Posts Tagged ‘AKC Rally Excellent course map’

Let’s just start out with the happy ending: Cooper earned his RAE title today at the Vancouver Kennel Club show at Ridgefield, Washington. Cooper has worked so hard for me for quite a while now, and I am thrilled to reach this goal at long last.

He earned leg 9 (out of 10 needed for the title) by qualifying at both the Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B levels yesterday. (For the RAE title, an exhibitor and her dog must earn qualifying scores in Advanced B and Excellent B classes at the same trial 10 times.)

photo by Jill Roman

unofficial photo by Jill Roman

The Excellent course had some tough sections to it. One of Cooper’s least favorite, for some reason, is the Send to Jump at station 9. I think that was at least partly my fault. For this exercise, your dog has to go out ahead of you to jump over a jump, while you stay behind the jump. There are ways to make your dog think that you are running with him, so that he’ll keep going, but I think I must not have done any of those. He got to the jump, stopped, looked at me, and then walked around it. Oh well, 10 points gone for that.

But beyond that, notice especially stations 11 through 14. At station 11, you take a left turn, then at station 12, start moving quickly for just a few yards. Then, you slow to a normal pace at station 13, but that normal pace lasts just a few feet before you all of a sudden have to put your dog into a stand-stay at station 14, while you keep moving. Essentially, your dog goes from a run to a sudden stand-stay, all within just a few yards.


As you can see from the legend and score sheet below, Cooper actually did this tricky part with no errors. What really got us was missing the jump, plus some slow sits, a bit of lagging, and some sniffing in the ring.

Even with the score of 79 in Excellent, Team Cooper got a 4th place in the class. A lot of teams were challenged by that course.



We did really well on the Advanced course, with a score of 96. Quite a few teams did that course really well. We tied with another team who also got a 96, and we were edged out of 4th place because that team did the course 15 seconds faster than we did.




When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel quite right. Seemed like I had to go to the bathroom way too often, and I couldn’t get down more than a cup of coffee and half a pancake. Nerves. Today might be the day that Cooper finally got that 10th leg, but I couldn’t expect it. Only once before has Cooper succeeded at two Rally trials, two days in a row. Chances were good-ish that we would reach the RAE title today, but not great.

Today’s Excellent course was weird. Note the transition from station 2 to station 3. At station 2, you and your dog are facing at a diagonal to the ring. Then, station 3 (Spiral Left) requires you to heel for 5 steps or so, and then, just as you get to the first cone on station 3, take a sharp right onto the opposite diagonal, so that you can enter the spiral properly.

And later I got lost. After doing the 360* Left (station 13), I got myself all turned around and couldn’t figure out where station 14 was. I finally said, “I’m lost. Where’s 14?” The judge kindly pointed at it. And without thinking, I repeated station 13 (fortunately – the just told me later that we’d have lost 10 points if I hadn’t), and then went on to 14 and the Finish line.

But I will say this: this course was set up perfectly to allow Cooper to actually jump that Send to Jump (station 7), the exercise that confounded him yesterday. We had pretty much half the length of the ring to run toward the jump, and by the time I had to stop so that I wouldn’t go past the jump until Cooper had jumped and returned to me, Cooper was already mid-air and over the jump before he realized I wasn’t with him.


I was very pleased with our score of 89, which put us just below the 4th place exhibitor, who had a score of 90.

While waiting for our turn at the Advanced course, I did everything I could think of to stay calm. Slow, deep belly breaths. Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose. Reminders to self that Rally is fun. Picturing Cooper when I first got him, and reminding myself how much I care for him, no matter what happens.

All the same, I kept thinking: If we can just qualify one this one last course, Cooper will earn his RAE title.


But Cooper and I both kept it together in Advanced. He was very slow to sit at the Start line, and I almost lost him a couple of times when he got distracted by something outside the ring. But we didn’t miss any stations or make any horrible mistakes, and we got out of there with a 93 and another 4th place.


So with all of that, Team Cooper earned our 9th and 10th RAE legs. As soon as the AKC records the RAE, Cooper’s full name will be CH Realta Rosario Cooper CD RAE SH SHU.

I started on the RAE path to honor Cooper’s daddy, Balloo, who earned an RAE. I was so impressed, mostly because at the time I was really struggling just to get the initial Rally Novice title with Cooper. Cooper did it because he loves me.

I am so grateful to Russ, who went along with my Rally goals; to Joan Armstrong, my Rally instructor; and to Rosemary Sexton and Tammy Lewis Walker who trusted me with this wonderful dog.

Cooper RAE

official photo by Elaine

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Two points makes a line, but perhaps not a trend.

Today’s was our — Cooper’s and mine — first successful second-day RAE leg. He’s gotten 7 previous RAE legs, but none of them were on the second day. Our two previous second days were confounding and humiliating, but up until today, not successful.

But today, Cooper kept both his body and his brain in the Rally ring for both the Excellent and Advanced runs. We came out of the Excellent ring with an 88, and Advanced with an 89. The scores today were not as high as yesterday’s. Cooper had to work harder at staying focused, and as one handler put it, today’s judge’s pencil was sharper than yesterday’s judge.

But who cares? Cooper did it, and I was, and am, so very pleased with having earned his 8th RAE leg (out of 10 required), and on a second day.




After ribbons were handed out, I packed up our stuff, loaded everything into the car, and took Cooper for a little celebratory swim in a nearby river. He chased bumpers into the water until he decided not to bring me the bumper anymore. (That’s quite a few — I stopped counting after 7.)

What a way to end the day. We both came home exhausted and happy.



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Well, what can I say? Cooper, bless his heart, actually jumped the bar jump during the Rally trials at the IWSCA Specialty. I have proof!


The Rally Excellent course wasn’t an unusually difficult course. It did have the dreaded bar jump (twice) and the Back Up 3 Steps exercise, but it didn’t have the Figure 8 with Distractions or the Send to Jump exercises.

So I was thrilled when Cooper jumped the bar jump (twice), and was unsurprised when he just stood and watched me do the 3 Steps Backwards by myself (both times — I even retried it). Even so, we got a 75, which is lower than I’d have liked.

Cooper was extremely distracted. SOMETHING outside of the exit door kept grabbing his attention, so he was often slow to respond to my cues. We failed the 3 Steps Backwards of course, and I never did find out what we did wrong on station 5 (Moving Stand – Walk Around Dog). I thought we did OK on that one, but the judge marked it as “incorrectly performed”, but then couldn’t tell me what we did wrong.

At least Cooper didn’t jump out of the ring.


Then, after a short rest and a pee break (for both of us), something changed. Cooper turned it on for Advanced. Whatever was bothering him behind the door during Excellent was gone during Advanced (maybe it was the need to pee, although I was sure I’d taken care of that). Cooper did great. He paid attention. He jumped over the bar jump again. And he stuck in a nice close heel during the Straight Figure 8 Weave and responded briskly to my cues.


So for Advanced, we tied with a 95, and being just slightly faster than the other 95-scoring IWS, won 1st place.

Tooey's  ribbons on the left, Cooper's on the right

Tooey’s Obedience prizes on the left, Cooper’s Rally prizes on the right

So Cooper qualified for his 5th RAE leg, and once we were off the course, I was able to catch my breath and breathe again.

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Well, unlike Saturday, we didn’t get an RAE leg yesterday. Some of that is on Cooper, and some of it is on me.

You can see the Excellent course below. To qualify in a Rally run, the dog-handler team has to lose no more than 30 points, for a score of 70 or better. If you end up with fewer than 70 points, then it’s an NQ. And that’s exactly what we got in Excellent.

According to the judge (whose opinion is the only one that counts), Cooper and I “incorrectly performed” (IP) three stations, each one losing us 10 points. I knew right away that we’d lost the entire 10 points on station 12, when Cooper went around the bar jump instead of jumping over it. I’d been nervous about that one, since he did the same thing on Saturday.

And then I figured that he lost a lot of points on station 13, the Back Up Three Steps, when instead of heeling backwards with me, he just stood and watched while I did the three steps backwards by myself. And he was somewhat distracted, just like on Saturday, and was occasionally out of position and responded slowly some of the time, so I figured we’d lost 25 to 28 points.

So I was not prepared to see an NQ posted on the board. And my friends, who were watching our performance, were equally mystified. Later, after the run was over, I asked the judge about our performance, and it turned out that she’d given us three IPs — the Send to  Jump (station 12), the Back Up Three Steps (station 13), and surprise!, the Stand While Heeling (station 7). I knew that I had paused on station 7 to remind Cooper to stop and stand, but I hadn’t realized that I’d lose all 10 points by doing so.

So, with 30 points lost, plus the one and two points lost here and there for being slow or out of position, we were well under 70. Hence, the NQ.


I felt pretty disappointed. I didn’t want to run in Advanced. I just wanted to go home. I mean, what would be the point? The team has to qualify in both Excellent and Advanced to get an RAE leg, and that wasn’t going to happen.

But my friends (thank you Tammy, Rebecca, and Misalyn) convinced me to stay and run Advanced anyway. It would keep Cooper used to running twice in one day, and I could us it as a training opportunity, repeating any station I wanted to, including the dreaded bar jump. Not to mention, spend more time with my friends.

So what the heck, we stayed.


And what do you know? Cooper did a very nice job. He did a beautiful jump over the bar jump, and he stayed with me most of the time. He sat crisply. It was so strange. It was like his brain had gone on vacation for Excellent, and then come home for Advanced. We got a very nice 92 — best score of the weekend.

No RAE leg, but when I left to go home, I was feeling good.

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You remember that High in Trial Rally dog I was bragging about a couple of months ago? The one who got a 96 in Rally Excellent and a 100 in Rally Advanced?

Well, that dog took a vacation this weekend.

Cooper and I drove up to Monroe for the Washington State Obedience Training Club rally trials. Being optimistic (or perhaps complacent), I entered Cooper both days in Rally Excellent and Rally Advanced, hoping for two more RAE legs.

Here are the course maps for today (Saturday). Although the maps don’t really show it, both levels have the dreaded bar jump, and in Excellent, the bar jump appears in the Send Over Jump exercise, where the handler must send the dog over the jump from 10 feet back rather that at the jump. Excellent also has the 3 Steps Backwards exercise, which sometimes Coop does great, while other times he stands back and watches me do it by myself.



Cooper was really distracted in these strange surroundings. There were big, bright windows on two sides of the rally ring, and he wanted to see something out there. And some dog kenneled along the wall was playing with his squeaky toy. So, Cooper didn’t stay tightly in heel position, and he also didn’t sit very quickly. We lost a bunch of points sprinkled throughout the runs for being out of position and lacking a brisk performance.

But the big point-eaters were, first, that Cooper wouldn’t jump over the bar jump. He went around it in both levels. And in the exercises where he was to do a Stand-Stay, he moved several steps. So, right there, we lost 10 points each (out of 100 hundred) for those two, plus losing all those little points throughout. That left us with a 72 in Excellent and a 77 in Advanced. Since 70 is passing, Cooper did qualify for his 4th RAE leg, so…

You know, I distinctly remember a day when simply qualifying made me really, really happy. And then we started getting placements every once in awhile — a 2nd place here and a 3rd or 4th there.

Then came that amazing day when Cooper got High in Trial. I think that wrecked it. Now I have expectations.

News about tomorrow in the next post…


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This is going to be a short post because this is a busy, busy dog weekend.

Cooper got his 3rd RAE leg today at the Mt. Hood Keeshond Club Rally trials in Salem today. Our performance wasn’t as spectacular as his 2nd RAE leg, but it did the job.


He earned a very nice score of 93 and a 4th place in the Excellent class, and then went on to qualify in Advanced class with a 94, tied for 4th place. The beagle who also got a 94 was just over a minute faster completing the course than Cooper, so the beagle took 4th place.

I started out being disappointed. (When did placing become just as important as qualifying? It used to be that I was thrilled to just qualify.) And for an IWS to be slower than a beagle — it just boggled my mind.

But then I saw how thrilled and delighted the beagle’s owner was. Her eyes sparkled, and her cheeks were pink with happiness that she and her dog had done so well on their first Advanced leg — I couldn’t begrudge her that.


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When I woke up yesterday morning, in the dark at 5:00 a.m., my first thought was to skip the Rally trial. My knee ached and I knew that if I went, I’d be limping around the ring. I’d signed up for this trial quite awhile ago, before I knew that I had torn the meniscus in my right knee.

But the Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club Rally trial was local and it was indoors, an auspicious combination that doesn’t come around all that often. Plus, Cooper and I had been practicing, and I was awake already, so what the hell. ‘I’ll go,’ I thought.

I am so glad we went.

Cooper and I are working on his RAE title, so I had entered us in both Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B. (A dog has to qualify in both in the same trial at 10 different trials — this would be his 3rd attempt, and if successful, his 2nd leg. His 1st attempt was, ahem, entertaining.)


In the Excellent course, at station 2, he jumped the dreaded broad jump (instead of walking over them), and even sort of did the Three Steps Backward (station 7, where he lost his points for walking sideways instead of backwards). I was very happy with his pivots and thrilled with his immediate down without taking additional steps on station 13, the Stand Dog, Leave Dog, Down Dog, Call Front – Finish.



We ended up this run with 96 out of 100 points.


The Advanced course was easier, of course, but it did have a couple of tricks that could trip up the handler. Two similar versions of Call Front, but one where the handler can take a few steps backwards (station 1) and the other where you can’t (station 4). And during the walk-through, I discovered that it would be very easy to miss the Weave Twice (station 9) by going straight to the Left Turn at station 10 after doing the Left Turn at station 8.


But neither Cooper nor I made any “scorable” mistakes, so we ended up with a perfect 100 points. That’s the best score Cooper has ever gotten, and I was thrilled.

I was also eager to get out of there. My knee ached and Cooper wanted to get into the car (his usual reward after doing either Obedience or Rally). So I packed up his crate, my chair, and our stuff, and we drove off.

Only to get a phone call a little later from the show secretary, asking, “Where are you? You won High in Trial and High Combined, and we have ribbons for you.”

Well, sheesh. Never having gotten scores this high, and never having tried to get an RAE title before, it never occurred to me to wonder if we might be in the running for HIT or HC (High in Trial Rally is the highest scoring dog in any level of Rally for that trial and High Combined is the highest total score for a dog entering Rally Excellent B and Rally Advanced B).

Cooper, HIT Rally and HC Rally, Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club, Jan 2014

Cooper, HIT Rally and HC Rally, Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club, Jan 2014

So I turned around and drove right back to the fairgrounds to get our big beautiful ribbons. Cooper obligingly sat for the photo, and we drove on back home again. He took a nap, and I iced my knee.

I have surgery scheduled for next week, so we won’t be doing any dog shows again for awhile. I’m so glad we’re pausing on such a happy note.

Good boy, Cooper, dog of my heart.

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