Buddy is now an Olympian. Now before you get too excited he only took the "bronze" - our team came in third - but it's the taking part that counts, and we took part. We were part of a team from Aricia Dog Training participating in the Interclub Dog Olympics 2010, sponsored by Burns Pet Food. So what kind of activities are included in a doggy Olympics? - read on and I'll reveal all!
The first game was musical chairs. Each dog/handler pairing walked around the arena while the music played, but as soon as it stopped, the dog had to be settled on a mat. There were more than enough mats for the dogs, but there was one chair too few for the handlers. Now the fun part - whoever was left without a chair could try to tempt any dog off its mat, and if your dog left its mat you had to give your chair to the tempter, and it was your turn to settle your dog back down and set about tempting other dogs. Needless to say there was some incredibly enthusiastic tempting going on, making it a great spectator sport.
Next was the Kong retrieval game. In this a variety of toys were provided, but the dog must select only Kongs to take back to the handler. Of course the danger here is that the dog will simply choose a Kong and lie down and chew at it, but the dogs seemed to get the right idea in the main. A good way to train this kind of selective behaviour is to have a variety of toys lying around and then throw one of the toys that you want the dog to choose. The movement will attract the dog and you can then praise them. Of course this is an activity where a clicker is very useful too.
The next game was the timed retrieval, where each pairing had to carry out as many retrieves as they could in one minute. The only snag was that the handler had to keep one foot on a mat in the centre of the arena, so the dog had to be fairly accurate and co-operative with his retrieves. In some cases this lead to some creative moves on the handlers' part - with some lunging forward as far as their legs would stretch, and even one lying flat out to make a grab at her dog. Another great one to watch.
The slow recall game is fairly self-explanatory - the slowest recall won. The dogs had to creep back to their handlers as slowly as possible, but they had to keep moving. This was another funny one to watch, and it was interesting to note that the two dogs that really excelled at this were Border Terriers. Is there something in their ancestry that lends itself to stalking slowly along? I don't know but they did amazingly well at this activity. The dogs competed in heats, with the winning dog from each heat competing in the final.
Can your dog do three woofs and then lie down? Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Ah yes, but try getting four dogs to do that in turn, and then to lie quietly while the other dogs in the team bark - not so easy! We tried our best, in each of our first two attempts, but either a dog started barking before the previous one had lay down, or there was some infringement of the rules. By our last go we thought we had it - but then disaster struck. One of the treats I'd given Buddy from an earlier round stuck in his throat. He started coughing and for a few seconds just couldn't get a bark out at all. Ah well, the best laid plans....
If you and your dog have ever had a go at Temptation Alley, you'll know how hard it is to get your dog to ignore all the toys lying around and focus on running straight back to you. Now imagine trying to get that to happen six times over as you run Temptation Alley relay style. It was something of an achievement simply getting all the dogs lined up in the right order, and making sure each dog was held by someone until it was their turn to run. It was fun though.
The last game was the tidy up game, where there was a selection of toys laid out which the dog had to pick up one at a time and drop into a central container, thereby tidying up. This was one that the Border Collies really did well at. Perhaps they like a tidy environment, but they flew around, grabbing toys and depositing them in the box provided for the purpose. Buddy wasn't so good at this one - he would rather play with a toy than tidy it away - maybe it's a Labrador mind set thing. It's another fun one, and a really simple activity that you can teach your dog to do at home just to keep his brain ticking over.
All good things come to an end, and finally we went into the ring for the last time to be presented with our third place rosettes. It was a great way to have fun with our dogs, and discover some new activities to train our dogs. We're already in training for next year, so watch out because we're aiming for at least silver now. I have a sneaky suspicion that although the dogs enjoyed the games, what they enjoyed even more was the romp on the beach afterwards. Picture the scene, a deserted beach with twelve dogs and their assorted people letting off some steam, splashing, digging and racing around. It doesn't get much better than that.