Friday, January 21, 2011

Katie's Obedience Career

After Katie retired from agility in December 2004, we switched all of our efforts to obedience.  We had already competed at the Novice and Open levels and were starting to work on Utility exercises.  Utility is the highest level of obedience with scent work, signals, directed jumping, and lots of retrieving.  In hindsight, it was probably a blessing that she became unsound for agility as Utility required our full attention and it was well worth it.
Our adventures in Utility are my most favorite memories of Katie or even my greyhounds in general.  Katie was so hard working.  You could drill her with repetition after repetition and she happily continued.  The details never bored her.  Obedience is sometimes thought to be "stuffy" or boring, but working with a dog like Katie makes it so much fun. 
The Utility exercises are very difficult and require a lot of practice.  Obedience competition has been around for over 70 years and in that time only 14 greyhounds have earned a Utility Dog title (UD) (versus thousands of the more traditional obedience breeds).  Katie was the 14th.
One of the most difficult exercises for us was the scent articles.  You have five leather dumbbells and five metal dumbbells.  The handler scents one leather article and one metal article.  The judge adds a scented article to a pile of 8 other dumbbells and your dog uses her nose to find the one that you touched.
 Katie was not very interested in using her nose.  She rarely used her nose on walks or to investigate a new environment.  She is a sighthound, but she really took it to the extreme.  Traditional methods were not working and I was simply unable to explain scent articles to Katie.  That is until I blindfolded her.  I put her in a down, covered her eyes, and then I would hold various articles up to her nose.  When I held the correct dumbbell to her nose and I saw her nostrils quiver, I would click and treat.  Then I would hold up and a wrong article to her nose and gently tell her it was incorrect.  It worked!  Articles were still tough and required a lot of work, but blindfolding Katie got us jump started.
This is my favorite Katie video as it shows us qualifying in Utility (our 2nd leg).  It took us 25 attempts to qualify the required three times. Interestingly, all three qualifying performances were outdoors. We were close many times indoors, but for some reason she seemed more comfortable showing outside.
This is Katie's last filmed obedience trial. Here she is competing in Open B at the 2007 Greyhound Nationals in New York. How about that show site right next to the busy road?  No worries with Katie and Travis, but I would never take a greyhound I was not absolutely sure about.  Katie showed over the next four days at another dog show nearby and was a crowd pleaser, receiving lots of compliments.
Two weeks later (October 2007), Katie suffered the neurological injury that forced her to retire finally. I feel extremely blessed that we had no unfinished business. We had achieved all of our goals and more. At the time, we were simply competing because it was fun.


Capt Elaine Magliacane said...

GREAT story, I'm impressed that there have been 14 Greyhound UD's... I trained the 3rd Bernese Mountain Dog to get a UD and a Championship... so I know how special a UD can be on a breed not usually seen in Utility. Congratulations, Kate UD

Todd said...

That's a really cool story! I can't imagine how much work goes into getting the UD! Cool seeing my obedience instructor as judge too.

Kathy said...

Sweet, Sweet Katie. I loved watching you all work and train together.

Lindsay said...

What an amazing girl! And you thinking to try blind folding her for the scent articles is seriously thinking outside of the box. I would have never thought to try that!

greytblackdog said...

She was so versatile! No one puts Katie in a box (or corner)!

IHeartDogs said...

It must be so nice to look back on all the wonderful accomplishments you and Katie achieved together.
She was one in a million...Such a special girl!

Thanks for sharing that, I always enjoy watching you work with your hounds. You're amazing and so patient.

houndstooth said...

Katie was definitely a very accomplished Greyhound! I'd loved to have seen her working blindfolded. I can't picture any of mine going for being blindfolded, but then again, they're all so nosy, maybe it wouldn't have come to that.

whygreyhounds said...

Katie was certainly a greyhound Star in the obedience world! Utility is a difficult level & many traditional breeds never get that far, Katie certainly showed Greyhounds CAN do it!

Love the blindfold idea! very creative thinking form you, shall never forget that idea if I ever am privileged enough to get that far in odedience

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

I don't think I took a breathe for the last couple of minutes in the first video! Just awesome work from you and Katie. How wonderful to have the videos to look back on. And for the rest of us to just enjoy watching. Thank you for posting them:)

Muttsandaklutz said...

What a beautiful, enthusiastic, happy worker she was. That sure is a long time with no treats but she didn't look like she cared about that at all. I especially love her energy as she ran out for those "forwards".

Thanks for those pop-up notes, very helpful for those (including me) who know nothing about obedience.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Thank you everyone for the really sweet comments. I really appreciate you watching one of my favorite moments with Katie. She has already been gone for 3 months.