So as some of you know, Aiden and I were prepping for our IPO2. The trial was a little over two weeks ago and I decided that I wanted to share our story in case there are any other novice Schutzhund handlers out there trialing with their first dog that feel the way I do.
Many of you know about Aiden's handler sensitivity. He's relatively soft when it comes to some corrections. He's had a history of shutting down on me in tracking and lacks some serious confidence, but we have been working on it quite a bit and I am happy to report some major improvement!
Tracking conditions were absolutely perfect. It was about 45-50 degrees with very moist grass. I could pretty much see every step. Aiden tracked beautifully up to the first article on the second leg. He had a fast indication, but started before I actually sent him after showing the article. It kind of screwed us up and he shorted the second turn but went straight to the third leg and went trucking down to the second article. 81 points was a full ten points higher than our IPO1! I was thrilled.
Obedience was fun. His heeling was off (not the greatest head position) but he stayed with me. His motion exercises were beautiful. We had a brief moment of panic when I threw the dumbbell and it rolled all the way over the where the wall is, so I took the re-throw. When I sent him over the jump he ran over to the wall, realized he was wrong, and then came back to the jump. He was so close to it at that point that it was probably the most awkward jump I had ever seen, but it did it.
He did a gorgeous, fast, straight send out with a quick down. 84 points..12 points higher than our IPO1!
Ready to go!
Retrieve over the hurdle
Retrieve over the wall
Then protection..Well he entered the blind with a super bark and hold. Nice and confident without the usual "BooWOOWOO" that he sometimes does. Excellent call out and set up for the escape. Nice bite and clean out with a great guard. And then the drive..He was stepped on and came off the sleeve with a pitiful and heartbreaking scream. Knowing how sensitive he can be, I realized that he wasn't actually injured but really just confused, since that has never ever happened before and he is a vocal guy. He went back for the bite again and the two of them ended up getting tangled up again and he came off. Started doing a bark and hold and I just walked up and sat him before anything else happened. Judge was nice enough to let me send him to the car with the sleeve. Aiden was fine and I was devastated.
Bark and Hold
Out and Guard
We were so close to something that I never even conceived as an achievable title before! After a few days of thinking, I came to the realization that although Aiden is not a hard dog whatsoever, there was nothing that we could have trained for to prevent a situation like that from happening. A soft dog isn't going to change at heart, but that isn't really a training failure on my part either. We gave it our best **** shot and we rocked it pretty good. So in light of that, we will be trying again in two weeks. He's as ready as he'll ever be, so long as the helper doesn't step on him.
I've heard a few people say to me that he shouldn't be competing and I shouldn't even be training him because he is such a soft dog, but I have come to the realization that I really don't give two craps what other people think of my dog.
He came from a pretty terrible upbringing with some seriously squirrelly genetics and we became a pretty decent team in IPO in the last few years. No, he will not be going to Nationals or even Regionals, but we will get our IPO2 and IPO3 and we will be **** proud. It's not a breeding title for me and I don't need to hear about the fact that Schutzhund is a breed suitability test, because I already know that and I honestly don't think it applies in this situation whatsoever considering the fact that he will never be bred. But I think the fact that I took a dog who came from nothing and took him this far says something. Especially considering the fact that he is my first Schutzhund dog and German Shepherd ever, and most people would have given up on him a long, long time ago.
I'm not going to lie, I've never really failed much at anything before. Usually if I put my mind to it, I succeed however, I have never worked with another living being before in this aspect. Bottom line is, he is a dog and the helper is a human and things are going to happen that are completely out of my control. I feel good knowing that we weren't run off the field and that Aiden really didn't know the difference between getting his IPO2 or failing that day. I still love the bajeezus out of him and I know that we are still very capable of getting that title. I was so upset after failing because it was the last phase after getting two really good scores (for us) and we were just so darn close, but then I realized that it means nothing to him, and he loves me just the same.
I just wanted to spread some encouraging words to other people like me, who know what they have in their dog and are sometimes made to feel ashamed of it. There is nothing wrong about having a dog who isn't the greatest Schutzhund dog ever. The fact that I went out there and trialed and failed made me feel like an ever stronger handler than the sideline critics. Aiden and I are working our butts off in this sport, and we deserve every little chance that we can get. Just because he isn't from titled parents or a working line breeder doesn't mean that we shouldn't be allowed to try.
I'd also like to encourage more people to get out there and trial. There's no shame in failing if you truly think that your dog is ready. Sure, they can chose to pull out the crazy moves on trial day and it can cost you the title, but at least you will be out there and doing it. Not many people can say that. So we will try again. Wish us some better luck this time around!
Thanks for listening to our story/rant. Sorry the pictures aren't the greatest quality, but I'll post the link to the actual trial photo site. My Uncle Rob was nice enough to take them for the club.
Rob Gierthy Photography : Other : Schutzhund 10/20/2012