'Ryan'  Am/Can/Int'l Ch.Wingate's LeadingEdge UD.CGC.HC.LC.TDI.ROM
Kathy Rambo, Wil-Ram Kennels, Spokane, Wa
'Ryan'  Am/Can/Int'l Ch.Wingate's LeadingEdge UD.CGC.HC.LC.TDI.ROM
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LtoR Shawn, Christian, Tory, Ryan, Willey (center)
An Interview With Kathy Rambo (“Ryan’s Mom” )

For the Winter Doberman Quarterly, as told to Judy Pritchard - Skylocke Dobermans ©

Kathy Rambo is handler and “best buddy” to our black Doberman, AM/CAN/INT CH Adlerheim’s Beaujest v Skylocke (better known as “Cooper” to his fan club). I have watched and admired Kathy’s uncanny ability and her special affinity for the Doberman boys for a long time. She does equally well in the ring with the bitches she handles, but the boys seem to respond to her in a way that’s almost a tangible thing….obedient, gentle, adoring. She has worked wonders with Ryan, the “super kid”…both in conformation and obedience. Due to their phenomenal success in their dual-ring partnership, there is now a beautiful etched DPCA “Ryan Award” awaiting the next successful dual-ring Doberman.

Here then, is Kathy Rambo, Professional Handler and…..”Ryan’s Mom”

JP: When and how did your involvement with Dobermans begin?
KR: It was in 1978. Growing up, as a kid, I always wanted a Doberman, but as the old story goes…..Mom was afraid, so I couldn’t have one. I found one….a red bitch walking down the road…. while driving home from high school, and I picked her up. She had a tag on so I was able to find her owner. I’d always wanted a black Doberman…..I thought that would be the ultimate. But after finding her, I’ve wanted red ever since then.
I acquired my first Doberman "Willey" in 1978. Willey was a rescue dog who came from a Guard Dog situation where he was kept in the bathroom during the day and let to run loose in the shop at night. I started training and showing him in obedience and put a UD on him. Willey was a year and a half old when I got him and he was four when I put his UD on him.

JP: What prompted you to go from obedience into the conformation ring?
KR: I had watched the conformation ring, and knew that we needed the soundness and correct structure to handle jumping and the obedience work, even though I thought it was a lot of “fluff”….but again, I knew it was very important, so I got my first show prospect, which was Shawn. Shawn was AM/CAN CH Elite Dobes Mound Man CDX HC TDI CGC, ROM, and I started showing him myself initially. Then it got to the point where I felt I was just holding him back, so I had Larry Sinclair finish him. Then I went on to my next dog….another conformation prospect that didn’t turn out conformation-wise. This was Christian - Cresthill’s Christian Man UD HC TDI CGC WAC. Then everybody was telling me if I really wanted to do some serious obedience work, I needed to get a bitch. Then came “Toad”….Tory. Tory was a Shawn daughter…Elite Dobe’s First Edition CDX HC TDI CGC WAC… and she was tough. She was independent, with a very, very tough temperament. Anyway, I went on to put a CDX on her. She had health problems pretty much all her life so therefore I didn’t pursue her UD….there was just too much going on with her health. Tory was not show quality….she was 24” tall and 49 pounds. She was tiny.

JP: How long were you lucky enough to have Willey, Shawn, Christian and Tory with you? What happened to them?
KR: I lost Willey to Cardio at 9 ½ years. I didn’t know anything about Willey’s pedigree since all he had was an ILP number. His registered name was “Willey UD”…period. Shawn came into my life just six months before I lost Willey. After Willey was gone, I thought I never wanted to be left without any dogs…..so then came Christian. Shawn and Christian were only six months apart in age, so I had put myself into the position of possibly having two old dogs at the same time. I waited three years and then came Tory…..and four years later, Ryan. Two years after Ryan came, I was beginning to think I was never to have a dog older than 9 ½ years. I lost Shawn to Cardio at 9 ½ and then I lost Christian at 11 years old to CVI and Tory to kidney failure at 8. In the same year. I am so thankful that Ryan is healthy. Other than being neutered and having had a benign growth removed from his neck, he has only been to the vet for shots and his cardiac check ups.

JP: What were you looking for when you found Ryan?
KR: I really didn’t find Ryan. He found me. Knowing I have a soft spot for red dogs…everyone told me I needed to look at this red dog. I said I didn’t need a dog….didn’t want a dog…I was fine. I had Shawn, Christian and Tory. Everyone kept pestering me, so I finally gave in and thought “Fine, I’ll go look at this dog.” I went up to the breeder’s…looked at him and just knew when I saw him that he was just more than a champion. I felt he could really be a Special. The first time I saw him and temperament tested him, he was 9 or so weeks old and then when I went back and picked him up, he was about 10 ½ weeks. I didn’t do as much in the way of temperament testing as I usually do because at that time I thought if he didn’t enjoy obedience, “No big deal.” At that time I just wanted to try strictly a conformation dog, so if he did obedience and enjoyed it, that would be fine. Basically, all I needed was just to find out if he had any prey drive. I was started throwing the tennis ball for him. I can’t tell you how many times I threw it, but every time he brought it back. So I thought “This is workable.”

JP: Conformation-wise, he appeared outwardly to be a very sound puppy, correct?
KR: Very much so. There are just…..some dogs you KNOW are going to do well. The scary thing about it was that if he had just one missing tooth, I didn’t want him. Because again, I wanted a Special…not just a Champion. So of course, we waited until the mouth was x-rayed….and he had a full mouth. Like I said, that’s a pretty scary thought to think I would have never gotten to know him just because he was missing a tooth. I think you can get away with missing teeth more with a bitch than I think you can with a stud dog.

JP: What is it about the “boys”, as opposed to the bitches, that appeals to your nature?
KR: I think….well I don’t think, I know.….from experience, the boys are much softer in temperament. That’s not a bad thing, now, understand? Bitches are a little bit more independent, more into it to please themselves…not that you can’t get a bitch to respond to what you want, but the only way I can really explain it is they’re more into it for themselves and what they can get out of it. Where the dogs seem to be more for what they can do for you, and to please you. I just like the softness in the males and what I call the “adoring factor.” They seem to just “adore” their people. Not that the bitches don’t….it’s hard to explain….it’s just different. Like I said, I feel the boys are a little bit softer, and again, I have to make sure to explain that soft is not necessarily bad.. How it’s handled, of course, is very important. Because you can take a soft dog or bitch as far as obedience goes, and just totally ruin them, because you don’t want to be dominant over them. But that doesn’t mean they get away with things. It’s an exercise….you’re asking something of the dog. Softer dogs just seem to want to please you more.

JP: What ONE thing would you particularly look for if you were looking at a litter and were searching for a conformation puppy?
KR: I don’t know if I can say there would be just one thing, but I suppose I would have to, obviously, look at the conformation of the pups first. If that was there, then of course, temperament is next. You can have a conformation dog that will give you nothing….with no attitude. Body language is very important in a conformation dog. You can take a mediocre dog (or bitch) and if their attitude/temperament is good …a “look-at-me” type attitude…and then again, that’s all part of the picture so there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that…..but I think sometimes that a dog who is a little bit of lesser quality (maybe not Special’s material), can finish with the right attitude.

JP: Ok, you’re still looking at that same litter and are evaluating it to pick out a “competitive obedience” puppy. What one thing would you look for first and foremost?
KR: The prey drive is a big part of it, but I think it still goes back to conformation, because they have to physically hold up. And then, sure they don’t have to be Special’s quality, of course, but they have to have a front that’s not going to break down. Same with the rear, and ideally you’d want a shorter topline…that type of thing. Again, basically a sound dog, and just because a dog isn’t conformation-wise what you would want to show in the breed ring, doesn’t mean they are not sound. Then I look for a puppy that is confident, along with prey and food drive. Just as important is a puppy that does not hold a grudge after being put into a situation that they may not want to be in.

JP: If someone approaches you to handle their dog, how difficult is it for you explain to them that their dog just is not breed-ring quality?
KR: It’s not difficult at all, but sometimes they have difficulty accepting it. …. I am nice about it. I’ll be honest with them. If I feel I can finish their dog, I tell them. If not, I tell them that, too. And then I tell them why. …or why not. And….if I just don’t feel the dog is show quality at all….it’s just a pet….I tell them that, too. But I also tell them that there are other qualities in the dog. There is temperament, there’s agility, obedience, lots of different things they can do besides conformation. I tell them to not think that I’m attacking their dog personally. Conformation is just one part of the dog.

JP: How did you come up with your kennel name?
KR: I needed a kennel name, because once I had started teaching obedience classes and offering boarding, I needed to get a business license. The name was very simple….the first three letters of Willey’s name and the first three letters of my last name. Hence, the name…..WIL-RAM KENNELS.

JP: How do you feel about the DPCA WAC evaluation for testing temperaments in our Dobermans?
KR: I think it’s a good test, but to be honest, I don’t see it as being a hard test. I think, other than the agitator, we come across similar situations in everyday life. I don’t know the stats on the test, but it seems that because of the agitator at the end a majority of the dogs fail. I think a dog that is well socialized, and has been helped to learn how to work itself through a difficult situation ….or a situation that maybe worries him… they seem to have less trouble with the test. The only problem with the test that I really have is the agitator at the end. However, when they say you’re not supposed to prepare for the test, I understand where they’re coming from. Obviously, that’s supposed to show the dog’s true temperament. But, we take our conformation dogs from 8 weeks old and they must allow strangers to get into their mouths, check testicles, not move and not be aggressive. And then, all of a sudden, one day … they’re supposed to be. (aggressive) And I know people say that should be in their temperament, but I think it’s not that we’re breeding it out of the dogs by any means, but again….I just keep going back to the fact that from 8 weeks old, they’re taught NOT to be aggressive at all…no matter WHAT these strangers do to them. And then one day, you take them in for the WAC and they’re supposed to BE aggressive to a stranger. Anyway, in that sense, in that part of the test only, I think it’s only fair that maybe a dog be aloud to see that situation prior to the test , so the dog knows that it’s acceptable to show that kind of aggressive behavior in certain situations. Up until that time, unless you’ve been doing some kind of protection or Schutzhund work, all you’ve done is to tell the dog that it’s NOT acceptable to show that kind of behavior.

JP: What kind of training regiment do you use in preparation for the conformation ring….and how does it differ between an adult dog and a puppy?
KR: I’m not sure that there really is much difference. If an adult dog comes to you, one that’s had no training, in a sense you start it just like you would start a puppy….except maybe it’s already leash trained. They have to learn to stack and stay, and free-bait, and gait. So in that sense, I don’t see it as really being any different. Possibly the only difference would be a puppy may not work as long, where an adult dog may have a longer attention span. A puppy…I definitely would not work them for a long period of time. We may do two or three sessions a day, but they’re very, very short. For example, if you’re working on the hand stacking? You hand stack a couple times, they did it, you’re done ...yahoo…why push it till they make a mistake? You go back to it later. Always end on a positive note. Never would I end a session with a dog doing something wrong….whether it’s in conformation or obedience. It's all about positive motivation/positive reinforcement.

JP: Why was Ryan neutered?
KR: Prostate problems. In April, 1998, I noticed there was blood in his urine, so we collected and cultured him so that we would know we had the right antibiotic. We put him on Baytril and the blood went away after two days on the medication. We were going to do a 30-day stint of antibiotics, but during the third week of the treatment, the blood had come back in the urine. Again, since we had cultured him and knew we had the correct antibiotic, there was nothing left to do as far as I was concerned, but to neuter him. It was the best thing for Ryan.

JP: Now that Ryan is neutered, are you finding it hard to keep his weight under control? What are you doing to keep him in condition?
KR: I really don’t find it hard at all to keep Ryan in good weight. I have had to cut his kibble, Natural Life Adult, back from 5 cups daily to just 3 cups to maintain his 90 pounds. I really feel 3cups is not enough nutrition for a 90 pound dog, so I have added green beans and pumpkin as fillers. Before he was neutered, he was getting 4000mg vitamin C in Sodium Ascorbate form and 400 IU natural vitamin E. He still gets this, with the addition of Missing Link and a raw meat mixture. So far, he has not gained any weight. He free runs from ½-hour to an hour every day, in addition to the obedience training and showing. So, I guess the only thing that’s really changed is just that he’s not being shown in the breed ring.

JP: Why do you teach Ryan tricks?
KR: That’s pretty easy. He gets bored quite easily. He really enjoys learning new things….he gets very excited and wound up when I start teaching something new. The tricks came in VERY handy in the Group ring. (Obviously, when we weren’t being looked at, we could do a few of his tricks.) It just keeps him awake and gives him something else to think about instead of just staring at the food. Again, if a dog just wants to just stare at the food and it keeps them excited that way, there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t learn tricks, too.

JP: When Ryan won the 1998 DPCA Top 20, and since he was the first ever to win as a neutered male, what were your personal feelings during the competition and then afterwards, at the Awards Banquet?
KR: I’ll have to admit, this was the first (out of the four times we’ve been in the Top20) that I felt completely relaxed. Why, I’m not really sure…..maybe I knew we had, in a sense, nothing to lose because that was literally his last time in the breed ring. He hadn’t been shown in six months in breed, so I knew he was going to be a handful, but apparently that worked to our advantage that night. Anyway, as far as being neutered, I didn’t think it was going to hurt anything. After all, on the score sheet there’s no place for testicles, so I knew he wasn’t going to lose any points. Anyway, I think that whole day, Monday, everything started out very well. During the Top 20 meeting, we always draw for what group we’re going to be in and in what position and place in that group we’re going to be. In the past three years, we’ve always been in the first group….and even first in the first group…. I just don’t think it is the ideal place to be. So, this year there were going to be six groups and when I drew first in the sixth group, I thought, “Finally, we get to go towards the end!” Which I think is just a better place to be. That kind of started out the day on a good note, because that was a nice place to be….towards the end. I drew first in the sixth group and Andy, with Sera, drew second. So it was just Ryan and Sera in the last group. I thought this was kind of fitting in the sense that over the last three years, Ryan and Sera have run into each so many times in competition. It was nice way to end Ryan’s career. How did I feel at the Awards Banquet? THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO WORDS THAT CAN DESCRIBE THAT! I couldn’t move. I have never been one who could not respond or talk. I don’t know….I’ve never felt that way before. I flat out….could not move. I was so glad everybody was standing up and hollering, because then they couldn’t see or hear ME. (laugh) Don’t ask me what I was doing. I just don’t know. It was something I JUST CAN’T DESCRIBE. It was amazing. We arrived home on Sunday following the Nationals to find messages of congratulations waiting for us, and for eight days we received flowers, balloons and cards. Some of these were from people we had never met. I thank you ALL so much.

JP: We saw the “Ryan Award” at the Nationals in Sacramento. It’s just awesome. This award will hold a very prestigious place in the history of the Doberman. How do you feel about this honor being bestowed upon you and Ryan?
KR: Well, if it accomplishes anything, I would hope it would accomplish possibly inspiring those owners out there to maybe do both obedience & conformation with their dogs. Not that they’re wrong if they don’t, but again, obviously speaking from experience, I know how much time it takes…a tremendous amount of time. I don’t know how somebody with a full time job away from home could do it, because of all the training and traveling you have to do. Hopefully it will inspire someone to do both conformation and obedience with their dogs….and it is definitely possible to do both at the same time as long as it’s done correctly and honestly.

JP: Having personally witnessed the special relationship between you and Ryan, I have to ask if you can put into words what makes this partnership between the two of you so unique and different?
KR: I think part of it is that this dog is so honest with his emotions. How do I explain that? In addition to the honesty, I also get from him that he just can’t do enough for me. I always said that he has what I call the “adoring factor”, and trust me, the feeling is definitely mutual. He just does these things because he wants to. I haven’t made him do anything….I’ve asked him and he just says, “OK”.It’s so hard to explain. There is just SO much more to this dog than the breed ring or the obedience ring. Just living with him….is a blast. He knows what I want, what I’m going to do, when I’m going to do it. He reads me as well as I can read him, I guess you could say. One of the comments I get a lot about him when people are around he and I, is that they can’t tell who I’m talking to. Whether I am talking to Ryan or them….it sounds the same. I don’t know…. I guess it goes back to that the relationship is so honest and fair. I think with any dog, to get the most out of them, you have to be fair. To make a dog do something that they really don’t want to do….whether it’s an obedience exercise or whatever…. you can do that, but you don’t have the attitude that you do with a dog that wants to do it. I think that’s very apparent in the ring. I’ve heard him described many times as “a human in dog form.” The communication half the time… and again I’m talking about just everyday living, there doesn’t necessarily have to be any words spoken. He just knows.

JP: As far as movement and overall soundness in the Doberman today, can you tell us what you’re seeing out there in both the conformation and the obedience rings?
KR: I think the easy answer is that some dogs are built for obedience and some are not. I think it goes in stages. For a while we’ll see a lot of sound dogs come through and then we’ll go through a stage with dogs that obviously are not as sound. It’s so important for obedience…any type of work…because the concern is always about the dog breaking down. Luckily, the jumps have come down to shoulder height for the Dobe. They were 1-½, then 1-¼, now they’re shoulder height. A lot of people (which is a another whole issue) disagreed with the jump heights coming down, and I was always for it….not necessarily because I wanted to make the exercise easier, I just see no reason for them to have to jump a 36” wall. People always asked what I had to worry about, because Ryan is so sound, and I replied that it was “very simple. I want to keep him that way.”

JP: Do you think the Doberman is a “versatile” breed? If so, in what areas?
KR: Most definitely. All five of my dogs have competed in the obedience ring. All of them were active Therapy Dogs….Ryan still is. We visit hospitals, Nursing Homes, schools and adult day care at a local church. They all had their Herding Certificates and were certified on sheep. We have done tracking and dabbled in Schutzhund and agility. I don’t think it’s a matter of people not wanting to do multiple sports with their Dobes as much as a matter of having enough time to pursue more than one or two sports.

JP: What are your feelings about the DPCA’s Top 20 Obedience competition? Do you feel it is a fair competition?
KR: The competition itself, is a wonderful concept in that it allows a forum to showcase our dogs who have been consistently successful throughout the year. As far as it being a fair competition? You really are trying to get me into trouble here. (laugh) Oh well…here goes. There is no way for a competition to be fair unless all the dogs are asked to do the exact same exercise. I will have to say that doing it that way, however, might make for a boring competition to watch. So, I guess I would have to admit that there may not be a foolproof solution that would make everyone happy.

JP: Do you think Dobermans as a breed do well without challenges and some kind of occasional mild stress situations? Why?
KR: As far as obedience goes, once an exercise is taught, you “proof” the results. This in itself, challenges them to make the right decision in a somewhat stressful situation. Once they have worked through some type of stress scenario, you can see that they have such a sense of accomplishment. In everyday life, if you don’t give them challenges, I would think you would have a very bored dog. If you do not keep them busy they will find things to do on there own which can sometimes be destructive.

JP: What’s your opinion on the quality of the judging in today’s conformation ring?
KR: Well, they’re human, so there’s always room for improvement. You’re always going to run into a judge that owes someone a favor…whatever the case may be….that’s going to happen. I would like to think that on the all, they’re pretty much up front. If you have a judge that’s consistent with what type they’re putting up, how can you argue with that? You may not like that type, but how can you argue with consistency? If you feel you’ve been under a judge that’s just looking at “faces”….goes down the line and looks at faces and judges from there…then the only recourse you have is not to show under him/her. There is no other recourse open to you. In the local area, I think a lot of the clubs have a tendency to hire Provisional Judges. I know a lot of people say, “Oh God, not another Provisional Judge…” But, if we’re going to get new judges in, they have to start somewhere, so that’s all part of it.

JP: What has been the highlight or the greatest moments with the Doberman for you?
KR: (laugh) That’s easy…waking up every morning and finding Ryan is healthy. I’m very serious. It’s been an unbelievable six-year trip (tears) Awww, I’m gonna cry…. (laugh) Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it’s not important what he’s accomplished in both rings….it definitely is…. But that is SO SECONDARY to his health. This dog… just being healthy, and being able to enjoy life….is what it’s all about.

JP: What are some of Ryan’s “adventures” in the obedience ring?
KR: I’m not sure if a person could call them “adventures”, but there was the time during Open Down-Stay when an intact Rottweiler came over to Ryan. The judge said that Ryan showed the Rott every tooth, but never got up. I was SO thankful that Ryan is just not aggressive. Then there was another time when we were at a Specialty and the dog next to us, again during Open Down-Stay, did the entire exercise on his back…..feet in the air. When we came back to our dogs, Ryan’s head was turned completely away from the direction of the dog on his back, as if to say, “You’re in TROUBLE.” Now, as far as Ryan’s “interpretation” of any one exercise…. We were in Utility and I sent him for glove #2. He went all the way to the #2 glove, hung a left, went all the way over to glove #1….stopped and came back to #2, picked it up and fronted to me. Unfortunately, we failed. After all, the exercise IS called “Directed Retrieve”. Then, in Utility again….and of all places, at the Nationals…during the Directed Jumping, I sent him for the BAR jump. He took off running for the bar. I think he saw the TV camera through the standards of the jump, decided he just didn’t want to be filmed, hung a left, went across the ring and took the HIGH jump. Go figure. The only interesting thing he’s come up with was in the Open class. It was the day he turned the Retrieve on the Flat into a “tug-of-war” exercise. When I finally got the dumbbell away from him and headed to the next exercise, he grabbed the tongue of my shoe and would not let go. By that time, I just had to laugh with him…..after all, there is always another show.

JP: What did you do before Dobermans? I guess that’s Kathy in the “BD Days”?
KR: I worked for a bank. Actually, again not being able to have Dobes as a kid growing up, we had Dachshunds. And then, once I moved away from home, I acquired my first Doberman. But, before I got into dogs, I trained and showed horses, as well. That got to the point where I couldn’t afford to show the horses. Then, like I said, once I got out on my own I started working at a bank. I worked at a bank for a few years, then as a bookkeeper at a construction company. In the meantime, I acquired Willey and was showing him in obedience. And then after having success with Willey in the ring, I had people interested and asking me to give classes and train their dogs, and so on. I just didn’t have the time since I was working nine hour days. It reached the point where I was turning people with their dogs away and that’s not really what I wanted to do. So I took the plunge, quit that full time job, and started teaching classes.

JP: What other breeds do you show?
KR: I’ve shown and finished Belgian Tervurens, Bulldogs, Papillon's, Long Haired Dachshunds, Boxers, German Shorthair Pointers, Mastiffs, Bull Mastiffs, and Fox Terriers. And as far as priority breeds go, I make sure that it’s understood that the Dobermans definitely have the priority.

JP: How did the phrase "Ryan's Mom" come about?
KR: About four years ago I was walking through the vendors’ area at a show. And I heard someone say, “ Hey! Ryan's Mom!” He apologized to me for not knowing my name. He said he had seen Ryan and I in the obedience ring but did not know who I was. Since then I have been known as "Ryan's Mom"

JP: At the risk of getting myself into trouble here, are you going to get another dog as long as Ryan is still healthy? And, when the time finally comes that you no longer have him, will you get another Doberman?
KR: When people ask me, now that Ryan can not be shown in the breed ring, if I’m going to get another dog, sometimes (and I may be wrong to feel this way), I feel that they are saying that now he’s not worth anything anymore, because he can’t show in the conformation ring. Maybe I’m putting more into it than what really is there. But, anyway, no….while he’s here, and I can’t think of the time when he’s gone (hopefully, that’s a LONG time away) but, I just have absolutely no desire for another dog. It’s extremely hard to explain and it’s not because I would be trying to find another Ryan, because you just can’t replace one dog with another….and I wouldn’t even try to do that. Ryan has and is giving me everything I’ve ever wanted in a dog. Oh sure, a dog could do more than he’s done…..there’s no doubt about that, but he’s done for me everything I’ve wanted. And again, as far as living with him, there is nothing more I could want from a dog. So, I just have no reason or desire to get another dog.

Kathy Rambo, Wil-Ram Kennels, Spokane, Wa
(509) 532-8461 ~ (509) 714-8337

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