Training in obedience started for me in 1999 when I ran into trainer Lynn Kosmakos at a dog park. I’d taken my German Shepherd Nikki to puppy training classes but Lynn convinced me that competing in American Kennel Club (AKC) sanctioned obedience would be fun. I went to an agility and obedience “boot camp” at Lake Tahoe in the fall of 2000 where I met Lori Drouin, who taught classes at Oakland Dog Training Club. I joined the club, and put obedience titles on Nikki and my second GSD. I am currently competing with my third GSD, Diva (R. Beth’s Royal Flush – CGC, RE, CD, CDX, plus two legs toward UD – breeder Dr. Ruby Hertz of R. Beth German Shepherds).
Diva is very smart and learns quickly. We started with rally obedience, which I think of as a less formal, less precise type of obedience. You and your dog go through a course marked with various maneuvers (right turn, left turn, serpentine, jumps, and many others). Unlike obedience, you can talk to your dog and perfect positioning isn’t necessary. Being reasonably obedient to begin with, Diva and I sailed through all three rally titles (Novice, Advanced, Excellent) in nine consecutive trials.
Emboldened by our success, we went on to the first part of “real”
obedience, competing for a Companion Dog (CD) title. Diva got
her three qualifying legs and title in three consecutive trials, then it was on to Open. After two successful legs in two trials, Diva’s smarts turned into her pushing the sit and down stays. She always stayed in place but decided that she didn’t want to bother with just sitting or lying down. We worked our way through that problem and got her third leg and Companion Dog Excellent (CDX ) title, plus two more qualifying legs in three consecutive trials just to prove we could really do it! Then we moved on to the most difficult obedience level, Utility, in which the dog works away from the handler and makes its own decisions.
Training and competing in all of the various forms of AKC obedience takes commitment, patience and practice. On the other hand, I really enjoy spending most weekends with other dog folks. Diva and I have made many friends while enjoying the camaraderie and support. And it is challenging for us. In obedience, the difficulty increases dramatically; going from CD to CDX is ten times harder, then taking on the UD exercises is at least 100 times harder. It makes us closer and a real team.
December 2016 update from Debbi: I am currently competing with my fourth GSD, Banshee (R. Beth’s Right Combination – CGC, RA, CD, CDX, UD – breeder Dr. Ruby Hertz of R. Beth German Shepherds). My third GSD Diva (also bred by Ruby Hertz) finished her Utility Dog Title in Feb. 2015 and the journey taught me a lot!
Debbi Hankins has been a member of the Diablo Valley German Shepherd Dog Club since 2002 and club treasurer since 2005. She chairs obedience and rally trials – getting everything from the judge, stewards and equipment to ribbons and food in the right place at the right time on trial day. She has also embarked on the path to becoming an AKC obedience judge. You can contact her at Deborah_Hankins@comcast.net.