Kaffee is a very special Border Collie that is kind, caring, soft but always wanting to please me no matter what I have ever asked. This makes our work together as a team very rewarding and special.
Kaffee is my first obedience dog. We started obedience as something to do in addition to agility but it became more when it was clear that Kaffee was not structurally built to do agility even though he loved it. Initially the goal was to get a UDX, but when we went from a UD to a UDX and got 10 OTCH points in one weekend….. the journey was on. … however, first we needed to get our UDX (10 combined qualifying scores in both Open B and Utility B).
Getting a UDX was not easily done; OTCH points were also few and far between and I lost my instructional support for this journey…. It is very difficult to get even a UD or UDX without good continuing instruction and support. I was about to give up on obedience since I had lost this support until I found a new instructor in southern California – Catherin Zinsky.
I decided to once again go back to obedience even though it meant driving 6 plus hours to southern California every 6 weeks. I decided to do this since Kaffee seemed to like obedience - whenever we went to our training fields he always went into the obedience ring and always works with happiness and a smile… quite unusual in high level obedience.
I found that the extra effort to find a good instructor that fit with my philosophy of positive training was worth the drive and expense to southern California. I have found Catherine to be an excellent instructor but more importantly dedicated and interested in her students and accomplishment of their goals. Catherine has been the support that has helped me climb out of the valleys of doubt that this journey to an OTCH was too hard and unattainable for Kaffee. She has so strongly believed in us and our OTCH journey and offers encouragement and support before every show despite the miles that separate us.
At times I feel like we will not make it… and that is OK ..it is only a title and who really cares about your titles unless you do and find joy in the journey. I am enjoying our journey and learning so much about good dog training…. Not only from Catherine but from the work I did with Susan Garrett’s online classes. I have learned that knowing the criteria for a performance and communicating those criteria consistently to the dog to help make him successful is perhaps the most important training skill. And, as Susan Garrett has as a mantra– “DO NOT REWARD CRAP”. Once the criteria for a performance has been understood and taught to the dog, then only the correct behavior is rewarded. This sounds simple but is very difficult since so often we want to just reward a behavior that is “almost close.” When this is done the dog quickly learns to perform at these lower levels and we never get to that perfection or to high scores in obedience.
I still am not confident about our OTCH even though we now have 76 out of the 100 points and Kaffee is 8 years old…. But what I learned from Susan Garrett and find so helpful at each show is to not focus on the win but before going into the ring focus on what I am thankful for then go into the ring focused on my relationship and team work with my dog. Being present and with Kaffee for each exercise always thinking of connecting with him with joy.
This weekend in Tucson, Arizona we went to a small show. There were many challenges with a very poor ring (ruts, hills, valley, holes in the ring) and a judge that was heavy handed with her pen. I again got discouraged and got in my negative thinking that once again Kaffee could not compete with the highest scoring dogs who consistently get 198 or higher… but these dogs do fail and Kaffee is there to pick up the win when they make their mistakes…Even the best dogs make mistakes… Kaffee ended his weekend with two HIGH COMBINED on Saturday and Sunday , a HIGH IN TRIAL…. and 4 OTCH points. It was a small show with challenges but the weekend ended up to be special with the people we met, interacted with and the accomplishments with special KAFFEE.