Activities to Enjoy With Your Dog!
Agility—Dog agility is a fast paced and fun canine sport for dog and handler alike. It involves running “courses” with a series of obstacles that the dog must complete according to the handlers direction. The dog must complete the obstacles in a certain order in a certain amount of time. Examples of some of the obstacles include jumps, tunnels, A-frame, see-saw, weave poles and pause table. Agility competitions are available for both mixed-breed and purebred dogs. Dogs can earn titles in several levels of competition. The popularity of dog agility has grown tremendously in the past few years. Even if you do not plan on entering agility trials with your dog, agility can be a great confidence builder and fun for older dogs and puppies alike.
Obedience—Dog obedience can be as formal or as informal as you want it to be. For some people, training their dog not to jump or pull on the leash is enough. Obedience trials are held frequently all over the state of Florida and the rest of the country. Formal obedience involves exercises such as heeling on and off leash, coming when called, sit and down stay around a group of other dogs, retrieving, jumping, hand signals and scent discrimination exercises. A solid foundation in obedience training will help to build a great relationship between an owner and their dog. Obedience is as fun as the handler makes it—use of positive training methods is much more commonplace now than in the past. If your last obedience class was several years ago, you may want to give it another try. Make sure to pick a class and an instructor you feel comfortable with.
Canine Good Citizen—Canine Good Citizen is a program for dogs which involves ten exercises designed to test the dog’s manners and basic obedience skills needed to function in everyday life. It is a type of obedience, but is informal compared to the obedience trials discussed above. Dogs have to perform tests such as: sitting politely for petting, come when called, accept approach from a friendly stranger both with and without another dog, and walk through a small crowd on a loose leash. Dogs that pass all ten tests receive a Canine Good Citizen certificate. Although the AKC sponsors the program, all breeds and mixed breeds are invited to participate.
Tracking—Tracking is open to all breeds of dogs and showcases the dog’s natural ability to follow a trail of scent. Dog learn how to follow a trail left by a person on foot over several hundred yards, involving turns and sometimes variable surfaces. At the end of the trail is an “article”, simulating something that may have been lost, like a wallet or glove. If you have a dog that likes to sniff, tracking may be for you!
Lure Coursing—This is an activity designed for sighthounds, which are dogs that were bred to spot prey and chase it down by sight. Examples of sighthounds include Greyhounds, Whippets, Basenjis, Irish Wolfhounds, Scottish Deerhounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Pharaoh Hounds, Ibizan Hounds, Salukis, Afghan Hounds and Borzois. A white plastic bag is used as the “lure” and is moved by a pulley system along the ground in a set course. Courses are several hundred yards in length. The hounds chase, or “course” the lure along the course. They are judged on things such as speed, follow ability, enthusiasm and stamina.
Hunt Tests—Hunt tests are designed to test the hunting instinct and ability of the retrievers, pointers, spaniels and setters. Dogs go through a series of field tests involving land and water retrieves of varying difficulty. The AKC and UKC offer hunt tests and many breed-specific clubs (i.e. Golden Retriever Club of America) offer additional working titles. Additionally, hunting programs for beagles and coonhound breeds are available.
Herding—Herding competitions are open to herding breeds such as collies, shepherds, corgis, etc. Dogs use a combination of natural herding instincts and handler direction to herd sheep, ducks, geese and other animals. These tests simulate the work that such breeds would do on a farm situation to be useful to the owner. Many herding breeds are very enthusiastic about their work!
Conformation—Conformation is what most people think of as a “dog show”. Dogs compete first against dogs of their own breed for points towards a championship. Dogs are judged on structure, movement and correct temperament (personality) for the breed. The dogs are judged against the “breed standard”, which is the description of the ideal dog of that breed. The purpose of conformation shows is to evaluate animals for breeding by comparing them to other examples of the breed. By breeding only the animals that best represent their breed, breed structure and type is preserved. Conformation shows therefore are for intact (non-spayed and neutered) dogs only.
Therapy Dog—Is your dog the type that just loves everyone it meets and seems to gravitate towards people? Maybe they are a candidate for a therapy dog. Therapy dogs do a great service by providing love to those in need, such as senior citizens in nursing homes and children in the hospital. Studies have shown that just petting dogs will lower people’s blood pressure and there are other health benefits to being around animals as well. People who haven’t communicated with others in a long while will try to communicate with a dog the first time they see it. In order to be a therapy dog, your dog must be fairly outgoing and not easily spooked by things such as walkers or wheelchairs. They must be well-mannered enough not to jump on people or scratch those with thin skin. They must be in good health and current on vaccinations. Therapy work is an extremely rewarding activity for both the owner and those receiving the benefit of therapy.
Flyball—Is your dog tennis ball crazy? Well, you might enjoy flyball. This is a fast-paced sport that is timed with teams of 4 dogs racing against each other. The dogs one at a time over four jumps, hit a lever on a box to release a tennis ball, and race back over the jumps to the handler. As they cross the line, the next dog takes off! The fastest team wins. Flyball is exciting to watch and great for the dogs to participate in.
Earthdog—Earthdog events are for dogs such as terriers and dachshunds. You may also have heard of a terrier “going to ground”. These events simulate the natural hunting style of these breeds, which have been bred to dig into the ground after prey, such as vermin and foxes. Underground tunnels are constructed and at the end of the tunnel is a prey item, such as a rat (caged and not harmed). The dog has to dive into the tunnel, follow it to the end and indicate the prey by barking and scratching. There are various titles that can be earned in earthdog.
Freestyle/Rally—Freestyle and rally are two newer sports which are similar to obedience, but less formal. Freestyle is “dancing with your dog”. Routines are choreographed to music and the dog and handler perform a series of movements, with the dogs doing things like spinning, weaving through your legs, etc. Rally obedience involves variations on regular obedience exercises and encourages verbal praise throughout the routine, which is timed as well as judged on exercise performance.
Weight Pull—Weight pull competitions are open to all breeds. Dogs wear a special harness and pull increasing amounts of weight for a specific distance. It is like the “iron dog” competition. Breeds such as bulldog types and many of the working breeds really enjoy weight pull.
Contacts for dog activities
American Kennel Club (AKC) www.akc.org
Agility, Obedience, Tracking, Hunt Tests, Herding, Lure Coursing, Earthdog, Canine Good Citizen, Conformation
The AKC will issue an Indefinite Listing Privilege (ILP) number for purebred dogs that are not AKC registered. This allows them to compete in all events except conformation.
United Kennel Club (UKC) www.ukcdogs.com
Agility, Obedience, Hunt Tests, Weight Pull, Conformation, Earthdog
K-9 Obedience Club of Jacksonville www.geocities.com/heartland/bluffs/2638/
(904) 733-2112, e-mail: VMKdogsong@aol.com
Obedience, Freestyle/Rally, Tracking, Therapy Dog
United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) www.usdaa.com
Pals and Paws Dog Agility of North Florida www.palsandpawsagility.com
Local instructors can be found on the Pals and Paws website
Headstart Canine School