Welcome to Pure Dog Talk, the podcast on purebred dogs, I’m you host Laura Reeves.
So, pure bred dogs were developed by humans more than 3,000 years ago, and they were developed for specific reasons and to do specific jobs. As I was researching this I ran across a fellow by the name of James Serpell and his book The Domestic Dog: It’s Evolution Behavior, and Interactions with People. And he says that from then onwards, and he’s talking about the 3,000 years ago, dogs of the Greyhound top were frequently depicted on painting and pottery on Egypt and Western Asia, and he notes that the Greyhound seems to be one of the most ancient of the foundation breeds. And I know that this is going to seem a little bit technical, I’m trying to give you some of these details, but this is really fascinating and there’s a lot of research that’s been coming out about this is the last few years. They’re saying that the domestication of wolves began way earlier than that 3,000 years ago, they’re thinking it was more like 15,000 that this process began, and they started to see very distinctive scientific evidence of the domestication of dogs that dated to about 9,000 years ago. There talking about locations as far apart as China, and Iraq and Chili, so this is all happening around the globe in a pretty consistent manner. People as they developed these domestic dogs, found them to be very useful, and so they started breeding them intentionally for a purpose. They bred the live, swift running hounds that captured rabbits, and gazelles to feed families, created family guard dogs that kept watch at night, livestock guardians and herding dogs that stood in many cases, between sustenance and starvation for an entire village. All of these behaviors and a whole lot more are still hardwired in the brains of our purebred dogs today. Now, not very many of us anyway in modern society, really require our purebred dogs to process that level of skill on a subsistence basis, in other word we’re not going to starve to death if Lucy doesn’t bring you a bunny. But it’s amazing, it’s awe inspiring really, to watch a dog’s instincts, natural born instincts that have been developed over hundreds, even thousands of generations, kick in and the dog goes to work just like he knew what he was doing. You make a lot of team work and trust and communication when you’re training a dog, the dog and the handler working together in the types of events that we’re going to talk about, and it really enhances the bond of companionship that would be there anyway. So, with all this history and these ideas in mind, The American Kennel Club has a very, very long list of activities, competitions and tests that are deigned to highlight the skills and instincts that dogs needed in years gone by, and many of them that are still useful today. There is literally something for everyone if you want to go to a competitive event, if you want to go to a non-competitive event, if you want to have fun, if you want to work really hard, there’s something for you to do with your dog, ok? I’m going to leave some links for you with very in-depth information about each of the events, and those will be for you in the show notes. We’ll also be in future podcasts, talking to people who are actively involved in these events so you can get a better sense of them. So, we’re going to start at the top:
Confirmation Dog Shows: Confirmation Dog Shows are a competitive arena in which pure bred dogs are judged against the written standard for their breed. This isn’t just a beauty pageant, there’s a very specific purpose here. The AKC currently registers 189 dog breeds, and I have to tell you that is about 50 more than when I started in the early 80’s. Each of these has a standard of perfection and appearance. That standard was written by the breeds parent club, many of the standards if you will, are unchanged in essence from the earliest descriptions of the breed. In every case the breeds appearance was dictated by its jaw, and the job it was supposed to do, and what also had a lot of bearing, the specific location in which the breed was developed. And so, the idea of what a dog looks like, having to do with what a dog does, we call that idea “form follows function,” and has a great deal of bearing in the show ring today. In Confirmation Dog Shows, the dog judged to most closely meet its respective breed standard is declared the winner, and this is how that works. This venue was developed as a way to sort of sort the breeding stock of animals used to improve the form and thereby ideally the function of the breed in question. As such, it is the only venue which requires a dog to be intact, in other words to not be spayed or neutered.
Junior Showmanship is a competition which judges young exhibitors. Ok, these are the little guys from nine all the way up to 18yrs of age, on their skill at presenting dogs in a Confirmation setting. The dogs, other that the fact that they’re pure bred and AKC registered, are not required to meet their respective breed standards at all, nor is the team being judged on that level. Only the handler’s skill is being tested.
So, for a little more structure, Rally and Obedience offer various levels of pass, fail test which gauge a dog’s ability to take direction, to follow voice cues and hand signals. And the skills tested are those that any basic companion dog should know, walking at heel, come when called, sit, down, stay, all of these are important, as well as to stand quietly to be touched by a stranger, something that you’d like to have for your veterinarian for example. More advanced tests in both of these competitions, rally and obedience are two separate types of competition, the more advanced tests require retrieving, going over jumps, scent discrimination which is fascinating to watch, and gradually increasing team work between the dog and the handler. This is very serious performance work that the dogs are doing when you get to the upper levels.
Agility is one of the fastest growing sports in purebred dogs, and this is very competitive, and the handlers are directing their dogs over, and around and through obstacle courses. They’re comprised of things like teeter-totters, and weave poles, and jumps and shoots, elevated plank walk ways and all kinds of stuff. Agility is really a very paced game that dogs and their owners love to play, and for you guys out there that think some of the other options are boring or tedious, let me tell ya, check out an agility ring sometime, these guys are having a blast.
And the next one we’re going to talk about, our purebred dogs sense of smell ok, is literally 100,000 times more accurate than ours is, so this is an amazing talent and it’s repurpose from the dogs drive to locate game, and it’s really one of their greatest gifts to humanity today. It allows them to find missing people and disaster victims, to locate narcotics and bombs, even detect cancer cells. Tracking, the
Tracking Test is a pass-fail opportunity for a dog scenting ability and determination to follow a track or a trail left by a person, someone other than its handler. The Tracking Tests are absolutely outstanding opportunities for teamwork, as the handlers have to learn to rely on their dog’s noses and let them do the work, the handler’s not in charge.
And now we can talk about Field events. Field events are designed to test the ability of dogs to work with their handlers, finding and procuring game for the table. This is one of one the very first jobs that purebred dogs were designed to do. AKC offers Field events for all dogs in the Sporting group, and most of them in the Hound group, and you have an option of either competitive events which are Field trials, or non-competitive events which are Hunt tests. Sporting dogs, the way these are divided in the American Kennel Club, Sporting dogs are dogs that were originally bred to pursue primarily feathered game, so birds. They’re further divided by the style with which they work the birds. Pointing breeds which include Setters, Pointers, and all of what we call the Continental Versatile Hunting Dogs, things like German Short Haired Pointers and Weimaraner’s. These breeds work pretty far away from the handler and generally out of gun range. The dogs job is to seek and locate birds, and then to point them. The intense focus of a Pointing dog does two things: it holds the game in place, and it indicates to the hunter where to find its quarry. Retrievers, everything from the Labrador to the Curly Coated, were developed primarily to retrieve shot game normally out of very cold water, and deliver it to the hunter’s hand. These dogs typically work at the handler’s side and use their keen eye site to mark where the birds land when they’re shot. They were purposely bred to have a calm, sort of easy going temperament so as not quite literally, rock the boat while they’re waiting for a retrieve. Spaniels, including everything from the English Springer to the Sussex are flushing dogs. They have been bred for centuries to work close to the hunter, well within shotgun range, and to find and then immediately flush the birds for the gunners to shoot. Now a couple exceptions here despite their names, the American and Irish Water Spaniels are generally considered Retrievers in terms of the work that they do. Now Hounds are categorized as dogs whose originally purpose was primarily to hunt furred game, so in other words rabbits, and gazelle and those sorts of things. They’re further divided into Sight Hounds, and these are things like Greyhounds and Basenji’s, and Scent Hounds, so you’re talking about Bassett’s, and Beagles and that sort of a thing. Sight Hounds participate in Competitive Lure Coursing Trials, in which the dogs chase after a mechanical lure to test speed and agility. Now recently just in the last few years, the sport has spawned a new event that’s open to all breeds, anybody can do this, it’s called a Coursing Aptitude Test, or a CAT test. This is a very fun opportunity for dogs to stretch out and run, and it has people and dogs of all varieties getting after the bunny. Another relatively new event is called an Earth Dog Test, and this offers the breeds created to quote, kind of “go to ground” right after their prey, Dachshunds, most of the short-legged terriers, gives them a non-competitive venue in which to test their instincts. Specifically, there are Field Trials or are Hunts that are also held for many of the Scent Hound breeds, Beagles, Bassett’s and Dachshunds, all have Field Trials. And all of the various Coon Hound breeds have their own events called Hunts, in which they’re allowed to showcase their very unique and melodious voices, and this is known as “giving tongue” which is what the dogs do while they’re following their quarry. Another of the very earliest jobs for which dogs where initially and purposely bred, was to herd livestock, moving big flocks of sheep and goats and cows, and back in the day even ducks and turkeys, from point A to point B was a big job and a good job was pretty much the only way to get it done. Each of the breeds in the Herding Group handles the livestock differently, but they all have the basic goal of moving a herd or keeping the herd together. AKC’s Herding Test enabled everybody today, if you want to give this a shot, to display their dog’s instinct and prowess in this skill.
And finally, AKC offers a whole huge category of what we kind of think of as fun events, at which dogs and their owners can earn titles. So, you guys would have a blast, these are enjoyable games, they’re generally not very cost prohibitive, and they’re available almost anywhere in the country. Some of my favorites to watch are Dock Diving and Flyball, and people love Barn Hunt and Nose Work.
Search and Rescue and Therapy Dogs are titles that you can acquire for you dogs that you can actually be able to contribute in your community. One of my favorite things for people to do with their new puppies when I sell a dog to a new family, they have the Canine Good Citizen and the Star Puppy Programs, and these are really great places to start working with your companion, with your pet dog. It helps you build and enhance the skills that she’ll need to be happy and a respectable member of society.
Woof, that’s a huge of list of stuff to do with your dog, and we’ve just barely scratched the surface, so take a minute to go visit the links in the show notes to learn more, a more in depth way. And as we go along we’ll talk to people that are involved in each of these sports, and we’ll give you a more in depth and up-close look at what’s involved, and maybe even how you can get started. Hope you enjoyed our trip today, we’ll catch you on the flip side.
As always, if you have any questions or input, we’d love to hear from you. The show notes and links to resources on today’s topic are available at puredogtalk.com. Drop us a note in the comments, or email to Laura at puredogtalk.com. Remember guys, this podcast is for you, so if you want to know something give me a holler, we’ll do a podcast for you. If you wouldn’t mind, you could help me out here, take a couple minutes to visit iTunes and give us a review. This will help share the love with others out there in the sport. This has been Pure Dog Talk with your host Laura Reeves. We hope you can join us next time as we continue on the journey to success with your purebred dog.