Posts Tagged ‘AKC Rally Excellent’

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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The fact that I had a colonoscopy yesterday might explain a few things about our rally runs today.

Like the fact that when reading the course map for Excellent before the walk through, I completely missed the fact that there was a Stand Dog, Leave Dog, Down Dog exercise (station 9).

Or that when we got to the Novice-level sign for Call Front Finish Right (station 17), Cooper did an extra sit. I wondered for a second why he did that, and only then realised that I’d given him a Sit command. We repeated the station.

Sheesh. The anaesthesiologist had promised on Friday that all the drugs would be out of my system by run time on Saturday.

With all that, we got a very generous 91 in Excellent.


Advanced mostly went well, too. Like several other dogs, Cooper got distracted at a sign near the door. Another handler speculated that stockyard scents were coming through from the nearby stables. (The rally trials were held in a barn at the Canby, Oregon fairgrounds.)

The only other thing was that the judge used that same Call Front Finish Right exercise in Advanced, and Cooper anticipated that I would give that extra sit command, so he sat. We repeated that exercise again, and got out of the Advanced rally ring with a 95.


I was very pleased. And it was warm and sunny, so I took Cooper for a short swim in the nearby Molalla River.

Wonder how we’ll do on Sunday?

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After yesterday’s successful RAE leg, I texted Russ about our successfully qualifying run, reported all our mistakes, and ended with: “I love Cooper.”

Today, I have to remind myself I said that. And try hard to remember why I said that and what he did right during today’s Excellent Rally run:

  • He jumped both jumps, even the Send to Jump exercise, which he failed yesterday.
  • He did not jump out of the ring, like he did at IWSCOPS Specialty last August.
  • He mostly stayed with me on the Serpentine.

That’s about it.

For the rest of the run, his brain was gone. Just gone. He was looking around, wandering away, not responding when I called him. No sense of teamwork at all.

He was distracted. I was humiliated. The judge gave us an NQ.

We didn’t even try the Advanced course.

I think I see a pattern here, though. So far, we have tried two-day RAE runs only twice, and both times, we qualified on the first day, but on the second day, Cooper’s brain left his body, and we failed.


We are entered for a two-day trial in a couple of weeks, and I’m not sure what we’ll do. Perhaps we’ll just go to the first day, see how it goes, and then decide.

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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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Cooper earned two qualifying Rally scores today: one in Rally Excellent and the other in Rally Advanced. Combined, that equals one qualifying leg for a Rally Advanced Excellent title. (To earn an RAE title, the dog must have earned qualifying scores in both Advanced B and Excellent B classes at 10 separate Rally trials.)

We qualified, but it wasn’t all sweetness and roses. We didn’t get perfect 100 points in either run. Not by a long shot. Some was Cooper pulling some antics in the ring, and some was handler error.

First we ran the Excellent course.


Pretty scary, if you ask me. Full of signs that Cooper has had trouble with in the past:

  • Station 4: Offset Figure 8 with toys as distractions — The dreaded toys! The dog is not supposed to disturb the toys at all, and Cooper loves toys.
  • Station 5: Send Over Jump using the broad jumps — He’s fine with the high jump, as in station 7, but broad jumps have puzzled him
  • Station 8: Moving stand – Walk Around Dog — For the last week or so, he has thought the command “Stand” means “Sit”.

But as it turned out, he did stations 5 and 8 just fine. What got him at Station 4 was not the toys. It was the pretty Irish Setter girl sitting just outside the ring. (Tooey is in season, and, despite his pleadings, Cooper hasn’t been allowed near Tooey for the past week. So, I’m guessing that girls look good to him, regardless of whether they are in season or not, and this Irish Setter might be the only Irish he’d have a chance with.) We got going from the Start, and when we did the 360 at station 1, he caught sight of the Setter, and kept his eyes on her even while heeling with me for a few steps into the Figure 8.

Finally, he couldn’t stand it, and when we went around the first turn in the Figure 8, which pointed him in the Setter’s direction, he took off toward the ring gate where she was sitting. It was only after I’d called him three times in a stern voice to “Here” that he finally came back, fortunately, without having exited the ring first. We lost 10 points right there for an “improperly performed” station. No kidding. At least he didn’t leave the ring — we’d have NQ’d in that case.

We lost a few more points for miscellaneous things, but we passed with an 83.

Then, after a break, it was on to the Advanced course, which is a bit easier than the Excellent course.

Advanced_131207By the time we ran this course, the pretty Irish Setter was gone, and he did really pretty well. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the dreaded Handler Error, we would have had 4th place. See that Station 11? That sign was in the Excellent course, too, and Cooper did a pretty good job — I think we lost a point for Cooper’s not being slightly crooked for the Halt part of that station (at a Halt, the dog is supposed to Sit in heel position).

But when we did that sign again in the Advanced course, Cooper sat slightly in front and perpendicular to me. And what did I do? I said “No, heel”. That was it. We lost all the points for that station because I corrected my dog. Another station “improperly performed”. I knew what I’d done just a half-moment after I did it, but by then it was too late.

I talked to the judge afterward, and she said that it would have been best if I’d just let Cooper sit where he did. That would have cost us 2 points. Or I could have backed us up and retried the station again — if we’d done it perfectly, the do-over would have cost us 3 point. Oh well. We passed with an 89.

But the goal was to have fun, and I think we did. In fact, several people mentioned that they’d enjoyed watching us run. If nothing else, Cooper has an intense joie de vivre that makes him engaging to watch.

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