Text by Sheila Guenther
It is February. What can a person do to deal with the cold winter months, and how can you include your pet? My favorite childhood memory was when my Father came home one day with a harness made for our Lab/Sheppard cross. He put eye bolts on our toboggan and attached the dog to it. At first the dog was less then enthusiastic about the whole idea, he was freaking out about the harness, never having worn one before. After making him wear it for a while and letting him drag it around while on him, he settled down and accepted it. Next was attaching him to the toboggan and getting him to pull us. I weighed around 84 pounds then, not much but still a good weight for a dog to pull. Well, he refused to pull the toboggan, so my Father ran in front and called the dog. The dog got excited and he started pulling the toboggan, and just kept on pulling from there. After his initial fear, he was ok but we never did get him to pull of his own desire. Someone always had to run in front of him, coaxing him to run; usually my brother was appointed to the task. It seemed like we spent hours out there alternately running and riding. It was great fun. These days I would not say that was the way to go about training a dog to do something, because it can backfire and scar your dog mentally, but I was young, and none of us knew any better.
You can do other sports with your dog indoors as well. There are indoor sports such as agility, fly ball, obedience training, showing your dog, becoming a pet therapist, or even just taking walks in winter wonderland.
Agility is a sport where you put your dog through a series of tasks such as climbing an A frame, going through a collapsed tunnel, running over a see saw, weaving around poles, and taking a variety of jumps. All this is done at high speed by you and your dog.
Fly ball is a great sport for dogs that are ball crazy. This is a relay game involving four dogs on two teams. Two dogs are let go at once and are timed for speed. The idea is to get your dogs to leap hurdles then hit a board making a ball pop off. The dog catches this ball, and runs back, leaping the same hurdles and bringing the ball back to you.
Some of these sports are limited to dogs that are CKC registered. Showing your dog in conformation events is one of them. You need a registered dog to be able to do this; a dog that does not have any disqualifying faults. A disqualifying fault may be as simple as having a white spot on the dog where a white spot should not be, or if your dog is over the size the dog standard says. Therefore, you have to read up and understand the standard for your breed of dog.
Obedience is another activity. The dog is put through a series of commands and tested on obedience, and you are graded on your ability to give commands to your dog. While there is obedience for the family pet, if you want to compete in it, you need a dog that is registered.
Any dog club can educate you on the finer points of many of these sports, so join one, get to know people who share the same interests as you, and have fun with your dog. You both will enjoy your winter, indoors and out.