AKC Gazette breed column, Bearded Collies: Try something new with your dog in 2015 — there's a veritable feast of canine activities out there that he's likely to enjoy.
I recently spent a pleasant afternoon cruising on Lake Ontario in a sailboat owned by friends who have two Bearded Collies of my breeding. The Beardies, Maadi and Sky, were with us — the dogs are well accustomed to sailing and thoroughly enjoyed an outing on the bay. Attired in their canine life-jackets, they cavorted on the deck like sure-footed old salts.
After docking at the marina, we wandered over to a children’s play area, where an intriguing, huge pyramid of logs invited climbing.
It was too irresistible. “Let’s go, Maadi!” I called out to the older Beardie, and together we raced to it and scrambled up to the top.
Her owner watched in amazement. “I never thought she could do something like that!” she exclaimed.
“Have you ever tried?” I replied.
While some owners consider it a minor miracle if their dogs come when called or sit to have their leads attached, other folks have tried to learn just how much their dogs can actually accomplish. And often they’ve been pleasantly surprised, sometimes amazed. “My dog will never be able to do that!” It’s a familiar lament every obedience instructor has heard in the beginners’ class. Usually it’s not long before the dog has mastered the “impossible” exercise, and more. You never know until you give it a try.
Here’s food for thought: How many words or phrases does your dog know? He knows his name (we hope). Then there are come, sit, treat, dinner, walk, off, go for a ride, and perhapsleave it (AKA no, no, bad dog!).
Any more? How about more than 1,000 words? That’s the vocabulary of a Border Collie named Chaser. He was taught by Dr. John Pilley, a retired psychology professor who wanted to know his canine’s capabilities. It’s apparent that Chaser is intelligent, but it’s also obvious that Dr. Pilley spent untold hours teaching his pal to put names to hundreds of toys and articles.
There’s the catch. Your dog may be capable of all sorts of things, but you’ll have to introduce him to the activity and then be teacher, coach, and cheering section.
A short while ago, I enrolled my 4-month-old Beardie pup in a nose work class. He’s a bright boy, but I didn’t expect much due to his youth. What a delightful surprise it was when he quickly caught on to what was wanted. He was positively exuberant about tracking the scent and alerting to it. The youngest dog there emerged as the star pupil of the class. I never would have known he could do it if we didn’t give it a try.
In bygone days, if you wanted to engage in an activity with your dog, you basically had the choice of conformation and/or obedience, plus—depending on the breed—hunting, herding, or coursing. Today, dog owners have a veritable feast of endeavors awaiting them. There’s a buffet offering such delights as agility, rally, heelwork to music (otherwise known as dancing with your dog), barn hunts, dock diving, nose work, earthdog trials, sled-dog racing, skijoring, frisbee, tracking, herding, retriever trials, water-rescue work, carting, and weight pulls.
Activities on a more serious side that you might pursue include search-and-rescue, therapy work, drug detection, and assistance work, just for starters.
When coursing, once the domain of sighthounds, was opened to all breeds, a whole melange of unlikely breeds took up the challenge and charged in pursuit of “Bags” Bunny. Bassets, Dachshunds, Rotties, Briards, Bulldogs, Bostons, Boxers, Poodles, and even spirited little Podencos have added coursing titles after their names, and had a ball doing it.
Try something new with your dog this year. If some activity sounds like fun, but you don’t know if your dog would do it, just remember: You’ll never know until you give it a try.
—Alice Bixler, email@example.com