PERFORMANCE DOG: Tracking opportunities in Maine

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOGTRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

While indoor scent work is popular with many people and fun for dogs, if you have never had the opportunity to track in a real situation with your dog, you don’t know how much you are missing.

Just a few weeks ago at the end of October the Mid Coast Kennel Club of Maine put on a wonderful two-day tracking event. On Saturday, there were four TDU (Tracking Dog Urban) tests in Augusta and five TD (Tracking Dog) tests in the Somerville area. On Sunday, there were three TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent) tests in Somerville. Six dogs earned titles right here in Maine – three TD and three TDX.

Tracking is an excellent sport to watch and Mid Coast Kennel Club makes spectator participation a high priority. The spectators – called the “gallery” in tracking tests – are allowed to follow along the entire track and watch the action. There is a person in charge of the gallery and this person takes cues from the judges as to when the gallery can advance so as not to distract the dog. It is exciting to watch the dog solve various scent problems along the track and also an excellent way to learn more about tracking.

The TD (Tracking Dog) test takes place in a big field with basically uniform cover; the terrain can be hilly. The TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent) test takes place in a rural area. It can involve changes in cover, corn fields, woods, road crossing, small streams and rugged terrain. But this is not all tracking has to offer. The TDU (Tracking Dog Urban) test takes place in business parks, schools and college campuses. The test must be designed so any handler and dog can negotiate the test. The test can involve stairs. In this test, the handler must be 10 feet behind the dog on lead. The track starts on a vegetated surface. A small flag indicates the start with a scent article left by the tracklayer and a 30-yard flag indicates direction of the track. The team of dog and handler must follow the path the tracklayer walked and find an intermediate article dropped by the person and an article at the end of the track. The track must be 400 – 450 yards long and 10 percent – 30 percent of the track must cross non-vegetated surfaces such as sidewalks, small parking lots, roads, etc. It can go up ramps or stairs, along buildings, and must have three to five turns. The dog and handler work as a team. You may talk to your dog, rescent your dog, take a break and water your dog – the dog must follow the track and find the articles that were dropped. The handler must understand the dog’s indication of track or loss of track and encourage and help accordingly.

TDU is considered an entry level test. If you obtain a TDU, you are eligible for a much more difficult test – a VST. Here, dogs track again in an urban setting, but must negotiate turns on pavement, find three articles on the track and go a distance of 600-800 yards with four to seven turns. This track is three to five hours old (a TDU is 30 minutes to two hours old). Dogs in both these urban tests work in real life situations where they must negotiate traffic, parking lots, construction, people, children, playgrounds, and other real distractions that may occur in an urban setting. These tests are real, exciting and challenging and take place in actual real life environment – they require an excellent relationship based on teamwork, understanding and patience. Get real – get tracking!

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 100 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 10 TDX Titles and two Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

AKC announces Junior Rally showcase launch

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOGTRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

The American Kennel Club (AKC) the world’s largest purebred dog registry and leading advocate for dogs, has announced the launch of Junior Showcase events meant to promote and increase youth participation in the sports of agility, obedience and rally.

The Mid Coast Kennel Club of Maine is planning to hold a Junior Rally Showcase at their Obedience/Rally Show on Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14, 2018. This show is held at Mt. Ararat High School, in Topsham. To be eligible for a Junior Showcase event, the handler must be under 18 years of age the day of the trial. The Junior Showcase is open to all breeds including dogs listed with the AKC Canine Partners. All dogs must be eligible for the classes in which they are entered.

The purpose of a Junior Showcase is to provide a low stress mentoring environment with comradery in a relaxed atmosphere to assist the junior handler to achieve their goals.

Junior handlers entered in Junior Showcase events will be permitted to have a mentor walk with them during the exhibitor walk through times.

Mid Coast Kennel Club will be offering a Junior Showcase in Rally Novice A and B.

Rally trials are a sport and all participants should be guided by the principals of good sportsmanship both in and out of the ring.

Rally trials demonstrate the dog has been trained to behave in the home, in public places and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the sport of rally at all times and under all conditions.

All contestants in a class are required to perform the same signs in substantially the same way so that the relative quality of the various performances may be compared and scored. The judge tells the handler to begin, and the dog and handler proceed at a brisk pace through a course, designed by the rally judge, of designated signs. Each of these signs provides instructions regarding the next skill that is to be performed. The dog and handler move continuously throughout the course with the dog under control at the handler’s left side. There is a clear sense of teamwork between the dog and handler both during and between the numbered signs.

Rally provides an excellent introduction to AKC Companion Events for new dogs and handlers and can provide a challenging opportunity for competitors in other events to strengthen their skills. AKC Rally is a companion sport to AKC Obedience. Both require teamwork between dog and handler along with similar performance skills.

In the Rally Novice classes all signs are judged with the dog on leash. Rally Novice A & B have 10-15 signs (Start and Finish not included) with a minimum of three and a maximum of five stationary exercises.

Mid Coast Kennel Club of Maine holds Rally practice Monday nights at 5:30 at North Star Dog Training School in Somerville. Juniors pay $5.00 per class and Adults pay $10 with all proceeds to the Mid Coast Kennel Club.

Not sure? Come and watch one Monday night!

For more information, e-mail Kathy Duhnoski at kduhnoski@myfairpoint.net. Or call Kathy at 691-2332.

And to learn more about Rally, go the AKC website at www.akc.org Rally Regulations

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

Agility: Are manners and obedience necessary?

Training Your Performance Dog

by Carolyn Fuhrer

YES, YES, YES! I can’t tell you how many times we receive a call from a frustrated pet owner who says, “My dog is out of control and has a lot of energy. I think agility would be good for him.” Wrong! In order for the dog and handler to enjoy doing agility, the dog and handler need to have a connection that they have established through basic pet training.

Dogs must understand how to work for what they want, pay attention to the handler and understand the basic commands of come, sit and wait, come along with me and know when they can go (a release).  If a dog has basic good pet manners (which all dogs should have whether they do agility or not) and understand how to get “paid” by their owners, then they are on their way to becoming excellent agility candidates. Dogs must understand how to work for what they want, pay attention to the handler and understand the basic commands of come, sit and wait, come along with me and know when they can go (a release).  If a dog has basic good pet manners (which all dogs should have whether they do agility or not) and understand how to get “paid” by their owners, then they are on their way to becoming excellent agility candidates.

Many people see agility as simply an outlet for energy when actually it is a fast-paced journey through many obstacles in which the dog is cued and instructed by the handler in how to negotiate the course.  It is a fast-paced teamwork sport that needs to done safely.

Sometimes in learning agility you may need to hold your dog by the collar for motivation, perhaps to steady him, or to define a position. Your dog should have no aversion to you taking his collar. You should be able to hold your dog by the collar without him being upset or frightened. Sometimes you might also need this for safety. This can be taught as a “touch” game with a clicker so that the dog will willingly “give” his collar to your out-stretched hand. Your dog should not be afraid of your space nor should he be attempting to control the space.

Any dog that will have the privilege of being free needs to understand and respond when his handler says “come”. Anything less than this is really unsafe. Perhaps “come” is one of the best things we can teach our dogs. Name recognition (which should be taught in puppy class) should bring your dog’s attention to you and the word “come” should physically bring the dog to you. These two skills name recognition and “come” — should be reinforced through– out your dog’s life. Someday they may even save his life.

Sitting and waiting to be released is a necessary skill to start the course so you can give your dog proper direction and help him safely negotiate the course. Running alongside you and taking direction without tripping you, biting you or running away to visit or jump the ring boundaries because of distraction is also a necessary skill. While it is nowhere near as precise as heeling in obedience, the agility dog needs to go with you and respond to your movement without interfering with you.

Taking the time to teach basic manners and basic obedience skills will give you a dog that is ready to explore and enjoy the challenges of agility. As an added bonus, you also get a well behaved pet to live with.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

“Dogs being dogs” is not the answer

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE  DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

Recently, I was at an event where a dog who was walking with its owner was subject to a blindsided attack by another dog. Luckily, the owner saw it coming and pulled her dog away and luckily, too, the other dog was on a leash and the owner managed to hold onto it so no physical harm occurred. But what about the feelings of the dog who was attacked? No apology was offered and the excuse was “dogs will be dogs” and “he was just snarking.”

If you own and exhibit dogs at any level or just want to walk in the park, this type of behavior and attitude by the owner is not acceptable. Since when are owners not responsible for the behavior of their dogs?

Dogs do what we allow them to do and if we are aware that our dogs have issues with certain situations we, as responsible owners, should not put them in this situation. If we must move through an area where our dog cannot handle the environment, we must find a way to manage the situation and keep our dog under control, such as a head halter, no pull harness, etc. Dogs who lunge and go after other dogs should not be afforded opportunities for this kind of behavior and certainly owners should not excuse this behavior. If your dog is reactive, realize that you have a problem and get some help. A dog in this state of mind is not a happy dog. The greatest gift you can give your dog is the ability to be calm and exhibit self control and confidence in stressful situations, and if you are going to take your dog to public situations where there are other dogs, You are responsible for your dog’s behavior. Do not make excuses – “oh, he’s a rescue.” “He was abused.” “He doesn’t like black dogs,” etc. You are responsible to help your dog negotiate difficult situations by teaching your dog what behaviors are acceptable. Lunging after other dogs is not acceptable.

We, as responsible dog owners, must start to speak out about owners who are not responsible. Each year we lose more places that dogs are allowed because of incidents of aggression or threatening behavior towards humans or other dogs.

For the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test a dog must accept petting from a friendly stranger and must exhibit polite behavior when meeting a person with another dog.

Having these skills allows you to take your dog out in public and should be part of every dog’s education.

Dogs do what we allow them to do and we want them to trust us. Our dogs should not be subjected to dogs who are allowed to lunge at them or dogs who aggressively lunge when you pass by a crate or a car at a respectable distance, just as we should not feel unsafe walking down a street. Dogs have the right to feel secure when traveling with you under control. Dogs who lunge aggressively are not acting appropriately and it is time we address these behaviors and take responsibility for our dog’s behavior.

If your dog is not ready for a stimulating environment, you need to do more work – for your dog’s sake and out of respect for your fellow dog owners.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her col-umn by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

In competition, how important is the judge?

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

When you enter an event with your dog, you are actually asking the judge to evaluate your performance according to the standards of the venue. Some people would say if my dog can do everything, it really doesn’t matter who the judge is. This is not necessarily so. The less experienced you are, the more influence a judge may have on your performance.

An obedience judge is responsible for ring set ups – where the exercises will take place and the heeling pattern. Set ups close to the ring entrance, recalls towards the ring entrance, set ups with a lot of distractions behind the dog, can all complicate simple exercises. While you should practice with distractions before you show, a good judge will do their best to make the ring dog and handler friendly.

The efficiency and energy of the judge also sets a tone that you and your dog react to – basically, if you are comfortable, your dog will be comfortable. While judges should expect you to take your performance seriously and to know the rules and ring procedure, it is important to never lose your sense of humor. Things happen; and remember, there is always another show.

Good judges work hard to make the best of the situations they are given. Rally judges design the course using the signs and guidelines appropriate to the level. Some like courses with lots of sits and fronts. Other judges prefer flowing, open courses. Some look more at precision while others focus more on teamwork. Both courses can be legal, but reflect a different style.

In agility, the judge’s skill at design is also very important because they actually design the course. While, of course there are guidelines to designing a course, a judge’s influence in course design, i.e. angle of approach, tight turns, how the course flows – can all influence your dog’s performance. Some judges are influenced by the type of dog they are running and what kind of course they like, so sometimes you may get a course that is friendlier to big dogs or one that is friendlier to little dogs. Again, both can be legal courses but may favor one size dog over another. Some judges like lots of obstacle discrimination, some like pinwheels or serpentines. Some like a spiraling, tight course and others like a loopy, flowing course. Again, the more experienced your dog, the less this will concern you. Try and learn from the type of courses you have trouble running.

In tracking, the judges’ knowledge of scent theory and how dogs work and what will help the dog and what can hinder the dog along the way is extremely important.

In tracking, each new day is another experience depending upon terrain and weather conditions. Since tracking is an outdoor sport and subject to varying conditions, tracking judges must consider many factors when plotting a track. What looks good on paper may not transfer well to a field. Tracking judges must be willing to go that extra mile to make things work.

Judges, in my experience, on the whole are very dedicated and want to see dogs and handlers succeed. They work hard and put in a long day. But as in any other slice of life, some become complacent and settle in and don’t put forth much effort.

If, in your trialing experiences, you are not happy with a judge – be polite and chalk it up to experience. Seek out other experiences with other judges. You can enjoy showing and good judges are out there. Please make sure you tell the clubs when you really like a judge. Clubs work hard to put on shows and it means a lot to know they made good choices in choosing judges.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including two Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

Dogs must choose and want to give us attention and focus

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

Focus, Attention, Engagement, Cooperation. Focus. Attention. Engagement. Cooperation. We hear these words all the time, but what does it all mean? How do we obtain it and how do we keep it?

In the beginning stages of training, we use food or toys first as lures and eventually as rewards to pay our dogs for performing certain tasks. This approach works very well with most dogs. Problems arise if you want to progress beyond the venues where you can use food as a lure or carry food with you and reward with it. If your performance is based upon your dog believing that food is present and will be forthcoming for certain behaviors, you will be limited as to how much you can achieve.

Dogs must choose and want to give us attention and focus and be willing to join us and cooperate with us because it is a good deal and an enjoyable experience.

Focus and attention to you can be enhanced in every day life with your dog. Every time your dog looks at you or chooses to engage with you, acknowledge their attention and enjoy them. Work on building your relationship with your dog wanting to give you attention, not your pursuing the dog to get their attention.

Consider whether your dog is stressed, anxious or fearful of the environment or is the stress coming from you? Or perhaps some of each. Is the environment overwhelming to your dog because your dog is extremely curious and has not developed the ability to concentrate on a single task but just flits from one environmental distraction to another. Your dog’s breed and temperament will influence whether they are stressed or wary of the environment or want to engage with every smell, sight or noise they encounter. Some dogs are more introverts where others are extroverts. You need to understand and work with the dog you have.

Some dogs need quite a bit of emotional support, whereas others are quite independent. You need to understand your dog’s emotional make up when you plan a training session.

Sometimes your dog’s inability to focus has nothing to do with the dog or environment. It has to do with poor training. Poor training and lack of clarity in training will cause a dog to be confused, anxious, frustrated or just shut down or leave.

Training, when done correctly, should strengthen your relationship and training should be an enjoyable, rewarding session for both dog and handler. The dog understands you will be fair and clear in your teaching and therefore will be willing to try and solve problems and enjoy putting forth effort. The handler in turn will be patient, fair and supportive of the dog’s efforts. The more you build your relationship, the more your dog will focus on the tasks and engage with you because work is fun for both of you!

Remember, every time you set up a training session, go to a class, a show and go or a trial, you set an emotional tone for the event. If these experiences are not pleasant and confidence-building for your dog and enhancing to your overall relationship, you will be undermining the foundation of trust you need to have with your dog. No amount of food can substitute for poor training.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

Tracking: Tracking with a purpose

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

A tracking dog needs to understand their job. We as trainers need to define the job. In other words, we need to really give a good detailed job description. What is it you want your dog to do?

A tracking dog must follow the basic path the tracklayer walked. A tracking dog cannot cut out entire “legs” of the track and get to the end as a Search and Rescue dog might do. They must follow track scent, not air scent in order to be successful. We as handlers must understand and teach the task. Tracking is not nose work and nose work is not tracking. Yes, both require scenting skills, but applied in a different way.

If a dog is successful at nose work by air scenting, they may resort to this technique if the “track” scent is difficult to find or contaminated, or the environmental conditions are difficult. Air scenting has paid off in the past, so they may default to this “successful” behavior when confronted with a problem. This is where training must be clear to the tracking dog. We do not want them to follow air scent. We want them to follow track scent. This is why letting a tracking dog fringe and wander on the track is not giving a clear job description of what the dog needs to do. A successful tracking dog must focus and then maintain their focus on the track scent. At the beginner level they must do this for 450-500 yards and make 3 to 5 turns (corners) along the way. So, our purpose in beginning tracking is to keep the dog on the actual track, discourage fringing and air scenting and make track scent valuable. Tracks should be designed so dogs are successful and are motivated to keep their heads down. In other words, following track scent pays very well.

Another common problem is distractions or “crittering” along the track. Dogs must be taught to ignore distractions and to follow the track. A “leave it” command is very necessary for a tracking dog. Sometimes it is even a safety issue. Teach “leave it” away from the track so you have this command on hand when you need it. There are many positive ways to teach “leave it” and it should be understood by all dogs. Telling your dog you must leave something is not a bad thing; it could even save their life. So teach “leave it.”

Another very important concept we must incorporate into our training program is reducing the help we give our dog on the track and creating a confident dog who will make correct decisions on the track. In the beginning stages we help a lot to get the dog to understand the job and be well rewarded for doing the job. We must gradually reduce our help and let the dog take over. This many times requires a great deal of patience and being quiet so as not to verbally push the dog. A relaxed body posture will help the dog realize there is no pressure, and it will allow the dog to work.

Make your training sessions meaningful. Before you go out and just lay a track, think about the purpose of the track and what aspect of tracking you are trying to teach.

Happy tracking!

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

New titling program from AKC

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

AKC has a new titling program: The AKC Trick Dog. It is designed so dogs and their owners can have fun learning tricks together.

There are four levels of titles in AKC Trick Dog:

  • AKC Novice Trick Dog TKN
  • AKC Intermediate Trick Dog TKI
  • AKC Advanced Trick Dog TKA
  • AKC Trick Dog Performer TKP

AKC approved CGC (Canine Good Citizen) evaluators may observe the tricks and sign as evaluators for the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced AKC titles.

For the performer level, all tricks must be done as a part of a routine and a video link must be provided to AKC for evaluation.

Here are the criteria for the four levels of titles:

Novice

Perform 10 tricks, or have the CGC on record at AKC and perform five tricks. May use food/toys as a lure (to guide the dog into position) and may use food as reinforcer and clickers to mark behavior. Dog will do each trick two times for the evaluator.

Intermediate

Perform 10 tricks from the intermediate tricks list. May not use food/toys as a lure except where specifically permitted. May use food as a reinforcer and also clickers to mark behavior. Dog will do each trick two times for the evaluator.

Advanced

Perform five tricks from the advanced tricks list. May not use food/toys as a lure. May use food as a reinforcer and may also use clickers to mark behaviors. Dog will do each trick once for the evaluator.

Performer

Perform a total of 10 previously learned or new tricks from the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced titles. Must do at least two intermediate and two advanced tricks. May not use food/toys as a lure. May use food as reinforcer and may also use clickers to mark behaviors.

You can find all the tricks listed at the section on the AKC website devoted to Trick Dog: www.akc.org/about-trick-dog/

The most exciting news is that MCKC (Mid Coast Kennel Club of Maine) will be offering a CGC test and Novice, Intermediate and Advanced Trick Dog tests at their show at the Union Fairgrounds, in Union, on Saturday, September 2, 2017, after Best of Breed. So, come and enjoy the dog show, maybe enter one of the tests or, if you are not ready yet, come and watch the CGC and trick tests and see what its all about.

For more information about the tests: contact Kathy Duhnoski at kduhnoski@myfairpoint.net.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

Tracking: more than just following your dog

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

Tracking involves teaching your dog how a certain job (following the track) needs to be done. It requires the handler to have the sensitivity, knowledge and skills necessary to help the dog achieve this goal. It is not just following wherever your dog goes. If you let your dog wander around and intermittently follow the track, you are not defining the job that the dog has to do. This will not enable the dog to clearly understand the job and ultimately lead to confusion, stress and failure.

So how do you avoid this in training? First of all, do not run blind tracks until you feel you can “read” your dog and have confidence as to whether or not your dog is tracking. Be particular about who you choose to help you; just because someone has a tracking title – even an advanced title – does not mean they have the ability to help you and your dog to succeed.

Training sessions need to build upon success, expose problem areas and ultimately create training scenarios to solve those problems. Just going out and laying a long track with lots of “problems” and letting the dog wander all around until they seem to “solve” them, is not training with any purpose and will not help the dog learn.

Tracking involves solving problems step by step and recognizing when a problem is starting to occur and being able to recover to where you know tracking was correct, and then being able to refocus your dog.

Recovery occurs in gradual stages. It is more than just backing up. In recovery, the handler actually becomes the leader and backs up slowly as the dog works back towards them. You cannot turn around or pull your dog towards you. You must have a style of handling that allows you to recover ground as your dog moves towards you while searching. It is more than just going in reverse a certain number of steps.

A good handler is constantly in tune with the dog while recovering and observing carefully for track indication which could occur at any moment. At that point, the dog becomes the leader of the team again.

Following behavior that is not tracking will take you further and further off the actual track, confuse your dog, and will cause you to fail in a test. You must be able to determine when your dog is looking or searching for scent and actually tracking the scent. Searching can develop into tracking and tracking can move into searching; being able to determine when this is happening is where the expertise of teaching truly becomes evident. Well planned tracks will teach both dog and handler.

Don’t wander – have a purpose.

Happy tracking.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.

PERFORMANCE DOG: Big news about rally obedience

TRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOGTRAINING YOUR PERFORMANCE DOG

by Carolyn Fuhrer

Since its introduction in 2005, Rally has grown in popularity. Rally is a course set up consisting of signs indicating skills in a numerical order which the dog and handler must perform.

You are allowed to talk to your dog and praise your dog throughout the entire course. There are currently three levels – Novice, which is performed on leash; Advanced and Excellent (which are off leash). Each class contains progressively more difficult obedience skills and the advanced and excellent classes require the dog to jump. You can earn a title in each class: Rally Novice, RN; Rally Advanced, RA; Rally Excellent, RE. There is an RAE title that can be earned by passing an advanced and excellent course on the same day on 10 different days.

Beginning in November, 2017 there will be two new classes introduced as well as a rally championship title, or RACH (sounds like rock).

The Rally Intermediate class (RI) has been created to provide another on-leash class that requires advanced skills, which will help teams prepare for the off leash performance required in the advanced class. This class will mirror the advanced class but will not contain a jump. After you have completed a Rally Novice title you may choose to enter Rally Intermediate or Rally Advanced. A Rally Intermediate (RI) title is not required to go into Rally Advanced.

There will also be a new master class and associated title RM with 22 NEW exercises, some of which ae very challenging.

Several new exercises have been added to the existing Rally classes and handlers should be aware of these as they may be included in classes after November 1. Novice has 6 new signs and Advanced and Excellent class each have 5 new signs. The wording on some of the signs has also changed.

To earn a RACH – Rally Championship title – teams are required to earn 20 triple qualifying scores; qualifying in the Advanced B, Excellent B and Master classes at the same trial at 20 separate events, plus earn 300 RACH points from the Excellent B and Master classes. Points are determined by a dog’s score. For example: a 91-96 would earn 1 point; a 97 would earn 2 points; 98 would earn 3 points; 99 would earn 4 points and a score of 100 would earn 5 points.

There will be much to learn to be successful in Rally after November 1. If you are looking for help, check out Mid Coast Kennel Club of Maine and North Star Dog Training School. They will be working together to present a series of Spring and Summer workshops to prepare handlers and dogs for all the new skills that will be required to enjoy showing in Rally Obedience with your dog.

Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 90 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 2 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. You can contact her with questions, suggestions and ideas for her column by e-mailing carolyn@dogsatnorthstar.com.