Instinct Sports - Let your Primitive Dog’s Talents Shine
Dog Sports are a great way of bonding with your dog, and at the same time, having an adrenaline filled adventure. Most dog sport competitors describe the experience as addictive and something they will never stop participating in for the rest of their lives. Dog Sports celebrates your dog’s talent as well as your hard work as a bonded team. There is nothing else like it. Today we will tell you how to get started.
There are multiple dog sports that require only a little training to get started. These are what we call Instinct Sports. They generally depend on a dog’s genetic ability, interest and enthusiasm to be successful, however a little training also goes a long way.
We will be covering the Instinct Sports that Primitive Dogs thrive in: Barn Hunt , Lure Coursing, and Scent Work. Barn Hunt is the sport of hunting rats, Lure Coursing is the sport of chasing game, and Scent Work is the sport of sniffing! All of them sound very simple but they can be very challenging, especially once you learn the nuances that go into mid to high level competing.
In Barn Hunt your dog is released off leash and collar (naked) in a small fenced enclosure filled with piles of straw bales. Hidden in the nooks and crannies are large PVC tubes. Some have rats in them. Some are dummy tubes that are empty or only contain rat litter. Your dog has to identify the tubes with live rats in them. Every course has a time limit and a required number of rats to find. In addition to finding the rats they have to climb on at least one bale and run through a tunnel constructed out of the bales. If sounds easy but higher levels require communication and focus on the part of the dog and handler. It can’t just be up to your dog’s instincts. Handlers practice teaching their dog to check various areas on command and come off of an exciting tube that is being removed from the search area after a successful alert. You also have to remind your dog that they are not free to urinate or defecate in the competition space. For some dogs that is a challenge in itself. All communication must be done off leash so there is certainly room for beneficial training that is valuable inside and outside competition.
Owners interested in Barn Hunt should watch a trial and then sign their dog up for an “Instinct Test”. Passing an Instinct Test is good for their first title in the sport and will give you feedback on what to work on as you continue into the Novice Level.
In Lure Coursing your dog is released off leash on a grassy field to chase simulated game around a field. The “game” is actually 3 garbage bags on a string. The movement of the bags triggers your dog’s instinct to try and catch them. It is a fun sport of dogs who want to chase things and it can be challenging to get a distracted dog in before time runs out. Dog’s are allowed to pee on the course but it can cost you time. While instinct is required to get your dog on task, off leash recalls are important to ensure your dog can be recovered if they lose sight of the lure or become disinterested. Also a release command is helpful in case your dog grab the lures at the end of the course.
Owners interested in Lure Coursing should contact a Lure Coursing Club and watch a trial or attend a practice match. Make sure that your dog has a good “come” response to ensure safety as these trials and matches are usually not fenced in.
Scent Work (aka Nose Work)
Scent Work was made for sniffy dogs. In Scent Work your dog is trained to identify specific odors. The three most commonly used odors are Birch, Anise, and Clove oils. These oils are exposed to q-tips which are hidden in various environments for the dogs to find. Once the dog identifies the location of an odor, you alert the judge. Once your dog has succeeded 3 times in each environment they usually earn a title. Dogs that struggle with anxiety, or reactively have been found to have a reduction in symptoms after training and competing in scent sports.
Dogs are not required to have any obedience or manners training prior to starting the sport. The only training required it is a positive association and interest in finding the odors. To get started, attend a scent work trial as a spectator or sign up for a scent work class in your area. Many dog training schools now offer it. There are even online classes and we will be offering one in the Spring of 2018.
Katie, Tori and I are diehard dog sports competitors and we have all been the first to put Instinct legs and titles on our chosen Primitive breeds. We teach classes, coach others in the sports and compete regularly. We see the changes in our dogs when they get to do these activities. They are happier and healthier for it. When my oldest dog Ginger was 13 she started Barn Hunt. She couldn’t complete the climb but she enjoyed it immensely and the problem solving of finding the rat added years to her life by helping to combat Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. Give you and your dog a new lease on life by experimenting with a dog sport. You won’t regret it.