Heeling Our Way Through AKC Rally

Cristi Theriot, Aug 2010

As we approach the finish line, I glance into my blue weimaraner's eyes. I can see our love and partnership. What a bond this journey has given us. Cooper and I cross the finish line and instantly knew we just earn an AKC Rally title!

Rally is a wonderful sport that shows off your partnership or teamwork with your best four legged friend. The course can consist of ten to twenty stations that you complete at your own pace. I find that this is a wonderful show ring experience for young novice dogs and/or handlers. It is not as strict as regular AKC obedience. You are encouraged to talk and praise your dog but without the aid of treats or touching them.

All the stations that you are required to complete are things you find helpful every day situations if you have a bit of imagination. Example of this is, in rally you are asked to weave in and out of several orange cones. Now, I can’t imagine you having cones in your house that your must weave daily. On the other hand you could be walking your dog in a busy crowed area and you want to politely make your way through. The body language you train your dog for weaving cones could be used in that crowded situation. Another example, in rally you are asked to Sit , Down, walk around . So you would sit your dog in heel position, down your dog, then the handler walks around the dog calmly. I bet you could find a way that would be helpful.

In my experience of showing in rally with my first show weimaraner, I have come across more challenges than I could imagine. I have seen dogs fly through qualifying and earning titles and I’ve seen struggles. I would love to share my experiences with you.

First show

In my first show, I did not have a clue about showing a dog. As a child I grew up watching the conformation shows on tv. I approached the check in table and got my armband and a copy of the course that was for Novice Rally. In novice everything is done on a 6 foot leash with a buckle or a show chain. I knew that my nerves could be transferred to my dog through any tension of my leash so I had to be calm. I had friends waiting for their turn in the ring too. I was lucky to have been training in agility and those friends were in rally also. My number is next. Oh dear can I do this? Or better yet, did I train my dog enough for this? Is it too late to back out now?? I shake off the nerves and realize the judge is judging the dog and my friends watching are there supporting me. So what if I make errors. I walk in the ring with Cooper my blue weimaraner. I sit him in heel. Judge asks, "are you ready?" Yes ma’am I respond nervously. Forward she instructs. I begin the course with a sit and down. Moving to station number two. Thank goodness the course has signs up and number or I’d be lost as Alice in wonderland. Cooper starts sniffing the ground. I clap my hands and refocus him back on me. We’re walking up to sign eight. Did we do three through seven already? Cooper spots a bird flying in the building. To his credit he didn’t chase. He just went into a solid point. Oh my how embarrassing. The crowd is laughing. Well they are laughing "with" us and not "at" us so that is good. I tell Cooper that I have a cookie and that broke him out of his intense point. One more sign left to till we finish. Cooper stops and starts scratching. I was told that scratch and be a sign of stress. Without touching him I glance at his neck. A thread was unraveling from his collar and he was scratching at that. I got his attention and we made it to the finish line. I thought we are going to get disqualified because we took absolutely too long. To my shock it took us 3 minutes. It felt like 10 minutes at least. I praise Cooper and myself for getting in that ring and trying. We qualified!! You must have at least a score of 70 out of 100. We scored a 78 That following day I returned and we qualified with a score of 82. I was so proud of that green qualifying ribbon. Everyone has a chance to qualify but they also do placement ribbons first through 4th. We got second. After the judge gives out ribbons, she askes me if he is considered a blue weimaraner. I proudly say " my boy is a blue weimaraner."

Second Show

Our second show is Cooper and I’s first road trip. That means there are going to be a lot of first times , good and bad. I had to drive 3 hours in a hail/sleet storm and it was only a 2 hour drive. We pull into the hotel and we’re on the second floor. That means I have to carry a very heavy crate and dog. Forget the stairs, I’ll find the elevator. I nearly peed in my pants from laughing so hard at Cooper. We walked in the elevator and when it moved so did his feet. In fact all four feet went in opposite directions. Ever watched a scooby doo cartoon? Then you can imagine Cooper. Of course I then felt like a horrible mother for laughing at my boy but it was just too funny. The key unlocks the door and Cooper sees two large hotel beds with white sheets. He was like a kid in a candy store. He bolted and jumped on the bed and bounced around. Cooper had never slept in bed with me at home so he thought he was the man. For the entire weekend, Cooper never did sleep in that crate in the room.

Good morning sunshine I said to Cooper. Cooper is in the other bed with all for feet in the air. No modesty in my boy. There is the funniest grin on his face, so he must of slept like the king that he is. We arrive at the show sight. I hope they have heaters cause its freezing. I get all our stuff unloaded and get Cooper and I signed in. This is a huge show. 4 days and lots of dogs already barking. We make friends with the boston terrier named Abbie next to us. Cooper and her got along because they must of been the only two not barking. 23 dogs were entered in Novice rally. We’re number seventeen so I was relieved to get to watch. Dogs of all colors, sizes compete on the same course. Our turn is next. We are doing great!. You must qualify or "Q" three times to earn an AKC Rally title. Cooper earned first place!!! That is our third qualifying run so we earned our Rally Novice Title "RN". Cooper gets to look fancy with full name Cmt Working Man Blues, RN.

The second day we arrive early so we can watch the obedience rings and volunteer as ring help. At any show you go to, you can learn a lot by volunteering. There is never enough help and the clubs who host the shows are very appreciative. Hours pass and its time for rally. The course is set up. The judges always let the handlers have a few minutes to walk the course without dogs before she starts. Team Blue Weim is first to compete. It must of been a sign because Cooper was wonderful. He heeled, and listened. There was no sniffing or staring at the crowd. There was a rat that ran across outside of the ring in the dark part of the building. Cooper spotted it and I quickly said "COOKIE" and kept moving as if I never saw the creepy critter. Cooper followed me but kept an eye for that rat. We qualified and earned second place.

We have two more days of showing. Cooper is on fire and I’m so proud. When you enter shows, you pay your entry fees weeks ahead of time. I had no clue you could move your dog up a level after a title win. So our third day of the show, we moved up to Rally Advanced. Looking at Cooper, I tell him we’re with the big dogs now. Cooper doesn’t look affected by this statement. He just proudly pees on every bush outside the building. In Rally Advanced, your dog is OFF Leash. That strikes fear in a lot of novice handlers. Especially with Cooper’s size, he could step over the little show fence. Lots of little dogs yapping and walking by the show ring. I’m nervous. No, that is not close to how I feel. I’m feeling sick. We are not ready for this. I was in the hotel room last night quickly trying to read the Rally Advance Sign rules. Team Blue Weim is up. My knees are knocking. Cooper walks in and sits at heel without being told to. I must take off my leash and hand it to the judge. "Ready?" the judge asks. Can I say "No?" I force out the words "ready." As we cross the finish line, I realize I don’t remember the course at all! It was a blur. My boy and I were proud to be there. I promised him to split a steak with him that night. I kept my promise.

Last day of our show. Team Blue Weim is showing the side effects of being away from home too long. We walk up to the show ring. Hand our leash to the judge and she instructs us to begin. As I begin to walk, Cooper stays sitting. Oh no, I verbal tell him to heel. He slowly gets up and stretches and then trots over to me. At each station I’m seeing that Cooper is just tired and not paying attention. He is looking at the little dogs outside the ring. I gather my dog and quit. I do not want to stress my dog. It was long 4 day show.

THIRD SHOW

On the road again, a friend and I pack up and drive 6 hours to our next show. This is our first rally show that is held in a covered horse arena. Its such a big show that they have conformation rings next to us. Rally excellent went first. This judge and the location was so hard that no one in Rally Excellent qualified. That rattled me. I was told a little advice by a professional dog handler. "Its just a dog show." With that in mind, I walked Cooper up to the ring and began. Wouldn’t you know it, a flock of little birds flew down at the far end of the ring. He watched them but stayed with me. I came across a station that I never had heard of before. You have to walk a figure 8 between two bowls of food or toys. This was two giant stuffed longhorn bull in a cowboy hat. Cooper was leery of the cows and yet curious enough he wanted the toys. As we walked through the figure 8 I told Cooper to "leaveeee it" and he obeyed. Next was a jump station. Cooper must of thought we were in agility. We finish and everyone was telling me we Q’d but I don’t celebrate till I see it posted at the judge’s desk. We Q’d and that gave us our first Q towards Rally Advanced.. On our second and final day of the show, Cooper was so close to perfect that he scored 95!

FOURTH SHOW

Back to my old hometown, good friends and good eating. This is just a two day indoor show. Cooper and I check in and see another weim. We’re so excited that we put our crate next to theirs. I get my course map and the judge lets all the handlers walk the course. I thought this is going to be so easy. Boy I wish I could take back those words. When it was Coopers turn he acted like he had never been to a show before. We got half way through the course and I had to grab Cooper’s collar and tell the judge we politely quit. When training a weim especially, if you let them do something wrong too many times they will try to do it every time.

 Last chance at this show. One Q is needed for Rally Advance title. Hand the leash and start counting down the stations. Cooper is focused and we are flying through each one. Corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of my parents in the crowd. Final station is finished and everyone is clapping for us. We did it!!!! Our title win and my parents were able to see it happen. My parents were so proud of us. Later that evening, I caught my dad feeding Cooper a hot dog for a reward.

FIFTH SHOW

Rally Excellent started in a local show. Two day show with lots of my friends. The main difference between Advanced and Excellent levels is very few. The main one is you must complete the Honor station after you do the course. The honor is a sit or down of your dog but you must step to the end of your 6ft leash. Your dog must stay there during the duration of the next dog’s course. Cooper really flew fast through Rally excellent runs. He earned a 93 and 96 without any troubles.

SIXTH SHOW

We traveled back to show site that we did well at in the past. That can be a real benefit to the dogs because it’s the same smells and sites. I’ve heard of dogs who don’t like certain sites due to lighting, floors, smells and sounds. This a very small obedience / rally show. There were only 8 rally excellent dogs. We walked in the ring feeling positive. I recognize this judge and remember liking her last time. The course was challenging for a large dog. The stations were so close together it was hard to start a station without messing up the next one. We finished and I clipped my leash on Cooper. Our honor was a sit. The next dog running the course was doing great till he came running up to Cooper really fast. My instinct was to keep the dogs from possibly fighting. I had no clue what the judge’s rules are about it. I didn’t if I was in the wrong and would lose my Q. The dog’s handler got the dog’s focus and finished her course without a problem. The judge said we were fine and we Q’d. with a score of 98! That was our rally excellent title! WOO HOO!!!!!

In the past year and half, I have really learned more about myself and my dog. Never would I have thought our bond could have gotten stronger but it has. AKC Rally has really been a wonderful learning experience. We have learned skills that could be used everyday. Rally has prepared my dog and I for other AKC events.

ct. 

 

Blues and Weimaraner Nationals 2010

Cristi Theriot, June 2010

My cousin and I set out on our road trip. We had counted down the days for two years till the 2010 Gettysburg Weimaraner Nationals. She loaded up 3 gray weims and I loaded up Cooper my blue weim.

19 hours turned into 22 hours because of doggy needs. Pit stops, tummy aches, car sickness, crate restlessness. Not to mention all the snack breaks for the humans. I have never had so many people stop and yell out “I love your weims.” or “Is that dark one a weim???” I even got a “holy smokes is that a blue weim?”

 Our arrival. WOO HOO. Hauling up 4 crates. Whinnying weims who want out of the truck as we set up in the hotel room. I had never been so excited to go to bed early.

 Day 1: Saturday May 15, 2010 : Field day trial for my cousin.

I felt like an outsider because I knew no one and I’m walking around with a BLUE WEIMARANER. Any other time, I would have my chest puffed out and ready to take down anyone rolling their eyes at my blue. After I got over my nervousness, I realized I had a lot of people staring. After a quick mental check of my outfit, I realized nothing is exposed or unzipped. So that must mean they are looking at Cooper. There were lots of whispers and fingers pointing. I would just raise my chin up and smile at them. Why should I be nervous, I have an excellent looking weim, regardless of his color. A few guys came up to me and informed me that they had never in their 20+ weim years, never saw a blue in person. Cooper took it as his cue to play and want to wrestle with the guys. Then when he started sniffing their jackets, they laughed and said he must smell the birds. I joked saying how Cooper loves three things the most. His mama, food and birds.

 Two women walked pasted me and smiled. Their smile did not last long because I could hear their negative comments about blues. The comment that still stings is “ glad we don’t have to deal with those often.” “Oh come on” I thought. We are gathered in a wonderful location, great coffee, and wonderful dogs, can’t we just get along? I walked the dogs around a lot so that my cousin just had to focus on her dog's braces. I decided that I was needing another coffee break.. Maybe I should have started this article with a proper intro. Hello my name is Cristi and I love coffee. As I sat at the tables among strangers, I’m trying to soak up any training info or learn people’s names. I started feeling the welcome from this club. Their smiles and warm hellos were making me feel at home. A few people came up and wanted to know about blues and how I came across Cooper. Well, that is all I needed for me to ramble on about my boy and my love of our blues. It fascinated me how many people never saw a blue in person, or their first weims were blues. When those who owned a blue informed me of that, I always asked one question. “Why did you go strictly to grays?” 99% of the answers were because that is what is more accepted. I later pondered in my hotel room, I would rather go with what is not accepted and have quality verus having a gray that is not sound. Why can’t we have conformation correct weims who can do it all. That is the million dollar question.  Does coat color really change a dog???

 Day 2. WCA Ratings Test.

Good morning to the same people. Today is looking brighter because more people are smiling and a lot more social. Maybe it was just my nerves that made me feel un welcomed at times. Cooper can’t wait for the day to be over with because he got to run around yesterday after the field trial. Letting him full out run in the fields did him so much good especially after all that traveling from Louisiana. The club members were so friendly and chatting. I was listening to a lot of different training tips being offered. This was great. I think I was bit by the hunting bug and not to mention ticks. Geez the ticks were horrible. How many of you had to find ticks on a blue?? Its very hard. Its still worth it because it meant Cooper got to burn off more energy.

 DAY 3: Novice Field Seminar.

I was so excited would not even describe how I felt that morning. Cooper could feel it too. Everyone is arriving with their young dogs, lots of smiles and excitement. It started off with a gathering in the club house. Gift bags for everyone. Now, that is a way to start off day by getting gifts. A binder full of information, leash, whistle, hat, etc. I felt like I was in college again, eager to learn. Our main speaker was full of useful information. She broke things into terms we really could grasp. She had our full attention. We all rush outside to gather our dogs. Can you picture a lineup of 5year old kids impatiently waiting for recess? That is what our dogs looked like. So many weims pulling on their leashes, barking, running circles around the handler. Did I mention the barking?

 First hands on demo is the bird wing on the fishing pole. Pretty simple concept. Get the dogs attention and let the dog chase the wing. Some of the pups would show a beautiful point at the stilled wing and leap in the air as the wing swung around. Others could care less and just wanted handler attention. Then there were dogs like Cooper. The chase was on. The fishpole and wing could not be fast enough for Cooper. All you saw was a flash of blue as he circled and gave it his all. We had a lot of chuckles from the crowd. When it was the next dog’s turn, Cooper could not stop barking , teeth chattering because he wanted it so badly!!!

 As it starts to drizzle some we head back to the club house for more info. We heard from experienced judges and about different hunting activities and associations. Before long it was time to gather our dogs and head to the main fields. This is it, what I’ve been waiting for. Each of us has to take turns. Well, if you know me, I wont wait long before I jump up to volunteer to go next. Everyone was shy about going first. We were ready and ready to go. They showed Cooper the chucker bird, and then went plant it. Cooper was on it like white on rice as the old saying goes. There was no straying, no sniffing, no peeing. ALL ABOUT THE BIRDS. He did hold his point but as I tried to hold him, he caught the bird. He released in my hand and they told me to release the bird. Cooper was ready to get it again. Tap Tap on the whistle and I released Cooper again. Sure enough he pointed it . The bird handlers praised Cooper. I do not believe I could have smiled any harder or bigger. I bet I felt as proud as a parent on graduation day. Ok, maybe it was kindergarten graduation, but none the less I was proud.

 After the last gray weim, the drizzle became even harder and the group decided to call it a day. The sounds of dogs panting as we hiked up hill along a rocky path. What a great seminar to attend. I hope this idea will be presented at many more nationals. This was a fabulous way to get new comers interested and involved with their weims. Weimaraners were made to hunt and sadly its been bred out of some of them. I personally hope to see this change in our breed. As we all packed up our belongings, I got a lot of very nice praises on how Cooper worked that day.

 Day 4. The event I’ve been waiting for.

A-G-I-L-I-T-Y

Hot cups of over priced hotel coffee and rain in the air. Smells like trouble brewing. All athletes are checking in and getting their numbers. I can feel the excitement then I turn to look at the field. What!??!! The field can’t possibly be this small. Correction, the field IS that small. Little did I know that was the least of our issues. The sound of Canadian geese teasing our dogs from up in the air. Seriously?? I feel the sudden coldness. Rain. I think there is someone with a great sense of humor that is doing this to us. While I volunteer during the excellent level dogs, I saw some amazing teamwork. I had to clear my eyes suddenly. Another Blue? Can it be possible. Indeed, another big blue weim is at the start line. I’m cheering mentally but I’m standing still because I’m part of ring crew.

Novice Fast is our first event to run for Cooper and I. We’re the first ones in the line up. Nerves all of sudden take over. Cooper is looking for geese at the pond,. I’m shaking because either of nerves or the freezing rain. Judge is ready. Go. I am telling Cooper “stayyyy” as I lead out for distance. I give him the release word and he is flying. Jump, Chute, out jump, Tunnel. Jump. Weaveeeeeeee. Dog walk (please lord don’t slip), ......Go Jump. The timer sounds. We did it Cooper Man in 29seconds!!!! That was our needed qualifying win to earn our Novice Fast Title!!! I’m praising him as we hurry to get a leash on him and trot him out the ring. Cooper knows he did well. Congratulations are coming from our cheering squad up on the hill. Our new friends from Connecticut, New York, and Australia. As I later go up to the judges tables to get our title ribbon and 4th place ribbon, Cooper and I got a lot of praises and compliments.

 Open Standard course is our second run. I’m still on our “title high” that I just want Cooper to have a positive and safe time on the field. I’m second in the line up this time. Here we go Cooper man. Go blues!! Sit. Stay. As I get a lead out, Cooper breaks his stay. Dang it Cooper....now I have to run. This is a tough course, lots of traps. Not sure how much Cooper is hearing me. Running but I’m trying to not rush. Holy smokes ....can we pull this off?? Oh yes we can!!! Cooper and I just earned our second qualifying leg in Open Standard and placed 4th.

End of the day, I’m tired but the sun is now out. We have one more run to try. Open Jumpers. I thought the last one was tough. Boy was I wrong because this course was causing a lot of troubles for the dogs ahead of us. I don’t get but two lead out steps before Cooper starts running. By the third obstacle Cooper was looping around the tunnel and being silly. I try to make the most of it by getting him back on course. A few jumps later , I have no control over him so I nicely collect my dog and thank the judge with a polite wave of defeat. What can I say? He is a 4year old male Weimaraner. You can only ask so much out of them

I proudly gather our ribbons and hook them on my jacket. As Cooper and I hike across the grass fields, we make our way to the conformation ring. Lots of stares, glares, and fingers pointing as we walk by. Everyone has their pop up canopies surrounding the conformation ring.. My cousin and friends are under one tent so we go join them to relax. Cooper is relaxing and stretching out beside my chair. As some of the people walk around our section I could hear the rude whispering. Well to call it whispering is not exactly the truth. Some mumbled, some literally gasped. One breeder acted as if we had the plague. Another breeder that I’ve seen at some of the local big shows back home, acted as if she’d never seen me before and that I was invisible. Trying to be the better person, I just smiled at everyone. Did I mention that I hung up my ribbons on the back of my chair, so as they gasped at my blue weim, they saw all his winning ribbons. Later as we walked around to shop at the vendors tents, I came across several blue lovers. One person did rescue work and was curious as to where I got Cooper. She gave him lots of high compliments and encouragement to continue one our journey in agility. Shortly after, a lovely young couple just had to come touch Cooper because he was their first encounter with a blue. They were wanting a blue but was worried about health issues. I quickly got out a paper and pen and gave them every blue website I knew.

 Day 5. RALLY

I woke up this morning and could feel I wasn’t hundred percent. Maybe it was the rain the last two days. Cooper and I arrive to the Obedience/ Rally ring. Many dogs are having troubles ignoring the allure of goose poop in the ring. The ring crew did the best job possibly to make sure the field was clean. Can you blame the weims for wanting to use their noses when there is such an appealing fragrance of goose poop? After watching all the obedience that morning, I was ready for rally. I was in for a rude awakening with Cooper. Technically yesterday’s agility was our first agility show. So this is our first outdoor rally show. We are dealing with the goose poop, little birds fluttering outside the ring, and some of the geese flying over our heads honking, I saw a few weimaraners jump over the fence during obedience and chase after the birds. Our turn is next. I bargined with Cooper. Just please stay in the ring, Cooper. That is all I ask of you boy. Cooper looks up at me like he understands. I hand the leash to the judge and we begin our course. At least my dog did not wait till the end to screw up. He did it right from the beginning. I could not allow any of this behavior because he would think he could do it every time. I collect my dog and thank the judge. We had one more Rally run that day because we are trying to achieve the highest rally title possible- RALLY ADVANCED EXCELLENT. That means you have to double qualify to earn a point. You need 10 points to earn this title. We already paid for this entry so we might as well give it a try. Cooper obviously needs a lot of experience showing on grass. Cooper earns a 2nd place this time.

Day 6th Rally

We have a complete repeat of the previous day in rally. This time we walk away both times with no ribbons. The birds and distractions prove to be too much for my big blue boy. We walk around with our heads held up high and called it a day. What better way to spend my day? I was with my blue boy and watching other weims perform in the sunshine. We tracked our way across that long grass field again to the conformation ring. Today was a better day at that ring. I got to sit next to a new dear friend from Australia. She taught me about their kennel and show rules. Not to mention she really loved Cooper, so she was really cool in my book! We did not get as many stares or glares. For some reason everyone who did come up to us, asked if Cooper was a Blue Great Dane / Weimaraner cross. I politely explained that he was in fact a blue Weimaraner and he was well within the standard size.

Day 7th Final Day.

Cooper and I were not showing so we attended the conformation show again, but this time it was to support my cousin’s weims. I picked out a few winners as I watch them prance around the ring. We were down to the last event..... Best bred by group. My cousin’s weim won it. What a way to finish our week.

Weimaraner Nationals 2010 in Gettysburg, PA was a wonderful experience. Over all, we got lots of attention by being one of two blues showing. Most of the people were welcoming and curious to learn more about blues. It will not happen over night, but I feel that showing more quality blues will help improve public image. Nationals were barely over, before I started counting down the days till Weimaraner Nationals 2011 in Ohio. I hope to see more blues participating.                                                    

ct 

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