Dogs have been selectively bred for centuries to perform a variety of jobs such as guarding or herding sheep, transporting people and freight, retrieving game and keeping vermin under control. These days most suburban dogs are no longer needed for their traditional roles and so they are out of a job. As with people, unemployment can easily lead to boredom, frustration and crime.
There surely should be much more to a modern day dog’s life than just walking around the block, playing a game in the back yard or (if lucky) the daily/weekly trip to the same old dog park. Did you know that there is a whole world of enjoyable dog activities out there for you and your dog to benefit from?
There is! You can join a club or two and keep your dog and yourself mentally and physically fit. There’s no excuse for letting your dog spend his or her life as an under stimulated bored back yard dog and being a couch potato!
Agility – Backpacking - Conformation (breed shows) – Dances with Dogs - Earth Dog Trials – Endurance - Fly ball - Frisbee (Disc Dog) - Gun dogs: Retrieving and Field Trials - Herding (Sheep dog trials) - Lure coursing - Obedience Classes and competitions - Rally Obedience – Schutzhund - Sled Dog Racing - Therapy Dogs – Tracking - Trick Training – Weight Pulling.
The aim is to complete a course of up to twenty four obstacles without a fault in the quickest time. Agility originated in England to entertain crowds between events at equestrian show jumping. Worldwide it has become one of the fastest growing and most popular, active and addictive dog sports with huge spectator appeal.
Most dogs can be taught to carry a backpack and to enjoy long walks and camping out with their owners. Enthusiasts can either walk socially or work towards a title by completing four separate 16 km walks with their dog carrying one-third of its body weight.
Around the globe more dogs are taken to conformation shows than any other canine activity. Breeders and other dog lovers show their un-desexed dogs for their beauty and good looks. Winning a breed group or 'best in show' increases the value of that dog's offspring.
There are two variations of this increasingly popular dog sport, Heelwork to Music and Freestyle, both of which are a mixture of obedience, tricks, and dance that allows for creative interaction between dogs and their owners. An owner and dog team perform a 1- 4 minute routine choreographed to music and to the spectators look like they are literally dancing.
'Dances with Dogs' is a sport suitable for any breed of dog whose owner loves music, dance, creative training and having fun with their dog. In Brisbane several clubs are involved in teaching Dancing with Dogs. Gay Westmore, president of Dances for Dogs in Queensland and her clicker trained Golden Retriever, "Gemma" frequently demonstrate at nursing homes, exhibitions, fun dog days, shows and, here, at the Ekka.
This field sport also originated in England to allow smaller breeds like Terriers and Dachshunds to practice their natural instincts of going to ground when hunting vermin such as rats, badgers and otters. A course of underground tunnels of between 3-15 metres is set up with a pre-laid scent for dogs to follow and find the quarry in its den.
Dog Endurance is similar in some way to endurance events for horses and a half marathon. Dogs jog beside their owners, who are either jogging themselves or on their bicycles, over a 20 kilometer course in 2½ hours. Veterinary inspections are held at mandatory rest stops to ensure the dogs are coping easily with the exercise and are in a fit state to continue. At the end of the run the dogs complete a simple obedience test before they are eligible for their endurance title. All breeds can take the endurance test provided they, and their owners, have trained sufficiently and are physically fit. Toowoomba and Ipswich Dog Obedience clubs run annual Endurance Trials.
This is a relay team sport suited to ball focused dogs. And most dogs that are not ball oriented can be taught to think balls are a 'just-must-have' item. A team of four dogs takes turns to hurdle four jumps in order to reach a panel with a lever that, when pressed by the dog, releases a tennis ball. The dog then has to take the jumps again, ball in mouth, to cross the line and get back to their handler before the next dog in the team is allowed to run. The team with the fastest time is the winner.
Dogs are judged on how well they can catch a thrown Frisbee, either on distance or on style. The Founder of the Brisbane and Region K9 Disc Club won the recent inaugural World Dog Games Canine Disc Championship.
Gun dogs: Retrieving and Field Trials
There are more than 20 different gun dog breeds in Australia. The original purpose of Pointers, Spaniels and Retrievers was to assist shooters find, flush and retrieve game birds. Nowadays Labradors and Cocker Spaniels and the other gun dog breeds are primarily family companions. However, teaching a gun dog to do what it was designed to do - with decoy birds on land and around water - provides him with significant mental and physical stimulation and is great fun for owners too.
Herding (Sheep dog trials)
Herding involves dogs controlling and moving stock - usually sheep - around a field, fences, gates, or enclosures as directed by their handlers. The dog and handler must learn to work together as a very close team. The dog has to learn various signals to know when to move forward, stop, go around the stock, push the stock, go left, go right, etc.
The breeds most suitable are those with herding origins such as Border Collies, German shepherds, Kelpies, Cattle Dogs and Corgis. Sheep herding demonstrations are performed twice daily at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane and training and competitions are held regularly near Woodford. The Herding Association of Queensland also herds at Dogs Queensland show grounds at Durack every weekend.
Lure coursing is a sport for dogs that involves using sight rather than smell to chase a mechanically operated lure. These decoys are usually skins or plastic bags that are pulled around a paddock at speed to stimulate fleeing prey. Courses are around 500-900 meters. Afghans, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and other sight hounds excel at this sport but dogs of many different breeds are able to participate.
The first obedience training clubs in Australia started in the early 1960s and are run by groups of enthusiastic volunteers to offer training classes to the public to work towards and trophies at obedience competitions with their dogs. There are 23 Canine Control Council Obedience clubs in Queensland. Check out their training methods before taking your dog to training classes.
Some obedience clubs are starting to introduce Rally O which is expected soon to be an officially sanctioned ANKC sport. It is one of the fastest growing dog sports overseas as it is more relaxed and less formal/stressful than traditional obedience competitions.
This sport originated in Germany in the early 1900s for German shepherds and is now found at clubs all over the world with many different breeds participating. It involves three elements: tracking, obedience (where the dog must retrieve over a 6 foot wall) and protection (attack) work. There are three levels of Schutzhund titles.
The most famous sled dog race is the Alaskan Iditarod, a race where teams of 16 dogs take 9-14 days to cover nearly 2000 kilometers along the frozen Alaskan coast through desolate tundra, dense forest and snow-swept mountains.
Recreational family sledding in Queensland is done on dirt tracks, usually forest and fire trails. Instead of snow sleds on runners, teams of one or more dogs pull modified bicycles and 3 wheeled rigs. Huskies and Malamutes are the traditional sled dogs but the sport is suitable for any fit medium size breed. Competitions take place in the winter months around Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast.
Delta Society Australia is a charitable organization whose volunteers and their accredited dogs bring joy and therapeutic benefit to sick children, the frail aged and disabled residents in hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
Many dogs like 6 year old German shepherd, Max- above - that have been to C.L.E.AR Dog Training have become accredited Delta therapy dogs. Several Delta teams work throughout metropolitan Brisbane and more are always needed. All dogs must pass a relatively simple test for reliability and safety.
Dogs use their incredible sense of smell whenever possible, as can be seen on their regular walks, so this sport is ideal for any dog that likes sniffing. Teaching to track for food in the back yard is easy and mentally stimulating and very useful when your dog can find your lost car keys! Competition tracking is a scent-based activity where dogs wearing a harness and a 10 meter lead are trained to follow a scent trail.
Dogs can compete in competitions where the degree of difficulty increases at the higher levels. Scented articles are placed along the trail. When the dogs finds these items they must 'indicate' they have found something by sitting, dropping or standing still until the handler picks up the item. Scenting conditions are best early in the day so this sport appeals to people who like getting up before dawn in winter.
Teaching dogs to perform tricks 'on cue' has many benefits: mental stimulation, physical stimulation and muscle development for the dog, bonding and building trust and developing a rapport for the team and improved timing and training skills for the owner. Children as young as five can teach their dogs simple tricks – such as wave, high five, roll over, bow and spin – and their control over the family dog increases as, of course, does their self esteem.
As with any behavior, there are several ways to teach a particular trick. Owners who clicker train have dogs with steep learning curves and impressive repertoires. There are many good books that show how to use shaping and targeting - as opposed to traditional pushing and pulling - to teach more than 300 different tricks.
These days some progressive clubs are beginning to offer trick training classes as tricks are fun for both dog and owner. Cyn D Fisher, Chief Instructor (Obedience) at the Gold Coast Dog Club is seen above at a C.L.E.A.R Dog Training workshop in 2008 with 'BC' who she had taught, amongst many other tricks,to peel a banana!
This sport involves a dog pulling a cart or sled loaded with weights such as iron or concrete blocks for 5 meters across gravel, grass, carpet, or snow in a set time. It is a modern adaptation of freighting, in which strong dogs like Alaskan Malamutes and Rottweilers were used to move cargo. Dogs are separated into classes by weight so small breeds can enjoy this sport. Jack Russells, Italian Greyhounds and Beagles excel at weight pull competitions.