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Mull Trial 2024 – The Two Islands Trial…… blog by Judge Jayne

The beautiful Isle of Mull off the coast of Western Scotland was once again the venue for our most northerly trial. 

Thanks to Moira Owers of Paws by the Loch dog training, we are very fortunate to be able to hold this trial in the grounds of Duart Castle and the stunning backdrop of the Sound of Mull, Ferries, Cruise-liners, Yachts, fog and of course the Castle adds so much to the experience and definitely provides a distracting environment with all manner of wildlife scents, tourist coaches and a noisy cattle grid to name a few. 

The Mull rally folk were delighted to welcome Talking Dogs Rally folks from the Isle of Wight, with an approximate round trip of 1200 miles to get there!   New friendships were formed and I heard Moira saying that she might travel to the Isle of Wight to enter one of their trials……

None of the distractions in this environment bothered the rally folks and it was definitely business as usual when they came into the rings to work their rounds.  

One of my favourite things about rally is that the exercises are made up of natural life skills that transfer to any situation, and this was definitely a trial to see great rally skills in action.  Exercises were performed with confidence, and I saw genuine partnerships between handler and dog.

I was particularly impressed with the performance of the call front exercises which had an accurate straight stand in front followed by a momentary pause before sending to the relevant heel position.  It was also good to see handlers working to the pace of their dog, and not rushing or pushing them out of that pace.  Well done everyone on super handling skills that supported all of your dogs to succeed.

Now to the results;

Lisa and Reuben – Level 1 – achieved ACE scores, one of which was a PERFECT 210 which was in their final Level 1 round of the weekend.  This was such a pleasure to Judge as it was one of those rounds that only happens when everything aligns in a single moment.  The success in this round is due to Lisa’s ability to understand and know Reuben’s individuality, and then transfer the confidence he has gained in training to a live trial environment through clear communication and engagement resulting in a round where everything flowed in perfect harmony.  A very well-deserved result.  They achieved their Level 1 Championship.

Eve & Toffee – Level 1 – achieved OUTSTANDING and ACE scores and this wee dog has improved so much since her first trial experience last year when she cheekily grabbed the tail of Eve’s Unicorn costume… Unicorn’s were harmed I might add…… Toffee really enjoyed stepping up to Level 1 this year and had fun in the ring and with Eve as her handler Toffee has become quite the talented rally dog.

Emma & Sully – Level 1 – achieved ACE scores and given that Sully is a fast, fun rally dog, it is due to the calm and supportive handling by Emma that ensures Sully can quickly refocus and re-engage without dampening the enthusiasm.

Eve & Sona – Level 1 – achieved rosettes of every colour with GOOD, OUTSTANDING and ACE scores, impressive results with Sona, a busy spaniel who has the most impressive engagement for heelwork during rally rounds and has improved so much since last year, well done Eve on helping Sona to improve and engage.  They achieved their Level 1 Title.

Sarah & Finn – Level 1 – ACE scores, and Pre-Level 2 – ACE scores achieved through quiet effective handling with accuracy in the performance of the exercises.  Such a lovely steady team to watch working rally.

Kelly & JuJu – Level 1 – achieved an OUTSTANDING score.  It was great to see Kelly return with JuJu her Cane Corso, a breed that I have only seen doing Rally on the Isle of Mull, they have lots of potential to progress further with training and guidance.  Kelly quite rightly made use of the opportunity to provide Extra Rewards to JuJu during the round and it is always preferable to see handlers support their dogs this way and lose points for the Extra Reward rather than see a dog struggle or flatten.

Eve & Dot – Level 1 – achieved GOOD and ACE scores.  Dot and Eve are a true partnership in every sense and Dot has the most super engagement throughout the round and it is a delight to see them working rally.  I commend anyone who works multiple dogs in any dog sport, it is not an easy thing to do, but just putting that into context with regards to Eve, she not only works multiple dogs, she works multiple breeds; a Terrier, a Spaniel and a Collie…….

Ann & Dexter achieved ACE and OUTSTANDING scores in Veteran Level 2 which gave them their Veteran Level 2 Championship, and then began Veteran Level 1 with an ACE score.  Ann and Dexter are a team that always demonstrate great handling skills and engagement.

Jayne & Snoopy – Veteran Level 1 – achieved an ACE score and are working towards their VL1 Title.

Amie & Margo – Pre-Level 2 – achieved OUTSTANDING scores through lovely engagement from Margo, supported by super handling skills from Amie.  

Hannah & Rubble – Pre-Level 2 – achieved ACE scores and demonstrated the importance of knowing your own dog and understanding what support they need during a rally round.  Hannah never pushed Rubble outside of his own pace and she allowed him time to process the cues and the environment.  They achieved an Award of Excellence.

Vicky & Poppy – Pre-Level 2 – achieved ACE scores through super clear handling from Vicky.  Wee Poppy is a proper pocket rocket, quick, attentive and with clean exercise performance, a joy to see.  They achieved an Award of Excellence and their PL2 Title.  This team has great potential for the higher levels of rally. 

Amie & Tablet – Pre-Level 2 – achieved ACE scores with Tablet justifiably holding onto his TDR poster boy position through solid performances in the rally ring.

Lisa & Rocco – Level 3 – achieved OUTSTANDING and ACE scores with stylish, engaged performances only scuppered by fast pace and jump exercises that raised the excitement levels for Rocco albeit expertly handled by Lisa.

Ann & Stuie – Level 3 – achieved GOOD and ACE scores taking them closer towards their Level 3 Championship.  Ann is to be commended on her handling skills as Stuie is a speedy wee dog.

I would like to express my thanks to Amie Matthews who is now resident on the Isle of Mull.  Amie wore many hats for this trial, including the organisation, paperwork, social events, judging and competing with her two lovely spaniels.  Well done Amie, all of your work was very much appreciated by everyone at the trial. 

On the days of the trial, Amie was ably assisted by her friend Eve Coles who provided us with a pop-up café facility and kept me supplied with hot coffee and the most delicious bacon & sausage sandwiches.  I won’t mention the gazebo…..but there are photos…..and thank goodness for the gentlemen from the Isle of Wight…….

I would also like to thank our wonderful friends Fiona and Martin who very kindly enabled us to go to Mull this year by letting Ann and I stay with them in their beautiful Fionnophort home, and special thanks to Scampi and Gemma their two dogs who allowed three boy dogs to stay there too! 

And finally, my thanks to Ann Fawcett my co-pilot, always supportive of everyone at a Talking Dogs Rally trial, and who stepped into the role of Director of Media and Public Relations when the Canadians arrived to ask all about Talking Dogs Rally………..road trip to Canada anyone…….

 Trial– Monkchester Community Centre, Newcastle Upon Tyne-blog by Judge Jayne

It was a chilly but sunny day on Sunday 4th Feb for the first Northern trial of 2024, hosted by Judge Cristen and Ruff Diamond Dog Training in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  We were pleased to be inside in the warmth of the fabulous Monkchester Community Centre.

This mini-trial covered all current levels and gave everyone a chance to show off their rally skills, taking on the challenge of creative course design from Judges Cristen and Jayne.

The consistency of training was evident in all of the teams and everyone confidently tackled courses containing exercises they may not have previously encountered in addition to demonstrating solid skills with level 1 foundation exercises.  In particular, the Call Front exercises were executed with superb precision, with dogs coming cleanly to the front position into a solid and straight stand, pausing and waiting for the handler to cue them to the appropriate finish or forward position.  Well done to everyone for showing these exercises accurately and with great style.

In the higher levels the distance control exercises were also performed with confidence, and the majority of teams demonstrated solid training skills for recall exercises with marks lost for anticipation, extra positions and handlers not adopting the correct position for angled recalls.  Everyone took on board feedback for future-proofing these exercises to enable their dogs to remain in position until the handler cues the next element of the exercise.

The distraction exercises proved to be a challenge for one or two teams, and again feedback was given for setting the dog up to succeed with these exercises in future trials.

It was delightful to see Harry the Scottish Terrier invent his own variation of a pivot exercise which incorporated a perfect spin and really should be a Level 4 exercise for the future!

Puppy Level David and wee Hamish (West Highland Terrier) gained two ACE scores in their first ever trial, and it will be wonderful to see this amazing team progress through the levels.  No pressure David, but there is the potential for an Award of Excellence if you gain another ACE score at your next trial.

Level 1/Veteran L1 Judge Cristen and pocket rocket Border Terrier Dreya gained two ACE scores in their first level 1 rounds. Vicky and her gorgeous Australian Doodles Rouggie and Mella achieved ACE scores in their rounds with Mella gaining her Level 1 Championship and Rouggie her Level 1 title and AOE. Sarah and her super speedy terrier Reo achieved two ACE scores and achieved their Level 1 Championship. Jude and Scottish Terrier Harry gained an OUTSTANDING and an ACE score.   Sirja and Daisy, a German Shepherd,put in two consistently near perfect rounds achieving ACE scores.  Sirja has the most wonderful clean handling style and Daisy is so responsive, always a delight to judge. Lesley and Cocker Spaniel Mitro achieved an ACE score, gaining their Level 1 title and demonstrating some solid rally skills. Gemma worked Cal who is Judge Cristen’s veteran border collie, scoring an amazing 209 and a 206 which is an amazing achievement for both Gemma and Cal, well done. This was a first trial experience for Abbie and Obi a border collie, they showed that they have a good understanding of the exercises and will be a lovely partnership to see develop their skills.  They achieved a GOOD and an OUTSTANDING score. Judge Jayne and cockerpoo Snoopy are working their way back down the levels now, Snoopy, like many of our TD family veteran dogs has a few age related issues, and they took on their first Veteran L1 course, worked it like the pro that he is and gained an ACE score.

Pre-Level 2 / Veteran L2 / Level 2. Lauren and Jasper, a gorgeous red labrador with a fabulously consistent and steady rally style, gained an ACE score and their PL2 Title and AOE. Lauren and Jasper have always been a solid rally team, and this round really demonstrated their partnership and had a superb flow to it.  Well done Lauren and Jasper. Sarah and her Bedlington Cross Ted gained two ACE scores and took full advantage of the permissive nature of Talking Dogs Rally for Ted to wear his fleece jumper which enabled him to perform the down exercises on the hard flooring without feeling uncomfortable.   Ann & Dexter, a veteran Miniature Schnauzer, is also working his way back down the levels, and he always tackles everything he does with speed and commitment.  They achieved two ACE scores. Judge Jayne and Snoopy achieved an ACE score in VL2 which gives them the last score they need for their Veteran Level 2 Championship.  That’s quite a collection of Talking Dogs Rally Championships that Snoopy has now achieved. Hazel worked Hank who is a veteran Pug owned by her Daughter, and they achieved an OUTSTANDING and a GOOD score.  Well done Hazel, it is not easy working multiple dogs in any sport, especially when one of the dogs is not your own. Hazel also worked Yogi who is her own younger Pug with a zest for fun.  It is fair to say that Yogi found the distance control, recalls and distractions difficult in this trial and Hazel took on board feedback for how she can enable Yogi to succeed in future trials.

Level 3 / Veteran L3. Ann and wee Stuie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel gained two ACE scores, and it won’t be long before Stuie has his Level 3 Championship.  Wee Stuie is more than ready for taking on the new L3+ exercises.

Judge Cristen and her Dalmatian Cross Rossi put in two fabulous VL3 rounds achieving ACE scores and gaining their championship

Thank you to everyone for entering the trial, supporting each other to achieve, and helping Cris to set up before and clear up afterwards.  A trial host cannot do this alone, and your support is always very much appreciated.

The next Northern trial is currently being planned for the summer, and will be an outdoor trial.  Keep any eye on the Save the Date page of the website.  

Photos from Risby Trial- January 2024

Risby Blog, January 2024- Written by Judge Jayne

Thank you to Lucy for hosting the trial and giving me the opportunity to judge, and thank you to participants entering the first Talking Dogs Rally trial of 2024.  Although it was a tad chilly outside, the Village Hall was warm, and it was very much appreciated that Lucy had provided a catering service with hot drinks and delicious bacon sandwiches!

An indoor trial environment can present different environmental factors for handlers and dogs, but it was great to see teams overcome these and set their dogs up to succeed and progress through their respective classes.

I have taken a different approach with this blog to previous ones, as I feel it is important to share a few of my overall judging observations amongst the wider Talking Dogs Rally participants so that we can all aim to improve our trial skills. 

Additional Cues The indoor environment highlighted where handlers are using additional cues that might not normally be picked up in an outdoor setting, and when a handler made repetitive clicking or kissing noises to motivate their dog this is amplified in the hall. 

Another type of additional cue is tapping your leg and wiggling your fingers which again tends to be done repeatedly.

Sometimes handlers are not aware that they are doing this, so it is useful to ask someone else to watch and listen for what you do when working a round, and then look at fading out any repetitive noises or hand signals that are identified.  

Handler nerves There is no doubt that entering the trial ring to be judged causes every handler to feel nervous. This is absolutely normal for everyone entering the trial ring.

Try flipping the nerves and emotions over.  Instead of focusing on what you think your dog cannot do, or will not do, look at the positives of what your dog can do and what your dog enjoys doing.

Use your walk-through to identify those exercises that you know you have not fully proofed yet, and have a strategy for how you will deal with this during the round, eg, move onto the next exercise, additional cue, retry.  Try to not let one specific exercise affect the whole of your round.

Take a strategic approach to the things that don’t go well, make a note of which exercises were challenging and work with your trainer to break the exercise down and proof it for future trials.