Gretchen and I recently completed the Pre-Novice Obedience training class for the third time. Now, please understand that most duos do have to repeat the class at least once. You have to be able to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in the various exercises before passing into Novice Obedience, where the dogs are off-leash much of the time. Most do not make it through on the first try. So, I wasn't too surprised about having to repeat the class after we botched the first final evaluation. The second time we took the class and didn't pass, I was vaguely embarrassed but mostly took it in stride. By the third time, I felt like Gretchen had improved a lot. One of the hardest exercises is a "stand for exam." She has to remain standing while I move six feet away from her. The evaluator moves towards her and touches her head and then touches her back in a couple of places. The dog needs to remain planted and not move at all. We struggled mightily with this one but now she does it beautifully. She also heels pretty well most of the time.
The down-stay is worth thirty points so we were screwed. Our instructor had chosen to use an official trial scoring system rather than the typical pass/fail scoring. I was vaguely miffed at first. But then, when I saw who passed, I got downright irate. There is a black Lab in the class who is a real pill. Flat-out aggressive. He has come after my dog multiple times. His owner has so much trouble controlling him that she has to wear gloves to maintain her grip on the leash. He did poorly in many of the exercises in the evaluation, but somehow pulled the sit-stay and down-stay out of his ass and passed. The sit-stay and down-stay are weighted very heavily in the scoring.
As soon as I got home, I ripped off an email to the director of training. She sent me a very cordial response and invited me to bring Gretchen back to the kennel club Saturday morning and take the test again. I mulled it over for a couple of days and then decided to go for it. I took Gretchen to Petco Friday night to practice. Of course, I forgot that automatic sliding doors scare the poop out of her, so she was a little "off" the whole time we were there (had her scaredy face on). Nonetheless, I put her in a very long down-stay in the back of the store and she held it.