2014-07-03 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

First week of summer vacation. “I’m bored” are the words that parents dread to hear as they secretly conspire to ship their kids back to school. But if by chance your dog blurts out boredom, there are so many dog sports where you both can participate. The best part is that now mixed-breed dogs are even allowed to compete for titles at certain American Kennel Club (AKC) performance events.

Since April 1, 2010, mixed-breed entries may be accepted at all breed sanctioned/licensed/member AKC Agility, Obedience and AKC Rally® events. It is optional for clubs to accept mixed-breed entries. In addition, mixed-breed may compete at Coursing Ability Test events that may be held by any licensed Lure Coursing club. In other words, a Beagle mix can lure course now. The mixes have to be registered as “AKC Canine Partners” and in the catalogues randomly bred dogs are listed as “All American” dogs. Guess that is more politically correct than “mixedbreed” or, worse, “mutt.”

Labrador Retriever in a dock diving competition Labrador Retriever in a dock diving competition Practice or competition need not be for points or titles. Participation can be just for fun and exercise. Below is a selection of several familiar and not-so-familiar dog performance activities:

Agility: a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Obstacles include various types of jumping hurdles, an A frame, weave poles, seesaw, fabric tunnel, narrow, elevated dog walk and a table for a mandatory pause. Dogs run off leash with no food or toys as lures, and the handler cannot touch the dog or obstacles. The sequence and design of the course change, so the dog’s ability to perform while reading the handler’s voice and body language becomes an integral part of their teamwork.

Bikejoring, Cani Cross and Skijoring: all variations of sled dog racing. Bikejoring is a dog mushing activity where a harnessed dog or team of dogs attached to a towline has to pull and run ahead of a cyclist. Cani Cross is the sport of cross-country running with dogs. Cani Cross can be run with one or two dogs, always attached to the runner. The runner typically wears a waist belt, the dog a harness and the two are joined by a bungee cord or elastic line that reduces shock to both human and dog when the dog pulls. In the sport skijoring, one to three dogs pull a cross-country skier.

The longest skijore race in Kalevala, Russia is 270 miles long. Most competitions are between three to 12 miles long. Sled dogs like Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are popular in all three activities but other athletic breeds such as Pointers and Giant Schnauzers participate too.

Earthdog Trials and Barn Hunt: An earthdog trial tests the working ability and instinct of Dachshunds or small, short-legged terriers like Rat Terriers or Norfolk Terriers. These dogs were bred to hunt vermin and other quarry which lived in underground dens. Earthdog trials involve man-made underground tunnels that the dogs must navigate, while scenting a rat, “the quarry.” The quarry is protected at all times by wooden bars across the end of the tunnel. The hunting encounter is controlled, so neither the dog nor the quarry (usually two rats) is harmed. Barn Hunt is a newer version of the sport attracting larger dogs that wouldn’t fit into tunnels. Barn Hunt taps into the dogs’ natural ability of ridding homes and barns of vermin.

Dock Diving: a dog sport in which dogs compete in jumping for distance or height from a dock into a body of water. Dock diving (aka dock jumping) first appeared in 1997 at the Incredible Dog Challenge, an event sponsored by Purina. This takes tricky measuring. The jump distance is usually measured from the midpoint of the end of the dock to the point at which the base of the dog’s tail breaks the water’s surface. The jump distance is measured electronically using digital video freeze frame technology or manually by judges. Of course, water breeds such as Retrievers and Portuguese Water Dogs excel at dock diving.

Freestyle: a musical dog sport that is a mixture of obedience training, tricks and dance that allows for creative interaction between dogs and their owners. This canine/ handler choreography has become more popular because of freestyle routines on TV talent shows.

Lure Coursing: a sport for dogs that involves chasing a mechanically operated lure. The fake “rabbit” is usually a knotted plastic bag. Competition is typically purebred sighthounds, like Greyhounds, Whippets and Afghans although there is an AKC pass/fail version for all breeds and mixes called the Coursing Ability Test. Some astute sighthounds are disqualified when they size up the course and run across it to get to the lure. Imagine those dogs would be the best hunters in the real world.

Rally Obedience: (aka Rally or Rally-O) is based on traditional dog obedience. Unlike regular obedience, instead of waiting for the judge’s orders, the competitors proceed around a course of designated stations with the dog in heel position. The course consists of 10-20 signs that instruct the team what to do. Handlers in Rally are allowed to encourage their dogs during the course.

K9 Nose Work: a relatively new recreational activity created and sanctioned by the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) that dog owners can enjoy with their pups. It evolved from the training professional scent detection dogs receive. Exercises start with the dogs using their noses to seek out favorite toys or treat rewards hidden in one of several boxes, expanding the game to entire rooms, yards and vehicles. As dogs gain more confidence with nasal skills, target odors are introduced and competition skills are taught. Obedience schools and doggy daycares are adding Nose Work to their activities because dogs love this so.

For Adoption at Babylon Animal Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Speaking of Nose Work, “Owen” 14-265 did beautifully when the shelter took him to a Nose Work class last year. He also did extremely well with his two amigo Pits and a crowd of admirers when Shelter Link volunteers brought him to a Heckscher Park event recently. Meanwhile tiny “Tabitha” 4-121 is going to sit with “purrfect posture” until someone adopts her. She is spayed and FeLV/FIV tested.

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