Are we having fun yet?
There are many venues in dog sports that offer something for everyone you just have to choose what suits you and your dog.
Traditional Obedience is offered through AKC (American Kennel Club), UKC (United Kennel Club), CKC (Canadian Kennel Club), APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America) & MBDCA (Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America). There are probably more than this but these are the common dog clubs.
Traditional Obedience has many levels which include exercises such as:
“Heeling” where the dog walks controlled at your left side sitting automatically when you stop motion. The dog has to stay with you through changes of pace (fast & slow) and different turns. The different organizations have variations of this exercise.
“Recall” or come when called in which the dog has to wait in position as you walk away and then come to you on command then “finish” to heel position on command. This exercise has variations in the different organization such as UKC has a recall over a jump.
“Retrieve on flat”. The dog has to wait while you throw a dumbbell then fetch it on command as well as release it to your hand.
“Retrieve over high jump”. The dog has to go over the high jump fetch the dumbbell and return to you over the jump.
“Directed Retrieve”. The dog is directed to a specific item which he has to retrieve with like items close by. Again there are variations to this exercise in the different organizations.
“Directed Jumping”. The dog is sent to the far side of the ring on command of the handler and commanded to sit. Then the handler directs the dog to take one of the two jumps that are on opposite sides of the ring. The dog must jump the indicated jump and return to the handler. This exercise is repeated with the dog being directed to take the 2nd jump.
“Scent Discrimination”. The dog is sent to a group of articles to find the one that the handler has touched. The items are metal, wood and leather. Not all organizations use all 3 materials. Once the dog brings back the first scented article the handler puts scent on another one of a different material and the dog is sent again.
“Long Sit and Long Down”. In these exercises the dogs are lined up on one side of the ring in one of the two positions and left on a stay. In the lower level the sit is 1 min, the down is 3 min. The handlers are across the ring facing the dogs. In the upper levels the sit is 3 min, the down is 5 min. with the handlers out of sight of the dogs. In some organizations they do not have the long down they have an “honor” exercise in which the dog holds a down stay with the handler across the ring while another handler/dog team works the heel exercise.
These are just some of the exercise in traditional obedience programs.
“Rally Obedience” is the newer sport in competition. Most organizations now offer Rally at their shows with some allowing mixed breeds to compete.
Rally has the handler and dog working through “stations” where a printed sign tells the handler what exercise to perform like 360 turns, 270 turns, jumping, heeling backwards, pivots in place and in motion stands and downs. Rally has several levels of increasing difficulty and all the levels are very fun to do! The dogs enjoy Rally as much as the handlers do!
“Agility” is a fast paced sport where the handler directs the dog around the ring to jumps, tunnels, teeter totters, weave poles and other obstacles. The run is timed and accuracy counts! The classes are divided for different sizes of dogs so small breeds are not competing with larger ones. There are many different levels of Agility with varying rules for the different organization.
“Flyball” is another fast paced team sport where the dog has to leave the handler, jump several short hurdles, hit a lever on a box that ejects a tennis ball which they have to catch then come racing back over the hurdles through the finish line so the next dog on the team can be sent. Two teams are competing side by side and the fastest team wins! Flyball is becoming quite popular as the dogs and handlers have such a great time. If you have a dog with tons of energy and loves tennis balls this sport may be for you!
“Tracking” for the person who loves the outdoors and a dog who loves to sniff! There are a few organizations that offer several levels of tracking titles. The beginning level is fairly easy for the dog and the highest level is quite difficult. The dog must run a track of unknown direction finding the article/s along the way. These tests are on a pass/fail basis, if the dog follows the track and finds the article/s you pass! Many people have gone from this type of tracking to Search & Rescue Type work which entails a ton more training but is very rewarding!
“Therapy Dog”. If you like interaction with people and want to brighten someone’s day then consider this venue. The handler and dog have to pass testing to become “certified” to go into hospitals, nursing homes etc. The testing process checks the control you have on the dog as well as the stable temperament of the dog which is required in this field. The dog needs to tolerate much more than the normal household pet so they don’t cause injury to those you are trying to help. Several organizations offer classes and certification for therapy work, one is “Dove Lewis” and another is “Therapy Dogs International”. These organizations have differing regulations for certification.
“Weight Pull”. Most dogs can compete at weight pull, there is a mini poodle that has done well in this sport pulling 185 lbs!! (See Poodle Review Sept/Oct 2005 issue). Larger dogs pull into the 1000 lb range. Special harnesses are use to distribute the weight of the pull so the dog does not get injured.