Brava has astounded me.

She is 2.5 years old and finished NW3 Elite in three tries, one of which was Overall Pronounced! Now what?

Three tries, Three titles… NW3 Elite!

So many people have asked me when I was going to start trialing in Elite… (In NACSW, you are no longer eligible to trial in NW3 once you pass three times and you must move to Elite… where you garner 1,000 points and eventually become an Elite Champion.). My answer to these folks is “Not Yet”.

Brava is an incredibly talented young dog who could easily do pretty well at Elite currently. But… I KNOW she could really kill at that the level with a little more training… and I don’t want to burn through her points while we figure it out!

So I decided to wait… and just train for a while…

An interesting thing happened…

I started focusing on TRAINING instead of trialing and Brava’s capabilities have skyrocketed!

I was having trouble with Brava searching immediately after a find and just this week, she found hides within feet of another hide in a blind search… And her sourcing is …. well… WOW!

But the best part is the FUN…. I am training way more than before and in addition to really great teamwork, Brava and I are strengthening our bond. I feel euphoric after every training session. Since I recently lost my Heart Dog, this euphoric feeling is also helping me to HEAL.

This past weekend I did a workshop with Jacy Kelley and Bill Gaskins. They are helping me to figure out how to get Brava to work in a more methodical manner by slowing her down with handling rather than use the leash. Then I took a class and a private with Karin Damon where Brava rocked the highly converged hides that Karin set. And just today, I took a private lesson with Bob Boyles who focused on MY handling and who helped me to understand that Brava prefers searching to the right. I am getting A LOT of really amazing help…. and my dog is ROCKING IT! I am working more on my own too! Training sessions with training partners has become a regular occurrence.

I am more enthusiastic about every training session and my dog is improving at a pace I have not yet seen with her. Coincidence? Probably not…

One of our recent training sessions….

We will trial in Elite… maybe not on 2020. I may change my mind depending on how she progresses… but until then, I am loving the training process.

Another side benefit… my other dogs are rapidly improving as well since they do many of the same training activities and searches.

Even though I focus on the long-term with my dogs in training, it’s hard not to think about the next trial and to carry your baggage forward. Training without trialing has become freeing. I am finding that our progress is rocketing forward in ways I hadn’t expected. I am more focused on strengthening fundamentals. Goals are all in perspective and my priorities are leveling out.

Training without trialing is turning my dog into a ROCKSTAR!