Wondering what AKC performance sport best fits your canine companion and you? Take a good look at those listed below. There's something to catch the fancy of just about everyone. Happy training!
Obedience Trials test a dog's ability perform a prescribed set of exercises on which it is scored. In each exercise, you must score more than 50% of the possible points (ranging from 20 to 40) and get a total score of at least 170 out of a possible 200. Each time your dog gets that magic 170 qualifying score, he's gotten a "leg" toward his title. Three legs and your dog has become an Obedience-titled dog! There are three levels at which your dog can earn a title and each is more difficult than the one before it. You may see levels divided into "A" and "B" at a trial; "A" classes are for the beginners whose dogs have never received a title while "B" classes are for more experienced handlers.
NOVICE: The first level, Novice, results in your dog earning a Companion Dog (C.D.) title. The title actually describes what is expected of your dog: demonstrating the skills required of a good canine companion. He will have to heel both on and off leash at different speeds, come when called, stay (still and quietly) with a group of other dogs when told and stand for a simple physical exam.
OPEN: The second level, Open, results in your dog earning a Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title. He must do many of the same exercises as in Novice, but off-leash and for longer periods. Additionally, there are jumping and retrieving tasks.
UTILITY: The final level results in a Utility Dog (U.D.) title. These are the cream of the crop. In addition to the more difficult exercises, the dog also must perform scent discrimination tasks.
OTCH and UDX: The best of the best can go on for more titles. Utility Dogs that continue to compete and earn legs at 10 shows become Utility Dog Excellent (UDX). Utility Dogs that are ranked 1st or 2nd in Open B or Utility classes can earn points toward an Obedience Trial Champion (OTCh.) title.
Rally is a sport in which the dog and handler complete a course that has been designed by the rally judge. The judge tells the handler to begin, and the dog and handler proceed at their own pace through a course of designated stations (10 - 20, depending on the level). Each of these stations has a sign providing instructions regarding the next skill that is to be performed. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience.
The team of dog and handler moves continuously at a brisk, but normal, pace with the dog under control at the handler's left side. There should be a sense of teamwork between the dog and handler both during the numbered exercises and between the exercise signs; however, perfect "heel position" is not required. Any faults in traditional obedience that would be evaluated and scored as a one-point deduction or more should be scored the same in Rally, unless otherwise mentioned in the Rally Regulations. After the judge's "Forward" order, the team is on its own to complete the entire sequence of numbered signs correctly.
Unlimited communication from the handler to the dog is to be encouraged and not penalized. Unless otherwise specified in these Regulations, handlers are permitted to talk, praise, encourage, clap their hands, pat their legs, or use any verbal means of encouragement. Multiple commands and/or signals using one or both arms and hands are allowed; the handler's arms need not be maintained in any particular position at any time. The handler may not touch the dog or make physical corrections. At any time during the performance, loud or harsh commands or intimidating signals will be penalized.
Rally provides a link from the Canine Good CitizenŽ (CGC) program to obedience or agility competition, both for dogs and handlers. In addition, rally promotes fun and enjoyment for dogs at all levels of competition.
We've all seen countless movies of dogs following the trail of an escapee through swamps. The AKC's Tracking Trials allow dogs to demonstrate their natural ability to recognize and follow human scent. This vigorous outdoor activity is great for canine athletes. Unlike Obedience events that require a dog to qualify three times, a dog must successfully complete only one track to earn his title.
TRACKING DOG: A dog earns a T.D. by following a track laid by a human 30 minutes to two hours before. The rules describe certain turns in a 440- to 500 yard track.
TRACKING DOG EXCELLENT: A TDX is earned by following an "older" (three to five hours), longer (800 to 1,000 yards) track with more turns while overcoming both physical and scenting obstacles.
VARIABLE SURFACE TRACKING: In the real world, dogs track through urban settings, as well as through wilderness. A VST dog has demonstrated this ability by following a three- to five-hour-old track that may take him down the street, through a building and other areas devoid of vegetation.
Agility is one of the newest AKC events and it is open to every breed. Dogs must be at least one year old to participate. In an Agility Trial a dog demonstrates its ability to negotiate a complex course which should include a walk over a bridge, jumping through objects, going through tunnels, and pausing on command. There are different height categories so each dog is tested fairly on the course. Agility is exciting for the dogs, handlers and spectators. AKC sanctions "Agility Clubs" and there are also many breed and obedience clubs that offer agility competition. Many of these clubs also offer classes and less formal sanctioned trials for beginners.
If you own one of the Herding breeds (or a Samoyed or Rottweiler!) and your dog is at least nine months old, you are eligible to enter both AKC Herding trials and tests. These events are designed to allow a dog to demonstrate its ability to herd livestock under the direction of a handler.
In Herding Tests dogs are judged against a set of standards; and can earn advanced titles and championships in the Trials-where they compete not only against a standard, but against other dogs for placements. Stock used at the trials can be sheep, cattle, goats, or ducks. There are also non-competitive herding clinics and instinct tests given by AKC clubs across the country.
If you own one of the breeds known as a "Sighthound," you may be interested in Lure Coursing, in which dogs follow an artificial lure around a course on an open field. Coursing dogs are scored on speed, enthusiasm, agility, endurance, and their ability to follow the lure. Coursing is a great way to keep your hound physically and mentally fit. Dogs must be at least one year old to run at an AKC -approved event. Dogs with breed disqualiffications are not eligible.
Earthdog Trials are for the "go-to-ground" Terriers-the smaller Terriers (and Dachshunds) which were originally bred to go into dens or tunnels after quarry, which ranged from rats to badgers. Dogs must be at least six months of age to enter. There are four class levels at a licensed test: Introduction to Quarry (for beginning handlers and dogs); Junior Earthdog; Senior Earthdog; and Master Earthdog. The object of the test is to give the dog an opportunity to display its ability to follow game and "work" (show interest by barking, digging, and/or scratching) the quarry (game). The quarry can be either two adult rats (which must be caged so as to be protected from the dogs) or artificial quarry which should be located behind a barrier, properly scented and capable of movement.
The AKC offers a large and varied program for the six purebred Coonhound: Treeing Walkers, Black and Tans, Plotts, English, Bluetick, and Redbone. Coonhound clubs can offer Night Hunts, Field Trials, and Bench Shows. In addition, a National Championship is held each year.
The AKC licences or sanctions individual clubs who, under AKC Rules and Regulations, sponsor Hunting Tests and Field Trials. In Hunting Tests, the dog's ability to perform is judged against a standard of perfection established by the AKC Regulations; theoretically, every dog can be a winner! Dogs receiving Qualifying Scores at a number of tests achieve titles of Junior Hunter (J.H.), Senior Hunter (S.H.) and Master Hunter (M.H.); each successive title requires more skill. If you have a good hunting dog, you probably would be able to earn a Junior Hunter title with only a moderate amount of work. Your success in Hunting Tests should lead you further into the sport.
In Field Trials, the dogs compete against each other for placements and points toward their championships. Successful dogs earn an F.C. (Field Champion) title in front of their names on AKC records. Dogs can also earn Amateur Field Championships in Amateur Stakes.
These Field Events are divided by subgroups of dogs (i.e.: Spaniels, Retrievers, etc.) and sometimes limited to specific breeds. Each type of event varies according to the breed's function.
BEAGLING: The AKC has licensed Beagle Field Trials for more than 105 years! Currently, there are three types of Trials: Brace, the oldest, is run in braces of two or three dogs who are judged primarily on their accuracy in trailing a rabbit; Small Pack Option (SPO) divides the dogs into packs of seven to pursue rabbits; and, finally, Large Pack trials turn all dogs in the class loose to find and track hares.
BASSET HOUNDS AND DACHSHUNDS: While the events for Bassets and Dachshunds are held seperately, the trials are run in a similar fashion to the Beagle Brace Trials.
The Hound events described offer Field Trials only; there are no Hunting Tests for these breeds.
POINTING BEEDS: For over 72 years, the AKC has offered Pointing Breed Field Trials and in 1986 added Hunting Tests for these dogs. The dogs are run in pairs (braces) around a course on which birds are released so that they can demonstrate their ability to find birds, point staunchly and retrieve the downed birds.
RETRIEVERS: Dogs are tested on their ability to remember ("mark") the location of the downed birds and to return those birds to their handlers. Both Hunting Tests and Field Trials have different levels of difficulty, requiring dogs to mark multiple birds and find unmarked birds ("blind retrieves") at higher levels.
SPANIELS: Spaniels are judged on their natural and trained ability to hunt, flush and retrieve their game on both land and water. Note that the Irish Water Spaniel competes in the Retriver events.
* Information source-AKC brochures "Getting Started..."
*For more information about these or other AKC events, contact the AKC at 919-233-9767 or at their home page.