Not just a pretty face
Dandies wouldn’t be the most usual breed to see participating in the ever-growing range of dog sports in the UK today, they have been competing and doing well in many disciplines. They are very smart, capable and agile dogs with an instinctive drive to connect with their human companions.
There’s a widely held belief that Dandies are stubborn and quite difficult to train but this is untrue. They are very bright and for stubbornness read ‘sensitive’. They like to get things right, and if you train them well – understanding their breed characteristics and what motivates them – then they are such fun to work with. Like many terriers, they are too clever to keep on repeating exercises they have already mastered, so short training sessions using positive, force-free methods are ideal. They also think about a new exercise a lot and often come back to it the next day and find it easy.
So, what sports are Dandies involved in?
In this discipline, a dog and their handler move together through courses made up of 10–20 signs and with qualifying scores moving up the six levels. Each sign displays a skill the dog needs to master, such as turns or behaviours like ‘sit’, ‘down’ or ‘stay’. By working together, the dog and handler should demonstrate a sense of teamwork and enthusiasm throughout the course.
Two Dandies have reached the highest level in this sport and gained podium places as well beating collies and German shepherds. Yay!
Competitive obedience showcases the training you and your dog have achieved through a set of obedience tests. There are seven levels of obedience classes and all dogs start in the basic introductory class. Exercises range from heelwork (on and off the lead), to a scent discrimination test.
Yes, there are a number of Dandies putting their paws forward here and doing very well at the starter levels. When a Dandie moves to heel well, they are poetry in motion!
Scent work is when a dog uses its sense of smell to identify and locate a scent which it has been trained to detect and indicate. Dogs have a highly sensitive nose, vastly superior to our own, and scenting is a natural behaviour for them and essential in hunting and finding prey. As a dog sport, scent work has emerged from detection-style nose work as practised by the police and border control, in explosives detection, search and rescue, and medical screening. Scent work is fun, very rewarding and, at the same time, mentally tiring for your dog.
Yes, Dandies can do this too. There are a number of Dandies participating in this in the UK and Canada, working through the grades. A fascinating sport which is different from many others as you have to rely on your dog totally – you don’t know where anything is hidden – you just have to trust your dog.
You will have seen police dogs on long lines tracking the scent of a criminal or a missing person. The dog sport tracking mimics that with tracks laid by humans which progressively get longer and more complicated with each level.
Of course, Dandies can do that! They are extremely good at it. It is an amazing experience to be at the end of a long line, totally trusting that your dog knows where it is going as it marches forward and turns left, then right. Failures normally occur because the handler distracts the dog. Dandies love tracking!
Agility is made up of various obstacles for your dog to run through, jump over and weave in and out of – and all against the clock! Not only does agility test your dog’s fitness, it also measures your ability as a handler to direct your dog through the course.
Guess what? Dandies can do this too! Probably not a good sport for them to do competitively because of their long back and short legs, but for fun – absolutely. It really develops their balance and keeps them fit. So, think about taking part, but curb your enthusiasm for excessive training in this sport!
The newest dog sport is hoopers which is an ideal activity for dogs and companions of all ages and fitness levels. Dogs navigate a course of hoops, barrels and tunnels with the same pace and excitement as agility. But the courses are flowing and don’t involve tight turns – making it accessible for everyone.
This a great sport for Dandies and yes, they have taken part and are really good at it and love it!
Training is an ideal way to really bond with your Dandie. It enables you to understand the language of ‘dog’ and for your dog to understand you.
Joining a good class will mean that you learn how to integrate training into your everyday routines. Puppy training is a ‘must’ foundation for all dogs so that there is some control to keep your dog safe and happy. Finding a good trainer does need some research and if this is your first experience, ask around for recommendations. Ensure the trainer uses methods which are modern, positive and force-free. A visit to a training class without your dog is a good idea. If you feel uncomfortable, then find someone else. It is an unregulated field and not everyone will be a good fit for you and your dog.
So, what can you do?
Basic training (puppy classes)
Puppy classes teach the basics, i.e. learning to behave in the presence of other people and dogs, essential commands and lead training. Very useful for first-time dog owners to understand how your puppy sees the world and how you and your pup do not speak each other’s language – the start of a fulfilling relationship.
Basic training plus
Many dog trainers will offer more training, perhaps based on the Bronze, Silver and Gold award levels of The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Training scheme. These are great fun and very useful in making sure you and your pup know how to navigate today’s world, where there are many restrictions on what dogs can do. This kind of training can also help in dealing with the increasing problem of limited areas to exercise your pup, and help your pup learn to cope with the number of people and pets they will encounter. It can also prepare you for losing control of your dog.
Then who knows – the world is your and your Dandie’s oyster… or a big juicy bone (probably your Dandie’s preference!).
Yvette Andrewartha, Gryfindor