In the early 1990s in Seattle, with the memory of Freda on her mind, Voris got another Weimaraner named Greta. Although Voris had no goals for Greta beyond being a house dog, there were inklings of what was to come. "Greta was a pet, but being a competitive person, I decided to get into obedience."
A Widening Search
Greta could not quite keep up with Voris' growing expectations. "I realized she wasn't put together for jumping. After all, she was meant to be a pet. I wanted a dog who could go further with obedience." Voris began an odyssey to find the best Weimaraner breeders, dogs who could do all she was asking of them physically.
In 1996, Voris found what she was looking for. "After a two-year search, I got Reign. I was just going to do obedience with her, but the breeder wanted me to do conformation." Voris had never competed in the ring, but this sounded interesting, fitting with her competitive spirit. Initially, Voris saw conformation as a way to prime Reign for obedience. "I was thinking, you run around the ring, give the dog treats, and she'll get acclimated to the show scene so when she does obedience it'll be no big deal."
Far from just a preparation for obedience, Reign did well in the ring. It was not long before Voris wanted a conformation championship. Reign came through.
For a couple of years, Voris was satisfied with success in obedience and conformation. Then she discovered that the Weimaraner Club of America sponsors shooting tests and retriever tests. She could not resist the urge to see how Reign might do. Again, Reign did not disappoint her owner, passing the shooting, retrieving, and junior hunt tests. "She had a passion for field work. Just over the top – swimming, retrieving, bird work – an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime dog. She was not young, six years old at the time. If I had known, I would have started much sooner with her."
Voris wanted to begin breeding, get dogs into field work at a young age. Reign offered what Voris needed, becoming the foundation for the Regen Weimaraner line.
As well as Reign did, Voris could tell something was missing. She saw exactly what it was. "Unfortunately, Reign was handler-challenged in the field! I didn't know enough about field work to get her beyond a point."
Versatility From a Tiny Age
With a breeding line in place, Voris focused on her own education, learning about field work and becoming a better handler. She implemented new ideas into her breeding program, beginning with extensive early training.
When Voris says "early," she means it. "At four days old, we do stimulus tests, originally developed for the military. You hold the puppies vertically, count one one thousand, two one thousand...Hold them upside down, then horizontally with their little feet in the air...Put them on a cold towel...Count again. You tickle their little toes with Q-tips. This gets things moving in their tiny brains."
Voris keeps records as tests continue in the following weeks, recording progress and discerning early signs of the skills she prizes. "Before their eyes open, I put little plastic balls in the whelping box to see which ones totter on over. I'll put things with different tactile surfaces like a rough or a smooth object."
When the puppies are just a couple of weeks old, Voris brings out her baby agility equipment. "I put a little teeter-totter in there, a bitty dog walk, a baby tunnel."
At the mature age of four weeks, Voris introduces her puppies to the field, or more accurately, she brings the field to the puppies. Beginning with the sounds of the wild, Voris plays gun-shot recordings while they eat. "I pop in the CD, a little louder each day. They learn that noises like gun shots are good things." Then, at six weeks, "I put a live quail in front of them. They don't hurt it, but they start doing little baby pointing. It's fascinating to see."
Voris then begins testing for the concentration and focus needed in obedience competitions. "I'll use film canisters sprayed with cheese. The puppies lick it, pick it up. I catch it when they drop it. That teaches them to retrieve."
All the while, Voris monitors subtle characteristics. "I'm looking for ones that want to work, who have that 'put me in coach' attitude." These are the dogs that Voris will soon compete with in the ring and in the field.
A Versatility Network
Prospective buyers now begin calling Voris. After close training, Voris understands her puppies in ways not easily explained. When someone wants a puppy, she listens, then makes a decision. "Matching people with the right puppies is the key to everything. People say, 'I want this puppy.' No way! I pick out puppies for them."
Choosing puppies for buyers carries a lot meaning for Voris. In addition to breeding dogs that excel in many sports, Voris is building a network of Regen Weimaraner owners. In 2005, Voris formed "Regen List," where her buyers communicate with each other on the Internet.
For active people and active dogs, the Internet is not enough, so Voris established "Regen Camp." Owners from across the country come to Seattle to showcase everything their Regen Weimaraners can do. "This year, we're doing tracking, agility, obedience, bird work, and conformation. We'll get together three days before our local specialty show. We'll tune everyone for the show and help each other. The ones who are good at obedience mentor the newbies. People who have never done field work can feel safe trying it. An 'agility gal' will run a little clinic. At our last camp, one owner was afraid to get into the obedience ring. Someone said, 'Don't worry, you'll be fine, I was scared the first time, too.'"
Teaching the Teacher
Voris is a former school teacher, and she thinks of herself as an educator for buyers. Like a great teacher, Voris learns from her students. Quite often, she is pleased to discover surprising ways in which that early puppy training plays out. "One woman does search and recovery of accident victims. She has body parts in her freezer! The dog demonstrated for us: out on a river, a guy goes under water. The dog's on a boat and points where the 'victim' is. The guy pops up, gives the dog a treat, goes back under."
After watching a student do tracking, Voris gave it a try with her current Weimaraner, Pepper. "I put a tracking title on her. It's all so exciting, and I keep learning a lot."
Voris says the best moments are when students surpass her. "One guy just won the AKC invitational with his dog, Booster. He's doing so well, I'm letting him handle my Weimaraners. I enjoy activities with my dogs, but I get a thrill seeing what other people can do!"