Tag Archives: Dog sports

Rally for Rally Obedience! An Introduction to the FUN Sport of Dog Obedience

5 Apr

Clancy Rally trial ukcHeel. Sit. Stay. Come. “Boring…” may be what your dog is thinking as it mechanically completes the requested actions from their master. While an obedient dog is to be respected in the community, especially in competition, it may not be very fun for many dogs. Fortunately, there is an alternative (or just a fun extra dog sport to be involved in!)

It’s RALLY Obedience!  Watch Clancy and I in a Rally trial here:

What is Rally Obedience? Imagine being in the competition ring and being able to talk as much as you want to your dog, even in your puppy-wuppy voice if you wish! Pat your leg to encourage your dog to stay with you, repeat the commands to your dog if you need to and just be as silly as you want, to RALLY your dog as you follow a course of signs indicating what you’re supposed to do. It’s so much better than trying to remember an obedience course and listening to a judge telling you what you should do.  You can even say “re-do!” when you know you’ve messed up and want to re-do the station.

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Rally should be fun and encouraging! Clancy and I working as a team in our first AKC Rally trial.

That’s what makes Rally Obedience fun and a great way to either start in or enhance your teamwork skills to improve in any dog sport. Rally is a relatively new dog sport focused on success in obedience in a more relaxed setting than regular Obedience. It is offered by various governing bodies. Clancy and I compete in both the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club since that’s what’s offered in our area.

In Rally, there is a course composed of signed stations that tell you what to do. Your dog heels beside you as you approach the signs that range in telling you to turn in a specific direction, circle, or giving your dog a command or series of commands. Clancy loves that we can have fun together through the excitement of my voice and the encouragement in moving my arms. I enjoy the challenge of having to quickly read the signs and remember what they said… having to ensure I complete all parts of the station while being mindful of my positioning…  and being sure to sound upbeat and positive to keep Clancy motivated!

It’s also fun that any dog over 6 months of age is welcome to compete, you just need to register with the organization (mixed breed dogs can do this too!)IMG_6873

Rally course mapIn Rally trial competitions, you will be given a map of the course when you check in. Before your class level starts, you will have at least 10 minutes to be able to walk the course and should practice with an “imaginary dog”. (Your real dog should either be crated or held by someone outside of the ring at this time.)

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You get to walk through the course before your competition level begins and ask the judge any questions!

RALLY COMPETITIONS (Trials)

The ring steward will call you “on deck” when you are next to enter the ring to be sure you are ready to approach the “Start” sign as the previous dog exits the ring.

A Rally exhibitor on deck to go in the ring next.

A Rally exhibitor on deck to go in the ring next.

When you approach the “Start” sign, you have your dog sitting (or standing) to your left in heel position. The judge will ask “Are you ready?” (now take a deep breath and make sure your dog is focused on you), and when you reply, “Yes”, they are able to start judging you and you can no longer touch your dog. The judge will say “Forward” and you then tell your dog to heel as you head to the first station. A timer begins as soon as you pass the “Start” sign.

In both the AKC and the UKC, you begin the course with the perfect score of 100 points. Points are deducted throughout the time you are in the ring anytime you and your dog are not exhibiting the ideal vision of a Rally run. These could include if your dog is lagging behind while heeling (though it is nice that unlike traditional Obedience, they aren’t looking for “perfect heel position”), not responding to a command or taking an excessive amount of time to obey your command, or handler errors such as having a tight lead, slowing to the dog’s pace, performing part or all of a station incorrectly, touching your dog, etc.

The judge is looking for you and your dog to walk briskly and most importantly, work together as a positive team. Harsh corrections (such as jerking the leash or yelling at your dog) will be severely penalized and may “NQ” you (Non-Qualify). Be sure to read and to understand the Rally regulations of the organization that you are competing in (they do vary slightly, along with the signs) AKC Rally Regulations and Description of Signs

AKC score sign

Scores are posted next to your armband number after your run. Times are not disclosed until after placements have been announced.

A qualifying score in the AKC and UKC is 70 points. At any point during the course your deductions put you lower than the 70 points qualifying score, you are then marked “NQ” and are excused from the ring. Sometimes, depending on the judge and how busy the schedule is, they may let you complete the course as a training opportunity. At the end of each Rally level, the judge will ask all those that received a qualifying score back into the ring to award them all a Qualifying Score ribbon, which also means you earned a “leg” towards that level’s Rally title. They will also award those that received their third “leg” a ribbon for receiving a new title. The judge will then announce the 1st place, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place winners based on the highest scores. IMG_7017

 

If there is a tied score, the tie is broken by whoever had the fastest time (which is the only reason they time you.) Only twice has time been a factor for Clancy and I… which is suspenseful because while you can see what everyone’s score is ahead of time, you don’t know the times and just have to wait to hear the placements from the judge.  If the judge isn’t too busy, you may approach them after the awards presentation for your class and ask them what stations did you lose points on so you know what you need to work on for next time.

Clancy and Stacie earn their AKC Rally Novice title and 1st place!

Clancy and Stacie earn their AKC Rally Novice title and 1st place!

MORE RALLY SPECIFICS AND TIPS

Rally Obedience is a fun way to train your dog obedience and a variety of additional listening skills, for there are a large variety of exercises and many of them defy the set traditional Obedience exercises. Call front Rally signFor example, the “Call Front, Finish Left, Forward” exercise. While you are heeling, you tell your dog to “come front” where they walk past you and do a U-turn to sit directly in front of you. You then tell your dog to return to heel position by doing another U-turn on your left, HOWEVER, unlike traditional obedience where the dog should immediately sit on your left automatically, you start moving forward as soon as your dog clears your path before they had a chance to get into the heel position, which makes the dog have to catch up to you to heel by your side.

Some of the signs can be difficult to understand Double left about turn Rally sign which is why it’s always good to either take a Rally Obedience class or participate in “run-thru’s” which are often held by local dog training or kennel clubs (often you don’t even have to be a member, you just pay a fee to do a run-thru and instructors or knowledgeable volunteers will answer any questions you have and correct you if you make a mistake.)  Join Clancy and I for Rally Run-thrus!  Check out our FUNanimal Meet-up Group.

Stacie&ClancyRally8Rally sign for picWell, I could go on and on and on about Rally Obedience (and I will), but the goal of this article was to introduce you to this fast growing sport that serves not only as a wonderful foundation to get you ready to compete in other dog sports, but it is a fun way to train your dog to want to listen to you and strengthens your bond. I also find that Rally Obedience offers new challenges you don’t see in other dog sports. Having to focus on the signs and remember exactly what they said (it’s an entirely different experience in the competition ring… you and/or your dog may suddenly seem like you’ve never done it before… the sign says do a circle to your left and you circle to your right, or the dog doesn’t seem to remember what “sit” means).

Clancy tied for 1st place in Rally Advanced, however we had the slower time so we took the 2nd place honors.

Clancy tied for 1st place in Rally Advanced, however we had the slower time so we took the 2nd place honors.

Not to mention all the distractions you could encounter in the competition ring that you don’t see in practice runs or at home. Such as a wooly caterpillar crossing your path so your dog stops heeling to investigate and finds it more interesting than listening to you… (ahem, Clancy!) Or new smells draw your dog’s attention away from you, or loud noises, or just other dogs. That’s why it is best to practice random exercises during your travels with your dog. While you’re shopping at the pet store together, suddenly do a “come front, finish” exercise… while you’re taking a walk past a barking dog behind a fence, suddenly do a 360 degree turn while telling your dog to look at you instead of the barking dog.

Repetition, repetition, repetition in a variety of settings with a treat that you can give your dog quickly (and that they can consume quickly) as soon as you get the desired behavior from your dog, will eventually get you to where you want to be.  The more you do it, the better you’ll both get!  Do not give up on your dog!

Even spending just a couple minutes every day practicing a move or two will make you a better team!

Even spending just a couple minutes every day practicing a move or two will make you a better team!

Being owned by a Keeshond, I have learned you also need to share in the sense of humor they have. They are fun-loving dogs that want to please you, but also just want to have fun. Especially with emotional breeds such as the Keeshond, Rally Obedience is a wonderful way to increase your dog’s focus, your trust and bond, and enhance your training while meeting lots of great people!

(Live in the DC area? I have just started a Meet-up group through Meetup.com to practice Rally Obedience and traditional Obedience (with other fun dog stuff in the works).  Learn more at www.Meetup.com/FUNanimal or on my business website: www.FUNanimalPet.com)

Rally Obedience… Another way of being your dog’s best friend! ~ SSB

Clancy and I at RNC

 

P.S. Look for future blogs targeting the different levels of Rally Obedience.  ALSO, Coming Soon: I will share my experience of competing in the AKC Rally Nationals Competition in Harrisburg, PA with Clancy that was on Friday, March 28th!  Thanks for reading!

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Dock Diving with “The Flying Fluff-ball” (and your dog can do it too!) Part 1

30 Jul
Ultimate Air Dogs dock diving competitions...   On left:  Clancy waiting his turn to dock dive at "The Andersons" in Ohio. On right:  Clancy dock diving at Maryland Dogfest.

Ultimate Air Dogs dock diving competitions…
On left: Clancy waiting his turn to dock dive at “The Andersons” in Ohio.
On right: Clancy dock diving at Maryland Dogfest.

“Here is a treat that you never see in the sport of dock diving… a Keeshond!” exclaimed Milt Wilcox, the founder of Ultimate Air Dogs dock diving, to the audience as I lead Clancy onto the dock platform leading to the approximately 40 foot long pool.

Clancy watching a Lab jump in the Extreme Vertical dock jumping competition

Clancy watching a Lab jump in the Extreme Vertical dock jumping competition

While you will see a lot of Labs and lately the Belgian Malinois dominating the dog dock diving sports, the dynamics of the professional dock diving leagues encourages any water loving dog to join in the fun. Every kind of dog has a chance to not only enjoy just participating in the sport, but also there is ample opportunity to actually compete for recognition and prizes (in some cases), because of the jumping distance divisions. This allows Sheepdogs, Dachshunds, Great Danes and even the Yorkie to enjoy the cheers of an audience as they fly weightless through the air before submerging themselves in a cool body of water.

Two years ago, while cleaning up the spilled water around Clancy’s water bowl, I questioned myself “why did I choose the puppy that was digging the water out of the water dish?” (Which when given the opportunity, he still does to this day!) Perhaps it was a sign of destiny. Just one week after bringing our new Keeshond puppy home, we headed to the lake house my husband grew up at in Michigan. Our 9 week old Kees puppy took to the lake immediately and he went for his first swim.

Clancy has always loved the water...  any dog who who enjoys the water can enjoy dock diving!

Clancy has always loved the water… any dog who who enjoys the water can enjoy dock diving!

At nearly 6 months old, Clancy loved swimming and retrieving, but couldn't be convinced to jump off of the dock yet.

At nearly 6 months old, Clancy loved swimming and retrieving, but couldn’t be convinced to jump off of the dock yet.

Several months later, we vacationed on another lake and Clancy immediately was eager to get in the water. We did get him a life jacket to give him more stamina in the water. All that fur can weigh a Kees down! We tried to encourage him to jump off the dock into the water, but instead he would run back to shore and then swim out to retrieve his stick.

The following summer, we returned to my mother-in-law’s lake house in Michigan and wanted to see if we could get Clancy to jump off the dock into the lake. We ran down the dock with Clancy at our feet and jumped in ourselves. Clancy put on the brakes and bowed at the end of the dock, barking ecstatically at us in the water just ahead of him. I slapped the water and encouraged him to jump in. The “Velcro dog’s” (one of a few nick-names for a Keeshond) desire to re-attach himself to us took over, so Clancy stopped barking and took the leap of faith!

One of Clancy's first dock jumps....  July 2012

One of Clancy’s first dock jumps…. July 2012

As I talked about our vacation to a local dog lover, they encouraged me to try the sport of dock diving and told me about a facility that had the regulation size dock and pool that had open practices not too far from where we lived. Just for fun, I headed there with Clancy, not even considering competition. After all, I thought a Keeshond could never be in the same league as the Labs, Retrievers and other “sporting dogs”. Well, Clancy didn’t know he was a “non-sporting” breed and leapt off the dock with just as much enthusiasm!
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As Keeshond owners know, we get all kinds of attention when we’re out in public with our unique smiling fluff-balls. Seeing a Keeshond take part in dock diving makes everyone do a double-take! “That fluffy dog can’t swim, can it?” Yes, he can swim very well! “You can’t let that coat get wet, it will take days to dry!” Actually, it dries quite quickly and as long as you groom him before getting wet, it’s not difficult to turn him back into a big fluff-ball. Everyone enjoys seeing the transformation of the dry Kees versus the wet Kees too! It’s almost like one dog goes in and a different dog climbs out… with gallons of water pouring off the coat. Probably the biggest workout of it all for Clancy is the climb out of the pool with his saturated coat adding all that extra weight.

Clancy's  transformation of being a  dry Keeshond to wet to mostly dry again in less than a half hour!

Clancy’s transformation of being a dry Keeshond to wet to mostly dry again in less than a half hour!

Socializing with the dock dog enthusiasts, they encouraged me to compete with Clancy. I learned there are a few different dock diving organizations in the United States which are Ultimate Air Dogs (UAD) (www.ultimateairdogs.com), Dock Dogs (www.dockdogs.com) and Splash Dogs (www.splashdogs.com). While there are some differences in the rules and other logistics, they all offer multiple divisions in order to allow dogs to be competitive at the level they jump. This encourages any dog to be able to participate. For the “Novice level” jumpers range from 1″ (yes, I said one inch!) to 9’11”, “Junior division” jumpers are in the 10′ to 14’11” range, “Senior division” is from 15′ to 19’11” and so on. There’s even a “lap dog” league for the small dogs to not get their egos hurt, though some of those lil’ guys can fly! The top 5 dogs from each division at the end of each weekend event then get to compete for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in a divisional finals. Clancy recently won 2nd place in the Junior division at the Ultimate Air Dogs Maryland Dogfest event!
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During the Maryland Dogfest event a few weeks ago, Clancy was acknowledged by the owners of Ultimate Air Dogs for having the longest jump on record for a Keeshond, at 12 feet and 10 inches! While there have only been a sprinkling of Keeshond appearances in the professional dock diving world, it is still a fun record to have!

Another fun recognition feature offered in professional dock diving are titles. There are varying qualifications within the different dock diving entities, but a benefit of competing for titles in UAD is if you are registered with the United Kennel Club (UKC), then you also earn titles and points towards dock diving championships in the UKC. Clancy just earned his Ultimate Air Dogs and United Kennel Club Junior Division dock diving title in July 2013 in Maumee, Ohio. (Someone actually caught Clancy on video jumping over 12 feet and put it on YouTube!) UAD founder/owner (and ex-Detroit Tiger’s World Series winning pitcher), Milt Wilcox, confirmed that Clancy is the first Keeshond to get a dock diving title with UAD! (He’s the judge and emcee in these UAD videos too!)
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On a future blog post, I will dive a little deeper (pun not intended, but it is funny) into comparing the different dock diving organizations and will offer some insight on how you can give your pup the opportunity to fly!  If you’re looking for a fun way to enjoy the warm weather with your dog, or perhaps a little out of the ordinary competition, consider dock diving with your fur-pal. If you have a Kees or other long-haired breed, just be prepared for at least a 6 foot splash and shake zone!

Dock diving – Another fun thing for Best Friends to do together! Be your dog’s Best Friend! ~ SSB

Clancy, "The Flying Fluff-ball"!!!

Clancy, “The Flying Fluff-ball”!!!

Make Your Dog an Ambassador for all of Dog-Kind!

29 May

Clancy enjoying an outing at a family gathering and hanging out with a friend's dog. A well-behaved dog is often welcomed into friends and family's homes.

Clancy enjoying an outing at a family gathering and hanging out with a friend’s dog. A well behaved dog is often welcomed into friends and family’s homes.

Dogs are man’s best friend. So are you being your dog’s best friend? Best friends do everything together. Do you and your furry bff go to parks together, go to stores together, go to friends houses together, do activities together such as going for a swim, participating in dog sports such as agility, tracking, obedience or the like? While you have work, family, TV, and other entertainment to occupy your time, you have to remember that all that your dog has… is you! So, you don’t think your dog is capable of joining you in activities outside of your home? It’s true that in order to go out and about with your dog, your dog must know how to behave in public (and wouldn’t it be nice if they knew how to behave at home, too?) With some time and patience, any dog can learn to behave.

Clancy (about 5 months here) enjoys going to watch hockey games! Since he's well-behaved, I can get away with bringing him to places that most dogs would not be welcomed at.

Clancy (about 5 months here) enjoys going to watch hockey games! Since he’s well-behaved, I can get away with bringing him to places that most dogs would not be welcomed at.

Dogs are always learning… it’s up to you if they learn good habits or bad habits by your level of enforcement. Dogs learn mainly by repetition. They pick up on routines rather quickly (you know they know when it’s dinner time!) By introducing and enforcing some basic rules, your dog can become an ambassador for dog-kind. If every dog was well cared for, sat politely to be petted and posed no threat of danger to people, there would be a lot less fear of dogs and less red-tape in public places. So how do you get your dog to that point?

Clancy earning his Basic Obedience graduation certificate at just 4 months old. Especially for puppies, you have to use positive training techniques and make learning fun! While it's best to start training your dog while they're young, every dog benefits from training, no matter the age!

Clancy earning his Basic Obedience graduation certificate at just 4 months old. Especially for puppies, you have to use positive training techniques and make learning fun! While it’s best to start training your dog while they’re young, every dog benefits from training, no matter the age!

There are so many options when it comes to training your dog these days. There are a variety of dog training classes out there you could sign up for, or have a dog trainer come to your house for private lessons, or there’s a large variety of dog training books and free advice on the Internet. In order to pick the appropriate type of training for you and your pup, you should be aware of the learning traits of your specific breed of dog (it’s as easy as doing an Internet search!) The most important aspect of teaching your dog, is consistency! For example, if you tell a dog to stay and it moves before you release it, you must place your dog back in the original position and tell them to stay again. No matter how many times it takes! You will need to start off with very short sessions (always give them a chance to succeed at a smaller goal before trying a bigger goal) and work your way up to longer sessions over time. If you ask your dog to come and it doesn’t, then you have to go get your dog and make it come. If you are not 100% consistent, then your dog will not be either. This goes for all that interact with your dog.

Clancy and I in our first Rally Obedience trial. You must start with basic training as a foundation to start to train for other dog sports. Participating in dog sports creates a stronger bond with your furry best friend and is a lot of fun!

Clancy and I in our first Rally Obedience trial. You must start with basic training as a foundation to start to train for other dog sports. Participating in dog sports creates a stronger bond with your furry best friend and is a lot of fun!

Before signing up for a dog training class, ask if you could observe a class to see if it would be right for you. Some trainers are all about positive teaching (my personal favorite) where you quickly reward for the correct behavior with a quick word of praise or a click (see clicker training: http://www.clickertrain.com/whatis.html) along with a taste of an irresistible treat. Incorrect behaviors are corrected with a distinct sound such as “aaap!” and an immediate repeat of the exercise until they get it right to deserve their reward. Dogs like to be rewarded! They want to please you and will eventually learn to do what you want with this type of training. It may take longer for some breeds to get it. See on average how quickly your dog learns here (from Stanley Cohen’s “The Intelligence of Dogs”): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Intelligence_of_Dogs

Other dog trainers rely on combinations of techniques that may include corrections with a quick jerk on a choke collar to regain the dog’s focus. The collar used in training or “working your dog” at a dog sport can make a big difference in the dog’s behavior. Some very stubborn out-of-control dogs may only initially respond to a prong collar or the even harsher electric shock collar (this should only be used as a last resort when other training methods have been unsuccessful, please consult a dog trainer before using.)

Clancy doing his "stick 'em up" trick, one of Clancy's many tricks under his Advanced Trick Dog Title. Keeshonden love to learn and perform tricks! All dogs love to learn new things and with even just 10 minutes of daily training sessions, it won't be long before your dog can show off what it knows!

Clancy doing his “stick ’em up” trick, one of Clancy’s many tricks under his Advanced Trick Dog Title. Keeshonden love to learn and perform tricks! All dogs love to learn new things and with even just 10 minutes of daily training sessions, it won’t be long before your dog can show off what it knows!

The keeshond is an emotional dog that does not respond well to harsh corrections, punishments or raised voices. They are smart dogs that enjoy being trained (as long as you keep it fun!) Clancy enjoys doing “Tricks for Treats” everyday and also understands when I get his leather buckle collar out to put on him, it’s time to “work”. I only place it on him when we are doing training or doing an obedience trial. (Other times when we are out and about for fun, he wears his harness.) When I place his show lead on him, he knows that it means it’s time to be a “show dog” and his behavior changes appropriately.

Though Clancy and I will likely never be classified as "athletes", we do enjoy having fun participating in all kinds of dog sports! Here Clancy and I are doing lure coursing. As long as you and your dog have a good bond and basic training, you two can learn to participate in all kinds of dog sports and activities together!

Though Clancy and I will likely never be classified as “athletes”, we do enjoy having fun participating in all kinds of dog sports! Here Clancy and I are doing lure coursing. As long as you and your dog have a good bond and basic training, you two can learn to participate in all kinds of dog sports and activities together!

After some basic manners training, you will be able to bring your dog out and about and start exploring the large variety of dog sports available in your area (you and your dog do not need to be an athlete, it’s just an opportunity to have fun with your dog!) The American Kennel Club offers a “Canine Good Citizen” test that every dog owner should strive to complete with their dog. Here are the test items: http://classic.akc.org/events/cgc/training_testing.cfm Many dog trainers offer prep classes and then give you the opportunity to take the test at during the last training class. If your dog can complete all ten items on the test, they are indeed an ambassador of dog-kind and you should be proud to bring your dog out in public! If every dog was a “Canine Good Citizen”, then there would be less fear of dogs and we would have more opportunities to have man’s best friend with us everywhere we go, making us a better friend to our canine companion.
Clancy proudly sits next to his AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate and course graduation certificate. Every dog and owner should aspire to achieve this to be a confident ambassador of dog-kind! Training to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test (any dog, mixed or pure-bred can achieve this) takes a lot of practice and patience. If at first you don't succeed, try... try again!

Clancy proudly sits next to his AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate and course graduation certificate. Every dog and owner should aspire to achieve this to be a confident ambassador of dog-kind! Training to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test (any dog, mixed or pure-bred can achieve this) takes a lot of practice and patience. If at first you don’t succeed, try… try again!

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