A Match Vocabulary

by Jane Gill

We had a great turnout at the obedience portion of the club's Fun Match, and I hope that all of our participants had as much fun as I did! I also very much hope that for those who were having their first ring experience, they discovered that it doesn't hurt a bit!

One thing that can be very frustrating for those just getting started is all of the jargon. You thought that you spoke English, but wow! What are those people talking about? For those of you out there who are thinking of showing at a match in the future, here's a partial glossary of terms you'll hear!

ATTENTION - This is what you hope your dog gives you in the ring. Common usage: "Look at the ATTENTION on that dog!", often in connection with a Golden Retriever who has his eyes glued on his handler's left earlobe.

BREAK - This is not when the judge goes for coffee! It's either a) where the judge pauses (usually after eight to twelve dogs in the novice ring) to do Sits and Downs; or b) your dog sits up during the Down, or goes down during the Sit. Usage: "My dog broke on the Downs and NQ'd."

FEO - Short for For Exhibition Only. Enter FEO if you wish to correct your dog in the ring, use treats, or do something goofy (such as circling your Figure 8 post twice).

NQ - short for "not qualified". In the REGULAR CLASSES, in order to receive a passing grade, you must get at least half of the POINTS available for each exercise, and must also have all of those POINTS add up to at least 170. For example, if your dog breaks his Down, you lose all of the points for that exercise, and you NQ. There are many creative ways for a Pyr to achieve an NQ. There are also many ways for YOU to NQ.

QUALIFIED - You received at least a 170 score, and passed all of the exercises. Curiously, if you hear a person say "Oh, we qualified," he is probably unhappy with the score. If he is pleased, you will hear a blow-by-blow description of the performance, where each point was deducted, and the total. Another curious usage note: "We qualified" but "The dog NQ'd" are the most common usages.

JUDGE - This is the person in the ring with the clipboard. Judges are patient, wise and just (usually!). Judges in the PRE-NOVICE and NOVICE A rings are often especially nice, because they know that the dog AND you are new at this! They will often offer helpful advice at the end of an exercise. Nod, smile, and then decide later whether to accept or reject it.

STEWARDS - These are the three people on the side of the ring, helping the judge. They act as posts for the Figure 8, round up the next exhibitor, and line the dogs up for Sits and Downs. They can answer questions such as when the BREAK is. Be nice to them. They are volunteers.

LAG - Your dog is further back than he should be for proper Heel position. This is a Pyrenean specialty. Sometimes dogs LAG so badly on off-lead heeling that they become LOST.

LOST - Your dog has lost ATTENTION, often after a big, bad LAG, and is now either gazing serenely at the spectators, thinking about meeting you back at the car, or is sitting back at the about turn, wondering where you got to.

FORGE - Your dog is too far front for proper Heel position. This will often show up during left turns, slows, and on the inside turn of the Figure 8, when he will crash into you. At least you know where he is, unlike the LAG.

FRONT - In obedience, a straight front has nothing to do with the dog's structure! In the Recall, when the dog gets to you, the ideal is that he pop that butt of his into a nice, quick sit, nose lined up at your middle, and close enough to be touched but without touching. Dog variations to this ideal can include barreling into you without stopping, shuffling into a crooked front so he can keep an eye on the judge and you at the same time, standing wistfully gazing up into your eyes, or skipping it altogether and heading for the ring gate, where you hope the STEWARDS will catch him.

FINISH - After the FRONT, the judge cues you and you have the dog return to Heel position, either by going around behind you, or by circling to your left. Some dogs leap and pivot in the air instead of circling (the flip finish). I have spoken to Pyr owners whose dogs do a flip finish. It's a real show-stopper.

DOUBLE COMMAND - Giving a hand signal WITH a verbal signal. In some exercises, this is allowed. In others, it is not. This is one of the ways a handler can NQ.

SECOND COMMAND - You have to give the same command a second time, often because your dog has lost ATTENTION. In many exercises, this is an NQ. During Heeling, a second command is POINTS OFF, and may prevent a LOST dog.

POINTS OFF - A perfect score in the obedience ring is a 200. We all walk into the ring with that perfect score. But as events proceed, the judge begins deducting points on that aforementioned clipboard. These can be minor, such as 1/2 point for a slightly crooked sit. They can be MAJOR, for more serious occurrences. In the conformation ring, a major is a good thing. In the obedience ring, it is a bad thing.

SHEET - This is your individual score sheet, which you can pick up at your ring after the judge is completely done judging your category. It will show you exactly where you got POINTS OFF. Sometimes judges stop marking sheets after things have gotten totally disastrous. Also, sometimes they won't bother with them if you are FEO.

HANDLER ERRORS - These are the ways that YOU lose points. Sometimes these are marked under "Misbehavior in the Ring," which can really upset you. That's why, when you get serious about showing, you should study the REGULATIONS, which you can acquire from the AKC. Your dog will come with up his own creative ways of losing points for your team. But your mistakes will really bug you!

PATTERN - In Heeling, the judge must have your team do halts, right and left turns, changes of pace, and about turns. He uses the same pattern of movement for every dog in the CLASS. He also uses the same pattern for on and off-lead Heeling. It is wise to watch the pattern before your turn comes up! If you don't see it, ask the STEWARDS, or an onlooker.

CLASS - This is the entire group of dogs which are all entered in the same category.

REGULAR CLASSES include Novice, Open and Utility. Novice A is for people who have never gotten an obedience title. These classes, in a match, mirror what you would have to do in the ring at a regular show in order to earn an obedience title.

NON-REGULAR CLASSES include Pre-novice, Graduate Novice, Veterans and Brace. They are just for fun, and there is no minimum qualifying score. Pre-novice is an especially good class for the green handler who wants to get used to being in the ring. It is also great for the green dog since he is always on lead, and therefore cannot get LOST.

OTCH - is short for Obedience Trial Champion. There are no OTCH Pyrenees yet. Through a complicated scoring system, dogs earn OTCH points. When they have enough, they become OTCH dogs. Their handlers are then OTCH people. OTCH dogs are always in the Open B and Utility B classes. Their handlers sometimes appear in the Novice B classes, with their new obedience hopeful. Don't worry about OTCH people or dogs. By the time you are competing against them, you'll know what you're doing, too. In the meantime, if you get a chance, watch them perform. Mental pictures of near-perfection are great things to have.

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