2018 AKC Rally National Championship

Saturday, September 01, 2018 7:30 PM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

By Dee Dee Anderson 

The AKC Rally National Championship was held in Wilmington, Ohio, at the Roberts Centre on June 29th.  149 dogs competed in the RAE class, 79 dogs competed in the Excellent class, 80 dogs competed in the Advanced class, and 80 dogs competed in the Novice class.  Dog breeds that were represented included 50 Golden Retrievers, 34 All Americans, 34 Border Collies, 27 Labrador Retrievers, 21 Shetland Sheepdogs, and 75 other breeds from 36 states and Canada, making up a total of 388 dogs competing at the event this year.   

Next year’s Rally National Championship will add two more classes -- the Intermediate and the Master Class. The Rally Advanced/Excellent class will be called the Championship Class. Qualifying period for the event is December 1, 2017 to November 30, 2018.  For more information about next year’s event, check the following 2019 AKC Rally ® National Championship "Class Criteria".

For a list of all the winners and performances, including the catalog, check here --->   https://www.akc.org/sports/rally/events/akc-rally-national-championship

Before we get to the winners, I thought it would be nice to get a judge’s view on the Rally National Championship. We hear from Exhibitors all the time, but what does a judge go through to be invited to judge the National? 

Judge Debbie Addicoat’s Story about Her Journey to the RNC

I was honored to be a part of the judging panel for the AKC Rally Nationals held in Wilmington Ohio June 29, 2018. My role was to judge the Excellent segment of the RAE (Rally Advanced Excellent) class.  The teams in this division ran a total of 4 courses:  2 Advanced and 2 Excellent. 

That is the basic description of what I did, but wow, what an amazing adventure it was. I live in the Pacific Northwest, not too far from Seattle. Flights to the Cincinnati airport were not what you would call “user friendly”.  There was one non-stop red-eye leaving at 10:30pm Wednesday night. I took it! 

Wilmington is about an hour from the airport and since I arrived at 6:00 Thursday morning (3:00 AM my time), I rented a car and made the drive. No traffic, no problem. I made it to the show site and checked into my room. I had been riding in the plane all night with no sleep, but I really was not tired. After relaxing for a couple of hours I walked to the site. Since everything was in one location, it was so nice to walk to the show site from the hotel without ever going outside. When I arrived at the show area, all I can say is “It was huge”! There were rings set up as far as you could see. I quickly realized what a giant undertaking this truly was. 

I found my ring and wanted to set up my course, since walkthroughs started at 6:40am Friday morning, or, in my world, the middle of the night. The competitors received all the course maps during Thursday check in and the show area would be locked Thursday evening. After some discussion, I got the green light to set my course. It afforded me time to relax as I set up and to make sure everything was perfect.  I greatly appreciated not being rushed early Friday morning.

Friday morning, the National Anthem was played before what seemed to be a sea of competitors.  The competitors for the RAE event were divided into four groups. Each group of 35 competitors walked the course for 10 minutes then rotated to walk the next of their four courses. I was slated to judge 149 runs. That, my friends, is a lot of Rally! Once the walk throughs were done, the competition started.  There would be no more walking and everyone had to remember all four courses. 

At the end of the day, I have memories of some very nice performances, wonderful stewards, lots of pictures, and a true appreciation of what it takes to put on an event of this magnitude.

I had never been to an AKC National event before. Since I only judged on Friday, I took the opportunity to stay and observe the National Obedience Championship competition. After the blur of Friday, it was nice to relax and watch some incredible, beautiful performances. Hand in hand, I also saw some great sportsmanship between the competitors that made me proud to be part of this wonderful sport.

Rally Advanced/Excellent Class

1st Place
Gaylan’s P’Nut Butter Cup Sundae UD VER RAE TD MH TKI – Owner: Sharon M. Albright from Cary, NC., (Golden Retriever).  Score:  a perfect 400

2nd Place
Gold’N’Pointzzz Revel in her Merits CDX RM RAE OAP NJP XFP CCA CGC - Owner: Emille Bullard  (Golden Retriever).  Score: 398

3rd Place
Flowers' Princesa Holly Blossom RM RAE CGC TKA  - Owner: Daniela Flores (Australian Shepherd).  Score:  398

4th Place
Sunchases Running The Red UD BN RAE2 MX MXS MXJ MJS OF CA CGCA – Owner: Tracy Hendrickson/Rhoda Goselin-Brouillette (Boxer).  Score:  398

Introducing the Winner & Newly Crowned Rally Champion!

RNC Gaylan’s P’Nut Butter Cup Sundae UD VER RAE TD MH TKI and Owner, Sharon M Albright (Reese) 

I have attended and stewarded at rally/obedience nationals before, but 2018 was my first year competing. The 2018 rally championship class consisted of 4 rally performances – two excellent courses and two advanced courses. Each course contained some challenging signs but had nice flow. From check-in to the awards ceremony, the 2018 Rally National Championship was a well-run event with an abundance of stewards to keep things moving. Thank you to all of the volunteers and AKC staff that made this event representative of the hard work and relationships we build with our dogs.

Reese and I were successful at the RNC because of our relationship. Over the past 10 years she has taught me to be clear in my commands and consistent with my expectations – traits I will always strive to improve. She taught me that I must be a better partner if I want the same out of her. She also taught me that not everyone shows love in the same way. Even though Reese prefers work to snuggling, I now appreciate how she shows affection and respect. It’s been a long journey and a lot of work, but so worth the effort!

Competitive obedience is my passion, followed closely by retriever training. After earning her Utility Dog and Master Hunter titles, showing with Reese in Rally is pure fun and a chance to celebrate the teamwork we have built throughout all of our training. I want to thank Betsy Scapicchio, owner of Top Dog Obedience School, for her outstanding training program and coaching skills. Thanks also to Gayle Watkins, Marcy Burke, Chex and Rooster for providing me with an amazing partner – a dog with drive, intelligence, and stamina. At 10 years of age, Reese became the Rally National Champion. I can’t wait to see what’s next with my princess!

2nd Place

Gold’N’Pointzzz Revel in her Merits CDX RM RAE OAP NJP XFP CCA CGC and Owner, Emille Bullard (Revel)

On June 27, I left my home at the early hour of 4AM  to embark on my first ever trip to a canine national competition.  I had so much fun with Revel even just preparing for the event.  Revel is only a moderate energy dog, but I love an enthusiastic worker and have always tried to train her in a way that brought out her happy, prancy heeling, quick responsiveness, and focused attention.  She almost always gives me her best with alacrity, but we’ve maintained that attitude partly by showing very infrequently and doing a lot of fun matches on the side, where I build her up with treats, toys, and praise.  While Revel shows brilliantly on a schedule with infrequent trialing, I personally knew I could benefit from more experience.  Most of the points we lose as a rally team are attributed to me – Revel may lose two or three occasionally for a crooked sit or leg bump, but I will lose them ten at a time for handler errors.  So I realized early on that we were going to need to show more than usual to prepare for this event.  I also needed Revel to have both the mental and physical stamina to show four times in one day, as that is the schedule for the Rally Advanced-Excellent (RAE) Division at the RNC. It was a fun project to strategize and work on building her stamina and getting more experience, all while keeping her fresh and enthusiastic.

One of my most helpful training partners and show buddies was Kindi Weis, an informally adopted daughter of mine.  Kindi and I met more than ten years ago when she became one of my first students in the 4-H dog training club I organized. I still instruct this club weekly, and Kindi has grown from a beginner with good instincts and timing to an accomplished trainer who co-led the club with me before going to college, and still comes back to help us with fun matches and fair.  We frequently take our dogs to trials together, and I was thrilled when she expressed interest in traveling with me to Ohio for the sole purpose of supporting Revel and me on our trip.  Coming from Oregon, the journey was long – but doable, especially with two people.  I was very uncomfortable about transporting my dog in the baggage hold, but felt I could minimize risks by using a direct flight, and was able to find a 4.5 hour nonstop flight between Seattle and Indianapolis.  So, two days before the RNC, Kindi and I left at 4 a.m. to drive the three hours to Seattle, then fly to Indianapolis, then drive another two and a half hours to Wilmington.  There were a few surprises along the way – such as the incredibly busy Seattle airport and the anxious wait in its slow service lines. When we finally checked Revel in, we asked if we had enough time to get her on the plane and the assistant said, “She’ll get there, but I don’t know if you will!” Then there was  the agonizing wait to get Revel off the plane in Indianapolis; and finally the trip via shuttle car to pick up our rental, only to find it had been cancelled due to being late to pick it up because of delays at the airport.  But I had Kindi to be my assistant and mule at every turn, and we eventually found another rental and arrived at our destination, with a full day ahead of us to rest and prepare.

The Rally National Championship itself was everything I could have hoped for.  It was well run, beautifully decorated, and filled with a fun and friendly atmosphere.  There were crowds of spectators, including whole families and children who were all enjoying watching the event.  The exhibitors all seemed to enjoy themselves and each other.  In particular, it was delightful to meet other competitors and Golden Retriever lovers that I had only had contact with on Facebook.

The placement, fanfare, photos and congratulations were a gratifying topper to the overall satisfaction and tremendous pleasure it is to have a partner who enjoys doing this sport as much as I do.  I feel so lucky to have Revel, so many supportive friends, and the opportunity to compete at a National Competition and experience the thrill of a top placement.  Here’s to next year!

3rd Place

Flowers' Princesa Holly Blossom RM RAE CGC TKA  and Owner, Daniela Flores (Holly)

I am 27 years old and originally from Blaine, MN, but currently live in Ames, IA. I am a PhD Candidate in Genetics and Genomics at Iowa State University.  Holly is an 8 year old double merle Australian Shepherd who is completely deaf and has congenital deformities in her right eye (microphthalmia, colobomas) causing vision impairment. 

I was a freshman in college when I found Holly on Petfinder and I decided that nobody would want this impaired little puppy, no matter how cute and fluffy she was. I had experience training dogs in 4H but had never trained a deaf dog before, so we learned hand signals together on the living room floor. We were introduced to Rally in my last year of 4H and first year training Holly. We fell in love with the sport as it allowed us to communicate freely and it felt like a literal walk in the park with my best friend. 

I joined the Cyclone Country Kennel Club in 2014 after I moved to Iowa for grad school where Holly and I continued training. AKC amended the Rally rules to allow deaf dogs in 2015 and Holly finally had her chance to show how capable she was. We attended the 2017 RNC and placed 4th in the Excellent class. It was such an overwhelmingly positive experience and I was so excited to come back to try for the big title. 

We spent the next summer trialing to finish Holly’s RAE to qualify for the 2018 RNC. We completed her RAE with 7 High Combined awards (9 of 10 trials offered). To prepare for RNC, we practiced at our kennel club about once per week running courses and participating in classes. The rest of the week we practiced at home heeling up and down the hallway in my apartment. 

We started our Rally Master title in the spring. We completed the RM and began our RACH journey at the United States Australian Shepherd Association National specialty with two High Triple Qualifier and High Combined awards. 

As a biologist, I am doing my dissertation research on the molecular implications of environmental change on turtles with temperature-dependent sex determination. As part of my research, I spend May and June living in a tent in the backwaters of the Mississippi River in Illinois, monitoring turtle nesting activity and population demographics. 

Unfortunately I cannot bring Holly with me to my field site, so I left her with my parents immediately after the Aussie Specialty and didn’t see her again until the Saturday before the RNC, a total of 8 weeks apart. I spent a lot of my free time in the field practicing my footwork and hand signals, walking courses as if Holly was by my side and quizzing myself using the Rally All Around app on my phone. While our accuracy and speed were a little off, Holly didn’t forget a thing while I was gone. We arrived in Wilmington just happy to be together again. I was so proud of her performances and I could not have asked for a better reunion with my heart dog.

4th Place
Sunchases Running The Red UD BN RAE2 MX MXS MXJ MJS OF CA CGCA  and owner Tracy Hendrickson/Rhoda Goselin-Brouillette (Jyllie)

Jyllie is an 8 year Boxer. She has competed in the ALL of the RNCs since its inception in 2013 (in our home town of Tulsa) where she placed 3rd in the Novice class. Next year she won the Advanced class with 2 perfect scores. Her career continued with a 5th place in Excellent in 2015, and a 9th overall placement in 2017.  Jyllie enjoys competing in agility, lure coursing and is also a regular blood donor hero.  "Train your dog as if it the last day you will ever spend with him."

Winner of the Rally Excellent Class
(note the first 4 placements received perfect 200 scores)
Kup Clicked On A Cyber Hit UDX OM2 BN GN RE NAP NJP (Coach) Owner: Cherie Kupish from Decatur, IL (Golden Retriever)

Due to the passing of my husband, I had been out of the obedience world for 11 years, so my daughter Jennifer thought it was time for me to get a puppy.  In 2011, after doing a little web searching , Jennifer found Coach (Kup Clicked On A Cyber Hit).   He started his obedience with beginner novice and he now has a UDX,  with all of his wins and several points toward his OTCH!  I decided that Rally would be a fun venue for the two of us.  I wasn't really sure you could teach an old dog (me) new tricks, being that you actually have to read the signs then perform them. With a lot of help from my daughter,  I actually got the hang of it.  Thank you, Jennifer, for all your help and support!  And thank you Coach for being such a awesome companion.  Coach also competed at the 2017 UKC  premier and won 1st place in the All Star Rally.    

Winner of the Rally Advanced Class
(note the 10 placements received perfect 200 scores)

Super Cooper Trooper CDX BN RA (Cooper) Owner, Joshua Wiggins from Spring, TX (All American)

Photo Credit: David De Gendt of Tiltshift Studio

Cooper is a 7 year-old Lab mix and the dog Josh never intended to have. Initially adopted by friend's of Josh's from an accidental litter on their street, the couple quickly decided Cooper wasn’t going to be a good fit as he grew in both size and energy. So at 5 months old, Cooper came to live with Josh. 

Josh and Cooper's formal training journey began when Cooper was two years old in an effort to help Cooper's extremely reactive behavior towards both strangers and other dogs. Cooper was unpleasant to live with and could not be taken anywhere in public. They needed help unwinding the mess Josh had made of his first dog!

When Josh started obedience training with Cooper, he did not know that competitive Obedience or Rally existed. Like most, his understanding of dog shows was Conformation and Agility, but in one year Josh and Cooper were competing and placing in both Beginner Novice and Rally Novice. Fast forward a few years and Cooper has earned a 200 in Novice A with two High in Trials over that weekend, a CDX, and titled in Rally through the Excellent class. Most recently, Josh and Cooper traveled to Ohio to compete in the 2018 AKC Rally National Championship where Cooper won the Advanced Class.

Though Obedience is Josh's main sport and focus with Cooper, they compete in Rally because Josh teaches Rally and Obedience classes in Houston. Josh feels it is important to stay in the ring and current, especially with all of the rule changes. Cooper's success and speed in the Rally ring can be attributed to Josh's focus on traditional Obedience precision, lack of reliance on double commanding and luring, and not training for even half point deductions. This very topic will be the subject of an upcoming column in Front & Finish

Since the 2018 RNC, Cooper earned his Dock Master title through North American Diving Dogs. Looking forward, the team’s focus is shifted back to Obedience and the Utility ring, hoping to compete and title this fall and a possible OTCH run in 2019. 

Winner of the Rally Novice
(note the first 6 placements received perfect 200 scores)

Half Moon Unanswered Prayer CD PCD BN RA TD TKA (Stevie) Owner Cheryl Tisdale from Milton, TN

Garth Brooks sings that some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers, and that certainly fits Stevie and me.  I was waiting for a puppy from a perfect litter to be my performance puppy.  It was devastating and heartbreaking when the litter was lost just before it was born.  Kathryn Willis of Half Moon Golden Retrievers had recently gotten a  one –year-old dog returned to her after the owner suffered an accident and was unable to keep her, and Kathryn though it would be a good fit for me.  Wow, was she ever right! Stevie is that once in a lifetime dog I had always dreamed of.  She tackles every sport we try with enthusiasm, and absolutely loves training obedience, often racing into the ring and impatiently waiting for me to hurry up and get started. Obedience only comes in second to swimming in the pool.

I’ve never been able to attend a national event with my other rally obedience dogs, so the Wilmington, Ohio, Rally National Championship was a first in many ways.  It was exciting just to be part of the event, and I went just to see how Stevie would handle a large venue - and all I can say is WOW!    

It was the thrill of a lifetime when they called number 544 as the winner of the Rally Nationals at the novice level.  I know Stevie is a special dog, but she walked into those rally rings with focus and joy as if she showed in huge 8-ring national venues all the time!  I’m so proud to be her partner in this journey! Huge thanks to her breeder, Kathryn Willis, for breeding this amazing girl!

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