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Who doesn’t enjoy some friendly competition? And what better way to spend your time than with your dog? Combine these two and the world is your oyster. Or, should you not eat seafood, your steak. There are many organizations, such as the Kennel Club, AKC (American Kennel Club), or UKC (United Kennel Club), that offer organized performance events of different types. There are also organizations which specialize in only one type of event, for example USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) for agility or ASFA (American Sighthound Field Association) for lure coursing. No matter what suits your fancy - flyball, tracking or hunting with your four legged teammate - there is a performance event for you.
For those of you who aren’t sure where to get started, one option is Rally Obedience. It is ideal for the beginner because, in the novice class, your dog is always on leash. Plus, any breed is welcome to enter an AKC rally trial. Training for rally is useful in everyday life and is a good foundation for any other event you may want to undertake.
In rally, a dog and his handler complete a numbered course. The course consists of a series of stations, 10 to 20 depending on the level of competition. Each station has a sign with instructions for the dog to complete. The signs will instruct the dog to “sit”, “wait”, “turn left”, etc. The handler is allowed to encourage the dog in any way he desires; talking, whistling, clapping. The handler is not, however, allowed to touch the dog, nor should he pull the dog around with the leash. The team moves together from station to station at a lively pace, with the dog always on the handler’s left. They move from station to station, completing each sign before moving on to the next. A judge is in the ring watching the team perform the stations and taking notes. There is a time limit in which to complete the course.
Organized canine performance events and the training that goes with them are a great way to bond with your dog and meet new people. They are mentally stimulating for your furry teammate and the exercise will do you both good. So the next time you’re sitting on your couch with a bag of potato chips, while watching reruns of Frasier and surfing the web, consider searching for nearby doggy schools and give rally training a go. Your dog and your waistline will thank you.
If you enjoy Christina's writing, check her books out! She is the author of “Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star” and "Insider Training: Chester Gigolo’s Dog Training Secrets Revealed” for which she won the 2016 DWAA Captain Haggerty award for Best Training Book and the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Award (Animals & Pets). She is also a contributing author to “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors”. She has written multiple articles which have appeared in various international publications.