Sports for the pooch part-II

Sports channels, sports bars, sports quota… Sports are an integral part of our lives, so why should our furry friends be devoid of the fun and entertainment that come as a complimentary gift with any sport? In the last issue, we discussed a few dog sports like Flyball, Disc Dogs, Dock Jumping, Herding Trial and Lure Coursing… here are a few more.

Dog sports are a great way to bond with your pets, teach them discipline and more than that it helps in their mental and emotional well-being. There are also some organisations that host dog sports. These organisations help you with all the required supports – training, getting the pets ready for races and competitions, providing regular updates, making sure the competition is healthy and most importantly setting the rules and guidelines for the safety of the pets. Here are some of the most popular dog sports.

Canine Freestyle
– two to tangoTraining

It is a highly popular dog sport which combines the fun of music with sports. It displays the coordination, movement and obedience skills of the dog. Another aspect that is judged is the relationship of the dog and handler/trainer. The main purpose is to portray canines in a creative and artistic manner.

Each team gives its own version of the test, known as the presentation. These presentations are always given live before an audience and judges. There are four levels and with each level the difficulty increases. There is a theme that unifies all the teams but each team has something new to offer. In plain simple words, Canine Freestyle is dancing with your dog.

It is highly important to choose the right music; a fast, upbeat and peppy track always goes with the mood. The next step would be to train the dog. Obedience movements, tricks, jumps, twists and turns are what you can experiment with. The final step is to select and coordinate the outfits according to the theme and the music.

There are two kinds of Canine Freestyle – Freestyle Heeling and Musical Freestyle.

Freestyle Heeling: Popularly known as Heelwork to Music, the basic rule in Freestyle Heeling is that the canine and his handler stay very close together. The routine does not allow the dog to be away or at a distance. The dog matches the handler’s steps and there are certain dos and don’ts of the game. Jumping, rolling, weaving and passing through the handler’s legs are not allowed. Moving forward, backward and diagonally to the tunes is what the judges look at.

Musical Freestyle: The canine companions display their obedience tricks and a variety of other fun tricks. It combines Freestyle Heeling with some other routines like – coordinated movements, advanced tricks (twists, jumps, spins, etc.), sending the dog away and more. Distance is not a matter thus the tricks can be performed from any distance.

The sport celebrates the training and the balance that the instructor imbibes in the animal. Dancing and swaying to the melodious tunes of music, these furry friends surely bring a smile on everyone’s face.

Size/breed: All breeds and all sizes.

Training tip: The only thing that one needs to keep in mind includes those movements that are dangerous for the dog as their safety is the prime importance.

Organisations involved: The Canine Freestyle Federation Inc, World Canine Freestyle Organisation, etc.

– a.k.a. beauty contest

It is also called Dog Show or Breed Show wherein the judge judges specific breeds of dogs (purebred) on how well do they conform. A purebred dog is a modern dog with a history of Pedigree registered with a breeding club or kennel club. For commoners, Conformation is a beauty pageant for our beloved canine friends.

Judges acquire proper training to judge specific breeds and the ‘all breed’ judges have to gain years and years of expertise before becoming perfect. The dogs compete to earn points and certifications. The judge’s role is to award points according to how close each dog resembles the perception and image of an ideal dog breed. The parameters include – coat type, size, coat colour, movements, posture, stance, temperament and attitude. But it is not just looks, their overall health and well-being is also accountable. The dog should be minimum six months old to participate.

There are three types of Conformation dog shows –

All Breed Shows – it includes a variety of breeds that participate in the competition.
Specific Breed Shows – it is restricted to a specific breed or variety of a single breed. For example, Dachshund and short coat, wired coat and fur coat.
Group Shows – it is for dogs who belong to a particular group, like Hounds, Herding, Working, Terrier, Toys and more.

Training tip: It is not just looks, their overall health and wellbeing is also accountable.

Size/breed: All Pedigree dogs.

Organisations involved: Kennel Club of India, American Kennel Club (AKC), United Kennel Club (UKC), Crufts UK, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Canadian Kennel Club, etc.

Rally Obedience – your wish is my command

As the name suggests this dog sport is based on obedience. It is interesting because the dogs do not wait for the judge to command on which their obedience can be judged. There is a course that is designed which the dog needs to complete with his trainer or handler. It includes various exercises and tricks like sit, stand, roll and move. The course has three levels, novice (beginners), advanced and finally excellent.

The handler keeps talking to the dog and it is amazing to see the bond and understanding that they both share. It is sheer compatibility that the game honours.

Size/breed: There is no restriction on the breed; thus purebred, mixed breeds and even disabled dogs participate in this fun and intelligent dog sport.

Training tip: Have a friendly relationship with your pooch.

Organisations involved: American Kennel Club (AKC), Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), Canine Work and Games (C-Wags), Canine and Human United (CHU), United Kennel Club (UKC), Swedish Working Dog Club (SBK), etc.

Canine Agility – the adrenaline rush

Kritika Manchanda

Kritika Manchanda

It is certainly one of the most popular and loved dog sports throughout the west. The energy and enthusiasm is always high during the course. It is a moment of great pride and happiness for the pet parents to see their naughty ones perform the tasks swiftly.

Agility literally means the ability to move swiftly and quickly. As for canine agility it is a dog sport in which the dog performs an obstacle course and is judged on two main factors, time and accuracy. The interesting twist is that the handler cannot control the dog as the course is performed off leash. The trainer/handler can only contact their dog using gestures, hand movements, special signs and of course their voice. The obstacles include – tunnels, see saw, A-frame, dog walks, cloth tunnels, hurdles, tyres, jumps and a lot more. Usually there are five levels of the game.

Size/breed: There is no restriction on the breed but the age of the canine must be more than 15 months for participation.

Training tip: Since every course is different, the strategy that helps is good training and great amount of practice.

Organisations involved: American Kennel Club (AKC), USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association), UKC (United Kennel Club), NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council), ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America), etc.

Tracking – the sniff game

I am sure you all must have tricked your beloved at least once to find an object. And most of the times your champion would just sniff around here and there, and boom the object would appear. That’s what this sport is all about. The dog finds various hidden objects using that object’s scent. In simple words, it is treasure hunt aided by sniffing.

There is no doubt on how good a dog’s smelling ability is, thus with a little training the dog can become a master of the game. It is also used by police force, by search and rescue operators, aids in bomb squads, etc. It is common sight to see sniffer Labrador Retrievers, Spaniel Cockers, etc using their tracking abilities for hunting, finding drugs and explosives and also to trace a location.

Size/breed: Any breed of any size can participate.

Training tip: It is important to introduce scent discrimination to the dog during training. Using this technique the dog would be able to differentiate between smells.

Organisations involved: American Kennel Club (AKC), Search Dog Organisation of North America, etc.

Winning is not important, what is important is participating and playing the sport with the right spirit. It is always good to compete and yes, if you win, it proves to be an added advantage, so don’t force your pet into a sport. You are the best judge of their likes and dislikes, so choose a sport wisely and let’s have fun.

Graduate from a ‘Pet Owner’ to a ‘Pet Parent’ PART-II

In the last issue, we discussed how to zero in your search for a perfect puppy, how to make him comfortable at home and taking care of his heath needs. Here’s more on this crash course in the field of pet parenting. Keep your dog safe

  • ID tags: Get an identification tag with your name, address and phone number and make sure it is attached to your dog’s collar at all times. This will increase the chances of your pooch being returned to you if he is lost or ran away chasing a cat! Have current pictures of your dog handy in case you need to start a search for him.
  • Travel safely: It’s always fun to take your pet on family trips. Take extra precautions and plan ahead of time to make sure the vacation goes smoothly. Never allow your dog to hang his head out of the car window.
  • Find a boarding kennel or pet-sitter: If you are unable to take your dog with you, make adequate arrangements for his care in your absence. Check out the kennel beforehand, inspect the facilities and listen to what others have to say about the place.
  • Prepare for disaster: Make an emergency kit with first aid equipment and some food. Keep it at a quickly accessible place in the house. In case of other emergencies, like sudden illness or hospitalization, enlist a friend or family member to take care of your dog. Leave a list of general care instructions in a safe place.
  • Make a will: Make arrangements for the safety and care of your dog for his lifetime in your will.

All work and no play make
Bruno and Bruno’s parents dull!

  • Play!: Dogs, of course, love to play. Some live to play! Set aside time each day for play sessions. Not only does it provide an outlet for your pup’s energy, it strengthens the bond between you two.
  • Go on walks: Take your dog on frequent walks. He will enjoy exploring the neighbourhood scents and smells and will benefit from the exercise. So will you!
  • Talk to your dog: He might not understand the words but dogs do understand the tone and pitch of human voice. Oh, and don’t forget to scratch your dog’s belly often.
  • Give your time: You may be tired after a long day at work or home, but your dog spends the entire day eagerly waiting for your return. Remember, you are the centre of your dog’s world. Give him time- pet, talk, play, laugh, share and love.

Train yourself to train your dog

  • Know who is the alpha: Dogs are pack animals by nature and need to know who heads the pack. You should be the pack leader and establish the same in your dog’s understanding of the family as a pack.
  • Basic commands: Training your dog will not only prevent destructive behaviour on his part or make life easier for you, but will also stimulate the dog intellectually. Basic commands such as sit, stay, come and down are also essential for your pet’s safety.
  • Socialise your dog: To ensure that your puppy grows up to be a confident yet friendly adult dog, expose him to different people and places regularly. Take him to the park, to the pet store, on a walk through your locality and meet up with other pet parents.
  • A dog with a job: Keep your dog active mentally as well as physically. Teach him to fetch the newspaper, carry a bag or even his toy. Make your doggie sit before giving a treat or lay down before going for a walk. Give your dog a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Breed responsibly- rather, avoid breeding

  • Sterilise: Spay or neuter your dog to prevent accidental breeding resulting in unwanted puppies. Animal shelters are full of puppies looking for homes. Don’t add more to the number.
  • Breed to improve: Breeding should only be done for the advancement or raising the standard of the breed. Consider the consequences, as well as the expenses of breeding a litter before you do so. Be ethical.

Participate and get involved

  • Join a kennel club or local group: Meet others with dogs and plan group activities. If there aren’t any such groups in your neighbourhood, take the initiative to make one. Your dog will thank you!
  • Be up-to-date: Equip yourself with knowledge about the canine world, be it new training techniques, toys or even food brands. Keep up with the latest dog news and information.

Be a canine ambassador

  • Set an example: How often have people commented on your dog based on the previous experiences with other dogs? One irresponsible pet owner in a neighbourhood can make life difficult for all pet parents. Try not to be that one.
  • Respect your neighbours and house guests: Don’t expect everyone to love your dog as much as you do. Keep him on your property and if he has a barking problem, teach him not to bark without real provocation. Don’t force your dog’s company on a visitor who isn’t comfortable with dogs. They’ll never know what they are missing in life!
  • Know and follow local laws: Read up on the laws regarding dog ownership in your area and respect them. These may include registration, leash laws and breeding laws. In case of the absence of any such laws, use your common sense to ensure well being of your pet, and the neighbourhood.
  • Stand up for the voiceless: Be aware of any legislation developing in your state with regard to pet dogs or even local strays. Have an opinion on the issue and don’t shirk from voicing it. Someone needs to talk on behalf of the voiceless, right?
  • Share your dog: Dogs are invaluable when it comes to providing company to humans, for example, visiting the sick, helping the disabled, playing with specially abled children, locating missing persons, and much more. If you think your dog has the right temperament to benefit others, help him help the world.
  • Flaunt your fur baby: Of course, you should reward your dog and let him know when you’re proud of him, but let others know it too. Many dogs love attention and being in the company of humans. Bringing a well-behaved dog into public places and showing off his tricks and talents is a great way for both of you to socialise while having fun.
  • Don’t let your dog down: You aren’t a dog parent just on the weekends, or when you have spare time. You aren’t a dog parent only when he is well behaved, or when people compliment him, or when he wins at an event. You become a pet parent when you bring a dog into your family and remain a parent throughout the dog’s life. If you can’t keep that commitment, don’t make it. And once you’ve made it, don’t break it.

Try to live by the famous quote, “My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.” May you graduate from being a pet owner to being a pet parent with honours. To test how well you are doing, check whether the tail beside you is wagging or not ….