This page is dedicated to Bruce Plaiss and the Amazing Molly. Mother of my beloved Jasmine and a dog who gave us such a thrill. We have had the privelege of seeing some incredible RRs wwork the Obedience rings. Anne Jones and Beckett and Bruce and Molly will forever be the ones who define the sport for us. Hard headed RRs are not inclined to train for repetative activities like your more push button breeds. They get bored and let you know it. My sincere belief is anyone can train a dog to do the basics. Go to a good class, do the work , put in the practice it is not rocket science. But RRS... well that is an entirely different level of training and working. That is Dedication. Ch Southridge Molly Be Good CDX OA OJA ( I think I am missing about a dozen of her titles) But these are the one's listed in post. Molly worked for her Daddy Bruce as a labor of love. She often ticked him off by missing out on top scores because she was bored. It was in every line of her being. She loved to mess with Bruce's Head. This story however happened later in her life. It was witnessed by Bob, Myself our Irish Wolfhound and Mastiff friends.
Bruce is a striking man, Tall and posessing glorious white hair and beard. He and his wife Barbara had been in dogs forever, breeding and training Afghans, Rhodesians and Shetland Sheep Dogs. Molly was Bruce's road dog, she accompanied him on his many work trips, a wonderful companion they were closer than close. One year the Plaiss' had a particularly bad year. Bruce a very intelligent man suffered a stroke. He was finding the recovery from the stroke horribly difficult. Impatient and aggravated, like most stroke patients he fought hard to regain his ability to move, speak clearly and return to normal. At the same time Molly was diagnosed with mamory tumors and required a massive surgery, removing one entire mamary line. This was a huge surgery cutting her basically the entire length of her body. Together they spent untold hours just being together. Then finally Bruce began to work her again in the Obedience routines. We were lucky enough to be at the show they made their return to the competative rings again. Barbara was exhausted. As much as she loved her husband the intense burden of caring for husband, dog , kennel, and working was nearly overwhelming. My hat is and always will be off to her and her devotion.
I asked her how she thought things would go and she shrugged. Bruce was still having aphasic moments, Knowing what he wanted but having difficulty explaining or communicating. I have always called what happen "The Dance"
Bruce was having a rough morning. Snapping at Barb , the dogs and even to a certan extent his friends. He was short and brusque. Molly simply kept watching her Dad. They went to the ring, a large echo chamber of a building and after a wait were called into the ring.
The routine began normally , sit, heel, heel slowly, increase pace, turn , slow pace.... nothing out of the normal. The Judge is nearby holding the clipboard and giving the commands. Molly was moving at his side but you could see from her body language she was concerned. About 2 minutes into the routine the Judge had given the stop and sit command. When the Judge was ready for them to move once more, it happened. Bruce had a mental block. There was a look of confusion on his face. He was concentrating hard, trying to sort out what was needed but it was simply not there in a clear fashion. The color rose in his face, and he struggled, pausing, you could see he was unable to think which foot to start with. ( this is a basic part of heeling) . The girl stood looking up at Bruce, he took a deep breath and began to move, unsure but again, this is a man of great pride, easily spotted at any event. Handsome and intelligent. A really great trainer. After a few steps you could feel our group holding their breath. He and Molly were on the far side of the ring. There was no way to help, only to watch.... then Molly took over. Listening to the Judge's commands she began to work Bruce. When instructed to speed up she did, slow down and Molly did not simply slow, but used her body to check Bruce's pace. Turn commands were quickly handled by Molly she would lean into Bruce's leg ever so subtly , guiding him to the completion of the event. We stood there barely breathing as we watched this devoted dog work with her Dad. At the end of the event They took 3thrd. Bruce was annoyed and hoping none of us had noticed the confusion issues. We were all simply awed at what we had the honor of watching. The bond between them was such, she happily assumed the responsibility of making Bruce happy. Later we watched them many more times. Some times Molly worked to levels so spectacular it brought ringside applause. Others she messed with Bruce. Once in an outdoor ring at a National during a light drizzle she opted to down stay UNDER the stay table instead of on top. The crowd of Ridgebackers roared with delight, she was simply amazing! We will always be proud to have Molly in our line. BTW, Bruce and Barb did not name her Molly Be Good Because they were bigh time Rock and Roller Fans... as a puppy you often heard Bruce cautioning her " Molly ..... be...GOOD!"
With this story as a prelude to what is possible, here are more photos of working with your Ridgeback in the Obedience rings. At the very, very least EVERY RR should go through Puppy Kindergarten and basic Obedience. Good Manners are not simply something we need to teach our two legged children. Your Furkid should have limits, guidelines and exectations. They should not be allowed to lift a leg when and where ever they choose, nor should they think they pick and choose who to allow near you or where they can sit. This is YOUR job as a good owner and furkid parent. Make no mistakes when other Ridgebackers see you and your dog they measure the intelligence and abilityYOU have as an owner and trained by your dog's behavior. It truly does tell us everything we need to know about your ability and commitment when we watch you with your dog.
I've been meaning to send this along to you. It's my girl Sophie having so much fun competing in the Open obedience class at the 2009 nationals. Here's how it went for us. I call Sophie to me for the drop on recall. She comes flying in and when I ask her to drop, she puts her legs out to go down and because it's on carpet, she slides about 5 feet into a down. This gets a rise from the audience. Folks start to laugh and Sophie's thinking "Oh, I have fans. Let's put on a show!" I can clearly see this in her eyes. So the next exercise is to retrieve the dumbbell. I throw it out and ask Sophie to get it. But thinking now of pleasing her fans, she charges out, circles the dumbbell a few times, pounces on it and then picks it up. By then some of her "fans" are laughing again, so she begins to leap and run madly around the room, dumbbell in mouth. That is what these pictures are showing. She then throws the dumbbell in the air a few time and catches it again just for good measure. I am out to this picture entirely, off to the left, waiting somewhat impatiently for her to bring the dumbbell back to me, which is, of course, the point of the exercise. But even though I'm frustrated by Sophie's antics and the thought that we drove all the way from AZ to MI for THIS, I still can't help but smile at all the fun she is having. Eventually she actually does bring it to me with a perfect sit in front. She knew all along that this was what she was supposed to do, but choose something different at that moment.
I guess this is what I've learned about doing obedience with ridgebacks. You will always have those moments when a ridgeback decides to do something other than what you've asked, no matter how much training you've done. Might as well just smile, be patient and wait it out. You can try correcting them, but as we all know ridgebacks are enormously stubborn and if they don't choose to correct themselves, forget about it. I have found no way to make a ridgeback do something as meaningless (to the dog anyway) as obedience exercises it they really don't want to do it. My dogs will only perform well if they are having fun or if they want to make me happy. So we laugh a lot, enjoy the small success and try to brush off those other moments.
I know this is long, but I've gotten so passionate about obedience lately. Please feel free to shorten or paraphrase any thing you'd like to use. But I'm betting that you've had lots of other ridgebackers that do obedience tell you the same thing and you probably don't even need more.