Category Archives: Activities with your dog

Working trials

What are Working Trials?

The easiest way to explain working trials is to say that it is the civilian equivalent of police dog work, but it is purely for competition. It has also been described as the canine equivalent of three-day eventing for horses.

heelwork

John says he chose this activity in the late 1980s and early 90s because he was competing in obedience and wanted something more challenging for his dogs. He competed for around ten years, qualifying two of his dogs. His first trials dog was Cindy, Wicklow Triangle Cdex Udex Wdx Td open.

Johns team from 1990 l to r Sue, Tigger, Cindy and Bobbie

John has returned to the sport after a break of twenty years. He currently has four dogs, all Border Collies or collie crosses – Max, Skip, Jay and Whisper.

Who runs the sport?

Working trials are run under Kennel Club regulations and the schedule is constructed so that competitors must qualify for entry from one stake to the next, from open to championship trial. There are two classes of working trials and five working trials stakes which must be worked in progression.

the scale

The working trials stakes consist of three sections:

  • obedience, including heelwork, retrieve, stay etc
  • agility, including the ‘scale’, the high jump and the long jump
  • nose work, which is a track to follow and a search square with articles to find.

There is a fourth section relating to police dog work, which is where the dog has to apprehend and contain a suspected criminal.

the stay

There are 7 stakes in working trials:

  • Special beginners (no jumps) for dogs from 6 months old
  • Introductory, for dogs over 18 months
  • CD – companion dog stake
  • UD – utility dog stake
  • WD – working dog stake
  • TD – tracking dog stake
  • PD – patrol dog stake (police dogs only)

What do you have to do?

John says the reason he likes working trials is that you are working in different disciplines: obedience, agility and nose work. You are competing against a set standard and if you meet these requirements you have a qualification and a certificate, even if you finished last out of 20 competitors. (Sounds like my kind of activity!)

long jump

The drawbacks with working trials is the equipment requirement of a 6ft scale (like a wall or fence), a 3ft hurdle jump and a 9ft long jump. There is also the challenge of being able to use a farmer’s land for tracking training.

Smaller dogs are disadvantaged when it comes to the jumping section. However, in the companion and utility dog stakes the scale is lowered to 4ft. The most successful breeds of dog in working trials are the Border Collie, German Shepherd and the gundogs such as Retrievers.

How often do you train?

John says he trains quite frequently throughout the week as he is retired. However he feels that you can succeed in any dog sport if you are committed. “I had my most success when I was doing a full-time job and running 6 dogs.”

Whisper doing the nose work

Thank you very much to John and his dogs for this valuable insight!

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the Dog Doc blog for more help with training issues.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Canicross – running with your dog

Get fit and have fun!

Sam and Pacha

Sam and her 11 year-old collie Pacha, have been doing Canicross for around 4 years. She says the thing she enjoys most about Canicross is the fact you and your dog are both getting exercise out in the fresh air, it’s very sociable and it is not expensive. Most clubs are around £15 a year to join and the organised runs are led by volunteers.

Sam says “We got into Canicross as I booked my wedding and decided I wanted to get fit, so I took up running. Pacha regularly came for a run with me and it worked well as it meant that we were both getting great exercise. I then saw an advert for ‘Ashridge Canicrossers’ and thought it sounded perfect.”

Getting started

Most clubs will lend you equipment to borrow at club runs so you can find a good harness fit and size for both you and your dog before you purchase any. You will need:

  • a running harness for your dog
  • a bungee line to attach you to your dog
  • a belt harness for yourself
  • a good pair of trail running shoes with grip for the mud
  • most people use a running rucksack to carry water and supplies.

Organised runs are twice weekly at Sam’s club, but its completely personal choice how often/little you go. She says she generally tries to get out twice a week, whether that’s club runs or running from home.

Who sets the rules?

The Kennel Club are the governing body and a full list of rules and regulations can be found on their website. As a general rule dogs must be at least 12 months of age to start Canicross and 18 months of age to compete in Canicross races of 5km (3 miles) or more.

canicross
Sam and Pacha

There are many competitions for Canicross run all over the country. These mainly take place during Autumn/Winter months (September to April) as the weather is generally just too warm/humid to run the dogs during the summer months.

Can anyone do it?

Sam says “I have seen every sort of dog do Canicross. Obviously some breeds are better/faster than others! But if you’re looking to both have fun and get fit you really can do it with any dog.

The only reason that someone may not enjoy this activity is if you are not into running. However, there are staggered speed groups so you are urged to give it a try. Oh, and if you don’t like getting dirty it might not be for you, as it is very muddy a lot of the time!

It can be muddy!

If your dog doesn’t pull or you’re worried it may not, then you are advised to go near the back of the group. They soon get the idea to run ahead, especially with the excitement of following the other dogs.

The groups are usually between 4-8 people in size so as you can imagine it gets very loud and exiting! Some dogs do take a couple of attempts to really get the hang of hit, but most get it and love it after a couple of goes!

Top tips?

Sam says “It’s good to teach them basic commands e.g go, stop, left, right so you can navigate your dog around the trails safely without tripping you up.

“There’s always going to be be the odd accident, as I learnt just as we set off on a run. Pacha was in full flight, then in a split second decided to stop for the toilet right in front of me. Before I knew it I was face down in a pile of leaves! A quick dust off of the hands and knees and we were on our way again.” 

Thank you very much to Sam and Pacha for this valuable insight!

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the Dog Doc blog for more help with training issues.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

A Beginner’s Guide to Agility

Agility

dog agility

I am going to talk about my passion: Dog agility

Objective

Have fun with your dog!  It is vital to remember this, because agility is hard!  In competition, the objective is to get your dog round a course of 16-20 obstacles in the fastest time.  Easier said than done!

Organisation and rules

Kennel Club and UKA.  Shows are run by these two organisations, which have slightly different rules and ways of running things.  There are also independent shows, which are generally more relaxed and suitable for beginners.

There are 7 Grades in KC agility, with grade 1 being for beginners.  You need at least one win to make progress from grade 1, with things becoming more complex as you progress to grade 7, where your dog can become an agility champion.  An added complication is that once one dog has ‘won out’ of grade 1, subsequent dogs of the same owner have to start at grade 2.  Previously, poor old Luna and Chris both had to start at grade 3 as Luna is my dog and Sunny won into grade 3. Are you confused yet?

Equipment

There are various obstacles to negotiate.  The jumps are usually put at different heights to correspond to the different heights of dog: small, medium and large.  This has recently been complicated by additional, optional heights being added.  Dogs have to be measured before competing.  We are trying to improve the health and safety of our dogs by improving the rules of agility all the time.  Equipment is being changed and removed as well, to improve safety.

Tunnels provide a bit of light relief for dog and handler.  They are fun to go through for the dog and handlers can usually run at them and shout ‘Tunnel!’ and the dog will go into them.  However, if you change direction before your dog is commited to them, they won’t necessarily go through them, as Aura demonstrates perfectly in this video:

Weaves are the most challenging obstacle for the dog to learn.  This is mainly because (for some reason) they have to start with the first weave on their left shoulder, no matter which angle they are approaching from.  They must then go through all weaves (either 6 or 12) in the right order.  Watch Luna miss the last one in this video:

It takes dogs years to learn to weave correctly and they often go wrong throughout their career.  What’s nice about my run with Aura above, is that she does go through the weaves perfectly AND I manage to run past her ready to get her to nip round the next jump.  I’ve only just learnt to do this.  Usually we tiptoe alongside our dogs while they weave, hoping for the best that they don’t come out.

The two runs above were at a show and we were competing in a JUMPING class.  This only consists of jumps, weaves and tunnels, although the jumps can be made more interesting.  There was a wall in the next ring to this one.  Long jumps can also be used, consisting of slightly raised boards.  There may also be a suspended tyre for the dog to jump through. Sometimes a jump is in two parts, making a spread.  Just like show jumping for horses in fact.

Contact equipment, including Dog Walk, A-frame and Seesaw is added to the mix for the AGILITY class.  These consist of something for the dog to walk over with a painted area at either end that the dog must touch.  This is to stop the dog leaping on or off and hurting themselves.  I’ve already done a post of me teaching Ounce how to get ready for the contacts.  Again, teaching the dog to do these 3 pieces of equipment takes many years and endless hours of patience.

Training Classes

So you teach the dog how to do the equipment and off you go, right?  Well yes in theory.  The challenge is that the judge or trainer sets the course and numbers the obstacles and then you have to persuade your dog to do all the right obstacles in the RIGHT ORDER!  In the beginning, you generally only go up and down, with simple, curved turns and minimal changes of direction. 

As you go on it gets progressively harder.  You can see from the videos above that by the middle grades, 4&5, which is what we are doing here, the course is not entirely straightforward.  What we usually have are ‘traps’, where the dog is persuaded that something should be the next obstacle, but we know that it isn’t.  We then have to react in time to turn the dog the right way.

I took videos of six of us doing the same run.  It is really interesting to watch these and compare the different runs:

Busy is an inexperienced dog who is still really ‘wild’.  She is also much, much faster than me, so that adds an extra challenge!  You can see when she emerges from the top tunnel and jumps the next jump that I fail to get her to go in a straight line, because she is turning round to ask me what she needs to do next.  We would have been given faults for ‘refusing’ the jump but might not have been eliminated.

Chris and Luna have a great partnership – Luna loves running with her dad.  Chris was focused on getting her into the tunnel at the bottom having seen me go wrong so over-compensated slightly; she goes into the wrong end – elimination.

Mark and Oscar are very experienced and again a great team.  Mark keeps running with great enthusiasm and purposefully gets Oscar to go into the ‘wrong end’ of the tunnel, ie not the end he sees first.  This is hard to do.

Another example of a dog that is faster than his owner!  Elaine handles Django really well, especially considering he is a cheeky Jack Russell with a mind of his own!  She had planned to cut across the corner at the bottom while he was in the tunnel, but a slight mis-timing meant he wasn’t fooled.  She did it perfectly on the next attempt – a great move.

Real professionals at work here.  Smurf is a grade 7 dog and again an old hand.  They work so well together, with Sarah knowing exactly where to go and what signals to give to get Smurf round in the neatest way possible.  Nice job!

Alex and Abi are the least experienced partnership in our class, but by no means the worst.  It is brilliant to see the patience and enthusiasm that Alex shows with Abi and the joy she has in running with him.

As you can see from these videos, there are different ways to ‘handle’ your dog, some more successful than others.  In competition, only around 10% of the runs are successful…

In conclusion

If you want to have fun with your dog, have a go at agility?  I can’t promise trophies and rosettes, but I can promise laughs and the chance to hang out with lovely people.  Everyone is really friendly and helpful, because we all know how hard it is!

NB: It is not always the fastest dog that wins!  

As you can see, agility can be done by all shapes and sizes of dog – Border Collies make up around 70% of dogs competing, but most dogs can have a go.  It can also be done by all shapes and sizes of handler.  I think it is especially great to see young and old, men and women, competing alongside each other.  Of course most of us are not as fast as our dogs, but that is the challenge!

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.