Now we are DONE with Novice and moving on to Graduate Novice this summer with an eye on Open possibly later this fall. We'll probably do UKC Open first; UKC trials around here are nice relaxed little shows and a great place to start a new level of work. Plus I like the fact that the out of sight exercises are separated (honor down, then a group sit) so you're not throwing them both at a green dog all at once.
Novice was a great place to test out a young dog and see what the strengths and weaknesses of our teamwork are. After our April and May trials, I have a much clearer picture of what Phoenix understands and what he just plain doesn't get. It's not all about Phoenix, either. I need to work harder to build myself as the motivator, not the cookie. Phoenix loves his cookies but he loves his toys, too, so I need to burn a calorie and play with my dog! Our heeling needs a ton of work, not only on technical skills but on maintaining attitude. Not to mention being much clearer about my criteria and not being afraid to raise the bar and ask my wild dog for more. I'm looking forward to a summer of training and if I feel we have a solid grip on Utility, we might try Graduate Open this fall, too. Dream big!
After a week on furlough, I'm back to the office tomorrow and think the dogs will be glad to see me go so they can get back to their sleep-20-hours-a-day plan.