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Fetching your Dog’s Passion

Regardless of age or breed, all dogs have an activity they enjoy to the exclusion of all others. The goal as a responsible dog owner is to find that activity and allow our dogs the chance to participate in that activity regularly. Before you embark on the long and occasionally twisted path of dog activities there are some requirements that should be met.

Remember the mantra “A tired puppy is a good puppy.” The saying applies to adult dogs as well. This is often the most under-utilized tool for dog owners. Regular and age appropriate exercise is far more beneficial than most owners realize. The routine walks for “elimination”, while beneficial, do not meet the exercise requirements of most dogs. Simply charging down the sidewalk while pulling at the end of the leash usually results in a frustrated dog and owner. Games and activities that encourage your dog to think and solve problems as well as physical activity produce much calmer and more relaxed dogs.

The next element in this journey is socialization and basic obedience. Before you can expect to participate in an activity that involves other dogs, animals, equipment and people it is very important to safely expose your dog to new situations. In addition to learning basic commands, puppy kindergarten and beginner obedience classes are wonderful places for socializing your dog in a safe supervised situation. These classes are very helpful because the trainer will be able to observe and help with any behavior/training issues you may be experiencing either in class or at home.

Once you have begun socializing and basic obedience training with your dog, you can investigate local clubs and training facilities to see what activities are available. Below are some of the activities you could expect to find:

Obedience/Rally: Designed to create dogs who can focus on their handler and perform the required task when asked. Many dogs find that the rewards of obedience exercises are so stimulating they will rapidly run through the exercise and wag for more.
Agility: Designed for higher energy dogs who can learn to take direction from a distance often love the challenge of agility. Giving the dog physical obstacles and mental challenges can often give an unfocused dog just the outlet they need to gain confidence and build a strong bond with their handler.
Lure Coursing: Designed for sight hounds such as greyhounds, whippets or salukis that chase a visual target.
Tracking: Designed for dogs that follow a scent trail. Many Sporting breeds excel at tracking.
Herding: Designed for dogs bred to aide shepherds with their flocks or herds. Some dogs prefer herding-moving the flock from place to place for the shepherd. Other dogs prefer Tending-keeping the herd within certain boundaries while they graze.
Pet Therapy: Designed for dogs who crave the companionship of people, love attention and are calm enough to greet new people in new situations. The team (handler and dog) need to have completed the AKC’s Canine Good CitizenĀ® evaluation, a pet therapy program and ultimately are certified as a Pet Therapy Team. Pet therapy is one of the most rewarding and demanding activities for both the owner and the dog. Sharing the joy your dog brings to you with others truly intensifies the bond between you.

For more information on these events go to the AKC website www.akc.org/events.

Many facilities offer Obedience, Rally, Agility, AKC’s Canine Good CitizenĀ® program, Flyball and Pet Therapy to name a few. When deciding which activity to pursue, consider what your dog was bred to do. It is also important to find the activity your dog enjoys and a trainer that you both connect with. Some dogs are confident outgoing and easy to work, others may be shy or soft and shut down if too much pressure is used, and other dogs are strong and stubborn. Working with a trainer that can adapt their style to your dog will make the journey a joy.

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