As the temperatures start to cool and the leaves begin to fall, you might find yourself looking ahead to late fall and winter and thinking about new ways to stay active with your four-legged friend. You may just find your answer with two popular canine sports that allow you take the fun indoors and stay warm : Rally Obedience and Barn Hunt.
Rally Obedience, also known as “Rally-O,” is an AKC sport based on traditional obedience trails, and is perfect for those who enjoy working with their dogs on basic skills. In Rally, each team proceeds at its own pace through a course of 10-20 designated stations, each marked with a sign providing instructions regarding the skill that is to be performed at that station. These skills are basic commands that each of our dogs knows, (even if they sometimes act like they don’t). Once the team has completed the course, its score is posted ringside.
Rally Obedience features three levels of competition: Novice, Advanced, and Excellent. The number of stations, use of a leash, skills performed and type of direction and encouragement permitted varies according to the competition level. Scoring is not as rigorous as it is in traditional obedience competitions; the main objective is to “produce dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs, in a manner that will reflect positively on the sport of rally at all times and under all conditions.”
To be eligible to compete in Rally Obedience events, a dog must be 6 months of age or older and AKC-registered or listed with the AKC’s Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing or Canine Partners programs (dogs listed in one of the alternative programs must also be spayed or neutered).
The AKC website (http://www.akc.org/events/rally/getting-started) gives lots of great information about getting started and the different levels of competition. Also look to local AKC Clubs for information on competition and classes; a club directory is available on the organization’s site.
Another exciting and challenging pastime is Barn Hunt, a rapidly growing sport based on the traditional role of many canine breeds in ridding homes and farming operations of destructive vermin.
Barn Hunt is a timed event in which participating dogs negotiate a simple maze by climbing on straw bales and going through tunnels to find and alert their handlers to the location of live rats that have been placed in the maze inside ventilated tubes (No rats are harmed; Barn Hunt uses socialized rats that remain safe inside the tubes and spend limited time in the maze).
Some breeds were developed specifically to serve as vermin hunters, and for many of them, Barn Hunt provides responsible breeders with the first true chance to test proper working traits in their dogs. However, Barn Hunt is open to any dog of any breed or breed mix that wants to play the game and can fit through a tunnel measuring roughly 18 inches wide by 15 to 17 inches high. Fun for dogs of all ages, Barn Hunt is excellent for dogs not suited for as agility or obedience sports and also works as a low-key alternative to lure coursing.
Barn Hunt has levels of increasing difficulty, titles, and championships. While it is an independent sport, its titles are recognized by both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and United Kennel Club (UKC). There are many events and introduction classes that are offered throughout the Atlanta area; more information can be found at http://barnhunt.com/.
The main thing to remember as we move into a new season is that no matter the weather, our dogs still need their exercise and crave our attention. So, whatever you and your dog love to do, get out there and do something fun with your dog.