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Teaming up with your dog

Here’s good news for all those who are looking for fun and excitement with your pet dog as a team. Team up and enter the world of obedience and agility.

Relationship with one’s pet is taking new dimensions and a partnership team is emerging. Working dogs, such as sheepdogs, guide dogs and sniffer dogs have long had this slightly elevated status over the household pooch. But this common household mutt has been striking back in spectacular (and fun!) fashion in the form of obedience and agility trials.

So what do the events consist of? There are two categories of competitor for each event of agility and obedience. The first is for dogs smaller than 50cm (mini) and the second for dogs larger than 50cm (maxi) (measured at the shoulder). Obedience is to test the level of control the handler has over their dog, to see how obedient the dog is. The test consists of 6 or 7 commands. There is no equipment involved. Tests include walking to heel, sitting on command, staying sitting, coming when called by the handler and send away. As its title indicates, obedience requires the dog and owner to be concentrating on each other and for the dog to be obedient and keen to work with his handler.

In the agility event, the dog is timed against a 90 second clock over various obstacles. Both mini and maxi class dogs must complete the course in or below 90 seconds. The mini dog class includes 7 obstacles, the maxi class 11 obstacles. There are things such as the see-saw, weaving poles, pause table and hurdles. One thing for sure is that you cannot succeed at agility unless you also have succeeded with obedience! The time is quite tight and your dog will have to pay a lot of attention to you in order to take the right course and finish in time. There can be some pretty tense moments! From January 2005, the Obedience and Agility Trial Club will be in full swing and its first competition will be held in Gurgaon in February. The Club has been set up by Rajesh Bhatt of Gurgaon’s ‘Kennel 1’ (Dog Boarding and Training Centre) with the vision of happy, healthy, obedient dogs working with their owners.

Rajesh says agility trials are highly enjoyable for dogs and their families. He also emphasises that mixed breeds have all the potential that pure breeds do for this type of event. It’s about seeing what they can do. Their aptitude, the way they work with their owner, the strength of the human/animal bond are what matters. It’s a complete teamwork. The Club’s focus is on fun and inclusion of all types of pets and owners. The only requirement is that the dogs are properly vaccinated. There’s another aim too – to fulfil social obligations, they would like to see younger people getting involved and also promote adopting a dog from a shelter.

Training your dog is very simple. All you need for the obedience part is your living room or a nearby park. For agility, you may well want to seek the advice of a trainer (The club will have a set of trainers). Within the Club, there will be a system in place where you can register yourself and your dog. This will be free of charge and enable you to seek advice from trainers and practice with the agility obstacles set up at the club. This again is all part of the inclusive nature of the Club’s mission. The organisers acknowledge that, unlike in some other countries, dog owners here are unlikely to be able to set up their own agility obstacles at home. So they are making the Club an “open house” for their members to come and practice.

The agility obstacles will also not be as complex as in some countries overseas. The Club is aiming to generate interest and have fun rather than create international level competition. As the Club grows then this could be something for the future… that is not being ruled out, but initially the aim is to get people involved and enjoying a new sport. Besides, there are some cash prizes as well.

The emphasis is on proper training through kindness. This is again in accordance with the Club’s ethics of best health and well-being for the dogs. The organisers are convinced that if the dog is healthy and well trained then there will be no tension between him and his owners. In India often dogs are left untrained and unruly. The critical early months are ignored while the puppy is “cute and mischievous”. But the right training and outlet for your dog’s energy can save problems later on when that 30kg hound knocks you over!

So get your dogs and get ready for a whole new relationship with them! Go out, get fit, get trained and have fun!