A Trialling Vision
An image has stayed in my mind from one summer in the mid 1970s. I had taken my young sons to the Royal Canberra Show and we watched a graceful German Shepherd dog take off, seemingly on its own across the ring, soar over a jump and sit in front of its now visible diminutive handler. Although I have lived with dogs for most of my life, I was so impressed. I thought ‘wow, how wonderful to be able to get a dog to do that’.
A few years later, in 1978, when younger son was eight, a golden retriever pup joined our family. So began my experience of dog club training. Whether the two incidents, of the vision at the show, and my entry to training clubs are connected I do not know. Training that first dog, Pandora, went as far as the completion of the sub-sets of club training which lead to the serious stuff of obedience trialling.
Ten years later, my son brought home a black Labrador cross pup, Junior.As he matured, we were impressed with him. He was beginning to ‘think’ much earlier than usual and we were delighted when we were allowed to call him ours. Back to the Club and this time, we went through the levels more easily. It was about this time that I started finding out about Obedience Trialling and its different levels. Novice [Companion Dog], Open [Companion Dog Excellent] and Utility Dog. Now I realised that the dog I had seen at the show all those years ago was a UD dog in action. I still thought it was far above our capabilities but we did get Club Novice and one Novice Trial pass. Then, disaster struck and Junior was found dead in the garden, he was only five.
When we were eventually ready for another dog we settled on Welsh Springer Spaniels and we brought Wenna home in December 1995. Definitely back to the club again and this time we not only reached Club Novice, after many tries and despite her habit of playing tricks in the ring when she knew I could not correct her, we passed the CD level and she became Ch Slyvkin Merwenna CD. By now I was an instructor. We bred from her and one pup, Heulwen Russet, made it quite plain from the beginning that he was mine. I was now training using positive motivation methods and both Russet and brother Corin were started off in ‘puppy class’. At Open level, Wenna flatly refused to bring the dumb bell back and, as Russet was so enthusiastic, I continued training with him. We did have to take a year out because at one year old there was still no way he would be parted from me on the ‘stays’. This allowed more time to show him to his conformation title. The winter he was three we did the Endurance test; for him it was a breeze, as he was used to long runs in the pine forests. He also gained his CD award with a 3rd placing at the State Titles that year. Now we were on to Open or CDX. He thought the dumbbell was a great game and it took a while to get him to stop playing with it. Our dogs have always collected the papers from the front lawn and delivered them to us, but dumb bells are a different matter entirely; obviously quite different from birds!
That vision at the show is coming closer and I now feel it is within reach. Russet and I, now I am more confident, work well together and we enjoy it. By the end of 2002 we had two of the three Open passes needed and were getting higher scores than before. During the summer recess, we had started on UD training, which he loves as it involves scent work. Now we are doing that very exercise I saw at the Show all those years ago. The one where he is sent to the ‘Box’ and, at a distance signal from me, goes over the designated jump and comes to me. At the first local trial this year, Royal Canberra, we qualified third in Open, and that special ‘X’ was added to his title. Now we are doing all the UD exercises, with varying success. He still has his terrific enthusiasm, so much so that I doubt we will ever get near a perfect score because he squeaks and fidgets so, but he is such a joy to work with. We may even be trialling by year’s end.
It has taken me a while to get this far but various life events intervened. Now I am retired and my dog activities are a pleasant and satisfying way of enjoying that retirement; travelling, making friends, keeping fit and putting something back into the club by instructing. I am fortunate to have Mary Dalgamo, a senior instructor/Judge to guide and advise me. That early vision has only surfaced recently. Maybe next year we will be seen in the ring doing that exercise, the directed jumping, and maybe we will inspire another dog lover to take a similar path and experience the pleasure it has given me and Russet, Aust Ch Heulwen Russet CDX ET.
The pictures, kindly supplied by Bridget Godwin, show Aust Ch Heulwen Russet CDX ET
Many thanks to Bridget Godwin in Australia for allowing us to reproduce this very interesting article.
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