Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cory RE

Until I lost Andy, I had not been in a big hurry to get Cory in the ring. We had earned his RN (rally novice) title last summer without really preparing for it, mostly because I went to a three day show that included agility, obedience, and rally and I knew Cory would be nuts if he didn't get to play at all all weekend. We have been working on obedience and I had hoped to have him ready to show by late spring/early summer, but he has taken a sort of downturn in his focus and attention so is not quite ready yet. We are still working on sending him ahead in agility so he can compensate for my slowness. He was pretty much ready to certify in tracking last spring, but I held him back because I didn't want to compete with Andy for spots in tests; this spring we didn't get out much but we need to get back and maybe shoot for late fall or early winter tests. So I decided on a whim when Andy died that instead of pulling his entries for our club's spring trial, I would just have them apply them towards entering Cory in rally.

Of course, after I sent his entries off, I read the rules for the advanced level and realized there were a couple of exercises he didn't know. We had to do a few "quickie" training sessions to try and prepare for those, and crossed our fingers and hoped they wouldn't be on the course that weekend!
Rally is a relatively new sport and incorporates many of the traditional obedience exercises with a twist. There is relatively little straight heeling but lots of circles, pivots, serpentines, etc. Unlike traditional obedience, you may talk to your dog as much as you like and use as many hand signals as you please; in the lower levels you can even clap and pat your thigh to encourage your dog to work closer. Novice level is all on lead, while advanced and excellent are all done off lead. At the excellent level there is also an "honor" exercise where one dog does an on leash sit or down stay in the ring as the other dog works.

In general I think it is much easier to qualify in rally than in traditional obedience, especially when comparing the advanced levels. I will admit to not being totally confident on my knowledge of the rules and scoring; it seems to me that a few relatively minor handler errors get hit for big points, while the dog can do a pretty lackluster approximation of the exercise without losing points. If you have been training for obedience, your dog should know most of the exercises as they are skills that he needs for various levels or tricks we teach to tighten up heeling when "doodling" in practice. There are a few rally exercises that are unique and somewhat challenging for some dogs when compared to obedience; this includes a figure 8 heeling pattern around food bowls with yummy treats, heeling while backing up, and (toughest for my dog!), heeling along, taking a jump and returning to heel position without running amuck. Rally done really really well takes as much training as traditional obedience; but I would say that a relatively small percentage of dogs in the ring meet my criteria for doing it "really well". There was a lovely working shepherd at our trial last weekend who had a near perfect excellent run that sticks in my mind. Cory has had some very nice runs, but is not yet quite at that level.

The nice thing about rally is that it is a great way to get your dog in the ring and get some ring experience, for both green dogs and handlers. It is a great introduction to showing and particularly at the novice level most people can be quite successful early on. I have primarily used it to work on maintaining Cory's focus and developing some teamwork, and it has been very helpful as well as more fun than I expected.

So at my club (Queen City) in March Cory qualified in advanced all three days, winning the class two days and finishing his RA (rally advanced) title. In April we made two trips to Columbus for the Central Ohio KC show and the Columbus All Breed trials and were again three for three with all placements for his RE (rally excellent) title. Last weekend we showed two days at the German Shepherd Club of Greater Cincinnati's all breed trials and qualified in both advanced and excellent both days, with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place. We earned his first two legs on his RAE title, which requires you to qualify in both classes on the same day ten different times. He also won the pre-novice class in obedience with a 196, so hopefully we will be in the "real" novice ring soon.

We finished up the weekend showing in breed (conformation) at the Cincinnati Kennel Club shows. Unfortunately we were not so successful there, he won his class both days with no competition but no luck going winners for championship points. He DID look absolutely gorgeous though thanks to his breeders Kathy and Myra's grooming skills, Ron's expert ear work, and the lovely presentation of his two favorite junior handlers Lauren and Kristen. I tried to get some good pictures after we got home while he was still groomed up, but he was in a less than cooperative mood and his ears were already flying again!

Thanks also to Dick Clark for all the great rally photos!


  1. What great "action" photos. Congratulations on the RE and also on a dog that can compete in multiple venues.
    How old is Cory?

  2. He is 4, so we have to get cracking! He has a pretty good understanding of all of the exercises through utility though, so once we start showing hopefully we can keep going. We are working on cleaning up pickups and holds, getting a good front on the broad jump, and speeding up his drop for open; hopefully by the time he gets his CD we will have those down and he can move on to open.

    He should have been in agility long ago but I seem to get slower by the day...

  3. Congratulations on the RE. Way to go :o) Like those pictures of him groomed up!