For the last couple years I have posted in the fall about my training plans and goals for each of the dogs, so this seemed like a good time to do that again.

Chili and Salsa are focusing mainly on agility.  We’ve been working through Susan Garrett’s Handling 360 program this year with good results.  The girls may not be the fastest agility dogs out there, but they are learning to handle more technically difficult and physically challenging courses without shutting down.  Salsa is somewhat environmentally sensitive and has strong preferences about running surfaces, but luckily there are so many trials available now that I can pick and choose where she will be entered.

Maya and I have been working in a new-to-us sport this year- nose work.  She really enjoys this and it’s a good sport for her- not as physically demanding as agility and no one cares if she whines incessantly.

Juno is competing in agility on a limited basis and training for her CDX in obedience.  I don’t think she will ever be consistent enough in agility to try for a PACH, but since she is still the only Grand in the country (maybe the world) completing at Master level, I am trying to keep her out there to represent the breed.  She is very close to being ready to compete in open obedience- just needs a little more confidence on the retrieve.

C.C. is turning into a really consistent agility partner, just like her mother and grandmother.  In less than a year of competition she is well on her way to her master titles.  After several months of running in the regular 12 inch class, I did make the decision to move C.C. to preferred.  She is much smaller than my other girls and had to work really work to get over each jump, which resulted in a constant struggle to make time.  I know I may have given up my chance of ever getting her to the invitational by moving to preferred, but I’d rather have a happy preferred dog than one who is having to work so hard at each jump that she can’t enjoy the game.  I started tracking again with C.C. also, and she seems to remember this game well.

Wally is still a work in progress, but I feel like we are starting to actually make progress.  I have found an indoor agility class for him, where he is able to focus and run much better than he ever has outside.  He may never be able to complete outdoors, but almost all of our local trials are indoors anyway.  I’m hoping that next year we will be able to start doing some agility trials and hopefully earn his CD in obedience and rally excellent titles.

Muse is on about the same level of training as Wally, but she will be on maternity leave for the next couple months.

Gromit is turning into a nice little worker.  He’s more focused than the other male dogs I’ve had in the past.  It will be a while before he is ready to compete, but he’s making nice progress in obedience, tracking, and agility.  Working through the handling 360 program has given him a good foundation for agility, but his experience has been mostly on jumps and tunnels.  I have 2 x 2 weave poles set up in the basement to work on over the winter and plan to do his contact training in the spring.

One thing that is not in my plan for Gromit, or anyone else, is the breed ring.  I’ve come to the decision that continuing to show my dogs doesn’t really make sense.  In my 25 years in the breed, PBGVs have gone from the casual, rustic hound that I fell in love with to one of the most highly groomed breeds.  The trimming doesn’t appeal to me, but even more upsetting is the extreme amount of chemical styling product that is not only permitted but expected.  This just doesn’t fit with all of the effort I make in the rest of my life to reduce the amount of toxins that my dogs (and myself) are exposed to.

Part of me feels like the changing of grooming style is an attempt, whether conscious or not, to force everyone to use professional handlers.  This seems to be working, as I’m one of a small handful of owner handlers left in my breed and as a result am frequently ignored by judges who proceed through small entry breeds on autopilot.  I have no doubt that Gromit would be finished already if I had sent him out with a handler and given them free reign on grooming, but doing so just feels too much like buying a championship.  It feels strange to say that I’m not planning to show anymore after being involved with the sport for so long, but right now it seems like the decision to focus on other activities is a better fit with my values.  I will still breed to the standard, I just can’t honestly say that I believe that the show ring is the best way to evaluate breeding stock.  Maybe I just don’t have it in me to keep putting on a fake smile and pretending that anything that happens in the show ring is real.