Dogs and Squirrels: The Thrill of the Chase
Nothing stops a dog in it’s tracks faster than the sudden appearance of a squirrel! Dogs and their obsession with…
[Updated January, 2021]
Although our dogs look content lounging on the couch, they’re much happier when they have something to stimulate their minds and bodies.
Activity helps eliminate anxiety and relieves boredom for our dogs and is especially important now that COVID-19 has so severely restricted us in terms of activity outside of the home. With minimal safety efforts, this would be a great time to get involved in some dog sports or activities. Most dog sports are performed one-on-one (just you and your dog), and outdoors in the fresh coronavirus-neutralizing air. Many of our pack members and their dogs have safely enjoyed these activities through-out the pandemic. The stay-at-home mandate we have been under has so limited the natural progression of our dog’s development in terms of socialization and confidence. Activities such as the ones listed here are a great way to help your dog gain or re-gain confidence through good leadership and engagement.
You will probably be surprised, as I was, at how many dog activities there are. To help you decide which activities would be best for your dog, we have divided them into 7 categories, based on your dog’s talents and inclinations. For example, your Beagle is a scent hound, so you would check out the “sniffing” or “instinct” categories. A greyhound, known for their speed, would most enjoy activities from the “running” category. Beneath each activity heading, look for the corresponding icon as shown below:
Nearly everyone is somewhat familiar with Agility for dogs. It’s great for active dogs of any breed and size, and it’s good for the human too. The dogs are required to run a course, racing through tunnels, weaving between poles, jumping hurdles, climbing structures, etc., all in an attempt to make the best time. Their handlers get a pretty good workout too as they run alongside, guiding the dog through the course. There are dog agility competitions or you can do it just for fun. We have quite a few pack members at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts that participate competitively in Agility!
Have you ever heard of Dog Parkour, aka Urban agility? The agility “course” is the park – or any other environment to which the dog interacts. If there’s a park bench, have them “climb”; if there is a long curb, have them walk it; if there is an elevated surface of some sort, have them jump up on it; jump over the garbage can; crawl under the picnic table; just keep them moving! The opportunities are endless! How fun is that?!?
Nosework, or “Scentwork” is a dog sport created to mimic professional detection dog tasks. One dog and one handler form a team. The dogs must find a hidden target odor, often ignoring distractors (such as food or toys) and alert the handler. After the dog finds the odor they are rewarded with food or a toy.
There are two governing nosework organizations in the U.S., the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW), which is the oldest, and the American Kennel Club (AKC). In competition trials for either organization, a dog must use their nose to search out the hidden odors (birch, anise, clove and cypress) and then alert their handlers when the odors are detected. In NACSW, the four types of searches are container, interior, exterior and vehicle, and in AKC, the four types are container, interior, exterior and buried.
Pack member, Stacey’s dog, Whitman (pictured left), has earned several ribbons through the AKC, including completion for Interior Novice, Buried Novice, and Container Novice. Whitman regularly places for speed in finding the scent. Dawn (pictured earlier with her Doberman performing agility), also competes in Nosework with her adorable little Chinese Crested, Annie, as well as her Dobie! It’s great fun for Stacey, Dawn, and all their furkids!
Dock Diving is a super fun sport! if your dog likes to swim, jump, and fetch, this could be the perfect activity! Here’s how it works: Your dog sits back on a dock while you throw their favorite toy into a large pool of water.
When you give the word, they run along the dock and dive off the end, into the water, after their toy. The goal is to have the longest dive. Dock diving is for all dogs, regardless of breed. Labs and other water lovers make great dock divers. It’s a laid-back, competitive sport where your dog can earn titles based on expertise and distance. For more information on Dock Diving opportunities near you, go online! You’ll find everything you need to know.
Several of our Holiday Barn Pet Resorts’ Professional Dog Trainer’s dogs compete in Dock Diving. Dickie and Melaina’s dogs, Chappie and Posey, qualified for nationals last year! Zach’s dog, Atlas, is also very good at dock diving, as is Rory, another of Melaina’s pups!
Barn Hunt is a fairly new sport for dogs of all ages, breeding, and background. Dogs and their handlers work through a course of hay bales and straw searching for a rat! No worries – the rats are hidden in safe tubes in the straw. Dogs use their amazing sense of smell to sniff ‘em out. There are several levels of Barn Hunt titles that the dogs can earn, each made increasingly difficult by use of obstacles and distractions.
Melaina’s dog, Rory, is aces at Barn Hunting! She has earned titles in Instinct, Novice and Open titles. She is currently training for Senior title.
Obedience is more than just teaching your dog good manners… It is actually a competitive sport! People who want to compete in Obedience (aka Obedience “trials”) need to really enjoy training, because it takes a lot of training to be successful. Holiday Barn Pet Resorts‘ Professional Dog Trainer, McKenzie, and her dog Gus, earned an AKC Companion Dog Obedience Title! Here’s how it works: You direct your dog through a series of routines and commands, demonstrating control and accuracy. All dogs, both purebred and mixed, are eligible to compete and there are 5 levels of competition: Novice, Open, Utility, Utility Excellent, and Obedience Trial Championship. Obedience trials provide both mental and physical enrichment for your dog. Even if you choose not to compete, the training will help you establish a strong bond and a positive relationship with your dog.
Lure Coursing is often lumped into performance sports because it started as an activity for sight-hounds only.Now it is open to any breed, however, sight-hounds are quite natural at it. Sight hound breeds are Greyhounds, afghan hounds, salukis, whippets, and irish wolfhounds, and others. These breeds hunt by sight or speed. Lure coursing is really nothing more than having dogs chase a white plastic bag with a squawker pulled by a mechanized lure. The lure is drug across the ground with a set number of turns and changes in direction. Dogs are scored on their speed, agility, endurance, and overall ability. The cool thing about lure coursing is that you generally don’t have to do much training. Most dogs will naturally chase a moving object. However, a strong recall is recommended to bring your dog back to you at the finish of the race.
Lure Racing differs from Lure coursing in that it is a race to the finish line… no turns or direction changes. It’s like the hundred-yard dash (or however far the course is set), and it’s very exciting!
Two popular lure coursing events are the AKC’s CAT and FastCat events. CAT stands for “Coursing Ability Test”. The CAT test is a 300, 400, or 600-yard course in which dogs run individually within a certain time frame. In FastCAT, the dog completes a 100-yard course while being timed. Dogs earn points based on their speeds. They are awarded titles by accumulating points. Rory and Posey, Melaina’s dogs, are amazing at FastCat. Rory has been awarded the DCAT title, having earned 500 points! Chappie, also loves competing in FastCAT.
I’ve been watching some Rally videos on Youtube… what a fun activity for you and your dog! In order to compete, your dog has to know some basic obedience and be able to follow instructions. In Rally, a course is prepared with several “stations”. Each station has a sign that provides instructions for some type of command or direction. You walk your dog to each station and guide them in performing whatever the sign says: It might be “Down; walk around dog”, or “Stop & down”, “Back-up three steps”, or many others. A course consists of 10 – 20 different signs. You and your dog move continuously through the course with your dog obediently to your left side until the end. The number of stations and the degree of difficulty increases as your dog graduates to higher levels of rally. How quickly you finish the course is not the objective, but rather performing the skills and working as a team with your dog.
Don’t you just love watching dogs chase and catch a Frisbee? The momentum, the excitement, intensity of their concentration, then the final leap into the air! They love it! Your dog will certainly get to show off his physical prowess because the demands are high. Make sure your dog is in excellent health before attempting this sport. It looks easy, but there is a lot of training involved if you intend to perfect the routine. You can play for fun at the park, or participate in “Flying Disc”, “Frisbee” or “Skyhoundz” (to name a few) competitions.
Remember the relay races in school? Flyball is kind-of like that! Your dog races over hurdles towards a tennis ball. The tennis ball is ejected from a spring-loaded apparatus when the dog steps on the pad. They then grab the ball and race back over the hurdles again to the starting point. A Flyball course is 51 feet long with four jumps, each at 10-foot intervals. The competition is open to all breeds of dogs but dogs with high energy – like border collies, jack russells, whippets – seem to really excel. The dogs race in teams of four and earn titles and awards based on the points they score in their team. It’s super exhilarating and the dogs love it!
Performance Sports are for specific breeds with innate abilities such as hunting, guarding, herding. The idea is basically to show off how good your dog is at performing his particular skill, while competing against others for placements. There are many different kinds of breed-specific performance sports. Field trials for Beagles, Dachshunds, Pointers, Retrievers and Coonhounds are quite popular with hunting clubs. These trials exercise the dog’s practical instinct for searching, exploring, sniffing, pointing, and retrieving. Some field trials are simply skill related, rather than breed related, competing in skills like retrieving, flushing, herding, and pointing. There are several different classes of competition and the trials can be either sanctioned by a national organization, or non-sanctioned – generally by a local hunting club, for example.
Guess what? That adorable little yorkie that adorns your bed pillow was bred to catch rats! Ew! Earthdog tests the instinctual ability for yorkies and other terriers, as well as dachshunds, to do just that. Tunnels are dug underground and the dogs must follow the scent of the rat and find their way to them in the tunnels. Depending on who you talk to, Earthdog is considered not so much a competition as it is a test. In the AKC, dogs work with increasing difficulty to obtain the designation of IQ1 and IQ2 – Intro levels; JR – Junior Earthdog; SR – Senior Earthdog (not to be confused with age, but rather a standing); and ME – Master Earthdog. Oh, again, don’t worry about the rats. They are not accessible to the dogs once they are found… they’re usually behind bars.
Tracking is different from Scent Work (aka “Nosework”, as featured above), although they are both scent sports. Tracking is when a dog follows a scent trail to find items or even people. The AKC is one of the most common venues for tracking sports. In the AKC, the dog can earn several titles: TD (Tracking Dog), TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent), (VST) Variable Surface Tracking, and CT (Champion Tracker). Most venues focus on what is called “Footstep tracking”. A track is prepared, and the dog follows it by sniffing along the track until the object or person is found. IPO is another common venue for not only tracking, but obedience and protection. The IPO competition is set up slightly different from the AKC version. If you’re interested, look for a tracking club in our area. You and your dog would really enjoy this activity.
Your Herding dog is gonna love this… that would be Border collies, Australian shepherds, Australian cattle dogs, corgis, german shephards and so on. These dogs have a natural tendency to put everything in its place, including people! Your pup would love nothing more than to put his instinct to work and herding trials are just the thing. In a herding competition, dogs are scored on their ability to tend to, control and move their flock. There are three levels: started, intermediate and advanced, each focusing on different aspects of herding work.
Have you ever heard of Triebball? Look it up on YouTube. It too is a herding sport. “Triebball” actually means “push ball” in German, and that’s exactly what the dogs do. Dogs will push and “herd” eight large fitness balls across a field and into a net (soccer net are often used) within a 15-minute time limit. It’s super fun to watch too!
You may have seen Terrier Racing at the fair, or even at the Henrico Humane Society’s Pet Expo in years past! Here’s how it works: 3-6 dogs are held in a “trap” (ugly word, but it’s not like it sounds). On cue, the dogs are released at once to chase a lure. The lure is any kind of wiggly or furry thing and is usually shown to the dog before the race to get them fired-up. They chase the lure to the end of the course until it disappears into a hole. The course size varies, officially it’s 50meters, but unofficially, it can be any length you want.
Jack Russell Hurdle Racing is a similar event. Fast and feisty jack Russell terriers are released from a trap to race to the finish, jumping 3 hurdles along the way. At the finish line, dogs go through a hole big enough for only one dog at a time, so the winner is easily determined. Oh my gosh, it’s so cute to watch these happy little guys racing!
Caniteering is seldom heard of in the United States, and it’s only moderately known in Europe, but its way-cool so I wanted to share it with you. Who knows, if you like the idea, maybe you will start a chapter here in Virginia! I would describe caniteering as hiking to the nth degree. It’s a competition sport where you – individually or with a team – and your dog, of course, must navigate an outside course through the country or wilderness to find several check-points, and then return to the finish line. Participants are given a map at the starting point which shows where all the check-points are. Once you and your dog visit every check-point, it’s a race to the finish line. The goal is to see who, or which team can finish the fastest. It’s a very strenuous sport and requires good endurance. Plus, you must really enjoy hiking and being outdoors. Doesn’t that sound like fun?!
Speaking of Hiking, you don’t have to participate in Caniteering to enjoy a fun trek in the great outdoors with your pup! Virginia is an excellent state for hiking and dogs were made for it! We have beautiful parks and forests all throughout the state for you and your dog to explore. Here is a link to some of the exciting dog-friendly hiking trails in Virginia:
When we think about Mushing, we envision the sled dog sport in Alaska, right? Well, there are a couple of other mushing-type sports that you can do right here in our state! Bikejoring and Skijoring are two mushing sports where you and your dog are secured together so that your dog can tow you either on a bike, snow skis, or other type of rig. There is even Wheelchair Mushing! You don’t have to compete. Just have fun!
Dog Sledding involves a race that is anywhere from 4 miles to around 1,000 miles (the Iditarod), whereas a team of dogs pull a human on a sled, and race over a specific distance. The goal is to make the best time to the finish line.
If you choose to pursue this type of activity, you must make sure your dog is strong enough and healthy enough. It takes a lot of strength and endurance. It is not something you can jump into haphazardly.
Canicross means “canine cross country” and is a great endurance sport for you and your dog. You are attached to your dog with a waistbelt, tug rope, and harness and you run cross country as a team. The run distance varies, anywhere from a mile to 28 miles or more. There are active Canicross clubs in Wisconsin, Illinois, Boston New Hampshire, as far south as Georgia and growing.
Have you ever seen dogs dancing to music with their owners? It’s really amazing. Dances with Dogs is a freestyle, choreographed routine performed by a dog an it’s owner. The two move in-time with the music. It requires creativity and an accomplished rapport with your dog. Any type of music works, as does any crazy dance move you teach your dog.
Canine Dressage attempts to differentiate itself from the term “dancing”, but it reads the same. Sometimes it’s called “Musical Canine Freestyle”. Canine Dressage is a freestyle routine that covers a variety of dog positioning and moves, emphasizing traditional obedience, particularly heeling. Dogs must focus on their partners and obey their instruction anywhere from 90 seconds to 3 minutes.
For those of us who prefer a less vigorous activity, there is always Doga, aka doggie yoga. Sounds weird at first but think about it… Doesn’t your dog’s play bow kind-of resemble “downward facing dog”? And how about your dog’s first stretch in the morning? I’m thinking the “cobra” pose with a little “warrior” mixed in? Some dogs are pretty natural at yoga positioning. There are actually two types of doga: one, the dog is actually a partner in yoga moves; and the other, the dog’s wellbeing is the focus, as the owner stretches and gently manipulates the dog into relaxing poses. Enthusiasts say doga facilitates a strong bond between owner and dog. It promotes training, develops impulse control, establishes a pack mentality, and increases relaxation for your dog. I would imagine it would be quite entertaining too!
I had the pleasure of attending a Canine Surfing event recently and it was the most fun ever!These dogs literally sit or stand on the surf board and ride the waves! Dogs are trained to surf alone or with their human, either on surfboards or bodyboards. Competitions generally take place in California where it originated, Hawaii or Florida, but we’re close enough to Virginia Beach to take advantage of this awesome activity! In fact, Dickie is currently working with Chappie to learn dog surfing! Scoring for the event encompasses the dog’s confidence and certainty on the board, the wave size, and/or the length of the ride. These dogs are fearless.
Part of Chappie’s training for surfing began with skateboarding. He was so good at it that Dickie started him one-wheeling too! Both skateboarding and one-wheeling are great at developing balance and stability, providing both mental and physical workouts for your dogs.
If you have a strong, muscular dog, maybe like a mastiff, cane corso, or rottweiler, there are some additional activities they might enjoy. Weight pulling is a strength competition where the dog pulls weights, proportionate to their body weight, across a finish line. Newfoundlands and St. Bernards often compete in Carting (aka drafting). Backpacking is also fun for strong dogs, as they will be required to carry 30% of his bodyweight over a certain distance.
Professional Dog Training at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts is an interactive activity for you and your dog too. In fact, we recommend professional dog training before pursuing any of the activities listed herein. Training will lay the groundwork for good communication between you and your dog, and good communication with your dog will enhance any activity you explore. Training doesn’t stop at the end of your dog’s initial schooling. You will be instructed by our Professional Dog Trainers on how to work with your dog so that they do not forget what they have learned. Daily practice of what they have learned is important. Through this continued practice, the communication and bond with your dog will flourish.
After your dog’s initial training, they will have the opportunity to advance to even higher levels of training through our Professional Dog Training program. You will always have something to work towards. Ask our Dog Trainers about the CGC, or about becoming a Therapy dog!
Graduates of our Training Program are also eligible to attend Holiday Barn Pet Resorts pack walks. Pack walks are great fun for you and your dog! Our Dog Trainers lead the walks, visiting parks, breweries, wineries, malls, and other fun places. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for information on upcoming Pack Walks.
Until this pandemic is history, safety is of utmost importance. Please wear masks and practice social distancing when participating in these activities with your dog.
To further reinforce your dog’s continued socialization and physical activity, a vacation or staycation at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts may be just the thing! We have a wide variety of activities to keep them busy. You might also consider a training “refresher” course while they are vacationing! Our Professional Dog Trainers will be happy to work with your dog to whatever degree you desire while you are away.
Originally published 5-20-2019
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