Chuck and Teddy's Excellent Adventure

By Chuck Hunt (January 2012)

When we got our first PWD, Jelly, back in 1992, she and I attended Beginner Obedience classes for about 6 mos. As she was a family pet and fairly compliant PWD, I considered her "trained". Though she won a trophy at an Obedience class fun match, family and work obligations were such that competitive Obedience training was not something I could squeeze into our calendar. Jelly was a good dog,amazingly low key, and our goal for her to be able to walk nicely on leash was accomplished.

Several years later, Bandit joined our family and with a less hectic schedule and a more energetic dog I began training him for Obedience,Water and Agility. When I trained Bandit, I knew I didn't know what I was doing as far as training for competition, so I paid close attention and our hard work paid off. He did well, earning multiple titles. I didn't work quite as hard with Nora and though she and I did well , earning her CD at 13 mos . of age, we hit a wall in Open trials where she was entertainingly independent. Krista took over Nora's performance career and together they earned Nora's AWD and many Agility titles.

In 2008, Teddy , aka "Teddy the felon" presented some new challenges.Teddy came to us as a 14 mo old after an unfortunate biting incident in his home. His owners did not understand the importance of consistency and training with their PWD pup and Teddy soon took charge of his environment with near disasterous results. We began working with Teddy immediately and utilized NILF (Nothing in Life is Free) Teddy was supervised , guided and given no chance to make his own rules in our home. Teddy thrived on this and settled in to a predictable and fair lifestyle. He liked challenges and definitely needed to learn how to behave in a variety of situations, so more formal training was needed. Fortunately, we had a local training club that was willing to work with us despite Teddy's "rap sheet" so we got down to business.

Our first obedience class was an eye opener for Teddy  There were lots of other dogs! They were all having to heel, sit when their person stopped, stay when they were told to stay. Teddy was not perfect, but between classes and practice at home, he improved.  As he improved he became more comfortable and relaxed. Success fueled more success and we were moved up to an advanced class. Teddy rose to the challenge and continued to heel, come, sit and stay better and better. 

Of course this was not a six week or even six month process. Teddy and I went to class and practiced at home for about eighteen months before we tried our first basic test. One night at class I noticed that people were setting up for something. I checked and learned that a Canine Good Citizen test was being held. There was one spot left, so on the suggestion of our instructor, I signed Teddy up. We had not practiced any of the exercises that were unique to the CGC test, so I watched what we would have to do while Teddy stretched out and looked bored. When our turn came Teddy was not so sure about someone brushing his hair but he sailed through that and all the other exercises and earned his CGC Certificate. With perhaps another six months of training we could be ready for Rally Novice.

Rally is a newer AKC event and since you can talk with your dog and at the novice level all the exercises are done on leash ,it was a good introduction to trials for Teddy. Class had become a comfortable routine for him and I was concerned that going somewhere else would really throw him off. Rally let us go to new (and seemingly exciting) places where Teddy would have to learn to focus when necessary. Training for Rally involved learning a few new skills and was a good complement to our obedience work. Teddy and I were able to qualify in three straight trials. He earned his Rally Novice title outdoors at the 2010 PWDCA National Specialty in San Luis Obispo, CA.

We continued to train and started to plan for Novice B trials . One thing I had to keep in mind was that Teddy was likely to be better in class than at a trial. Me too! I was not looking for perfection but that still did not leave much room for error. We had trained and we were ready but the proof would be in the trials. Our first trial went OK and Teddy qualified. We stumbled through our third trial and earned his title. It was exciting to succeed and I know that you might be expecting that the titling trial would be the climax to this story but it was the sits and downs from our second trial that was the true high point for me. We had made it through the regular exercises. Lining up for the sits and downs, Teddy was flanked by two big dogs that were clearly good friends. The long sit was predictably stressful for me but no real problems developed there. Shortly after the start of the long down, the dog to Teddy's left slowly got up and walked over to its handler. Teddy looked at me, but stayed (he seemed fine but my heart was racing). Next, the dog to his right started singing to its friend across the ring and the judge directed the handler to go to the dog. Teddy looked at me and cocked his head as if to say 'gee dad, this is different'. He stayed down and I stayed standing. Then the dog two down from Teddy's right got up and walked to his handler. Teddy stayed, time was up, I returned and we had made it through the long down and we had qualified! Ah, the value of proofing and the high point of Teddy's CD!

I'm sure that some of you may be thinking that we should have been able to be ready sooner and you would be right. But, we had some restrictions and timelines that we had to abide by due to Teddy's "unfortunate incarceration" following his bite incident. I know that this influenced our training and trialling schedule. In any case, successful training takes time and an ongoing commitment. Learning to work with your dog and teaching your dog to work with you can result in titles, but the relationship formed from time spent together is the real reward.