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2020 was a year of pain, sadness, and frustration. For our sport, it has meant many months of doing without the weekly dog shows where we compete and socialize. We’re all familiar with the old saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” That phrase was never truer than in 2020, when fanciers found innovative new ways, with AKC’s help, to participate in the dog world, stay engaged and stay sane.

Performance Events

Susan Kamen Marsicano in New York took nine Basenjis through AKC Trick Dog via videos. “Then my painting studio became a Rally arena and we did it up to AKC Rally Intermediate,” she says. “I’m so happy that AKC accepted my iPhone videos with a wide-angle lens clipped on as okay. It’s not as good as being out in the world but it’s keeping us safe.”

Pat Murkland in California put a few new titles on her veteran Irish Wolfhound:  Trick Dog Novice, Farm Dog Certified, Community Canine (CGCA), and Canine Good Citizen Urban.

Linda Foiles in North Carolina, a conformation exhibitor and judge, decided to try Trick Dog, at the suggestion of a trainer friend. She chose one of her Papillons, “an unwilling older dog that hadn’t seen a show ring in many years nor had ever been taught to sit. That command took well over three weeks of training to get him to do it with any sort of consistency. The course was only four weeks long!” Thankfully, other things like fetch and walking on a balance beam came more easily. Foiles says, “he enjoyed our time working together and keeping his mind active. It was a positive experience for both of us, and I have been training some of the other dogs for continued fun. Soon we will be going to have our exam with the trainer and I am starting a beginner obedience class with one of the young Papillons.”

Afghan Hound breeder Carla Helm in North Carolina has “always had a group of local dog friends that gets together for what we call ‘work night.’ We focus on anything that we need to work on, whether it’s conformation, obedience, or socializing puppies. When the AKC came out with the video entry Rally competition, we all started working on that.” Dude, a Japanese Chin, now has his Rally Novice qualifying scores on three videos, and they’re just waiting for the certificate to arrive. “The group has continued to work on Rally, and we are now moving up to Intermediate Rally courses,” reports Helm.

Ashley Fischer of Vermont says that “since we couldn’t show in New England, I rediscovered my joy in Agility. Due to the time involved in campaigning specials, I hadn’t competed in Agility in probably 10 years.” Fischer concentrated on training two of her Pugs, “my young, not-yet-finished dog and a new specials prospect—and we are having a ball!” She has even competed in a few outdoor trials and the young dog is close to achieving his AKC Novice title. “I had forgotten what a wonderful obsession Agility is when you are running a dog that absolutely loves the game, as my dogs do. Sometimes you can find that silver lining even in the biggest storm cloud,” says Fischer.

Longtime Canadian Saluki breeder Janice Preiss had dabbled in Agility before, but “when I got Beatrix, the pressure was on me! Her breeder/co-owner was very determined, and Beatrix’s grandfather had earned so many Agility titles. So, at age 67 and mostly retired, I had time on my hands. We fumbled through, with my old brain and Beatrix’s enthusiasm. It’s been good for both of us.” At first, they took advantage of weekly Zoom lessons with their dedicated teacher. Once it was safe, they were able to work outdoors during the summer and fall months. “Now we are indoors but masked and spaced apart in a large building, so we are all safe,” says Preiss. “It really has given me something challenging to look forward to. Beatrix has gained confidence in her Agility game and met lots of other breeds in a safe environment. I’m not sure I would have made the time if not for COVID limiting the activities that were available and safe.”

Clumber Spaniel exhibitor Jennifer Perrett Darcy in Southern California was pleased that AKC made virtual Trick Dog, CGC and Rally titles possible. “I taught my dog Scent Work which is easy to practice at home. Scent Work clubs did an amazing job conducting trials while following strict COVID guidelines,” she says.

Nodie Williams in Northwest Arkansas participated in Scent Work with her Russell Terrier, thanks to classes set up by her local all-breed kennel club. The classes were a big hit, and members signed up with breeds as varied as a German Shorthaired Pointer, a Whippet, a Boston Terrier, and an Australian Shepherd. Another set of classes may begin in the new year, given the enthusiasm of the members.

Lois Ann Snyder, a Saluki breeder, exhibitor, and judge in Northern California, got back out in the open field with her hounds to course jackrabbits.

Adding a New Breed

John Brading in North Carolina added a Miniature Poodle to his household of Dachshunds and Italian Spinoni. “Quite a difference from my other breeds! The Poodle is only three months old but proving to be very, very smart—maybe too smart!”

Glenda Nunnally, a breeder-exhibitor of Tibetan Mastiffs and Finnish Lapphunds in Georgia, is enjoying her first Staffordshire Bull Terrier. “A breeder-friend went with me to Orlando last year and Westminster in 2020. She had a female Staffy that fascinated my big male Tibetan Mastiff. I now have a daughter of that female.” Nunally says, “it is pure enjoyment to watch my 100-pound TMs and 35-pound Lappies with a 13-pound puppy. They are so gentle with her. She has absolutely no fear of these large dogs.”

New Personal Skills

Jennie Chen of Minnesota, a breeder-exhibitor of Lowchen and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, used the down time to revamp the Judges Education documents and presentations for both her breed parent clubs. To create those, she learned to use graphic design programs. As if that weren’t enough, she also learned to use a sewing machine during her time away from shows.

Dog people are nothing if not resourceful. These fanciers illustrate how much can be accomplished during times of stress and disruption, when we let our curiosity guide us. 

The AKC is here to help owners with questions and concerns about COVID-19 and dogs. Find answers to your questions, plus at-home activity ideas, training tips, educational resources, and more on our Coping With COVID-19 hub.

Related article: AKC Titles & Programs You Can Do From Home
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