Friday, September 28, 2012


Last Saturday evening, three days past his five-month birthday, Presto! was entered in his first fun match.  I had him in two rings, Open and Utility.  Novice can come later.

The rings I had him entered in and what we did when we got in there reflected how I've trained him so far.  His training began the morning after we flew in from Chicago.  He was eight weeks and one day old when he had his first lesson.  His early training has focused on what I call "little fun things."  Things where he can move around, run, be upbeat.  The static stuff will come later.

We started doing little follow exercises.  First with Presto! in front of me, following a treat held in both hands as I moved backward.  Then little figure eights between and around my legs.  Eventually he moved to my left side (not focused on heel position, just following the treat between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand).  We went in straight lines and big circles left and right..

Those circles gradually diminished and now, three months into his training, they've become a loose figure eight.  The little follows have become "heeling," and turns have been added.

So on Saturday evening -- on leash and with the treat still close to his nose -- Presto! did a little bit of heeling and a figure eight in the Open ring.

Next I had him twist and spin.  Then we did what I call "laterals."  I regard the laterals as one of the most important things we do, which is why we started them on day one when Presto! was a tiny puppy.  I hold the treat in both hands, low in front of me, and sidestep a few steps to the left and to the right.  Presto! moves laterally with me.  I want him to (a) know he has a rear end and (b) develop good lateral movement on his back legs.  So I've incorporated that exercise into his development from the very beginning.  The result is his back end moves nicely and no part of his body lags as we move laterally.

Next I had the judge hold him about six feet out while I called him to front three times -- first straight in, then with my body (and feet) cocked first to the left and then to the right.  He almost always straightens himself out when I'm cocked to the left (his right).  He's still finding it a little more difficult to correct when my feet are cocked to my right (his left).  In my competition obedience career, fronts have always been the bane of my existence.  I'm hoping to nip that in the bud with Presto!

We ended our Open appearance with "Where's Presto!?" (a fun game I learned from Louise Meredith a long time ago).  The judge holds Presto! while I run to the far end of the ring, lie on my stomach, grip a treat protruding from my mouth, call, "Where's Presto!?" and quickly bury my face in my arms.  The judge releases the dog who runs to me, burrows under my arm and gets the treat. Presto! generally stays there long enough to get in a few good face licks.

Then we tugged out of the ring on the leash.  Plenty of quiet praise and petting had taken place between the exercises.

We began Utility with another short burst of what now passes for heeling, this time off leash.

After a quick series of weaves around my legs, it was time for go-outs.  Presto! has been doing go-outs to a target inside my PVC box (See my Aug. 22, 2011 post, The Many Uses of the PVC Box) since his ninth week. I kneel behind the sitting dog, my arms around his chest so he has to leap out to get going.  Then,"Away!"  He tears out toward the target.  I say, "Get it!"  Then immediately, "Presto! come!"  He grabs the treat from the target, spins and races back to jump for the treat I'm holding up.

The box remained in the ring for what I call "box work."  His sits, downs and stands have been taught (again from day one) in the PVC box, up front where the slightly raised bar discourages forward movement.  I'd like to think we won't lose points for traveling during the signal exercise.

Again, we tugged out of the ring.

Presto!'s first venture into competition obedience rings went extremely well. Much better than I expected considering there were three rings going simultaneously in a smaller-than-desirable space.  And the entry totalled 88.  Amid all that commotion, Presto! was focused 95 percent of the time.

I guess the highlight of the evening for Presto! was all the attention he got outside the ring.  Here's this ultra-friendly, cute-as-a-button, five-month-old border collie.  You better believe Presto! got to lick a few faces last Saturday evening.

Now we're starting to teach some Novice stuff.


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