Be warned: There's A LOT of bragging in this thread!
Eight days ago, we had our VERY FIRST trial in AKC obedience and we got second place. This weekend, we had two trials to attend and placed second in each one, earning all three legs of our Companion Dog title. Waffle passed his Therapy Dog International test just two days before his first trial and the paperwork is in the mail, too. TDI certification and a CD in just ten days! That's my boy. We haven't even taken an obedience class. We're all self-taught, but that's not to say we didn't work really hard to get there.
We did do four or five private lessons to give me a crash-course on handling. Waffle knew the exercises but knowing the scoring and how it's done before stepping in the ring is important. We went to ONE run-through. It was our only real practice and we did terrible. Like, awful. It was a disaster. But, I was proud of him and I was proud of us for actually going. After that, I knew what we needed to do, and we did it, and it was reflected in our performance. We stepped into our first real trial to "wing it" and ended up taking second. A little more than two months after deciding, on a whim, to do competitive obedience, we have a title!
Waffle is my first dog ever. My family is (well, was) all cat people so I rarely got to interact with dogs. In fact, I was bit by a dog when I was a small child and actually was afraid of them. When I decided to get a dog, it couldn't be just any dog; it would be a dog that could live amongst the cat people with no fuss, buts, or coconuts. So from day one, I laid down the rules and expected them to be followed, and I was working on training basic commands to help keep him safe and help keep our sanity (ie, sit/stay/come).
He's too smart for regular dog things. Most dogs can go on a walk two days in a row around the same route and they love the routine. Not Waffle. If we do the same thing two days in a row, he gets an attitude like, "UGH, but Mum, we did this yesterdaaaay" and is noticeably unenthused. (At our trial today, you could tell he was bored in the ring--we had competed yesterday. Alas.) So, training took the place of neighborhood walks or other routine tasks. The clicker became his favorite thing. I don't even remember doing leash training with him, but he walks perfectly on leash and always has, I think. I may be able to thank his breeders for that, because they were using the leash since before he could go outside. He can leave a whole steak untouched on the floor and when you tell him he can have it, he thinks it must be a lie or a trap and still won't eat it. He became exactly the dog I wanted, but, most importantly, the dog I needed.
We decided on a whim to take the CGC test. I read about the requirements online and when the test was offered at a dog event we attended at my college, I signed up. I was very nervous. Dogs that have been in classes for the CGC for weeks still don't pass sometimes. We breezed through it and the lady giving the test said that Waffle was the best dog she has *ever* tested for CGC, and she's been doing CGC since it came out! At that same dog event, a dog with a UDX title would participate in the pet show. He complimented me and Waffle's performance and said he thought I had a very special dog and that we would go far if I worked with him some more.
There's an outdoor mall in Charlottesville, VA, that we visited on vacation. I decided to pick a spot in the square and start doing tricks. I took his leash off and entertained a group of people with some basic tricks. A man was sitting in a lawn chair feeding squirrels. Across the way, one of his squirrel friends was foraging for some dropped food around the outdoor tables at a Five Guys. Waffle saw the squirrel, still off-leash, and began to chase after it. I called him back and had him lay down, facing the squirrel. After the squirrel left, I released Waffle and the man made a remark, "That's the best I've ever seen!" It turns out that the man was a trainer for K9 Officers.
Of course, let us not forget the numerous people I meet who compliment me endlessly on his behavior. Some have even been unsolicited comments from animal professionals--a trainer I never worked with, numerous vets and vet students... We got this "good dog" thing down.
I emailed someone at the committee for our first obedience trial to ask some basic questions about signing up for the trials. I said something that probably sounded like overconfidence--something about considering signing up for all three trials that weekend to knock his title out so we could move on. He made a comment about how most new handlers and new dogs don't get their title in just three tries. When I read his reply, I thought to myself, "Whatchoo know 'bout me? You don't know me! We gon' do it!"
AND THEN WE DID IT. It was... pretty easy. An astoundingly anticlimactic affair. But I guess that's what we should expect from Waffle.
Training with him keeps a lid on my simmering depression and helps me deal with the familial issues amassing around me that I'm otherwise helpless to solve. The more stuff I can teach him, the better. The tricks he does and his enthusiasm for life help to lift the heavy mood in our home not just for me, but for my family and our relatives. Needless to say, as long as he is willing to learn, we're not gonna stop. Loving and working with such a bright, sensitive, and thoughtful animal is the real reward for both of us; adding letters to the end of his name is just a bonus.
Of course, the "'free" dog toys, dog treats, and sweet Corgi swag from his fan club is pretty ballin' too.