, as my only goal had been to avoid public embarrassment!!
Here is the video footage of our actual performance (taken by none other than our fabulous roadie, Courtney), if you'd like to see us in action!
My trainer met us at the gate, and proclaimed it a "lovely" performance, and would certainly earn a qualifying score! I knew we had some mistakes (the edited-out debacle at the first station, as well as a few times when Brutus lagged behind too far or took a little too long to respond to my requests), but still, it was FAR better than I had expected. Yippee!! I was so happy - we not only avoided embarrassment, we actually looked like we knew what we were doing!!
There was only one team left to go in the class after me. I had watched several of the other competitors, and the runs all looked almost flawless to me. So imagine my complete shock when my trainer comes bouncing up a few minutes later and says "You realize you won the class, right?" NO WAY!!! Really??? I was in complete disbelief - we scored a 93!!!
Shortly thereafter we were called into the ring for the awards ceremony. No only was I handed my qualifying ribbon by the judge, but a nice blue ribbon as well (and Brutus even got a cute bear stuffie for his efforts)! She remarked it had been a "very nice run" and also even joked "And who says bulldogs can't do obedience??" HA!
Did we do it mom? Did we????
A very happy moment - being handed our prizes & getting compliments from the judge!!
Yessssss!!!!! We did it!!!
The fact that our first competitive outing was such a raging success is still soaking in. What made it even better is that we had a few friends there to share it with; not just my trainer and Courtney, but our friend Lori also made it up to watch us work (she is our vet and a Frenchie breeder, see some of her accomplishments on our previous post "Brushes with Fame", or by visiting her blog). The best part is that Brutus seemed to genuinely enjoy himself, and was such a gentleman all day. He zonked out as soon as we got in the car, and was still tired the next day!
A winning team!!
Here's what we have to show for our accomplishment!!
This means lots of treats, right mom????
Can't wait until our next rally event (two shows in December, one is a huge competition), hope to be able to live up to our first performance. We also have our first CPE Agility trial fast approaching (Thanksgiving weekend), so there is so much for us to look forward to!!
Thanks for reliving the memory with us. Hope you enjoyed todays post and can share in our excitement. I get such a kick out of the "everyday" Brutus, and it's just the icing on the cake to have him get this kind of attention publicly. Frenchies (or any kind of bulldog) are known to be more difficult to train, let alone compete with in performance events. Whether we win or not, we are having a great time, and will keep you all posted on our next adventure together!
We'll leave you today with a few photos of Brutus basking in the glow of our achievement!!!
I love his expression in this picture!
No doubt the first of many more to come!!