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The first Terv to earn the OTCH, MACH and CH

The following was written by Julie Symons, proud owner-handler of the first Tervuren to earn an Obedience Championship, an Agility Championship and a Breed Championship. Rival earned the her third championship, the OTCH, in October, 2005. We are delighted to present her story: a example of Tervuren versatility executed with excellence!

Rival and I earned our OTCH on October 30, 2005. This award makes Rival the VERY FIRST CH OTCH MACH Belgian Tervuren! As I write this - I still have a difficult time putting into words how wonderful it feels to have this honor. How could that be? Rival is my Novice A dog!! I was so lucky to be "chosen" to have one of these remarkable beautiful dogs and so fortunate to be matched with Rival. When I called up Andrea Meinhart over 10 years ago, a reference from Judy Bradley, I apparently reminded Andrea of herself when she got her first Belgian Tervuren and somebody giving an unknown a chance!

Rival and I didn't get any of our Champion titles at a quick pace - we took time, learning the craft and taking time off now and then, and of course, retraining things like contacts or gloves and practicing A LOT of heeling, fronts and finishes!!!!! We got our breed CH in a little over 2 years. We finished our MACH in less than 5 years. We finished our OTCH in 3 years. The MACH was more frustrating as you aren't allowed to make any mistakes! With obedience, Rival was very consistent and the points trickled in. With agility, you don't have to "compete" against others to finish the championship - although placements help with points. With obedience, you have to be better than your competition to earn the required points and you HAVE to have 3 first places. I found them both uniquely challenging and so very different to achieve!

Throughout the journey, we had to take a few extended breaks. One time for some surgery that I needed and then a few years later, a "9 month" break during my pregnancy. We were back in the obedience ring just 3 months after I gave birth to my son Ryan. We won the Utility class for 17 points! I was not expecting that! For our MACH, we got our last 3 double Qs with all 1st places on our first 3 times out after the "9 month" break. Why was so easy after the break? Was it new priorities for me with motherhood or Rival enjoying 100% of my attention ??

rival drOver this past summer, we became a bit more inconsistent with obedience ... I was really nervous and was finding it difficult to be away from my baby. This affected our performance. I guess that is to be expected and pretty common when close to achieving an OTCH or MACH – let alone balancing a hobby with motherhood! I entered Open B on a whim - had not shown much in Open since we got our one win from that class almost a year ago. I wasn't nervous at all and was having a blast! We finished with a 199 in Open B for HIT!! I regained that special time in the ring with Rival instead of remembering all the nervous times :) ! It was so incredibly special! We finished both our MACH and OTCH in front of the hometown crowd!

When I look back at our obedience point record, I recall very fond memories of the points throughout the 3 years. I see shows were I placed 4th in a LARGE competitive class. I may have only gotten 1 or 2 points - but we were 4th in a very large competitive class. That is very cool! I remember something Andrea Meinhart said to me when I was working on our breed championship and frustrated about not getting majors ... she said, it's the single points that will be most significant along the journey. And she was right! They really are. They are all part of the journey and hold special memories for me. Many great memories also come from competing at the various tournaments - Puperoni and All Star. One of our most special accomplishments was winning Ultimate Dog (combined Utility and Agility scores) at the All Star tournament. We placed 1st in Utility and won the 60 weave pole contest for the 2nd year in a row!! My early years of attending these tournaments had a great impact on me. To watch the top teams work together was truly an eye opener for me and inspired me to reach the highest levels!!

rival artThis is about so many things - my relationship with Rival, the amazing skills I've learned ... and learned to teach Rival, the people I've met - and such wonder people they are, my incredibly supportive husband, and the thrill of someday having another Belgian Tervuren. I look forward to applying what I have learned and to continue growing in this amazing and often unknown world of competition dog training!

Rival turns 10 on November 20th. She looks and acts younger than ever! Rival is so beautiful and graceful, intelligent and talented and so very devoted. She takes my breath away ...

Julie Symons & Rival
Ch OTCH MACH Chateau d'Vie's Hors de Pair UDX2 HT

sire: CH OTCH Artful Dodge of Anduin UDX TDX HT - Hamish
dam: CH Chateau de Vie Great Mystique UD TD NA NAJ HIC - Tique

Breeders: Andrea Meinhart and Judy Bradley

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Obedience Balance the Beast

  • Random Thoughts
  • Words, Words, Words
  • STAY as Sweet as You Are
  • What to Wear, What to Wear
  • What's Sauce for the goose...
  • Say NO to "NO"
This is an excerpt from Melinda Wichmann's last BALANCE THE BEASTcolumn in the December 2008 issue of the TNT.  Melinda writes: I'd like to leave you with some random thoughts about obedience training, many of which I learned from Jamie (OTCH U-UD Ariel's Escape Through Time UDX3 VCD2 TD MX MXJ MXP MJP RE NF) who is a wonderful patient teacher. Think positively and surround yourself with friends who think positively. Communicate clearly with your dog.  Show him exactly what you want and help him achieve it.  Gray areas lead to confusion, doubt and inconsistent performances. Give your dog the benefit of the doubt. Be patient.  Training certain skills will take as long as it takes.  (You can speed up the process by being a clear, consistent communicator.) When at all possible, make training look like showing. Check your look in the mirror every now and then.  Is your dog's heel position correct?  How about your posture?  Do you like the reflection you see? How can you make it better? Build a strong foundation.  Do not hesitate to back up and strengthen it if needed. Training happens any time you are interacting with your dog, not only when he is wearing Read More
I had a request from a newcomer to provide some clarification of terms used commonly in obedience, so here goes. AKC OBEDIENCE TITLES What are the titles a dog can earn, and how do you know if a particular dog has a particular title?` Here is a list of obedience titles, which are placed after the dog’s name, except that championship titles and UKC titles (see below) are placed in front of the dog’s name. Companion Dog or CD Companion Dog Excellent or CDX Utility Dog or UD Utility Dog Excellent or UDX Obedience Trial Champion or OTCh Tracking Dog or TD (if a dog has both a UD and a TD, the abbreviation becomes UDT) Tracking Dog Excellent or TDX (if a dog has both a UD and a TDX, the abbreviation becomes UDTX) Variable Surface Tracker or VST Champion Tracker or CT Versatile Companion Dog or VCD 1 through 4 Versatile Companion Champion or VCCH National Obedience Champion or NOC, which can only be earned once a year, by winning the AKC National Obedience Invitational There is a whole series of breed-specific titles for performance events like herding, hunting, lure coursing, etc., as well as a lengthy list Read More
Teaching a reliable stay is the bedrock of most training programs, including obedience, agility, herding, hunting and more.  It's one of the first things most folks teach their dogs. It's not a particularly difficult or complex behavior. So why do so many dogs have so much trouble keeping their little fannies where they were left? I think it's because handlers are in way too big a hurry to get far away from Rover, so they skip all the little steps that produce secure stays. I also think this exercise is more difficult for dogs who lack confidence. If you have such a dog, you'd best plan on doubling or tripling the time it takes to teach the stay, or you'll battle this exercise forever. I'm not going to differentiate between sit, down and stand stays here. The principle is the same. I'm going to start by reminding you about one of the most critical factors in all competition obedience training: dogs do not automatically generalize learning. That means you mustn't assume that a dog that can stay reliably in your living room can repeat this behavior in your back yard, much less at a dog show. Stay must be taught Read More
Collars for the Ring The most recent revision of the Obedience Regulations completely liberalized our choice of collars, with a few exceptions. The collars specifically prohibited are pinch collars, electronic collars and, through a later communication from the AKC, head halters. This means that you can choose a buckle collar, a cloth collar with a plastic snap or a choke collar of any color or material. The restrictions still imposed are that the collar be "properly fitted" and that there be nothing hanging from it. The Regulations also state that "No visible means of identification...may be worn or displayed by anyone..." The reason for this restriction is that the whole process of judging is supposed to be objective, so the judge is not supposed to know the identity of any dog or handler. This is laughable, as anyone who shows long enough to meet the requirements to become a judge is going to know the top handlers and dogs in their area, but I guess the concept of objectivity is worthwhile. My point in mentioning this is to tell you that it's not a good idea to use a collar with your dog's name either printed on it or displayed Read More
As I watched one of my students vigorously stroking and patting her big Gordon Setter, it was clear to me that only one of them was enjoying this activity. The dog had his ears plastered back, his jaw set and was trying to pull his head away from her massaging fingers. I asked the woman if her dog usually came up to her and solicited petting at home. She thought for a moment and then said that it was rare. "So, " I asked, "why are you petting him right now?" She replied, "To let him know I'm pleased with him and that I love him." "Do you think he's enjoying it?" I asked. She looked down at the big guy, who was still trying to avoid her hands. "I never thought about it before," she said. I pointed out the things I had observed. She was flabbergasted and said, "I never noticed those things. Now what do I do?" That was a tough question. She was trying to motivate her dog, but all she was really doing was annoying him. It had not occurred to her to observe her dog's response to stroking and handling, and to see that while Read More
I've said it here before: specific words don't really matter in dog training because dogs don't speak English (or French, or Swahili or any other human language).  Dogs learn to associate certain sounds with certain actions for which they've been rewarded or punished. For example, after a number of repetitions, Rover figures out that when his human makes the sound "sit", he (Rover) has better get his fanny on the floor. How many repetitions it will take depends on a number of factors, including the way the connection of the sound and the behavior is made by the two-legged member of the team, how innately rewarding the behavior is to the dog, how bright and how willing the individual dog is, how persistent the human is, and more. This is pretty common sense stuff, but many people still persist in believing that there is some kind of magic in finding just the right word that will make Rover perform. And if that magic word doesn't work, these folks think, it's because they didn't say it loud enough. Or often enough. Which nonsense brings me to this topic, the judicious use of words. I'm not a clicker trainer, but I certainly Read More
  • Not just a brag, not just a stepping stone to a higher title, not just an adjunct to competitive scores;
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  • The first Terv to earn the OTCH, MACH and CH The following was written by Julie Symons, proud owner-handler of