Wow what a weekend!
4 years of training, learning and relationship building with RAZ has paid off, Im glad it all worked out for me, but I had my doubts when I got to Florida! It all started with my bruised ego from our first trial last month, I was bitten by a little bad luck with a 40 degree rain soaked field and we failed OB for no Sits. In my effort to redeem myself I found the nearest trial to Ohio in St. Louis. I called my fellow Schutzhunder Presa owner Jen Chandler of Cabeza Grande kennel and she ever so graciously offered not only to show me some practice fields but to take a day off of work to make sure it all went smooth. Now there’s someone looking out for the breed, thanks Jen.
Well a day before I departed the worst blizzard in a decade hit St. Louis and I reluctantly called to cancel, only to be informed that my dignity was spared because the club had done the same thing for the entire trial. Still smarting from my earlier defeat I called Ivan Balabanov and seen if he would accommodate us at his trial and they had plenty of room, so we booked a flight, rental car, and hotel. A day before I was to leave a training friend had been given the clear to go, so we decided to make the drive down instead, having a van was much more appealing than shoving a 105# Presa into a compact rental car!! Well when we got there the skies opened up and it rained for my entire practice OB routine, luckily its not water that bothers her, just COLD water!! Still reality started sinking in, driving 1200 miles into a new climate to trial was not my wisest decision, and the days journey only confirmed that thought. I asked directions to some practice tracking fields and was mortified when I got there. Sparse, barely alive weeds in what was accurately described as old used ashtray sand for soil. I mean there were literally 15 foot bare sections of nothing but this type of soil during your track. In and out of this for the entire track, and oh did I mention you cant bait the track because the fire ants will cover your food within 5 minutes and attack your dog if they get too close! Ivan would later tell us shocked long distant travelers if you can track in Florida you can track anywhere! Im thinking this info might have been useful BEFORE I booked my flight!! Needless to say RAZ did nothing on Wed. to calm my nerves, it looked like shed never tracked a day in her life. Back to Ivans for some Protection, being that the field was set up for OB too we had trouble with the blinds. The A-frame which looks like the teepee blind that we use was set up pretty close to the #5 permanent blind which Ivan uses and she decided to run around the A-frame instead. No biggy I thought, but well go back to that later. Routine went great and Im like ok shes got to track this weekend and were gold title in hand. Thursday get up at 5:30 to go tracking at daybreak. Raz didn’t eat the day before and it looked like there was some resemblance of tracking knowledge, she was fed at the articles. Didn’t get on the OB field until the afternoon and I could tell the trip was having an effect on her. Just not her best. Protection later on we have the same issue, no biggie Ivan says the A-frame will be gone at trial so we do nothing but blinds. Friday same thing, Raz misses one corner on her track, but finds it after a few minutes with no help. Im thinking not good, but I went out with 4 articles and came back with 4 so its a 70 on trial day for sure. Now on to the competition and OB. After watching all the BHs RAZ is already panting in the car from the heat and the sun is still behind the clouds. Of course just like day one with the rain when my co-competitor and I get called to the field out pops the sun in full blaze! Long down for me first, I peek at Raz every now and then drool is hanging from her mouth and shes panting. A 40 degree upshift in the weather is sounding real real stupid right now! We go out for OB and shes just not being herself (again!) lagging slow turns etc. and we get a 83, passing for sure, but not the 90’s I want! I call Cathy and explain whats going on and she gives me my best advice. Contrary to what people say about letting the dogs acclimate to the weather Cathy says she has the best luck giving them the full A/C treatment up until they hit the field. I take RAZ back to the hotel and let her cool off. Still my mind is on those blinds and at night after dinner I ask if we can run them one more time now that the OB equipment is off the field. She runs them perfect gets a nice bite in the blind and off we go to try and get a good nights rest. Problem solved I guess that Ivan guy knows his stuff!! No need to do anymore because Im trying to conserve energy. Of course there is no sleep at night Im up at 4,4:30, 5, finally just take her for a walk at 5:15. Had problem checking out of the hotel so we get to the real tracking field right on time and NOBODY is there! Im freaking and call Ivan he says Im 5 minutes away, judge wanted coffee etc. Im like cool, but wheres everybody else? Hes like they are there, Im like no they are not, back and forth, he thinks Im lost Im thinking hes crazy, it turned out funny afterwards because everybody went down a lane and behind some trees and you couldn’t see them in the dark. After my initial panic attack the comic relief calmed my nerves. Anyway the field is the same but taller, we go out lay the track run it 20 minutes later and bam shes nailing it, Im like who is this girl, cuts the first corner a little short, but boy this is top 3 for her. Gets to the first article, stops looks back at me and walks on, damn ten points gone. She continues on and goes a little past the next corner but comes right back keeps her nose down all the way gets to the last article and sits instead of down, but Im like good enough for me. I drop the leash walk up, praise her show the judge my article and hes like very good, too bad she missed the first one 85 points Ill give your critique after Im done. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for hours, 95 would have been awesome, but don’t get greedy I think. I call Irina its in the bag, breeze through protection give me my title, shes like stay focused don’t get too excited, man why is she so smart??!! Back to the A/C for RAZ and I finally feed her a full days meal. After the other tracks we break for lunch I drink a few beers, why not celebrate a little right? On to protection, my pea brain decides I want her to be under great control for reporting in to make up some style points for my poor OB performance. As I start walking towards the judge Im told NO you don’t report in anymore to just run the routine. Now its not looking too pretty Im kind of walking backwards, set up nonchalantly and Revier to #5 blind. She goes half way barking kinda turns around runs towards the fence looking at spectators, she obviously wants to bite, but it occurs to me she has no idea what a search is, shes seen the helper go in the blind every time for 2 years up until now, I think you big dummy how did you miss this, Im white, about to faint, thinking no way I go down this way, this is not happening. I call her back and don’t even let her setup and go straight OB, I send her forcefully to #5 she goes, I call her back and same thing towards 6 she goes, half assed still trying to figure out where the bad guy is, but she goes, I saved the day. Finally she sees her prize and settles in to a nice Hold & Bark. The rest of the routine I can tell shes a little gassed and her control was lacking, Ivan laid the wood to her on the first stick hit in the re-attack after the escape, maybe it was for her Search, but overall it was a nice picture. Well the judge of course dresses me down a little for my mistakes in bringing RAZ on the field in such a manner, hes even telling me I should knee her or something slight to get her pumped. Luckily he sees her for what she is, and not for what I did and even with our big zero for the search (-5 points) we get a 90 and another a pronounced courage rating. PASS, SCORE, IPO-1 Raz is on the couch!! 258, not great Id love to have those cheap 15 point back but oh well. Still not bad, she’s the 2nd Presa Canario in the USA to title, Lotus Perkins beat me to it this year with a Darkforce female (where are the boys at??) and Jen now added her to her program, that she test using Schutzhund as a base. I know there are people out there who will snicker or sneer, but when they go on the road and face things like a new climate, new fields, new terrain, new decoys, hotels, elevators, hours and hours in the crate, a foreign judge who happens to be judging a trial at the club of one of the biggest name in all of dog sports, and countless other things like we did AND get their titles, then they can talk, until then let them try and bring me down.
Of course there are so many people to thank I don’t know where to begin,
I’ve got to start first with my lil Misfit club members.
Bill Stephens for being the only guy at our old club to talk to the kid with the funny brindle dog, he took me under his wing and introduced me to methods other than what I had seen. It really was the start of my transformation.
Andy Kasubienski, before I learned Ivan speak he would break it down for me in steps so I could understand. Watching him work with Qenny and then Nikki not only taught me a lot, it inspired me to stay the course with Ivans methods when a prong collar was just a few feet away.
These guys were both my helpers and it took us a few years to figure out these big dogs, they never gave up patience and luckily never made me pay for more than lunch after the occasional mishap, RAZ says she sorry guys! Without your hard work and ability to feel her on her good and bad days no way this happens. Thanks again.
Jim Deem hes the newbie to our lil group, but hes been to every trial we’ve been at. Heck he let me run his A/C in the Fla. heat to keep my dog cool, now that’s a friend!
Irina Shimko of Red-Star-Kennel, I mean what more can I say, shes my go to Presa guru when I have specific questions, and shes part therapist/mind coach when Im having any training issues. She a great friend and nobody knows more about this breed and temperament than she does.
Ivan Balabanov, his guidance for our entire Misfit club has made us into much better trainers. Hes taught us not only about The Game, marking, timing etc. hes helped us under stand the handler dog relationship and how trust carries over to the competition field. I would encourage anyone looking at dog sports to check out his training methods. We go as far as we can with his advice and when we hit a wall we go to another seminar to push us even farther. Its been a great journey and the help is appreciated more than you’ll know.
My fellow IAPC members, especially Jeremy Norton, hes always there to bounce training ideas off of, not to mention comic relief when I need it. Were a small bunch but our titles prove our dedication to improving this breed and achieving our goals of the ultimate family guardians. Others talk and breed, we just keep training and titling!
Saving the best for last: no one can ever accomplish anything in dog sports without a great breeder , and Cathy Thomas is the Encyclopedia definition of great breeder. There isn’t a bigger supporter of this breed than Cathy. Her countless titles on all of her dogs only touches the surface on what shes about as a person. I cant wait to see another Tianna litter. Thanks for giving me such a special dog!
Even though she doesn’t read I’ll thank RAZ, I meet people with top quality dogs at seminars all the time and I spend hours and hours telling people what shes not, I rarely get around to telling them what she is, well here’s my chance. She is the epitome of what the IAPC stands for, a truly devoted family guardian. Shes smart, loving and willing to please. She has rock solid nerves around strange people, places. Shes been seen by countless trainers and 2 judges who have determined her courage and fight drive are pronounced. She works not for food or a toy, but for my approval. We’ve developed a working relationship on trust and hard work and we’ve proven ourselves as a team. Im too busy to go any farther with her and shes on easy street now, couch duty I call it. Its her rightful place in my home, because that’s why I got her in the first place, her job is to keep my family safe. Im sure well make appearances here and there, but right now the focus is on my Red-Star pup Akula and a SCH III, if anyone wants to beat me to it, you have about 18 months! Were coming and taking names!!
Here’s a pretty bad video, I met a very cool couple who was my OB partner during our routine and his wife is going to send me a her copy, hopefully soon.
By Johny Nicholson “GreJon”