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 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 four other GSDs. I am currently competing with my fifth GSD, Karma (R. Beth’s One More Chance – CGC, RE, CD, CDX – breeder Dr. Ruby Hertz of R. Beth German Shepherds)
Karma 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, Karma 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. Karma obtained her three qualifying legs and title in three consecutive trials, then it was on to Open. Karma decided she didn’t need to wait for me to tell her what she should do and we would flunk for her anticipating the command, so it took a few more trials to get her Open title. We worked our way through that problem and got her third leg and Companion Dog Excellent (CDX ) title. 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. Karma isn’t ready for a trial yet, still needs a bit more training and polishing. In the meantime, I became an AKC obedience judge and I really enjoy judging.
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. I have made many friends while enjoying the camaraderie and support. It is challenging for both of 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.
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. You can contact her at Deborah_Hankins@comcast.net.