On Sunday, Dec.11, 2005 at the Clarion Obedience Training Club's trial in Erie PA, Copper completed the requirements for his MACH2 title. When he earned his first MACH in May 2004, I intended to slowly phase out showing him in agility. However, his performances got better and better, so we just kept going. Copper has always been very consistent, sometimes earning 3 double Qs in a weekend. Our challenge has been to earn the speed points.

Working on motivation and enthusiasm has been an ongoing issue with Copper. He is very obedient and will do whatever is asked, but not always with the speed I would like. Copper is the king of earning third, fourth, and fifth place in classes. He rarely made first or second (to earn those bonus points).

I set many small personal goals for us in the course of earning this MACH. I wanted to increase our average points on both Standard and Jumpers runs. A good Standard run was 15+ points for us. A really good run was 18, and we were getting more and more of those. A good Jumpers run was 5 points for us. We even hit 6-8 points a few times and I was extremely happy with that.

Our MACH runs met my standards with a very nice 7 point Jumpers run in the morning and a solid 15 point Standard run in the afternoon. It was nice to finish in good form.

Running a dog that needs motivation and speed takes an incredible amount of effort. Getting and keeping this type of dog in the right mental and emotional state to run well can be exhausting. All conditions have to be just right to get the best out of this type of dog. I discovered lots of little things that could help, or hurt, Copper's performances. Crating him away from the action helped, as did playing his favorite game (the two treats game). Very crowded quarters made him nervous, and being out and ready too soon was a problem as he would go 'flat' before we ran.

Copper really is going to retire from agility now. He will live the life he was born to; that of a lap dog. I have learned so much in the past 6 years of showing him in agility. He has given me much more than 2 MACHs, he has taught me an enormous amount about what it takes to nurture and maintain that tiny spark of enthusiasm. I have had to be creative and find ways to fix problems that would increase, rather than decrease, his motivation. No corrections for Copper! He was on the edge of shutting down at the best of times, so a correction for an error in agility would be fatal. Instead, I found hundreds of ways to build his confidence and skills.

I will miss that incredible bond you have with a dog you train and show regularly. But Copper enjoys being home more than showing, so he gets to have a long relaxing retirement now. He deserves it.

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