Dog sports that have developed from mushing
In countries or areas with large amounts of snow, especially Scandinavia, Siberia, and Alaska, dogs have been used as a main source of transportation for many centuries. More recently, with the development of better and different equipment, as well as human’s desire to be creative and team up with dogs, there has been an outgrowth of ‘dog-powered’ sports that originate from the sled dogs of the past.
Skijoring, or “ski driving” in Norwegian, has been used in the Scandinavian countries for centuries. In skijoring, people were towed behind horses, reindeer or dogs on long wooden skis. In modern times, this practical use has turned into a popular recreational, as well as competitive, sport that people on cross-country skis can enjoy with their dogs. As only one to three dogs are needed for a team, those people in urban areas can participate in this activity. Races can vary in length, from the 270 mile Kalevala, held in Russia, the Road Runner 100 held in Whitehorse, Yukon, or the many shorter lengths offered by various mushing and sled dog clubs. Although not as well-known in North America, pulka racing has been popular in Europe for many years. A pulk is a small sled that is pulled either by the skijorer or the dog. This also dates back to early history as man traversed with their dogs throughout the snow season. Kick sledding is a lesser known sport that involves a small sled with long runners in the rear with a chair mounted on the runners. Since only one or two dogs are usually used with the kick sled, this also attracts urban dog owners.
Naturally, when people have dogs that are willing to pull them, the mode of transportation for the human can become quite varied. Bikejoring, bladjoring, dog scootering, canicross, and dryland mushing are activities that grew out of mushing. The first three sports are similar to dog sledding, but instead of using a sled the handler uses a bike, roller blades or a non-motorized scooter. Each sport includes a person and one to three dogs. The person wears a waist belt which is attached to a bungee cord or elastic line, which is then attached to the harness on the dog(s).Bikejoring pairs up a person riding a mountain bike with the dog(s), whereas bladjoring matches up a person wearing roller blades, and with dog scootering, the person uses a non-motorized scooter. Originating in Europe, canicross started as an off-season training program for mushers. A runner, using a waist belt and bungee cord or elastic line, hooks up to one or two dogs in harnesses, and the dog(s) pull the runner. The first Canicross World Championship was held in Ravenna, Italy, in 2002. Dryland mushing matches up a team with a three or four wheeled cart. Started as a way to keep a sled team in shape during the warmer months, it has grown increasingly in popularity, and now has its own competitive events.
Join us next week as we delve into dog sports that are non-competitive!
Dog sports that have developed since the 1960s and 1970s.
In our two previous blogs, we discussed two different aspects of dog sports. The first of which developed out of the work that dogs were involved in using their natural instincts, mainly hunting and herding. The second area developed from work where people used the dog’s strengths, either as guard or protection dogs or draft work. More recent sports have developed out of these older dog sports. They began to show up sometime in the 1960s and 1970s. Several of them, especially agility, have become quite popular and draw a wide array of competitors. A large advantage to most of these sports is they do not require a certain type of dog, just a willingness from the dog to partner up with his owner, so anyone can join in the fun.
Agility, a very popular sport, was first seen in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. After a demonstration at Crufts in 1978, spectators were intrigued and wanted to try their dogs on it. From there it grew to local, national, and then international competitions, with standard equipment and rules.
A lesser known event is flyball. Started in the late 1960s, early 1970s, this fun sport began in the Southern California area, and has now grown to over 300 tournaments a year across North America. This is an adrenalin packed event pitting two teams of four dogs. Each dog races over four hurdles, hits the box at the end for the tennis ball inside, then returns over the hurdles in a relay.
Rally Obedience was developed to encourage participation in obedience while offering a class that emphasizes fun and a more natural way to show off a dog’s obedience skills. A new sport, recently developed in Germany, is Treibball. In this sport, the dog must ‘herd’ eight balls into a soccer-type goal with only whistles, verbal commands or hand signals being allowed from the handler. This was developed especially for those dogs that love to herd, but have no access to livestock. Nosework, where the dog searches for certain scents, was developed in southern California by a team of professional dog trainers that specializes in detection dog work. They wanted to offer the same opportunities for scent work to companion dogs that their detection dogs had in scent work, offering a dog a chance to use his innate hunting and scenting skills. Agilure is a new sport which combines agility and lure coursing where the dog races after a lure that goes through a course similar to an agility course.
Several fun activities that are becoming quite popular are dock diving, and musical canine freestyle, also known as canine dressage or heelwork to music. Dock diving probably started when some guy boasted that his dog could jump out further than the other guy’s dog, but officially took off in 1997 when the Purina sponsored Incredible Dog Challenge used the dock diving as a filler and received a more enthusiastic response then they expected. Combining obedience training, tricks and dance, Musical Canine Freestyle began simultaneously around 1990 in several different countries. There are two different types of musical canine freestyle; freestyle heeling where the dog stays in a variation of the heel position, and musical freestyle that requires the dog to do a combination of tricks and obedience maneuvers.
Join us next week as we explore the many fun sports that have come from mushing!
Dog activities that developed from working dogs.
As we became a more industrial society, with extra time to do different activities, and dogs were less of a work only animal and more of a companion, dog sports began to develop throughout the world.
The most common sport, obedience, has been a long recommended activity for dog owners, even if only to teach their dog basic manners. Many owners get hooked on it and find themselves entering the competition ring. Although the history is not clear, obedience appears to have come about sometime during and after WWI when the military required dogs to serve. As the dogs needed some type of formal training, the military developed certain exercises to help create the type of dog they wanted. A Colonel Konrad Most from Germany also had started training dogs for police work in 1906. As his students immigrated to other countries, they brought their dog training skills with them. Helene Whitehouse Walker, a breeder of Standard Poodles in the 1930s, was instrumental in establishing the AKC version of the Obedience Trial. Her kennel manager, Blanche Saunders, trained under Josef Weber, who was a student of Col. Most. Today, there are thousands of obedience trials throughout the world with a large following.
The sport of protection dogs began in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These include Schutzhund, French Ring Sport, Mondio Ring, Belgian Ring, and KNPV. Schutzhund is probably the best known of the various protection dog sports. With the industrialization of Germany, fewer German Shepherds were used for their original function of sheep herding, but were being used instead as police and military dogs. Concerns of breeding inferior dogs were raised. Thus, in order to maintain the integrity of the breed, the Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunde (SV), the parent club, developed a test whereby the dog’s performance could be tested and rated. Today, any breed of dog can compete in Schutzhund trials, although certain breeds, such as the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Belgian Malinois and other herding or guarding breeds are more suited for it.
Early archeology points to the invention of dog sledding in the Canadian Thule sites at some point between AD 1000 and AD 1600. There are also historical writings appearing in Arabian literature from the 10th century and mention of them in Marco Polo’s accounts written in the 1300s. Racing probably occurred frequently between mushers, but one of the first initial races was held in Alaska in 1908. Today, there are thousands of various sled dog races throughout the world, being run by a very wide assortment of breeds.
Weight pulling most likely started in the Alaskan Gold Rush days, where miners would compete against other miners, betting that their dog was stronger than the other dog. In the early days, it only included the larger freight or sled dogs, and later on, the pit bull type dogs and mastiffs. Now, it is open to all breeds, from small to massive, with each size pulling weight in relation to their size and body weight. This sport has grown to include pulling weights on a sled on snow or a cart on dry ground. Recognized by several club registries, there are events now going on throughout the world.
Carting or drafting with dogs is also from ancient roots. Because of the higher cost and maintenance of horses, dogs were frequently used as draught animals, especially in Europe. Many of the large working breeds were used to help the farmer, baker and others bring their produce to market by pulling a wheeled cart. During war times, they were used to pull carts with ammunition or machine guns. Although it appears that most competitions are available only through certain breed clubs, this is an event that many dogs can compete in and enjoy.
Join us next week as we cover the newer sports that have developed since the 1960s.
Competitive and Non-Competitive Dog Sports & Activities
Part I – Working with the dog’s natural instincts
As people have more leisure time and dogs are no longer required to work for their living, the natural desire to interact with dogs and to compete has grown exponentially.
Did you know that there are now over 40 different types of dog sports that you can participate in with your dog? A large percentage of them any owner and their dog can enjoy, regardless of breed type or size. Others, such as Schutzhund, herding, retrieving or mushing, require a particular type of dog.
Competitive dog sports that have evolved from centuries of dogs working for humans include herding, field trials, hunting with hounds, earthdog trials, mushing, weight pulling, carting, and lure coursing. Other competitive and non-competitive sports have developed through our interaction with our dogs and the creative imagination of dog owners.
Using the dogs’ natural instincts, humans have developed special types of dogs to help in day to day life. Farmers and ranchers have used dogs for herding their livestock for centuries. Today, herding trials have been developed to show off the talents used daily at home on cattle, sheep and ducks. Dogs have long been used for bird hunting and with the advent of the gun, competitive trials soon sprang up. Field trials are open to all sporting breeds, broken into the different hunting type; retriever, pointer and spaniels. Hound breeds have been used the world over to hunt game other than birds. They usually hunt in a pack, and are well-known for their musical baying as they trail their quarry. Terriers were developed to exterminate rodents, but in more modern times, there are fewer rodents for them to kill. Several groups worked on establishing a ‘go to ground’ program, but it wasn’t until the American Working Terrier Association developed one in 1971 that earthdog trials really began to take off.
Dog racing is an ancient sport, dating back to the Egyptian Pharaohs. Although today dog racing is done on professional race tracks, the average owner can still test his dogs’ speed in lure coursing, terrier races, or weiner dog races. Lure coursing is a sport that owners of sight hounds can enjoy with their dogs. In this sport, dogs chase a lure that is attached to a moving string pulled by a motor. Although other countries had some type of lure coursing even over a century ago, actual lure coursing competition was established in the US in the 1960s-70s. Chances are that terrier racing started out with the “my dog can beat your dog” attitude. There is no record of when it started, but it has grown in popularity, especially in England where terriers are frequently raced at the horse shows. Weiner dog, or Dachshund, races, are a way for people who own Dachshunds to get together and have a fun time with friends and their dogs. It is slowly growing in popularity, with the formation of several Dachshund racing associations, especially the Weiner Nationals sponsored by Weinerschnitzel, with the final competition every December in conjunction with the Holiday Bowl.
Join us next week as we cover the sports that work more with the desire for dogs to work as a team. Be sure to take our poll!
A recent study done by the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program has left me with more questions than answers. I think most of us, when we encounter a dog, automatically attempt to categorize the breed or type of dog. This may be partially a reaction to make sure that we are safe with that dog in the same proximity as ourselves, our kids or our dogs, or just a natural instinct to categorize it into something known and familiar. But are we right? Even though we have studied dog breeds for decades, we need to ask, are we right in our assumption that what we see in front of us is definitely such and such a breed, or is it something different?
They asked over 5,000 dog experts, varying from veterinarians, breeders, trainers, shelter personnel, and groomers, to give their opinion on what breed(s) of dogs made up the dogs in the photos. In viewing the 119 dogs, they noted what breed(s) they thought made up that particular dog. The University of Florida Veterinary staff then did a DNA test of all of the 119 dogs, and matched up the tests with the guesses provided by the dog experts. The results are very interesting.
Take a few moments and look at what they came up with. http://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/library/research-studies/current-studies/dog-breeds/dna-results/#!prettyPhoto/73/ Do you agree with what the dog experts guessed? Or do you agree with what the DNA showed? (Notice most of the DNA does not add up to 100%, so it’s hard to say what is missing from the picture. There is no further explanation, that I could find, of the actual DNA tests and why they don’t add up to 100%, but, it is interesting nonetheless.)
The breeds that seem to be more obvious and ‘guessed’ correctly are the American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and of course, the Basset Hound, but many of them do not look at all like what their DNA says. Doesn’t Dog #4 look like a Pyrenees Shepherd or Catalonian Sheepdog? How did the little puppy, Dog #93, get such a fuzzy looking coat, or Dog #25? All of the breeds in their DNA are smooth coated. Dog #114 doesn’t look like any one of the four breeds that make up what the DNA says he is. Dog #102 would be automatically classified as a Border Collie/Labrador Retriever mix without a second thought. Dog #94 doesn’t look a thing like any of his ancestors, none of which are smooth coated, and Dog #81 is just all mixed up. How did Dog # 79 come up with a smooth coat of the color pattern that he’s showing? And Dog #66 would be a Lab cross at any shelter. Where did Dog #33 pick up the black and white coloration, or Dog #18 get the coloration of an Australian Cattle Dog type? Dog #22 looks like it may be an Am Staff cross, but isn’t, so what of all of the breed specific legislation? He would be outlawed, but he isn’t a bully breed.
The result of the study opens up so many more questions than it answers. It definitely shows how unpredictable genetics are in the canine makeup, and how what one may think is obvious is not so obvious. This presents a challenge to shelter staff when placing the dogs, as the dog may look like a Lab cross, and they may think that it is going to be a fun-loving happy go lucky dog, but instead it’s a Cane Corso cross with high guarding instincts. Someone who wants a herding dog could end up with a bird dog.
What do you think of this study? How do you think the dogs may have inherited a fuzzy coat, or Irish markings, when their DNA shows no heritage of the breeds known for this? Or how did the dog grow large, or small, or have drop ears, or any number of things? How might this relate to our ‘pure’ bred dogs? We obviously can’t tell the personality or temperament from a photo, but judging a dog by its physical characteristics may be much more complicated than may first be considered. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
Nights are cooling down, there’s a bite of fall in the morning air, and some of the trees are starting to take on that brilliant array of colors. You’ve bought your license, cleaned your guns, pulled your cold weather clothes out of the closet and your hunt camp supplies are packed and ready to be loaded in the truck. You are ready for the bird hunt. Then you notice your faithful bird dog is watching your every move with great anticipation, the tip of his tail wagging hopefully each time you go to the door. And it occurs to you that with all of the summer activities, your hunting buddy has gotten a bit out of practice and isn’t as sharp as he could be.
One of the best ways to make sure that your dog is as ready as you are for the hunt season is to do training drills. This will remind him of what his part of the partnership is and tune him up in anticipation of the hunt. Author James B. Spencer covers drills for both marking and blind retrieves in two of his books, Retriever Training Drills for Marking and Retriever Training Drills for Blind Retrieves. Both of these activities are excellent to refresh the dog, as well as you, and allows both of you to reconnect with each other to be a fully engaged team out in the field. He emphasizes drills as the best way to train and refresh the dog, as the repetition enhances the natural abilities of the dog, so that when he is out in the field, his actions become more automatic.
In Retriever Training Drills for Marking, Spencer covers the single mark, the double mark and the triple mark and how to work them. In Retriever Training Drills for Blind Retrieves, he explains lining drills for land and water, stopping, casting, combination, “suction,” and transition drills. Both books explain the concepts and the steps to take for working with that particular drill, prerequisites for that drill, and several precautions and pitfalls. He accompanies many of these lessons with photographs or detailed sketches to give a clearer picture of what he is describing.
You can very easily skim through the table of contents to find an area where you feel your dog could improve. For example, if you have a dog that likes to eat the birds before he reaches you, then you would turn to Chapter 3, page 33, in Marking and read how most hardmouth dogs are created, and then read the cure for it. Here Spencer discusses the various reasons the dog may have become hardmouthed, and how he fixes it. Did you know that if you re-use a dead pigeon or upland game bird on water, then it’s possible to inadvertently teach your dog to eat the bird? This is because the feathers fall out easily, skin is exposed, and fresh meat is right there for the taking. Did you know that “stickiness” is mostly due to either previous training errors, incorrectly timed corrections, pulling the bird from his mouth, over training or, quite understandably, the dog knowing it’s his last bird of the hunt and doesn’t want to quit yet?
Both of these books are peppered with personal experiences and stories that are entertaining and bring a more personal touch to the book. Spencer has been there and done that, and rubs elbows with those who also have been there and done that. He also brings in much humor from these experiences and puts it into the training text. For example, on teaching the dog to ‘sit’ on the whistle command, he mentions that “before electronic collars, slipped whistles and slow responses were a plague for most trainers. If the trainer ran out to the dog, the dog would probably sit long before the huffing and puffing humanoid arrived, so immediate correction was impossible.”
Each book has excellent information for those who would like to train or improve their hunting dog’s performance. Even if you just use parts of it now, you may find that later on you need another section. By applying what you will learn here, you can develop into an awesome working team that will impress all of your friends in the field and home.
Recently, I browsed through the book Horse Anatomy, A Coloring Atlas by Robert A. Kainer and Thomas O. McCracken, and was immediately fascinated by the depth of detail and information offered. Throughout the book, they have a description of a part of the anatomy, and on the facing page, they have a well-drawn illustration that shows that part of the body’s muscles, bones, and/or tissue.
I have a mule that has foundered in the past, and was delighted to see a mention of founder on Plate 25, Growth and Nourishment of the Hoof. Here, the authors briefly describe what happens in the corium that causes the symptoms of founder. In short, over-eating in lush pastures or eating too much grain causes the circulation of endotoxins (poisons) and hard concussion on the foot may cause blood to be shunted away from the small arteries in the dermal laminae, which results in laminitis, or founder. The shunting of the blood from the dermal laminae first causes swelling and then death of tissue, which is possibly followed by loosening and downward rotation of the distal phalanx. With the description of what is occurring in her foot, as well as an excellent drawing on the facing page, I can better understand what is happening in her hoof.
Not too long ago, our neighbors moved and gave us their two horses. One is a very pretty little dun mare that seems to be well mannered and I’m looking forward to working with her. The other day I was in the pasture with her and was massaging down her back a bit, from her shoulders to her rump. All of my other equines have always enjoyed this, but when I looked at her face, she was not a happy camper. Her ears were pinned back and she wore a very disgusted look on her face. I went back to rubbing her on her withers area, and she turned her head into me and relaxed. Not a good sign if she’s that ouchy or sensitive down her back. I don’t have any history on her, and since the neighbors moved out of state, I have no one to talk to about her. They never rode her, and from what I understand they had rescued her or something along that line.
Out of curiosity, I thumbed through the book to see what it would show me about the horse’s back. Plate 16 covers the superficial muscles of the horse, and Plate 17 covers the deeper muscles of the horse. With this information, I can compare where she’s sore with the muscles that are in that area and work with her in that area. I will definitely make sure to take her to my vet and get their opinion, but at least now I will have a reference to work with and maybe even understand a bit of what they might tell me.
Although by no means am I an equine professional, I do love and enjoy my equines, and look forward to reading more of this book to better understand the equine anatomy and how it functions. I can see where it can help me in training them, as well as be able to communicate with the veterinarian if there is ever an injury, or at least understand a little bit better of what he’s talking about.