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Copyright 2007 - Daryl Novak
Normandy's Amelia E, CDX, CD (Am), CGC

We are sad to report that Amy (Normandy's Amelia E, CDX, CD (Am), CGC) passed away on Saturday, January 6, 2007,
just a few weeks short of her 15th birthday. You accomplished so much in your lifetime Amy - Rest well!
Click here for our Tribute to Amy


Take one sweet, but a little shy and slightly nervous former brood bitch. Add the fact that at going-on-five, she had rarely left the safety and security of her breeder, had seldom worn a lead, and never a collar. To top if off, make her a Bichon Frise, a breed whose competing is usually limited to the show ring. Is this a recipe for a successful obedience dog? The answer is yes! Yes, with a lot of love and patience. Oh, and also with a positive role model.


It started in late 1996 when Norma Dirszowsky was contemplating retirement for Normandy's Amelia E. I was looking for a suitable house mate and companion for Mandy, Ch. Normandy's VIP of Crystalpines, CDX (Can/Am) CGC. Our search was limited to smaller, mature dogs who would quietly accept Mandy's role as Top Dog. Amy seemed the perfect choice.

As we were leaving with Amy, Norma's parting words were, "I'm sure you'll be happy with her, but don't expect too much in obedience - she's not Mandy". For the first few weeks, Mandy was her constant role model. Amy did whatever Mandy did, and followed her everywhere. In fact, I think Mandy contributed as much to Amy's housetraining as I did!

Amy would watch Mandy's obedience training with fascination. So, after a couple of weeks, I started some basic training with Amy. She took to most of the exercises quite well, and being relatively tall compared to Mandy, and graceful for her size, heeled beautifully if conditions were right. Getting conditions right was the main problem! Any change or distraction was a major problem for Amy. A new hall, a new noise, even a different coloured mat meant we couldn't do anything. And the stand for examination, which requires being touched on the head, shoulders and back by the judge - well forget this one. Our biggest problem was heeling off lead. For some reason, once the lead came off Amy seemed to become frightened and lagged, tail between her legs.

I soon learned two things. First, that the more modern methods of training which concentrate on praise and reward were the only thing that would work with Amy. I didn't even introduce a choke collar into heeling until recently, because I wanted to avoid any sharp corrections, which might have upset her. Second, most of Amy's training wasn't going to be about the exercises once she had learned them, it would be about self confidence and working in new environments.

So we worked slowly, got all the exercises down except the off lead, until one day, Amy had an epiphany, and started heeling off lead better than Mandy. This literally happened overnight and I have no explanation of why. Then the real work began - correction matches in as many different locations as possible; training indoors and outdoors in different locations; learning to figure what upset her and how to compensate. For example, the first time we went to a correction match she was nervous even in the car on the way. Then I realized, she had never been in the car without Mandy. So then we'd go out for drives just by ourselves. You can get the idea.

Last November Amy earned her Canine Good Citizen, so I knew she was solid enough. In February I knew it was finally time to trial in Novice B. We failed our first one, but only because a large dog went loose during the long down and came up to Amy and made her get up. Unfortunately, the judge in her discretion wouldn't let us take the exercise again.

But then success - Over two weekends, Amy earned qualifying scores three in a row, all in the mid to high 180's! We even placed in two of the trials, once third, once fourth. In fact, for the last trial I miscalulated the time, and we arrived only one minute before our ring time. With absolutely no warm up, we were in the ring. Only a really confident dog could do this. And only a really steady dog could go on to pass two more Novice trials for good measure, making it five in a row!

It's too soon to tell what Normandy's Amelia E, CD, CGC will do next. Maybe Open work, maybe nothing competetive, but she won't stop working yet. And that's her choice not mine- If Mandy and I are working on Utility, Amy is quite determined for her turn at training and won't leave!

Why did I invest so much in getting this CD? Was it for the dog or for myself? Why do we try to get any sort of title on our dogs? The titles are for ourselves, but the work benefits our dogs, and our relationships with our dogs. If this is true for Conformation, it is true in spades for Obedience. By the time we completed our titles, I realized that I have two of the best behaved dogs imaginable, who I can take anywhere, and trust in almost any situation. Of any pets I have had, the bond
with my Bichon girls has been the strongest.

And a final word on Bichons in Obedience - Part of the reason I was determined to help Amy earn her CD was to prove that Mandy's success wasn't a fluke. If Amy could do it, Any Bichon Can. So do think about it with your dogs, even the older ones. Your investment in training will repay you a thousandfold.

Daryl Novak,  May, 1999


Copyright 2007 - Daryl Novak
Normandy's Amelia E, CD, CGC
Ch. Normandy's VIP of Crystalpines, CDX (Can/Am), CGC
Amy and Mandy
A Dynamic Duo

 Any Bichon Can!

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