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The Interesting Ways Dogs Non-Qualify At Trials

Things don't always go as planned in obedience trial, field trial, and agility competitions. Now that I have a few Non-Qualifying Scores (NQs) under my belt, I've been hearing some interesting stories of the different ways dogs might NQ.

Sharing these stories is fun for newbies and old hands alike. These stories are also encouraging to those of us who have more ordinary NQs - "at least THAT didn't happen to us!". 

If you have a contribution, please submit it at:
You can read submissions there that have not yet been put on this page.

If you have no idea what we are talking about, please look at Discovering Competitive Obedience, you may want to try it! Don't let us scare you off, the rewards are well worth it.

Sent 9/11/00

Freeway, my wonderdog, was at one of his first agility trials.  It was outside, with just ribbons on posts  for fencing.  He did the first half of the highspeed agility test great, when he suddenly ran straight passed the dogwalk, just out of the ring, to where a little boy who had been working the trial decided to sit at the ring with his sub sandwich!  Needless to say, Freeway sniffed right up the kids arm, as the kid raised his arm high in the air, to keep his sandwich safe.

Really though, the kid was at the ring, but freeway detected that sandwich from quiter a distance! Shouldn't he get extra points for scent discrimination? I mean, it's not like he ate the sandwich, he just located 
it! lol


Sent 5/2/00:

Love the NQ stories! Ours was at a BIG show - bigger than we should have entered, but we were there for agility so we figured we'd go for our CDX at the same time. I was elated that my toy poodle was doing some of her best heel work despite the crowds, but then suprised by her antics on the retrieve over high jump. I tossed the dumbbell (the tiny toy sized dumbbell) out and sent her on her way. Well the dumbell had bounced right, and there was a tiny toy sized CHALK LINE slightly to the left, marking the eight foot mark. Sure enough she went straight for the chalk line - seemed to realize her error - and tried to search for the dumbbell, wandering all over the left side of the ring never thought to turn around!) before coming back to me with that questioning look. I just kept looking at the dumbbell so she walked back out to the jump, peered over it, and apparently only saw the chalk again, before coming back and sitting down confused as if I had played some cruel joke on her. At least the judge was nice about it and complemented her heeling. And it wasn't a total loss, besides proving she could search for a dumbbell (she never tried that hard at practice), she did finish her first agility title at that show.


Sent 4/27/00

I was at a show in Rockland County a few years ago and there was some kind of obedience trial going on. They were doing an exercise which required some on leash recalls and off leash. There was a huge malamute with a real twinkle in his eye. His owner, a somewhat slight sixtyish woman with some nervousness about her, had put him through the leash trials and he did very well, heeling and turning like a model citizen. Then she took the leash off for an off leash recall. AHA! The opportunity this dog had been waiting for had finally arrived. He proceeded to run around the  periphery of the ring at top speed while his owner was having a hissy fit screaming at him at the top of her lungs. He had a real devilish grin-seemed to know exactly what he was doing as he rushed around, teasing his owner. The spectators were all in hysterics--I could barely breathe it was so funny. I had my 2 Belgian girls with me as spectators and they would have loved to get in there and play with him--it was a total riot.

Susan and the Wolves of Suffern, Cory at the Bridge

Sent 4/26/00

Mine is about a judge who had been rude all day with the expression, where have you been?  I've been here all day and have not gone anywhere.  Well, Bear has a great nose and learn UD work fast(hated the boring CD, CDX work of sits stays and heeling), so when it was time to do the articles, I was handed my metal article.  The judge apparently used to Utility A people of "hot scenting" their metal article, the way of constantly for a few minutes of rubbing their hands over it, heavily.  He oversaw the article set up, directed me to turn around from the pile and pick up my article.  By the time he arrived, I was quite ready.  He was off in dream land waiting for a while.  He realize I was quite ready and had been awhile also, catching him by surprise at a "light" scenting of the metal one.  OH, you're ready, he says.  Whereupon his own words came back and haunted him.  I say, where have you been?  I've been here all day and have not gone anywhere. The exhibitors who disliked him for that expression, ROARED with laughter and applause. Bear found the article with no problems and I explained to the judge with the leather article that I don't hot scent them because of his nose being so good.  Needless to say, we had NQ in another exercise but I was the hero of the day for turning the Judge's words on him.

Orlando, FL
Ch. Bear UD HT

Sent by Robin V, 4/25/00:
I was showing my Boxer bitch in the Utility Ring where she insisted on having "one of those days".  I was aware she was acting a little strange, but hadn't figured out WHY till it was too late. 

As we started the articles....she approached them.....gathered them all in a pile, and LAID DOWN in the middle of them.  She had a look on her face that I will Never Forget! (and neither will the judge) So, after the judge got her composure back, we started the second set of articles....and you guessed it....she gathered them up again and made a nest with them and laid down.  Now, I still haven't had time to figure out what was going on.  BUT, after the laughter and tears sub-sided,  I realized what it was. She was having a FALSE Pregnancy and these were her babies!!!!!  :)   What a Hoot! Now I have learned to  count up the days and keep up with it.

She also has a tendency to "stomp, kill, and shake" the glove before she brings it back.  And she would only pick it up by the thumb....

My kelpie Blaze has her CD although you wouldn't know it sometimes.  She has never got full points for her stays because of her separation anxiety so we took 6 months off to practice them.

It was our first championship show this year and it looked promising when Blaze got full points for heelwork, stand for exam etc.  She did a perfect stand and sit stay - though cried *very* loudly the whole time and her down stay was good for her - she only crawled about 5 metres!

Then we had retrieve, her favourite part.  She ran out - straight past the dumbbell.  She had seen the poles holding up the rope around the ring and decided they looked too much like agility weaving wands to pass up.  She went straight into a super fast weave around the poles!

When she'd had enough of that, she came back, picked up the dumbbell and did a perfect present!  Grrrr! The judge had to NQ us because she *had* left the ring!!

Another funny NQ was when she crawled on her belly right out of the ring after me on a down stay!!

Well, the crowd found it funny anyway!

Your site is really good, I never knew there were so many ways of NQing!  I know Blaze hasn't finished with her bag of tricks though!


From Leilah's Mom

Ok, we're still working on that U-CDX now a year after that bone incident mentioned below.  Some days we NQ because she's half Vizsla, some days because she's half Beagle.  Last time out it was a Beagle NQ, turned literally in mid-air over the high jump and landed to go follow her nose off to her left instead of  get that dumbbell.  The time  before, it was a Vizsla NQ.  She had seen a squirrel in a tree about 20 feet away.  She headed for the high jump on my can't-wait-any-longer signal, but she wouldn't take her eyes off that squirrel.  So, she headed off on a diagonal, apparently trying to point and fetch at the same time. As she passed the jump, she remembered what she was supposed to be doing, got her dumbbell and jumped back to a very nice front!

Posted by Crickett on August 04, 1999 at 11:01:21:

Obedience funnies:

Weimaraner, Sandy, would fall asleep on the long stand exercises and literally fall down. People used to make bets on the side lines on whether she would be able to make it through the stand or fall in a heap on the floor.

Weimaraner, Tru, interrupted his retrieve over the high jump to thoroughly wet down the jump. His owner was a salty old guy and explained his dog's actions by saying, "My dog's philosophy is that if you can't eat it or %$#* it, piss on it.

During the long sit, a Dobe got up from position, walked to the Shepherd bitch sitting next to him, looked her square in the eye, gave her a loving kiss...THEN lifted his leg and marked her as his...for sure! She spent the rest of the stay period trying to clean herself up.

On the long sit in Open class, a dog barked and carried on for practically the entire three minutes, although maintaining position. On the long down, the noise continued. One little dog down the line kept glaring his annoyance at offender. About two minutes in the down, the little dog, which apparently had reached the limits of his endurance, stood up, marched down the line to the noisemaker, raised his leg and literally drowned him. He then stomped back to his place in line, lay down in his original position and stayed until his handler returned. The big dog did not utter another sound, at least no one thought he did, as there was such laughter and commotion at ringside no one could have heard him.

A Dobe was sent out to retrieve the middle glove in the Utility exercise. The dog pounced on the glove and tried his best to pick it up, but couldn't budge it since he happened to be standing on it. He finally gave up and retrieved the right hand glove instead.

A Sheltie started to retrieve his dumbbell, but got carried away and started to make obscene advances towards it instead. To this day, the owner claims that it wasn't the way it looked, but the judge saw it differently & penalized him for sexually attacking an unwilling dumbbell. It must be rough living with the knowledge that your own dog is a sexual deviate.

Then there was the Basset in Utility who retrieved its own ear on the glove exercise!

These stories reminded me of an incident I saw while competing in Novice A with my Sheltie, Shane. It was afternoon, the sun had finally come out after raining all morning, it was hot and steamy, and the obedience rings were outside on grass. We were in the last group for sits & downs with everyone hanging their tongues, it was so miserable. It was one of those days you soaked down your dog as soon as they were done showing, then poured water over your own head. At the other end of the line was a Great Dane, then a little Sheltie. On the sit, the Dane stood up as soon as his owner left, leaving a small patch of shade under him. The little Sheltie looked at the shade, her owner and back. Owners returned to their dogs, set them up for the down, then left. Once again, the Dane stood as soon as his owner left.  The Sheltie looked at the shade, at her owner, back to the shade, at her owner one last time, stood up, moved into the shade, and laid back down! We all burst out laughing, even the judge. The judge said she hated to DQ the smartest dog in the ring!!

There was a judge who was very gruff, glaring at both the dogs and owners, and was quite rude. (He is on my list of "never again"!) My Gordon went out of his way to avoid going anywhere near the judge throughout the Novice B was not one of our more stellar performances. In Open, however, a Lab finally showed the opinion we all were forming about this judge. The Lab had been staring at the judge through all the exercises. During the Drop on Recall, you could see him give the judge the evil eye as he dropped near the judge. On the flat retrieve, his owner sent him out for the dumbbell. The Lab detoured to the judge, hiked his leg on him, proceeded to get his dumbbell, detoured *again* to the judge, hiked his leg on the judge one more time, then came in for a perfect front! We all thought it was funny, even if the judge did not.

Lyn Johnson DVM and the Tartan Corgi Crew College Station, TX


In one of my training classes the owner of a large Bullmastiff was having one heck of a time getting her dog to do the down command. I am one who always believes there is more than one way to skin a cat and I can get this dog to do this command, so over I go to show her how to do it. Do it the normal way, arm lying down back of dog, other arm reaching in to move front legs out so dog drops into position (while I am kneeling beside)....Bullmastiff drops weight but rolls to the side on top of me pinning me to the ground and does a perfect "down" of 3 minutes while I am trying to breathe underneath him....he quite enjoyed it and wouldn't listen to his owner trying to remove him while she and the rest of the class are howling with laughter. He never did get his C.D. but I sure learned to get out of the way faster!!!

Posted by Lil Cricket on August 04, 1999 at 16:14:47:

At an agility trial we were at the flat coated retriever picked up one of the cones used to mark the # of obstacles and proceeded to run around the ring with it and the more the crowd laughed the more he hammed it up! Another agility dog would actually pick up the pole to the jump and leave the ring with it though he made a habit of it and his owner had a hard time training him not to do it it did make for some amusing agility runs.Wynn Stickland whom we bred our bitch to her german import told an amusing story of her dog in the long sit out of site got up as soon as she was out of site got up walked around the edge of the ring to visit and right before the time was up went back and sat in the exact same spot.  When wynn came out she wondered why the crowd was laughing so hard and after she praised her dog the judge had to come tell her what he had done. When she looked at him it was like he knew he got caught and never did it again!

 From Leilah's Mom

 My trainer tells me of a Boxer in Utility, who after picking up the correct glove, decided that he should go get the other two on his way back to the handler. He brought back all three gloves together, and did a beautiful front.

Posted by Linda B. on August 08, 1998 at 14:26:58

 This story goes back to the '70s, when most people had never heard of or seen a Rottweiler. My friend Howard and his (then) wife Bev had a Rott named Bismark (Ch Panamint Otso von Kraewel UD). Bev showed Bismark in conformation, where he was one of the top ten Rottweilers in the country, and Howard trained and showed him in obedience.

 When Bismark had his CDX and Howard was working on getting that first qualifying score in Utility, Howard came down with a bad flu on a day when he was entered in a local trial. Howard convinced Bev to take Bismark in the Utility ring for him; she'd watched them train for years, and knew all the exercises and the commands.

"Just remember," Howard reminded Bev as she left that morning, "Once you enter the ring, don't touch the dog."

 Bev and Bismark took off for the trial. Bev entered the ring when her turn came, took off Bismark's leash, and handed her scent articles and gloves to the steward. While her attention was momentarily distracted, Bismark had fallen madly in love (or something like it) with the judge, and had dashed over to him, wrapped his forelegs around the judge's knee, and was happily humping away at the man's leg. The judge, a tall, distinguished, sober fellow, looked deeply distressed as he repeated swung his leg, trying to dislodge the romantic Rott.

 Bev, appalled and embarrassed, but remembering Howard's reminders that she Must Not Touch The Dog, called loudly, "Bismark, come!"

 "Madam," replied the judge, with a pained expression, "Can't you think of another command?"

 Needless to say, Bismark NQ'd that day. Never the less, it's still referred to by family and friends as the day Bismark got his first "leg" in Utility.

 Posted by Bravehart on August 08, 1998 at 10:07:54:

 Does a NQ at a hunt test count??? I tried to earn Pagan's Junior Hunter title this spring/summer.

 Pagan qualified the first day, no problems. The whole weekend it was rainy and wet and the pen raised chuckars were soaking wet and not moving much. Even though Pagan qualified, she learned the birds would not all and she could pick them up off the ground.

 So, 2nd day....she didn't even bother pointing at all....she just did the grab-n-snatch!

 As soon as she smelled and located a bird...she would pounce on it lightning fast! She then picked it up and brought it to up...just as proud as she could be.

 Well, Pagan went on to find SIX birds in 15 minutes...grab-n-snatching every one of them. I was sooo disgusted...the judges were snickering.....

 They gave Pagan a "9" out of a possible "10" for bird finding (she found the most birds of any dog there that day)....but they gave her a "0" for pointing.

 I did manage to qualify her on the 3rd yelling "STAY" when I thought she located a she froze for the split second needed to qualify it as a "point" before she snatched it off the ground.

 We will go back in to bird training when Pagan comes off the show circuit to teach her how to "point" all over again.....silly dog is now convinced that birds don't fly!

 Posted by TeresaR on August 08, 1998 at 08:26:32:

 Lisa was always TERRIFIED of the judge, so she did EXACTLY what she was supposed to do, no questions asked. Which was funny, because I know she does not like "formal" obedience. I had problems with BEAUTY fowling the ring (taking dumps) because she refused to go potty on leash until she couldn't hold it anymore, and the stress of competing would make her go.... Well, everyone told me DON'T FEED HER before competition, so one fun match I decided to do just that. Beauty was in Open competition, and Lisa in Novice B. Because it was a fun match, for Beauty, there were no scores. Beauty did great. No fowling (I was ecstatic).

 Lisa's was actually Novice B. Competition. (Forget why Beauty's didn't' count that day, but it didn't). Well, Lisa was STARVING (Can't not feed one dog, then feed the other,, wasn't fair) and as we went into the ring, I told her when we got done, I would give her a "treat". Well, she went in, and did very well, right until the off leash heeling. As we did the about turn, she ended up facing the exit gate. Her mind thought "Done, FOOD", and she took off! She got all the way to the gate, realized what she did, and came FLYING back to me, and ended up in Heel position without a word from me!

Well, the judge NQ'd her, even though she fully corrected herself (gave her ZERO on offlead heeling. :( ) But proceeded to laugh at her afterward and say "You just get too excited at the wrong times". Well, Lisa NEVER qualified again! She learned that Judges are not big "OGRES" to eat you alive, and they are fun to be around, so let's have fun! She proceeded to heel on the WRONG side for the rest of her competitive life, no matter WHAT I did! LOL

Oh well, so Lisa is 2/3 the way through her CD. We went to Germany about 6 months after that and have never gotten back into competing since.

 From Leilah's Mom

 My co-worker friend, Liz, was showing her Rottie in Open. For some reason, at the heel command, the dog decided that this meant playtime. She was jumping all over Liz, in full play mode, with playbows, paws on Liz's chest (and she isn't much bigger than the dog). She says the judge excused her, saying the dog never had more than two feet on the ground the whole time.

 From Deb Rogstad:

 I tried training my first show Collie, Skye, in obedience because she wasn't ready to retire. She did great in class but (of course) there were no matches at that time. So, her first attempt in a real obedience ring was at the big Oklahoma City cluster. Her warm up went well, and we entered the ring confidently. The judge gave the first stop command. Skye looked at the mats, the crowd, and the judge, and walked around in front of me and set herself up in a perfect four point show stack. On the Forward command, I took off along her shoulder, and she swung back into perfect heel position. On the next Stop, you could almost see the cartoon bubble over her head - "You want me to do that sit a dog show?" She s..l..o..w..l..y settled into a sit, as if to say "I'll mess my skirts." We NQ'd on points that day, but I'll carry her proud picture to my grave.

 From Carol in Richmond, VA:

 Here's one that was side-splittingly funny, but not 'til after a few beers! *GRIN*

 Jesse was doing pretty good in the graduate novice class, then it was time for the drop on recall.

Put him on his sit-wait. called out, 'Jesse, come!' He proceeded to ever so slowly rise to his feet, stalked towards me looking just like a wolf approaching prey. Head kinda down, neck stretched out, ears sharply pointed. Gave the down command, he sank to the ground.

Gave second command to come, he again rose in slow motion, resumed 'stalking' towards me. Stopped about 5 feet away looking at me with a questioning tilt to his head, still standing. The judge, after waiting to be sure he was not going to come closer, walked up behind him and gently applied pressure to his rear with her knee. He applied pressure BACK! actually braced his forelegs and leaned on her!
At that point we were both laughing, me in embarrassment.
Ah well, such is life in the ring.

 From Leilah's Mom

 On the first day, it was 103 F (I think this is almost 40 C). It was in shade at least though, and we could either sit at home and roast (no air conditioning), or at least try for the leg towards her title. I had nothing to lose. This would be our last chance for a leg for the maybe 8 months. 

I was kept waiting at the ring gate and Leilah, originally dampened down, dried off. Her heeling was dismal, but passing. She gave a slow (for her), but very nice drop on recall. When we got to the retrieve on flat, I guess she had enough. She went for her dumbbell, then took it to the side of the ring and laid down (it was near a tree and she associates trees with cool shade I guess, even though we were in full shade anyway). She basically invented the drop on retrieve. She did get something out of that little break though, because the next exercise was the retrieve over the high jump and she did that the best of any dog that day, until she got back to me. Instead of a sit at front, she laid on my feet with her dumbbell. The judge ended the exercise without a finish, but I asked for one anyway from a down, and GOT it!

 The next day was 5 degrees cooler, and Leilah was still pretty wet when we went in the ring, we got our best heeling score ever in a real trial. Apparently, after the show broke the day before, someone had come and had a picnic where the ring was located. After we finished our recall, her nose got to working and she actually found a bit of pork bone! IN the ring! 15 other dogs before her didn't find it! I don't think the judge believed me at first, but there it was! After that, she was too distracted thinking there would be more (she'd only just turned 2 and we are both still pretty green). And, then, she started looking around more too, at the surroundings, and there were people watching from THAT distance that gets her attention so easily. But, I think the heat actually helped us now, because it was too hot for her to be too bothered by them. On the fetch on flat, she picked up her dumbbell, then went looking around for more bone pieces. On the retrieve over the jump, as soon as she cleared the jump, she started looking around and that beagle nose hit the ground. I'd never had any real retrieve problems before that weekend!

 From Leilah's Mom

 A trainer friend told me how her dog left the ring because the next ring (common rope) had set their scent articles next to that rope. She had to throw the dumbbell for her utility trained dog towards the articles in the next ring, and sure enough, the dumbbell landed just a couple of feet from the articles. The dog went to the dumbbell, and saw the articles (the working utility dog was held back once that judge saw what was happening). My friend's dog went to work the articles in the next ring, and decided rightly they weren't hers. So, she came back and picked up the dumbbell and finished the exercise. The judge regretted it, but had to NQ because the dog did leave the ring.

From Leilah's Mom

A Hosting Club's Nightmare....

A little background: After having serious problems with UKC Utility (eeeevil gloves), I decided to take her through ASCA trials (Australian Shepherd Club of America) and try to get a UD there. We are have having problems there too, she's NQ'd maybe 20 times now in Open, most always on the out of sight down stay, which is done differently than the UKC style. Often it's both group stays. We only need one more leg, and today's  NQ itself was normal for her. Just this whole trial was far from normal, in my experience anyway. If anyone from the hosting club recognizes this story, you all did a great job dealing with an an insane situation!!!

This is a slightly modified version of a message I posted on a board today, in response to a friend suggesting we try freestyle:

hehehe Sarah, freestyle is about what we did in the obedience ring today. Today's NQ was much more fun than yesterday, she only blew the down stay and had fun with the rest. Didn't help that a trailer of horses pulled up about 20 feet behind her and started unloading during the down stays, she sat up to take a look. That's her excuse today anyway, she did the rest well, even the sit stay. Our heeling score suffered a bit, but she did pretty good, considering.....

They had the local fire dept picnic on the same field today (Sunday). The hosting obedience club thought they had the whole field to themselves, and didn't get told about this until last Friday night. Then they get told a picnic and one helicopter for display which of course would get flown in. They also told the club the wrong time of arrival for it. After delaying the trial for a short while, when no helicopter showed up, the trial eventually went ahead. Turns out there were TWO helicopters which came in after utility and the open stays. Add mules in a hitch giving wagon rides, and horses loping around as color bearers, which caused one novice Border Collie to run out to herd them when they got too close to the ring. Then fire trucks with full ladders extended, humvees, several inflated bounce bubbles including one with a giant bobbing Tazmanian Devil on it, a REAL good smelling bbq, kid's games, and oh yeah, a petting zoo complete with one very vocal sheep. This at an Aussie club trial; most of the dogs there know about sheep and probably prefer herding to obedience (including Leilah, who's not an aussie). All within a couple hundred feet of us. 

We did get warning on the helicopters when they were incoming, we had to knock everything down, weight tent crates, people put potentially skittish dogs in their cars, etc.  Everything had to come to a screeching halt. One landed maybe 25 feet from the ring, the other about 50 feet beyond that. While they were landing, I took the opportunity to do some attention work with a food lure at a safe distance. The blade wind bothered her ears and she shook her head a lot, but otherwise no real problems for us. She pointed at the sheep, mules, and horses a lot at first, but I also worked around the mules a bit too, trying to make sure she'd still come to my silent whistle around my neck (she did).  I decided to have it on in the ring, under my shirt, considering THIS circus!. 

And they had real good bopping music on, I couldn't hold still. Neither could the judge, who we know from local events, I am comfortable with her. So, I was pretty much dancing around between all the exercises, and I think that helped focus Leilah on me. I'm sure that's how she managed the sit stay, being more relaxed since I was being a goof, and having things to look at while I was out of sight. Judge complained "It's not fair" to put that kind of music on when we have to try to be so serious, LOL. 

The hosting club is not happy at all about any this, I feel for them and hope they get all their fees back. Not only were they not told about most of it (and what they were told was at the last minute), but turns out the picnic had actually advertised the dog show as part of their event! But we did have more fun than usual at a trial, only qualifying would have improved it for us, though Leilah would have loved some time with that sheep.  She schmoozed a lot of people, we got to educate a few on dog basics, we played "touch" with the helicopters and a police battering ram, practiced heeling next to a gunny sack race and near the bouncing Taz, etc etc.

For us, definitely a fun NQ!

 Last updated Sept 7, 2003
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