My Experiences As A First Time Obedience Trainer
by Nancy E. Tornquist
Reprinted from Giant Steps © Vol. I 1989-90
Last year I put my first obedience title ever on a dog. He is also my very first Giant Schnauzer! My family always had a dog while I was growing up, and my husband gave me a Mini Schnauzer after we had our first house. But, I had never done any kind of formal obedience work.
We had always wanted a large dog, and fell in love with the Giants. We knew they were what we wanted after my college friend, Louise Barbieri, came to visit us and picked up her second puppy from Cathi Tower while she was here.
A year later, we had Max, the cutest ball of black fur. Cathi suggested we go to puppy kindergarten class and Max and I were off. We knew Max was going to be a big fellow, and we wanted everyone we knew to love him as we did and not consider him a BIG
nuisance. Also, with two little people (2 and 5 years old) and their friends in the house, I knew I always needed to have control or my best friend wouldn't be welcome. Of course, obedience classes became a weekly family outing. We did this as a team effort, everyone came along to watch and learn.
Max and I enjoyed ourselves so much, I wanted to continue. What was next? Competition classes sounded like the thing to do so that's where we headed. In puppy class we had excelled and continued to do so during the first few levels of competition. At the time we were the only Giant working in the western Washington state area. I expected to do with Max exactly what the other people in my classes were doing with their Goldens, Shelties and Border Collies. Up to a point, I could. Pretty soon, the daily repetition of the same old exercises bored Max. While the Goldens seemed perfectly happy moving ¼ inch to the left or right with their rear end, Max seemed to say “I'm right here, what difference could a smidge closer or further away make?” I was so serious about every exercise we did, that soon, we weren't having the fun we used to have. I was also trying so very hard to take in every word and movement from my instructor. I was new to this game and she was the expert so I never thought to question her judgement. I attended a Terri Arnold obedience seminar and ended up more confused than ever! How could I possibly get my Giant to look exactly like her Golden. The answer was, I couldn't! That was probably one of the hardest lessons I learned. I know my dog better than anyone else and we were going to do the best we could as a Giant team.
Making a game of the exercises I had just been drilling into both of us helped, and pretty soon we were having fun again and doing pretty accurate work. Of course, Max can’t cock his head and keep his eyes fixed solely on me the entire time we're in the ring like the Goldens do. He knows his duty is to watch out for me and protect me and he can't possibly do that and only watch me at the same time. But he does try. Although my instructor felt we still weren't ready for the ring, my husband encouraged me to enter and I did. I was so nervous although we were rock solid on all the Novice exercises. Luckily I wasn't too far down in the catalog order, and soon it was our turn. We did very well and I was so proud when it was all over and the judge announced all our scores and handed out the placement ribbons. Max and I had not only passed with a 190.5, but received the yellow 3rd Place ribbon!! What a way to start!
Our second leg wasn't as pretty, but we qualified and then on Mother's Day, Max got his third leg, with a 190, and the C.D. was a nice present for me. At the end of May we went over to Eastern Washington hoping for some breed ring competition as no male Giants were being shown in our area and I entered Max one last time in Novice B. We finished with a 189 under a tough judge, but I felt we had done our best work that day.
I finally got to see another Giant work in obedience at that show. But this was a professional trainer working with a breeder's bitch. She paid me a nice compliment by telling me she'd never work a male Giant, as they are too hard to train. I felt pretty good about what Max and I had accomplished. In spite of all my mistakes and problems, we were working within 5 to 7 points of a female trained by a pro! She was able to enter many more trials than I, and so beat me by a mile in the standings, but I know Max and I have bond of love and that I can be proud of being an owner/handler.
We have a new puppy now. A female this time, and she's a lot of fun to train. I've been spending a lot of time with her as we want another good Giant citizen in our house. Hopefully, there will be enough time to get Max ready for Open. He's already got a title at both ends of his name, but I'd sure like to add the X to the C.D
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