Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dog sports, number three

While doing activities with your dog. some of them require more human input than others.  With Dock Diving and Flyball, mentioned here and here, there's obviously the training aspect, but once competition is reached, release and recall seem to be the main responsibilities of the handler.

With many dog sports, serious or no, the dog and the handler are a team every step of the way.  The relationships that you can see on the field with these teams is a beautiful thing, and the dogs are obviously happy and eager to be working.
Rally, sometimes also referred to as Rally Obedience (Rally-O), is the AKC's newest sanctioned competition sport.  The web site and information are here:  It's apparently supposed to be the next step after the Canine Good Citizen certification, and be more leniently judged than straight up Obedience.  The handler and the dog go to different stations, receive instruction on what they are to do, and perform it.  Such stations might be set up for a left turn, a sit, a sit and a down, that kind of thing.  Interestingly, I feel like Elka would do better at Rally than at the CGC test, currently, though every time we go out for a walk, she improves in a tiny way, sometimes in a big one.

Canine freestyle is a really fun one to watch.  You pick a song, you have your dog, you do a dance routine.  Well, sort of. What you do depends on the skill level of your dog (and your own agility!).  "Spin" is a thing used fairly often in freestyle routines I've watched, heeling definitely is, and the ol' "weave through the legs" bit is a typical crowd pleaser.  Elka already knows several different tricks that would be nifty if incorporated in a choreographed freestyle routine (or perhaps a faith healing skit), and taking a freestyle class might be a fun thing to do in our future.  It also seems a bit like a talent show; still a dog sport, but a fun and kind of silly one.

I should probably also take this opportunity to note that most dog sports seem to be dominated by Border Collies. Another high drive, high energy breed in the top ten of Canine Intelligence (listed here on Dr. Stanley Coren's web site:, they severely need something to keep them interested and occupied.  Border Collies (to my knowledge) are not Schutzhund dogs, but they are Agility Dogs, and Rally dogs, and Freestyle dogs.  I'm sure they're also dock divers and flyballers.  That's a lot of versatility for a sheep herding dog!

Now, this last one is not technically a "sport", but rather a more encompassing organization.  The Dog Scouts of America ( is an organization not unlike Girl Scouts, where you can go to camp and earn merit badges, but there is also a behavioral training facet to it (though really, wouldn't some Girl Scouts benefit from this?).  The Dog Scouts of America, according to their web site, support non-coercive training methods and operant condition which, if I posit correctly, means clickers! We know that I dig the clicker.  Various merit badges that can be earned are for Geocaching, Agility, Scent Discrimination, things like that.  It's a very comprehensive list, and when you get each embroidered badge (again, like Girl Scouts!), you can put it on a bandana or Dog Scout uniform.  It's kind of expensive, at $25 a badge, and dues, but my understanding is the purpose of the organization is for dogs and owners to better their relationships, and also to reduce the number of unwanted pets in America.

Were she a Dog Scout, Elka would already be on her way to completing her "Clean Up America I" badge!  She picked up a bottle and brought it out of "her" creek.  And no, I don't know what she was looking at in the picture below; there wasn't anything or anybody there.

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