Back in November of last year, I wrote about how I felt the need to work on my dog’s Gambling Skills. The post was called “Getting Old Fashioned”. My winter project was to grow my dog’s skills so that the Gamblers class was not going to turn my stomach at a regional or national event.

For me, the key was going to be to not jeopardize any of my dog’s great understanding of positional cues for handling coursework in order to become better at Gamble work. It definitely was a balancing act, and I am by no means finished, but I am thrilled with the results so far.

My focus was to improve Encore’s skills but at the same time, I would start to lay a foundation for Feature. Enter the gamble classes at this year’s Canadian nationals. Where Encore and Feature ended up first and second in total opening points in each of the two Gambles offered last weekend.

I must admit I much prefer running Gamblers classes at home than anywhere else in the world, our rules rock (even though the Gambles can be quiet difficult). In Canada, the opening point accumulation period is always 40 seconds. Here you decide on your own course and most of the time there are many different strategies that you will see, rather than 70 handlers running the same plan but trying to be faster than the next. In your opening jumps=1 point, round things (tunnels, tire) plus spread jumps = 2 points, contacts=3 points and if there are 12 poles that=5 points. In addition, the judge will deem one jump as 4 point obstacle. There will also be two mini gambles that you may or may not choose to include in your opening point accumulation which adds to the diversity of the strategies you see. It makes for a really interesting Gamblers class. The closing “gamble” must have an element of being 18′ away from the handler (there is a line on the ground you can not cross) and if you get it in the time allowed you earn another 35 points.

I can’t say yet that we are the best amongst the very talented Canadian Gambling crowd, but as luck would have it Encore was the best this weekend as we were fortunate enough to win both Gamblers classes and Feature actually pulled off a 4th place in one of them! So it looks like I may get to keep my Canadian passport after all:).

Here are Encore’s two first-place winning Gamble runs. I hope you notice that although I am going for the win, booking hard to try and get as many points as I can before the buzzer goes I still get solid criteria on my contacts before I release my dog.  No single class is worth weakening my dog’s understanding of her job.

Today I am grateful that improvement does come to those who train while they wait!