Farewell Rascaldy Rabbit



trained and handled by
Le Hammer
or perhaps it was
Rabbit that trained Le


RIP: 2012


ANKC Agility Champion
ADAA Agility Champion
Brenilly Winona Ryder

SIRE: CH EDELHOF SILAS (imported UK in dam)
(S: Birkenwald Nico JW (resident UK)   x   D: Waldburg Quarta (imp UK))

(S: Ch Brenilly Hans Sonning   x   D: Ch Burnbrook Sabrina)


It was bitter sweet to say farewell to my Rascaldy Rabbit. She was my “once in a lifetime dog”, but I did not feel the intensity of grief as with the sudden loss of Sparkle, who left us prematurely. I was able to say farewell to Rabbit gradually as she slowed down a little with old age and she helped me by making her time to say farewell very obvious. She had a very sudden and severe onset of Geriatric Vestibular Syndrome and she was very distressed at not being able to control her world. She had slowed down a lot in her old age and for the last month or so she was no longer bossing the others around, so I had seen her true self fading for a while. Although she was still enjoying a run up to the dam and pottering around, but she was not longer demanding that we run our lives her way.

brenilly-winona-ryder06Rascaldly Rabbit started life with the name of “Nonny”. She was very naughty and I often found myself yelling “No, Nonny, no!” for her various misdemeanors, in particular thieving things, getting into spots she shouldn’t, raiding bins and generally finding other things in life too interesting. Independent was an understatement!

We had not planned to keep Rabbit / Nonny– she came to us “as an extra” when we got Winnie for Keith, because Winnie had had some dental problems. I was being careful with my choice of a new owner I found for Nonny, because I needed a good dog handler who was not going to “break her spirit” with a check chain. I had not yet discovered clickers and positive reinforcement training. I had had 3 homes lines up at times, but each fell through for various reasons. It seemed that fate wanted me to have this dog.

brenilly-winona-ryder09I knew about rewarding dogs for doing the right thing. I had been doing agility for a while with Ned. Rab was great at her agility training if that is what took her interest at the time but even at the start of her training she was well known for nicking off to investigate something else more interesting. She hung around when the food was good enough . . . most of the time. She rarely came back when she was called. She made her own rules.

She was about 9 months old when I went to my first little clicker workshop. It was a revelation, for both of us. Rabbit discovered she could manipulate me – if she did something the box would click and I would give her food. She controlled it! FANTASTIC. Of course, I discovered that I could manipulate her by controlling which actions made me click the little box. I think, within 24hours of discovering clicker training, she knew foot targets, nose targets, backing up, speak on command and no speak. It wasn’t long before our foot targets developed into a brenilly-winona-ryder11contact behavior, the speak on command became her favourite trick, and we also had her scratching on command and a few other tricks as well. And, of course, we learnt to use the clicker for more serious training.

The recall improved a bit, but that did not become significantly better until I discovered her name was “Rabbit”, not “Nonny”. She was bouncing through some long grass at Fairfield showground with her very white tail looking very obvious sticking out of the grass. I called out to Keith that she looked like a rabbit and she just spun around on the spot and raced back to me. Of course, I shoveled food into her mouth for the brilliant recall and after that the name of “Rabbit” just stuck. Her recalls were not perfect, but they were definitely better.

Rascaldy Rabbit taught me so, so much about dog training. The main thing is that you do not need to be their boss and master. All you need to do is make them want to do what you want. I would show Rabbit what I wanted (lure an exercise) then ask her to do it. She would try. Then in no uncertain terms, she would tell me to pay her for it. She was awfully bossy about it too.

Our teamwork was due to cooperation. She would always be happy to try to figure out what I wanted, but only if she knew I would pay her for it. No pay, and something else would take her interest. That was our understanding. It was only over time we came to the agreement that she would concentrate for longer, but she set the condition that the pay packet at the end had to be larger.

brenilly-winona-ryder07When we first started trialling her concentration was minimal. And of course, she knew I did not have her payment close at hand. So it was far more interesting to go and visit friends (I did not appreciate her choice of male friends – she had this thing about cattle dogs), chase birds, raid bins or whatever. I remember one time she nearly caught a bird with a sudden “exit stage left” half way round a course. It went up in a puff of feathers, like when Elmer Fudd shot a bird in Bugs Bunny cartoons. It did get away, but only just.

Her concentration did improve and agility itself (thanks to the Premac principal) did become rewarding. And there were many times when we felt like mental telepathy was working between us. No one run stands out in my mind with Rabbit. She made plenty of finals in competition, she won the Balder Trophy twice, and we felt like a team. When I let the team down she would let me know about it – late signals or choppy courses (due to poor course design or poor handling) and she gave me an earful. But when my timing was right, and she knew where to go, she was off at full speed – her enthusiasm was boundless.

Rabbit was a top competitor. She won lots, but that is not what I am trying to say. She loved the game of agility. She loved speed, she loved the athleticism of it, she buzzed as much as I did when we had one of those “in the zone” runs. She loved to be out there doing stuff.

Yes, we were a team, but it was on her terms. Thank you, Rabbit, for teaching me how positive reinforcement works. Thank God I never found another home for her. She belonged in my life.


Like everything in her life, Rabbit took to motherhood with full enthusiasm. She doted on her puppies, and was ever so gentle with them, which not not part of her nature at other times. The remarkable thing was she always recognised her puppies in later years, no matter how long it had been since she last saw them.

Rabbit was the mother of 3 litters

brenilly-winona-ryder05     brenilly-winona-ryder10

Rabbit’s trial record:

Australian National Kennel Club Titles:
Australian Agility Champion
Agility Dog Master 10, Jumping Dog Master 10, Jumping Dog Open 10, Agility Dog Open 10,
Gamblers Dog Master, Snooker Dog Master, Strategic Pairs Dog Master

“Rabbit” was the first dog in Australia to gain a JDO title. She did it with 5 out of 5 clear rounds. She went on to become the first to gain other new agility and jumping titles, but we stopped keeping a tally. In the new games classes, she is now the first dog in Australia with a games excellent title, being for her GDX, followed up by being the first to gain their SPDX (with “Doc”) and her SDX  then went on to be the second dog in Australia with a masters gamblers title. She is the first gundog in Australia to gain the elite title of Australian Agility Champion.
Her latest is to be the first dog in Australia to gain a Snooker Dog Masters title.
And now the first dog in Australia to gain all 3 agility games masters titles.
In her day, she had more agility titles than any dog, any breed, in Australia.

She is the winner of the NSW Balder Trophy for the point score to qualify for the NSW Agility Dog of the Year 2003 and 2007 and has represented the state of NSW at National titles. She has made it into 6 National Title finals (competing against the faster working dog breeds).

Agility Dog Association of Australia Titles:
as well as her championship:  Master Aust Agility Dog 3, Aust Agility Games Dog, Aust Agility Teams Dog

“Rascally Rabbit” is also the 2001 ADAA Grand Prix Maxi Agility Challenge Winner. She competed in ADAA trials “in her youth”.