Articles Index/Titles, Championship and Performance
What is the most difficult `working' title you can earn with your dog? Clearly, that depends on the individual dog-handler dynamic, but it did occur to me the other day that there are many different skill sets that are required to meet various challenges.
A friend who does conformation, earthdog, obedience and agility says the most interesting ... and ultimately rewarding ... experience she's had with her dogs is earning a tracking degree (TD). This is an endeavor where `trust your dog' is the ultimate requirement since handlers have no idea how the course has been laid and the job of following the track is solely up to the dog. Once the dog is trained to the task, the handler's main job is to stay out of the way and let natural instinct take over. Since many of us like to micro-manage our lives, a `less is more' philosophy can be tough to handle.
In agility, in order to earn the title Master Agility Champion (MACH) and in obedience where the top title is Obedience Trial Champion (OTCH), dogs first have to make their way to the highest level of competition. After first earning an AX and AXJ (Agility Excellent; Agility Excellent Jumpers) in agility or the UD (Utility Dog) title in obedience, then dogs must compete in virtually errorless fashion in the Excellent B class in agility and in Open B and Utility B in obedience.
In agility, dogs earn points based on the number of seconds in which they complete the course without errors under the standard course time allowed. Along the way, they must earn 20 "double Q's" ... that is ... qualifying in both standard and jumpers classes at the same trial.
In obedience, dogs earn points based on the number of dogs they defeat. They must also earn a first place in Utility B with at least three dogs competing, a first place in Open B with at least six dogs competing, an additional first place under the same conditions and all three first places have to be under different judges.
Unfortunately, there is no title recognizing earthdog champions, but the road from Junior Earthdog (JE) to Senior Earthdog (SE) to Master Earthdog (ME) gets progressively steeper. As in tracking, instinct plays a major role.
One of the best things about competing with your dog is that you can set your own goals for your team. I have a little dog that has a CD (the most basic obedience title); a NA (a novice agility title) and a NAP (a novice agility title at a lower jump height). She is 10 years old and we may try for a beginner rally title (RA). I have other dogs with more titles at higher levels, and that's been great fun, but Sadie's accomplishments are just as important to me as any of the others because we've had a fine time deciding when and where to putter.
These days, there are so many organized things you can do with your dogs ... some granting titles and some just providing an opportunity to try something new ... that it's a shame not to try an activity that will be mutually rewarding to you and your dog.
ANTIC, September, 2008
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