I broke down and actually took Spencer to a training class tonight! We both had a good time.
A little history - for the first two years of his life, Spencer and I were in classes continually, sometimes twice a week. When Rally became a titling event for AKC, we were ready and we had RN, RA and RE titles within the first six months. By the time he finished his RAE (on his third birthday at the 2006 CWCCA Specialty) we were both so burnt out that I promised him that if he just double-q'd that day, I would never ask him to go in a Rally ring again. (Of course, I re-neged on that later.)
We took a few months off, and that fall we went to the obedience ring, and 1-2-3, he got his CD. I was pretty excited with how well we did, so we started working on the Open exercises. Spencer seemed to learn them all well and practiced very nearly perfect. I started entering trials, but everytime Spencer walked in the Open ring, he completely shut down. He moped around the heeling exercises, and sometimes he refused to heel at all. He completely refused to down on recall, and forget about going to get that dumbbell, or worse, the dreaded broad jump. The only bright spots were sits and downs (which in Open, are done out of sight of the handler.) He was rock solid on sits and downs.
Well, up until our last attempt, that is. We were at a show in South Carolina - Scout was entered in conformation, Spencer in Open A. Laura and I had traveled together to the show. Aunt Laura sat outside the ring watching. Spencer and I went in the ring, and it was his WORST exhibition ever. He refused every exercise. We went back in for sits and downs, and Laura was seated right behind where we were set up. Laura says that as soon as I got out of sight, Spencer looked back over his shoulder at her as if to say, "Watch this" and then he just laid down. This moment has been known ever since as the day that Spencer gave me the paw.
We have not been in an obedience ring since. After taking several months off, I started entering him every once in a while in Rally again when we were at conformations shows with Scout. No training, no drilling - just the two of us dropping in a ring every once in a while for fun. And he did have fun - it was good to look down and see a happy face and wagging tail next to me. Before long, we accumulated enough double-qs to get an RAE2 and we should be able to finish his RAE3 at the Specialty this year.
As I mentioned the other day, I was considering brushing up on the Open eercises and trying for a CDX as well. I had forgotten that AKC has added another titling class, Graduate Novice - a step between Novice and Open. The exercises include heeling on leash, figure 8 off leash, drop on recall, recall over the broad jump and panel jump, and the wacky recall with dumbbell. There is also a 3 minute long down stay.
So - that brings us to tonight. I found out that the advanced rally class at our doggie daycare included the GN exercises. We ran through them tonight and Spencer had no problem with any of them (except the silly recall with dumbbell) and seemed to really enjoy showing off. We did work on him taking the dumbbell and holding it, so we made progress. My job is to keep it fun and loose for him so that he will not shut down on me like he did before.