Since earlier this year when Buzz received mail from the American Kennel Club recognizing his RACH, or Rally Champion status, I took some time off from training and dog showing and did a lot of thinking about what we should try next.
I originally planned to get the qualifying scores to show at the Rally National Championships again in June 2020 – but then I changed my mind.
I decided a new challenge was in order and was curious to see if Buzz would enjoy playing along training for a new game.
So, for almost a year we’ve been refining and tightening up the skills I taught Buzz for rally to apply them to obedience, which is a much more exacting and precise dog sport.
In obedience, I can’t constantly talk to Buzz to reassure him that he’s right. There are very specific movements and/or verbal commands that are allowed and a lot that I’d been using that are not.
So, it took some time to fairly and consistently teach Buzz what crazy new things I wanted him to do. Sometimes, differently than what I taught him before.
In obedience, the judge follows you much more closely and stands next to or behind your dog to be able to judge the precision of the exercises. I wondered if Buzz would think having a stranger that near him was just too close for comfort.
Plus, some of the obedience skills are performed at a 30-foot distance from the dog and there’s no extra encouragement allowed.
Would Buzz be brave enough to stay put with a stranger standing next to him while I was at the opposite side of an empty ring, some 30-40 feet away?
With Buzz’s lack of confidence in the world, I honestly didn’t think he’d be brave enough or trust in me enough to successfully do obedience. Afterall, that bogey man could jump out from anywhere.
So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that Buzz was not only game to give these new games a try at a dog show, but also to boldly strut his stuff.
Happily in the last two months, Buzz earned not one, but two, obedience titles.
First, he earned a Beginner Novice obedience title with scores of 197.5, 195 and 197.5 out of 200, winning two of his three classes and placing fourth in the middle one.
In addition, in October, we were called back in the ring for something called a run-off – where dog and handler have to perform one exercise again. This happens when more than one dog finishes with the same score.
Buzz nailed it and was awarded the win.
We then moved into the next level, the Novice class, during which he got a 192, 195.5 and 194.5 out of 200, placing third and then winning his last two classes in Kalamazoo just last week.
I’m still amazed by the level of love and trust that can be forged between a dog and a human. It’s pretty incredible.
And, it seems Buzz and I have found a new game to play together.
There are two much more difficult levels to train for called open and utility, and we are ready to get started on those.
Although I have achieved Open Obedience titles with several dogs, I’ve never achieved a utility title.
But I think Buzz and I can do this.
And, I’ll keep all of you in the loop as we progress.