Tomorrow, my 1 year old standard wirehair Dachshund, Betty Spaghetti, is entered in her first rally trial. Guess what?  We’re not going!  Yup, $33 down the drain and I feel great about it!  Honestly, I’m good.

The thing is, I haven’t been working Betty that long in rally.  We started about a month and a half ago and while I am thrilled with where she is in terms of reliability and understanding, I realized that she is not quite ready to be expected to perform in an actual trial.  I took her to a park to practice the other day and she did her best, but the young fledgling birds learning to fly and freshly mowed grass were really difficult for her to work around.  When I took her to the pet store to get some stuff, she did really well, but was a little barky at a few dogs who barked at her.  She really is doing well, but I know that asking her to perform in a trial, on grass, with other dogs and people around is probably a bit much for her now, so I have decided not to go.  I think that this is the absolute right choice for my dog and I.

I talk to a lot of people who are so anxious to get their dogs into the ring, either for conformation or another dog sport and I think that is fine as long as our dogs are adequately and properly prepared.  Betty is only a year old and has only been working on rally for a month and a half, but frankly even if she was 6 years old and had been practicing rally for 5 years, if I don’t think she is ready I won’t put her in the ring.  I get calls all the time from people who want to start training their dogs but have already entered them in a dog show not realizing that it will take a little more time to properly prepare the dog!  A lot of people feel that minimal training is necessary for the conformation ring and then get frustrated when their dogs don’t perform well. The truth is that much of the time the dog has just not been trained reliably if at all.  Two weeks before an event you entered is not when you should start training and preparing your dog for the ring.

I know that some people get agitated about pulling a dog from the conformation ring after you have entered due to a possible drop in points, but the truth is that we are our dog’s advocates and we should be most concerned with our dog’s well being and preparedness.

So, back to Betty!  When I started working rally with her, I had set June 1 and this trial specifically, as my goal.  We are very close, but I think we need a little more work and I am very good with that.  I will not be taking her to the rally trial tomorrow.  Instead, I will continue to practice with her.  I will attend a rally trial/dog show with her next weekend just to watch and support Roy, a bearded collie who is her training partner and just see how she does around all the dogs there.  We will continue to do our weekly rally practices adding in more locations and distractions as her skill level goes up.

If I chose to, I could show Betty tomorrow anyway, knowing that she may not be ready.  I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing as long as I am prepared to 1) not qualify, 2) not get upset about it and 3) not be upset, disappointed or frustrated with Betty.  That said, I would prefer to go in this as a team that feels as ready, prepared and fully connected as possible.

It is great to set goals and it is okay to change your mind and decide that the two weeks between close of entries and the actual event wasn’t quite enough to be where you want to be.

Photo by Dianne Morey



Vicki Ronchette is the founder of Show Dog Prep School and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Vicki has been working with dogs professionally for over 30 years as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, groomer and veterinary assistant. She is the author of Positive Training for Show Dogs, From Shy to Showy and Ready? Set. SHOW! Vicki presents workshops and seminars all over the country on how training show dogs.