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Discussion Starter #1
I've mentioned in several other threads that Pongu, my Very Special Dog, is a severely fearful little guy. I adopted him from a city shelter at 16 weeks, having absolutely no idea what I was getting into as a first-time owner. He is now 3 years old, and much better than he was, but there's no cure for a fearful dog. There's improvement, but you never finish the journey. You never get a "normal" dog.

Just this past weekend, I left him outside a bakery while I stopped in to grab a loaf of bread. Pongu was not there for more than two or three minutes, which I figured was within what he is currently able to tolerate, but in that time a car pulled into the parking spot beside him and the awning on the next storefront flapped in the wind, so when I got back outside, he was completely terrified and cowering and had pooped himself. After three solid years of rehab and confidence-building, after thousands of hours and dollars with the best trainers and behaviorists in our region, I can't leave him tied outside a store for two minutes.

That's my Pongu. He's a scaredybutt.

He's also my competition dog.* Because of his mental (and some physical) issues, the only sport he can really do is Rally. (Well, to be fair, he can also do canine musical freestyle, and that's actually where we first began. He's pretty darn good at it. But I can't dance, let alone choreograph a half-decent routine, so we never made it to competition in freestyle.)

Pongu can't tolerate a stranger approaching him; he'll never do the Stand For Exam in obedience. He can't tolerate loud noises or unstable footing; he'll never do the teeter in agility. Flyball, dock diving, and of course all the protection sports are completely off the table for this dog.

But he can do Rally. On his good days, he can completely kick butt in Rally.

On his bad days, he melts down at the start line and we never get off the ground.

And there are a lot of bad days. Competing with a fearful dog is not much fun sometimes. Even more than with a normal dog, you have to be willing to put your ego aside and do what is best for your dog to avoid damaging his confidence, because he doesn't have any to start with. You have to accept that the brilliant, snappy, precise dog you see in practice will very often not show up at trial, because the trial venue is a NEW SCARY PLACE!! and little tiny things that other dogs don't even notice will cause your fearful dog to implode.

That's hard for me. By nature I'm an overachiever. I like to win. I don't like seeing my dog collapse like an overcooked souffle because there's an overhead fan blowing on the course and he can't deal with that. I really, really want to tell him to suck it up and tough it out and yell FOR GOD'S SAKE YOU CAN DO THIS WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

But I can't do that, because that doesn't work with a fearful dog. What does work is patience and practice and patience and practice and gritting your teeth and telling him that why yes he is wonderful for taking that ($*&(#*&$ stupid jump on the third try after you've already NQ'ed in front of everybody for the fourth straight run and wasted 12 hours of your life and $150 in entry fees.

It can be incredibly frustrating.

But there are moments of glory too, and those are what keep me going. There are those perfect golden runs where everything is in harmony and Pongu is smiling and happy and I don't have to say a word or give a single formal cue and we finish the course in total communion. Moments like that are beautiful with any dog, but you never expect to have them with a fearful dog. To me it's worth everything else to have those moments where Pongu is confident and happy and winning.

In this thread I hope to chronicle our long, slow journey to the ARCHMX -- the highest title offered in World Cynosport Rally. In so doing, I hope to provide some insight to other owners of fearful dogs about what it's like to compete with such a dog. It is possible, if you're patient and willing to listen to your dog. I was told many times never to expect Pongu to set foot in the ring at all, but we do compete and sometimes we do well, and it boosts his confidence more than anything else in the world.


(* -- you might reasonably ask: what about Crookytail? It's true, I have two dogs, and Crooky is not fearful in the slightest. He is a perfectly friendly confident normal dog. He's spectacular with the fosters and endlessly funny and a source of constant joy in our lives.

He's also dumb as a box of rocks and incredibly boring to train. I'll take the brilliant crazy dog over the genial dopey one every time, thanks. Crookytail has been retired from every sport I've ever tried with him after getting his novice titles, because that is as far as my patience goes.)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks! I'll try not to be too boring. ;)


This past Friday we trialed at the Bella Vista Training Club outside Harrisburg. It's a very nice facility that usually draws a moderate-sized, friendly, and supportive crowd for the Friday night Rally runs. It's spacious and usually not too crowded, so Pongu has done pretty well in the past there.

Unfortunately this most recent trial was not one of his better visits. It was an unseasonably hot and humid day, so all the dogs were hot and grouchy, the bugs were out in force, and the club staff had turned on enormous standing fans to cool the place down.

Pongu doesn't do well with fans. Or bugs. Or anything the least bit out of the ordinary. He came out of the box squeaky and stressy, and our day got off to a real bumpy start.

On his first Level 1 run, Pongu broke a Stay on the bonus exercise. Breaking a Level 1 Stay is brutal. It's the kind of mistake that foretells disaster ahead: if Pongu can't keep it together on a Level 1 run, I know we are in for bad times. Also, that mistake cost us all the points for the bonus exercise, so we ended up with a final score of 197, the second-worst score we've gotten this year, and the worst we've done since February. Inauspicious beginnings, boy howdy.

Our Level 2 run was even worse. This ring was full of flies that had come in from a nearby field. Pongu has an obsession about chasing flies. He can ignore them when he's happy and focused, but it's hard for him. He absolutely cannot ignore them when he's anxious -- he runs around chasing them in the same frenetic desperate way that some trichotillomaniacs obsessively pull out their hair to relieve stress. We NQ'ed on the first sign when I pulled him off the course because trying to get him to focus under those circumstances was hopeless.

Level 3 was yet another failure. It was a whole lot better than our Level 2 attempt, because at least we made it halfway through the course before NQ'ing, but I knew it was going to be a bad run when Pongu sat down to do some stress scratching at the start line, and indeed so it was.


Slow, laggy, unfocused. Pretty much the only good thing I can say about this run is that his Sits were mostly in the right place and I might have gotten two nanoseconds of actual attention Heeling at some point. It's not the worst run we've ever turned in, not by a long shot, but it sure ain't much good.

In World Cynosport Rally, you are permitted to feed your dog on the course at certain specified signs. However, time counts for placements, and in the regular classes you can't feed your dog while moving. Therefore, whenever you feed your dog you're losing time, and as a result serious competitors tend not to treat on the course because it slows them down. For that particular run, though, I already knew from the get-go that we were not in contention for placements, so I treated Pongu every time the rules allowed.

You're also allowed to use verbal encouragement on the field and can give your dog simultaneous verbal/signal cues (these have to be given at exactly the same time though, or else you get dinged for repeating cues). Throughout this run I was more or less training on the course -- lots of treats, great big hand signals, etc. -- because Pongu was squeaky and stressy and I already knew we'd be lucky to hobble through the course with a qualifying score at all. It helped a little; he started to perk up more and squeak less as we got further along.

But even a crappy score was not to be. We were wobbling along, not pretty but passing, until Pongu ran past the jump uprights; that's the instant at which we NQ'ed. I sent him back to do it again so that I could treat him for getting it right on the course (we'd already screwed up that run, no reason not to use it as a Teachable Moment for the next one), but he moved forward on the Stay and knocked the bar on his second try, freaking himself out completely.

Welp.

By the end of our third lousy run, I was thoroughly demoralized and on the verge of scratching our remaining runs and going home, because I always have a million other things to do and what is even the point of sticking around just to suck mightily.

But first I took Pongu outside to just sit in the sun with him and walk in the grass and look at the flowers... and take a bunch of deep calming breaths which I needed pretty badly right then.

He seemed to be feeling better after we'd been outside for a while, so I asked him to do some Heeling and some Stay drills, and he executed those beautifully. You can barely see him in the picture below, and that's the point.



He ignored the bugs. He ignored the bees. He ignored the neighbor setting off fireworks or shooting cans in his yard or whatever that guy was out there doing that night.

And he was happy. Happy and snappy and quick.

So we went back in and did the rest of our runs, and this time Pongu was able to work. He pulled high scores in his second set of runs: 209 in Level 1, 208 in Level 2 (taking that godforsaken jump, the continual bane of our existence, perfectly for the first time ever in a trial). We NQ'ed in Level 3 again but at least he did better than he did on his previous try. We'll get it someday.

Overall it wasn't our greatest trial, but it also wasn't our worst. I'm proud of Pongu for taking that Level 2 jump smoothly, since he's never been able to go over a strange jump without massive hesitations before. Normally it looks like the double botch on the video of our Level 3 attempt.

And I'm proud of him for recovering so nicely after a real shaky start. It's a much bigger mid-trial improvement than he's ever pulled off previously.

Progress! And another QQ toward ARCHX. Two to go.
 

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This is a thread to follow for sure. I have a dog that is not really fearful, she just takes a long time to acclimate to new places. She is a monster on agility, nice obedience, working well in tracking and herding.

Extremely intelligent and keen. I really think the combination works against her in that she has difficulty focusing if a bug flies by.

A training challenge for me and a real exercise in patience.
 

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Hi, I appreciate your post and really connected with it. I've a fearful / weak nerve dog that has improved over time and every success that is normal for a normal dog warms my heart tremendously. I too have come to realize patience is key with these dogs and she'll be ready when she is. She's incredibly brilliant and obedient when she can set her fear / paranoia aside. I am thankful that her fearfulness has taught me so much about dogs - because when you have one, it forces you to learn more!
 

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I'm definetely going to subscribe to this thread. Thank you for the encouragement and I wish you all the best in working with Pongu and look forward to more updates :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
A training challenge for me and a real exercise in patience.
Well, like everyone always says, "it makes you a better trainer, it makes you a better trainer, it makes you a better trainer." Sometimes I close my eyes and (semi-)silently chant that to myself as a mantra when I'm clinging to sanity by the ragged edges of my fingernails. I'm still not sure it helps, but at least it's something to say. ;)

In all seriousness, though, I do think that fear/anxiety is the hardest thing to overcome for a competition dog. (In terms of training, I personally have the most difficulty with a dimwitted dog, which is why Crookytail doesn't even make it to trials anymore. I just get bored too quickly working with him, poor guy. But back when I was trialing with him, he'd Q just fine; his performances were just as good [or bad] in the ring as they were in practice. The jump from class practice to the trial ring was nowhere near as hard for him.)

But with practice and patience (repeat x infinity), and constant reassurance to the dog that yes! you're good at this!, yes! I'm really proud of you!, it does get better.

This is a video from the very first time Pongu and I ever set foot in a Rally ring, which is also the first time either of us had ever done any kind of dog event.


I was absolutely petrified (ring nerves like woah!), and he was too. I actually kind of hate looking at that video because it's so excruciating to relive that experience. The terror just soaks through the screen. I've never been able to make myself watch all the way through in one sitting.

Anyway, that was last August. At that point, my goal was just for Pongu to beat 170 and get a Q. I had no aspirations beyond that, because I didn't want to impose expectations on my little basketcase beyond what he could do. At that point I thought it was an utter miracle that he could even go into the ring and do ANYTHING like a "normal dog."

We earned a 196 on that run (I think the judge was being nice, seeing how scared we both were and knowing it was our first time ever) and placed almost exactly in the middle of the field, to my everlasting astonishment. So I raised my goals to getting our RL1 with an Award of Excellence for all three Qs over 190.

Then we proceeded to NQ twice in a row at the next trial we entered, which was 100% my ring nerves causing us to implode. That was completely and totally my fault, and I learned a painful but valuable lesson about trusting my dog and giving him a chance to do his thing instead of panicking and flailing and bringing us both down. Oh well. Best to learn that lesson early, I guess.

At our third trial Pongu finished his RL1 and got his Award of Excellence and, for the first time, broke 200 and placed in the ribbons (due in no small part to most of the other competitors having advanced out of our class by then, significantly lowering the number of other entries we were up against; it is not that we were an awesome team!). Accomplishing that goal encouraged me to aim a little higher.

And then once again we proceeded to NQ a bunch because Level 2 is the first off-leash level and Pongu got scared by that for a while. Also, Level 2 is when you start encountering jumps in World Cynosport Rally, and Pongu has problems with strange jumps to this day. The jumps at class are no problem, and the jump at home is no problem, but any strange new jump is CLEARLY a horrible dog-eating monster in disguise.

But eventually he got his RL2 with another AOE, and then he got his ARCH, and now we're midway through the ARCHX and well on track to continue racking up the advanced championships. All with a dog that spent his first six weeks in class hiding behind a barrier and shaking uncontrollably.

It's been a bumpy road, and it continues to be bumpy. But the more we practice, the better he gets. Right now, we mostly either score high or NQ completely. There's not much in between. It's either brilliant or disaster.

On a day-to-day basis, it often feels like we aren't getting anywhere, because progress is so incremental and it zigzags back and forth. It's not a straight line up. But then I look back on our first run, and remember how completely over the moon I was that Pongu EARNED A Q!!, and it puts things a little more back into perspective. His huge big success then is so much worse than his "failures" now, and we haven't even been doing this a year.

He's a good dog. He puts his whole heart into the work. Every time Pongu goes in there, he's wrestling down a huge monster of fear. And more often than not, these days, he's winning that match.
 

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Good for you for sticking it out with Pongu and for starting this thread!

I adopted a fearful gsd at age 4.5. His name was Basu. He was not genetically fearful but had been abused and neglected for 4.5 years. He was severely undersocialized and had spent most of his time locked in a cage in the garage or hiding in a crate in the house. He was let out twice a day into a nice field where he was bullied by the family's other dog.

Somewhere on this board I've told his story but the short version is that I lived in Madison, WI at the time, was active in gsd rescue and was fortunate enough to be able to attend classes with Basu at Patricia McConnell's training school. He eventually graduated Advanced OB and by the time he was 10 I could leave him in the room with strangers for a minute or two without fear of him biting them. :crazy: He came a long way in the 6.5 years he lived with me and although he was always fear aggressive and had a really short trigger, I learned to predict his behavior and how to manage him and he had a pretty happy life.

After Basu died I adopted a gsd x acd (best guess) named Kai. Kai's mother was semi-feral and he was genetically fearful. Therefore rehabbing him was a completely different game than rehabbing Basu! He was more like your Pongu--one day (out of the blue) the eating area chandelier was the scariest thing in the world and he started crawling to get into the kitchen. :help: I had to be super creative with his training because he really wasn't that predictable. He was super smart though and so devoted and willing to work with me. I lost him in an accident when he was a year old but the 7 months we spent together were quite a learning experience for me!

I look forward to hearing more about your adventures with Pongu!
 

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This is a great thread! I will be following it closely. Some of Pongu's behaviors remind me so much of my Tanner. Tanner's triggers are different, and his stress relievers of choice are to have explosive diarrhea in the ring and to launch a preemptive strike against the dog outside the ring who might look at him at some point.
Sheilah
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Oof, explosive diarrhea is no fun. Pongu did that the first time I took him to a groomer, with bonus bloody streaks mixed in. He's never done it in a trial ring, though. I don't think I'd ever have the courage to go back if he did!

Also: thanks, everybody, for your responses and support. :)

I really recommend World Cynosport Rally and CDSP obedience as great venues for trialing fearful dogs. Both of them allow verbal praise, touch rewards, and the use of treats in the ring. The rules are structured so that you're put at a competitive disadvantage by stopping to pet or feed your dog, so people who don't need to use rewards do get a boost, but those of us with fearful dogs are able to reinforce our little scaredybutts for scraping together the courage to even go in there.

With Pongu, I'm not rewarding him for doing the behaviors. He knows how to do the behaviors. What I'm rewarding him for -- and I think this is key with a fearful dog -- is going into a trial ring. Just setting foot in there and not immediately freaking out and fleeing. That's what he's earning treats for: being brave.

It helps a LOT to be able to reward your fearful dog in the ring. Even if Pongu could tolerate the Stand for Exam (which he can't, otherwise we'd be trialing in CDSP too), the limited voice reinforcement permitted in an AKC obedience ring would probably cause him to melt down hard in there and come to view the obedience ring as a Very Bad Place. In venues where I can constantly tell him he's a Good Dog, that issue is mitigated, and while I don't have to do it nearly so much anymore, I relied on that very heavily when we were first getting started.

So I really, really recommend those particular venues to people who are looking for something they can do with a dog who needs a whole lot of hand-holding to not totally collapse into a puddle of panic.
 

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It looks like you are doing a great job with him. Some dogs are ummm... "challenging". My Ilka is not a fearful dog, but she is highly reactive, and tends to shut me out when stressed. We managed to get her AKC Beginner Novice and Rally Excellent title, plus two legs of her CD. I can recall all too well our first four scores in Rally Advanced. They were Excused, Excused, Excused, and NQ. :eek:
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks! :)

Pongu does make me proud. Trialing is so hard for him sometimes, but he does his best. Sometimes there's a moment right before we step up to the start line where he looks at me and smiles and there's this glorious shining trust and happiness in his eyes, like he's thinking "let's go out there and show 'em what we've got!"

I got several of those moments yesterday when we were competing at the Positive Motivation training center in Washington NJ. It's a smallish venue, with only a single ring and no crating space inside, but it's nice. Importantly for scaredybutt dog, its air conditioning system is very quiet! We had good runs and flawed runs, but I got some happy start line smiles from Pongu, and that makes me pretty content with our experience overall.

This was our first visit to this particular facility, and it turns out that GPS tends to malfunction on the way there because if you're approaching from the south (as we were), at some points it's equidistant between two routes and so a lot of GPS systems, including ours, will glitch and send you one way, then the other way, then the first way, etc., back and forth in giant circles of frustration. Apparently there's actually a warning about this on the club's website, but I didn't think to look at that before we left.

As a result, we were really late to the trial and missed the entirety of the first Level 1 run. I arrived just as they were getting ready to break down the course. Incredibly, the judge graciously agreed to hold off long enough to let us run it RIGHT AWAY.

So I ran back across the parking lot to grab Pongu and ran straight back to the club and we did the Level 1 course blind and cold. I had NO idea what was on the course, hadn't seen anyone else run it, didn't have time to glance at a course map. We did the whole thing with Pongu straight out of the car and me struggling to catch my breath after running from parking lot to club to parking lot back to club.

Pongu's not a dog you can run cold in an unfamiliar venue and expect to get good results. He held up very well, though, and we finished with a score of 198. Not stellar, but under the circumstances I can't complain -- I was just so grateful they let us run at all!

The rest of the trial we bounced back and forth between decent scores and NQs. This was a big trial, with almost 50 teams entered, and the competitors included a couple of AKC obedience judges, the training club's owner (who also literally wrote the book on APDT Rally), one of our Rally instructors, and the #1 worldwide Rally team from 2012. It was pretty stiff competition and Pongu had never even set foot in the venue before, so I'm pretty thrilled that we did as well as we did.

We placed in the ribbons in two out of our four qualifying runs, got another QQ toward ARCHX (one to go!), and finally picked up our first Level 3 Q after about a bajillion failed attempts. That was both satisfying (FINALLY!!) and a little frustrating, because it just went to show that Pongu can do great... when he doesn't make his fatal NQ mistakes.

On our Level 3 run, we lost 3 points for a re-cued jump (same problem as always: Pongu sees strange jump, gets nervous that it's a monster, hesitates and has to be re-cued), but otherwise it was clean, for a final score of 207 and a second place finish. (The first place finish went to the club's owner and Rally author, who scored a perfect 210 with her beautifully precise Sheltie. They were AMAZING, and I am pretty okay with coming in second to that team!)



No videos from this competition, but there was a pro photographer taking pictures of various teams doing their runs, so hopefully I'll be able to buy some good shots when he posts them on his website. I don't have any pro-quality pictures of Pongu working, and I'd love to get some -- if by some miracle the photographer was able to catch me looking anything but completely goofy.

Our next trial is likely to be in a difficult venue for Pongu, but we'll give it our best shot. He's within striking distances of quite a few titles right now, and that always tempts me to push harder.
 

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Congrats on the Q's, and good luck in your upcoming trial.

I retired Ilka from competition back in January. She had reached the point to where she couldn't be trusted on the stays.Now, she does lure coursing, which she absolutely LOVES. GSD Leontine is going to be my competition dog from now on.
 

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What a great thread! :)

Congrats on your accomplishments so far, and it's wonderful that you have persevered with your dog despite what probably seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.

I have a reactive dog, but she love so much to work. My new love is flyball and she loves it too, but seeing other dogs working makes her completely melt down. I have wonderful teammates who are experienced dog handlers who still think she can overcome her issues.

Myself, I'm not so sure. But we keep working at it, and at the very least, if she just practices on her own and enjoys it, then so be it. I hope we can do more, but we'll have to see.

But thanks for sharing your story, your stick-to-it-iveness is really inspiring. Maybe I need to have more faith in my dog and her ability to get this issue of hers under control. I don't think it will go away completely, but hopefully we can get her focused enough on her job that she can still do it and have fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Maybe I need to have more faith in my dog and her ability to get this issue of hers under control. I don't think it will go away completely, but hopefully we can get her focused enough on her job that she can still do it and have fun.
Give her a chance -- and a lot of patience and love and understanding. She might surprise you. :)

When I started on this road with Pongu, and even still today, I decided that it's acceptable for him to tell me "I can't do this." That's okay. He has boundaries and limits and a lot of things he just can't do. His refusal is a message I will respect. Refusing to listen to my dog runs the risk of setting us back hard and undoing a lot of painstakingly earned progress.

So he's allowed to tell me when he can't do things.

But, if it's anything that it will EVER be remotely reasonable for him to achieve, I will always take that answer to mean "I can't do this right now." Because we are gonna come right back and try it again in our next training session, or maybe tomorrow, or maybe a week or a month or a year down the road. Giving up completely is not allowed.

I accept that my dog has limits, but I choose to believe the ceiling is set in rubber, not stone. We can push it up. It might take a lot of work -- and the higher we go, the harder it's likely to become -- but I can push real hard when I want to. And even if I'm wrong and deluding myself, so what? Stone moves too, eventually, if you push it long enough.

I don't know if you're already familiar with the Team Unruly blog, but one of the bloggers there has a (formerly) reactive pit bull that she pushed to an exceptional career. This dog would go so berserk at the sight of other dogs that she would literally vomit with rage. She ended up being a rock-solid, nationally ranked competition dog. I found her story incredibly inspiring when I was starting out with Pongu, so I'll share it here in case you find it worthwhile too: You only get one Novice A dog: In praise of Luce. | Team Unruly

And this post, too, is one that I often reread: Normal Ain’t Easy: How My Dog Got Her CGC | Team Unruly

Because it's so, so true. For a lot of our dogs, normal ain't easy.

But it's worth trying for. :)
 

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Thanks for the links, I'll definitely give them a read.

Yes, it can be quite disheartening. There are moments in time that I feel very sorry for myself and want to give up :D , but then you have to tell yourself that that is not an option and we just keep going and keep doing things.

We might have some limitations, and I think I'm struggling to find ways to push her current limits, without her totally melting down. It's a really fine line and it's always in flux depending on her mood and the environment at any given moment.

She does surprise me sometimes. Sounds dumb, but she was horrible for jumping and muzzle punching me in the face when she was excited. I thought she'd never learn to quit doing that, but somehow, one day it stopped. I don't know if it finally clicked or what, but every so often I realize something just got a whole lot better, almost overnight.

So it goes to show you, you just never know when you'll have a breakthrough!
 

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Well, Pongu surprised me! I expected yesterday's trial to be quite challenging for him -- we were back at BVTC again, with the same old fans and flies and a bonus added distraction of a large, noisy fireworks show at the kids' camp on the other side of the hill -- but, while he was clearly distracted and off his game for the early runs, he held it together well enough to Q in 5 out of his 6 entered runs.

I figured we might be off to a shaky start when Pongu got distracted chasing flies and bees as we were waiting outside the ring to start our first run of the evening. He actually caught a big slow bumblebee and bit down on it, then spat it out really quickly -- not sure if he got stung or not, but he sure seemed shocked by whatever he'd bitten into! But once we got into the ring we made it through with just a few wobbles. We got dinged for some crooked Sits, lagging and wide turns when Heeling, and one pop-up during position changes, but nothing too awful.

And after that, it was relatively smooth sailing. Pongu NQ'ed one Level 3 run on a broken Stay, but all his other Stays and jumps were perfect; our drills are paying off! He took some really difficult, crooked jump entries that were 100% the result of my faulty handling. We don't do agility, so I never learned to get good at cueing jumps. I've tried to compensate for that by drilling Pongu on all conceivable crookedy jump entries in our practices and letting him figure out how to take each jump at his own discretion, and it seems like that paid off.

He even fell for a booby trap on the second Level 3 run: at one point the course had the dog heeling right up to a jump, then veering to the right at the last second instead of taking the jump. Pongu, like several other dogs, fell for the trick and took the jump when he wasn't supposed to, so we lost points on that. But given his history of fearing trial jumps, I am thrilled to have that mistake on our scoresheet.

At the end of the day, Pongu earned all three championship titles that we were eligible to take, becoming one of fewer than 100 mixed-breed dogs ever to earn the ARCHX (Rally Champion Excellent) title. To be precise, Pongu is muttpuppy #97 to earn an ARCHX.



He also took home his RL1X2 and RL2X championships, earned another Level 3 Q with a score of 206 (first place!), and earned a perfect 210 in his last Level 1 run of the night (first place again!). Not counting the NQ, his lowest score of the night was a 204.

Once we got our ARCHX, which was my big goal for the evening, I cracked open a smuggled airplane bottle of rum and mixed myself a celebratory cocktail on the sidelines. We earned both of our first-place finishes after that. Clearly alcohol improves my ability to run Rally courses.

So, woooo!! good job, nerd puppy!!

The ARCHX is probably the last major title we'll earn this year. The next one is the ARCHEX, which requires 10 QQs of 195 or better in Levels 2B and 3B. Given our continuing difficulties with earning consistent Qs in the higher levels, and the fact that we're not even in 3B yet, it's probable that we won't get the 10 necessary QQs until early 2014.

But Pongu has a good chance of earning a national ranking in his division for this year (in his first full year of competition!!), so I can't be too sad about that. My little crazypants is out there competing like a real dog. I am so, so proud of him. :)
 

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Thanks!

A day later, I'm still over the moon with happiness that my little goofball did so well.

These will be memories to cherish as consolation during the long, arduous haul of racking up QQs for ARCHEX. ;)
 

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Awesome! And Congradulations!

What a testement about accepting the dog that you have, not the dog that you envisioned yourself having, and finding his strengths and pushing the envelope only so much that the dog is still enjoying himself despite his insecurity.
 
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