Once your puppy has successfully completed the basic Puppy School puppy training, the sky’s the limit as far as further training is concerned. There are many excellent ‘dog sports’ which you can now take part in.
NB Although training can begin straight away, puppies will not be able to start jumping until they are 18 months old when they have finished growing as, otherwise, this can damage their growing bones and joints..
Dogs learn to negotiate tunnels, hoops, high jumps, long jumps, high walks, and A frames. This is then done around a set course at speed against the clock as in show jumping for horses. The handler runs around the course and controls the dog’s directions with the dog off lead. Dogs compete against others for the fastest time with fewest faults. For further information, please visit www.agilitynet.com
Dogs learn to respond precisely to obedience commands, such as ‘heel’, ‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘down’ and ‘stay’. They learn how to retrieve a scented article from unscented ones, and to be sent away to a specified place. Precision is very important and handlers compete for points which are easily lost if positions are not exact. For further information, please visit www.obedienceuk.com
Dogs learn to track and search for missing objects, as well as how to negotiate a 6ft scale jump, 9ft long jump, 3 ft clear jump, walk at heel, retrieve a dumbbell, come when called, stay when told and be sent away from the handler as directed. For further information please visit www.workingtrials.co.uk
Dancing with Dogs
Dogs are taught "moves" by their handlers which are then linked together and choreographed to interpret their chosen music. Routines are assessed for "Programme Content", "Accuracy and Execution" and finally "Musical Interpretation"
Dogs learn to run to a box by jumping a line of jumps, and then press a pedal on the box that delivers a ball which they retrieve to their handlers. Teams of dogs race against each other to sees which are the fastest. For further information, please visit www.flyball.org.uk
If you have a gundog breed, you might be interested in exploring gundog work as an activity to get involved in. This doesn’t have to involve shooting or dispatching game, if you find that distasteful.
The gundog breeds are divided into retrievers, spaniels, pointers and setters and “hunt, point and retrieve” breeds (HPRs). Each of these subcategories functions in a different way and fulfills a different role as a gundog, so it’s worth investigating what the role of your breed should be, in the field, because this will have a big impact on the training. There are many books on the roles of the breeds and a lot of information online.
If you are not sure about the idea of game being shot around you, you probably want to start off with “gundog working tests”. These are held in the summer months and organised by various gundog clubs. They are a series of tests, usually about 4 or 5 separate tests, which are identical for each dog and they are based around retrieving canvas dummies and obedience. No game is shot. There are separate working tests for retrievers, spaniels and HPRs. These are competitive, with placing results, but they are also informal and friendly.
Another option is to check out the newly formed “Gundog Club”, whose purpose is to make gundog work more accessible to the pet owner. They run a graded testing scheme which is non-competitive and again uses only canvas dummies and involves no shooting. To help pet gundog owners prepare for these tests they also run weekly courses around the country. For more information see: www.thegundogclub.co.uk
If you are the non-competitive type, shoots all over the country are always looking for more beaters, especially those with dogs. (Beaters are the people who make lots of noise and scare the birds up.) The type of dogs which are best suited to beating are spaniels, but other breeds are used - some people even beat with terriers, collies and GSDs! It’s a good idea to make sure your dog has an excellent recall before you take it on a shoot - or keep it on a lead, walking with you.
For more information on a shoot close to you, join the National Organisation of Beaters and Pickers Up (or NOBs for short!): www.nobs.org.uk
If you own a giant breed such as the Newfoundland, you might consider using their natural tendency towards water in a positive way by becoming involved in water work. Since the late 1980s there has been an increasing interest in this sport.
Regular training events are held where the dogs can learn to swim and retrieve articles from the water. They can then progress to more difficult tasks such as towing people and boats and the advanced dogs learn to jump from a boat and search for a ‘casualty’ to tow in. These skills can be taught for fun or assessed at progress tests which the dogs work through at each level. For further information, please visit www.thenewfoundlandclub.co.uk