by TC Morgan
A great part of the fun of owning a dog is being able to do things together, whether it is just the two of you or in an organized event. While competitions have tended to have the reputation of being only for purebred dogs, more and more events are being opened to mixed breed dogs.
The Mixed Breed Clubs of America was founded in 1978. The American Mixed Breed Obedience Registry followed in 1983 and came under the ownership of North American Dog Agility Association in 2006. The North American Mixed Breed Registry was formed in 1995. These three organizations gave mixed breeds the opportunity for training and titles in sports like conformation, obedience, agility, tracking, flyball, and almost any other activities enjoyed by purebreds.
On October1, 2009, mixed breed owners will be able to list their dogs with the AKC’s (American Kennel Club) new program, which will permit mixed breeds to compete and earn titles in AKC obedience, agility, and rally events, competing only against other mixed breeds. Here are descriptions of nine sports that you can enjoy with your dog, whether he or she is a purebred or a wonderful mutt.
1. Obedience is basic. Obedience training is one of the most important things you can do for your dog. Every dog should have a reliable sit and stay, down (lie down) and stay, and stand and stay which they will not leave until told to do so. They should also understand and obey “leave it” and “drop it” commands. Any of these basic commands might one day save their life. Puppy and adult training classes are usually available within easy reach. Look for a program that uses positive reinforcement-NOT punishment-as the training tool.
Basic obedience is necessary prior to continuing training in other sports. An obedient and well-mannered dog is a joy to live with. They can continue training and compete in formal obedience trials which offer titles. Also available to all dogs, both purebred and mixed breed, is the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen or CGC title. All dogs who pass a ten-step CGC test demonstrating solid obedience can receive a certificate.
2. Rally obedience is a low-impact sport for dogs with disabilities of any kind. The handler directs him or her through a course laid out with signs which prompt them to do the exercises at various locations. Exercises are modified to accommodate the dogs’ limitations. For example, if jumping is a problem, running over a pole lying on the ground will suffice. One of the most senior-friendly groups is the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Both pure and mixed breeds can compete.
3. Agility has become a very popular sport. Anyone who has seen agility events has witnessed the joy and excitement of both the dog and the handler as they race around an obstacle course. This is a timed course in which the animal must go over jumps, through tunnels, through a set of weave poles, stay on a pause table, go over a seesaw and an elevated walkway and up and down an A frame within a certain amount of time. It is up to the handler to direct the canine correctly over the course. For dogs that have physical limitations or simply like some obstacles more than others, there is Just For Fun Agility (JFF) which is not competitive.
4. Conformation is well-known as a purebreed sport in which dogs are judged against the set standard of ideals for their breed. However, some organizations offer conformation competitions for mixed breeds. Here, the primary focus is on the handler and how they and their dog work together, since mixed breeds cannot be judged by breed standards.
5. Musical Canine Freestyle mixes obedience, dance, and your canine pal’s bag of tricks with appropriately-chosen music to interact together creatively in a choreographed routine. Competitions generally include plenty of highly athletic demands, but there are also classes offered by several freestyle organizations which are especially for older dogs, that do not require the athletics. Certainly you do not have to compete. Dance at home with your dog (he or she will probably love it), or dance informally for friends. The main objective is just to have fun.
6. Flyball is a popular sport in which teams of four dogs run as a relay. The first two dogs are released and race over four hurdles or jumps to a box that releases a tennis ball when a loaded spring is pressed by the dog. The dogs catch the balls and races back over the hurdles to their handlers with the ball in their mouths. Each dog must bring the ball back across the finish line before the next dog is released. The first team to have all four dogs cross the finish line without errors wins that heat. Small dogs are often prized because the hurdles are set at the height of the smallest dog. Many champion teams have mutts on them.
7. Frisbee, also called disc dog, is a tremendously popular and highly accessible sport. All you need is a one person, one dog, a level playing area, and a disc to throw. Competitions include distance events and freestyle catching and have categories such as Canine Athleticism, Degree of Difficulty, and Showmanship. Discs also find their way into freestyle dance routines. Many World Champions have been mixed breeds and some were rescues from shelters. This is a great one-on-one outdoor activity; only a small portion of the dogs who play flying disc participate in organized competitions.
8. Does your canine pal love the water? Dock jumping may be the perfect sport for him or her. Here, the dogs compete by jumping for distance or for height from a dock into water. A handler and a dog of any age over six months, any type, or any size make up a team. The handler may throw a toy, but the dog is not required to retrieve it. There are many divisions, including small dogs, “lap dogs,” older dogs who are over eight, and “veterans.”
9. If you have a herding dog, you may be interested in herding tests or Sheepdog trials. This is a competitive sport in which the herding dog moves sheep around a field and various obstacles including fences, gates, or enclosures as their handlers direct them. There are several events of various difficulty in which the dogs may participate. Some organizations permit competition by only herding breeds while others allow any dog that has been trained to work stock to compete.
This has been a glimpse at some of the popular dog sports. In choosing one for your fur pal and yourself, look for something both of you will enjoy. Also consider any special talents and any limitations either of you may have. There is a sports activity for just about anyone of any age and any level of physical ability. You don’t have to compete to have fun, either. The living room or the backyard may be the perfect place for your own one-on-one version of whatever sport appeals to you and your best buddy!
For Dog Training Secrets, detailing ONLY the programs that work, please visit [http://www.yourbestsources.com/DogTraining]. Mary Jean Simpson has owned both purebred and mixed breed dogs and cats from the time she was a child. These also include rescued and foster dogs. She has trained dogs and participated in conformation, obedience, and agility trials as well as in exhibitions sponsored by the local kennel club of which she is a member. She is the current editor of The Guardian, the official newsletter of the White Shetland Sheepdog Association, Inc., and has written dog- and cat-related articles for other publications. She is currently owned by four dogs and two cats.
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