Obedience and Tracking Trials
Chances are your Aussie makes the grade when it comes to learning. You can show off his or her sharp mind and manners at a variety of tests and competitions sponsored by the AKC and ASCA. Some take just a little training while others require intensive training to succeed.
The Good Shepherd
A major goal of your training will be to have your dog behave in public. The AKC has outlines a series of exercises your dog should master to be a good public citizen. The AKC also offers a simple test (on leash) where they can demonstrate their proficiency and earn the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) title. To earn the title he or she will be asked to
* Accept a friendly stranger without acting shy or resentful, or breaking position to approach: sit politely for petting and allow the stranger to examine ears, feet, and coat, and brush them.
* Walk politely on a loose leash, turning and stopping with you, walking through a group of at least 3 other people without jumping on them, pulling, or acting overly exuberant, shy, or resentful. They need to be perfectly aligned with you, but they shouldn't be pulling.
* Sit and lie down on command and then stay as you walk 20 feet away and back.
* Stay and then come to you when called from 10 feet away.
* Behave politely to another dog and handler team, showing only casual interest in them.
* React calmly to distractions, such as a dropped chair or passing jogger, without panicking, barking, or acting aggressively.
* Remain calm when held by stranger while you are out of sight for 3 minutes.
* Refrain from eliminating, growling, snapping, biting, or attempting to attack a person or dog throughout the evaluation.
Go to www.akc.org/events/cgc to learn more about the CGC test or find a location in your area.
A step up in difficulty from CGC test is the Novice Rally Obedience competition, followed in turn by slightly more difficult Rally competition levels. Rally is a great way to get involved in obedience sports because it's fairly low key and a lot of fun. Both AKC and ASCA offer Rally competitions.
In rally, you and your Aussie walk through a course consisting of 10 to 20 signs, each with instructions telling you which exercise to perform. Some of the exercises are moving exercises, such as heeling at various paces, turning, circling, stepping to 1 side, or calling your dog to you. Others are stationary exercises such as having your dog lie down, stay, or pivot in heel position. You can talk to your dog throughout, praise, and repeat commands, but you can't pull them along on leash, touch them, or carry treats or toys. Points are deducted for mistakes, but scoring emphasizes teamwork more than precision.
Each course is different, and you won't get to see it until you arrive at the trial. That means you will need to know all the possible exercises , even though you will only be asked to do some of them. For AKC Novice the basic exercises are:
* Halt and sit or down
* 90-degree, 270 degree, and 360 degree right and left turns
* Right and left circles
*Call front from heel, then finish back to heel position from right and left
* Heel at normal, slow, and fast paces
* Moving sidestep to right
*Spiral with dog to inside and outside
* Weave around 4 pylons one or both ways
*Halt, take 1 step forward and halt, 2 steps forward and halt, 3 steps forward and halt
* Call in front, take 1 step backward and call dog to front again, 2 steps calling dog to front, 3 steps calling dog to front
* Walk around dog in sit-stay position and down-stay position
More advances classes include low jumps, 90 and 180 degree pivots to either direction in which the dog stays in heel position at your side as you pivot, the dog starting and finishing in a sit, and an honor exercise, in which the dog remains in a sit or down position at the edge of the ring while another dog goes through the course. The honoring dog is on a leash.
Each exercise has a particular sign with symbols that describe it and each exercise has a particular way it should be performed.
To earn a title, a dog must qualify 3 times at that level. The most advanced AKC title, Rally Advanced Excellent (RAE) is awarding to dogs that qualify 10 times in both the Advances class and the Excellent class at the same trial.
Following a scent trial is 1 of the most mystifying abilities of dogs, but most of them need a little help with perfecting the technique and doing it on command. The best time to teach is in the very early morning, when some dew is still on the ground, because it holds the scent better. Find an area you haven't walked over recently and without your dog walk a short distance dropping treats along the trail. Repeat the process in another fresh area dropping the treats slightly farther apart. Eventually he/she will figure out they can find the treats by following your scent trails, and you can leave a treat treasure at the end of the trail instead of dropping them along the way.
You can also simply hide from them assuming they want to find you! This works best if you have a helper hold them while you go hide, walking over fresh ground and hiding in a bush or other covered area. Greet them with lots of praise and a few treats!
Both AKC and ASCA offer tracking titles your Aussie can earn. The requirements are basically the same in both.
If you like activities a little more active than heeling and such agility competitions may be what you are looking for and almost certain your Aussie would vote for it. Agility is an adrenaline- amping obstacle course where dogs run against the clock combining jumping, climbing, weaving, running, zipping through tunnels, and loads of fun.
Several organizations including AKC, ASCA, and UKC, North America Dog Agility Council, and the United States Dog Agility Association sponsor trials and award titles, each with slightly different flavors of Agility. AKC agility trials feature a variety of obstacles:
* The A-Frame is made of two 8-9 feet long boards each 3-4 feet wide, leaned against each other so they for an A-frame with the peak 5 to 5.5 feet off the ground. The dogs run up one side and down the other.
* The dog walk is either 8 or 12 feet long and 1 foot wide that is either 3 or 4 feet high, suspended between 2 other boards that lead up to it one 1 side and down from it on the other side. The dog runs up 1 plank, over the horizontal plank, and down the other side.
* The teeter is a seesaw with a 12 foot plank. The dogs run up 1 side until its weight causes the teeter to shift so the dog can walk down the other side.
* The pause table is about 3 feet square. The dog has to jump up on it, then either sit or lie down as commanded for 5 seconds.
* The open tunnel is a flexible tube, from 10 to 20 feet long and about 2 feet in diameter. It is often bent into a S or C shape for the dogs to run through.
* The chute is a rigid barrel with a lightweight fabric chute about 12 to 15 feet long attached to 1 end. The dog runs into the open end of the barrel and continues blindly through the collapsed chute until it comes out the other end.
* The weave poles are a series of 6-12 vertical poles spaced 20-24 inches apart. The dog takes a serpentine route, weaving from 1 side of the poles to the other.
* The jumps consist of single bar, panel, or double bar, and triple bar jumps. The double and triples are both wide and tall. The bars are easily displaced, making it safe when the dog fails to clear them. The dog must jump without knocking any bars down.
* The tire jump is about 2 feet in diameter, with the bottom of the opening at the same height as the other jumps. The dog must jump through the opening.
*The board jump is a spaced series of 4 to 5 slightly raised boards.