Our first run was Instinct class, where Gimme quickly indicated (12.62 seconds) and qualified. At which point I was thinking I was so good and this was sooooo easy.
Then I watched ten searches in the Novice class, of which only 2 qualified. Six failures were false alerts to the litter-tube and two teams went over time. I was determined we would not be one of those. It was just starting to dawn on me, perhaps this isn't as easy as I thought.
Gimme and I went in for our novice run, she did the tunnel, quickly alerted and then left it. She never left a rat-tube before, so I concluded it was a litter-tube. She scanned the ring and went back to the same tube... as I congratulated myself for being too smart to fall for an alert on the litter-tube. She left it again, scanned the ring again, and went back to the same tube AGAIN! Still I didn't call it, practically thumping my chest in smugness and encouraged her to search an area she hadn't gone near. As she was dutifully following my dopey directions, the judge called "time". When I asked him where the rat tube was, he said sweetly, "Right there, where she indicated three times." Ooooooops.
How can this be? My dog is brilliant and I'm relatively competent... Why did I miss her indications and why did she leave the rat for the first time? I believe my problem was letting what other people were doing (or not doing) affect how I worked my dog AND not trusting-my-dog. When talking about the workshop I commented how focused Gimme was when around rats and how I ceased to exist. I believe the reason she left the rat-tube was because she sensed my new uncertainty, even if she didn't actually listen to me, and it affected her performance.
I was very nervous going into the ring for the afternoon trial. Gimme alerted quickly on a tube and just as quickly left it. She scanned the ring a couple times and alerted on another tube, leaving it very quickly. When she came back to the first tube, I thought "What have I got to lose", so I called "Rat!" and it was. I spent the rest of the time getting her to focus on me enough to do the tunnel. We finished just barely in time at 1:55.19 (with a 2 minute limit). Talk about cutting it close!
At night Candy called my hotel and we discussed a plan for the next day... I realized I needed to really commit to trusting Gimme and see what happened. One of the issues I had concerns about was not having any treats available after a run. Because of the way things are set up, I didn't want to go back behind the blind to return to my car and since I left my treat pouch there, I had none with me to reward her efforts. So I also decided to preposition a peanut butter cookie outside the door I was using to leave. She likes them almost as much as peanut butter itself.
Today we started with another Instinct test. Gimme sniffed the tubes and left them. I called her back to the tubes a couple times encouraging her to "find the vermin". The tubes are really close together, so without her original focus and intensity, it was hard to tell which one she was most interested in . I decided it was the middle tube and called it. She was right... I celebrated enthusiastically with her while getting her dressed again (the dogs run naked) and we rushed out the door to discover a peanut butter cookie. Who knew!
I was glad to have been right in my interpretation of her efforts, but also concerned because I knew how much slower she was than the first day. It was 35.47 seconds versus 12.62 seconds - almost three times longer. I tormented myself, agonizing about the possibility I'd taught her - sometimes the rat is not the rat...
I didnt' have time to worry long though, because there were not nearly so many people in the Instinct class today and they were running the dogs from tall to small - with Gimme up first. I put Gimme back in the car, then placed another peanut butter cookie outside the door and retrieved my treat pouch.
After the briefing I rushed to get her for another potty walk and ran back to the ring with her. We went in and she very quickly alerted on a tube and would not leave it. I called it and she was right. Then I got Gimme to climb and do the tunnel. Our time in the ring was only 39.72 seconds! She shaved 66% off our time from the day before. As soon as I had her dressed, Gimme dragged me outside to her cookie. I was elated - we seemed to be headed in the right direction.
This afternoon I followed the same plan and we were done in 31.37 seconds! Which shaved 20% off the morning time. So we finished her Novice title annnnnnndddd it turns out we got FIRST PLACE. Gimme thoroughly enjoyed her peanut butter cookie, as well as two more when we got to the car.
I am so proud of my girl. She did so well and showed she still has the instincts to keep a stable clear of vermin. She is going to love it when we trial in Open and she gets to find more than one rat.
This picture shows all the ribbons we brought home. Sadly Gimme is too tired to pose like she usually does when there is a camera around.
Gimme says Oregon has a very severe rat problem and doing her part to help them out really wore her out...