In the last few years the dog sport industry has been booming, making dog sports almost as varied and popular as human sports. There is a huge number of different activities in which dogs can be trained and taken to competitions, such as Agility, Dock Diving, Disc Dog or Canine Freestyle, to name just a few. This big variety allows any dog to participate in some kind of activity, regardless of the size, breed or age. If done correctly, dog sports are a great way to build a strong bond between dogs and their handlers and also to tire and balance a dog out. Recently, there have been many discussions about dog sports. Critics complain that it is unethical to put your dog under pressure/stress just to see it win but dog owners say that their dogs enjoy what they are doing. I believe that there is no general right answer in this discussion but every dog owner should decide individually what is right for their dogs.
Personally, I train my dog and compete with her in two main kinds of dog sports: Obedience and Agility. In Obedience the dog has to stay in a perfect heel and complete different exercises. This takes a lot of patience and calmness. In Agility the dog has to complete a course made of tunnels, hurdles etc. as quickly as possible, which takes a lot of motivation and speed.
In order to give you an impression of what this is like, I will take you along on a competition.
Sunday, 5:30 – I get up and ready, then feed my other animals, clean their enclosures, take Nepheli (my dog) for a walk and feed her. To save time, I already packed our things the night before so I just quickly grab something to eat and then we are ready to go.
9:30 – We arrive at the dog school where the competition will be taking place and I meet up with my dog trainer and the other participants. It’s always good to introduce the dogs to each other before the competitions, to make sure they get along. Then I warm Nepheli up, put her back in the car and line up to get signed up. This is mostly what these competitions are about – waiting.
10:30 – About an hour later I have all the papers I need and we all gather at the entrance to get paired up. What you need to know is that in Obedience, the dogs always compete in pairs. One dog has to stay in a down position while the other one is working. Our partner is a fuzzy little mix that looks extremely bored and unhappy to be standing around in the mud.
11:00 – Before we know it, it’s our turn and we enter the meadow. The judge quickly examines the dogs and then we start. Nepheli has to lie down first, while the other dog is doing exercises. In these competitions, you are not allowed to praise or reward the dog or give them any hand signals. – So the only thing you are allowed to do is give one verbal command for each exercise. Once the little mix has finished, he lies down while Nepheli and I are competing. She does great and once we are done, the judge presents our results. Nepheli passes with flying colors but unfortunately the other dog does not.
11:30 – While all the other dogs are competing, Nepheli gets to have a break and I prepare for the second part of the competition. My trainer is very happy with us but the lady I was competing with is upset. We are always a little special in these competitions because I train in another dog school which teaches more modern methods and we represent them, so when we do better than the others it’s always the cause of an argument. I don’t want to fight with her, and leave for a little walk.
3:00 – Finally all the other dogs are finished and the second part of the competition starts. Nepheli behaves her best and we pass. Then it’s time for waiting again.
4:00 – Everybody meets in the club house and the judge gives a little speech. One after the other, the participants get called to the front and receive their certificates. When it’s my turn, the judge points out Nepheli’s exceptional performance, which is really nice- for Nepheli and me and also for the dog school I’m representing.
5:00 – At last everybody is done; I say good bye to the other participants, thank my trainer and go home. For now Nepheli deserves a break and a huge treat but we’ll be back.