Obedience, Agility, Working Trials,
Working to the Gun and CaniX
Believe it or not, there are several Irish Terriers competing in Obedience and there is no reason why there should not be more. Competitive obedience is about demonstrating to the judge that your dog can perform a series of exercises in a precise and controlled manner. Like showing, it can all look rather serious at the highest level, but everyone has to start somewhere and this is usually the pre-Beginners’ Class. At this level, the judge and steward are usually welcoming and friendly. It is quite acceptable to ask for a ‘training round’ where you are allowed to bring a toy into the ring to motivate your dog and just get used to the general atmosphere of the day.
If you wish to compete in obedience, it is worth selecting a training club that trains exercises in a way compatible with the way they are marked in the ring. For example, sits should be straight and heelwork very precise. The Kennel Club website has more information. We also have owners in the North of England Club who indulge in Obedience and would be delighted to hear from you.
Agility is great fun for dog and handler and a fantastic way to get some exercise. Some owners join agility clubs just to give their dog a little more to occupy its brain and to run off some energy and rarely or never compete: others become hooked and spend every weekend at competitions.
In agility, the dog has to tackle a series of jumps and other obstacles within a set time limit. Penalties are awarded for knocking down jumps, or missing contact points. The Kennel Club has a list of registered agility clubs.
Working trails is a sport based on police and military dog exercises and combines exercises in control with agility and nosework. To compete in trials, your dog must be very fit and very well-trained. You must be prepared to work your dog outside in all weathers too. It is a very friendly sport, perhaps because ‘qualifications’ are obtained by reaching set number of points, so there is not the pressure to actually come first as much as to do the best you can and enjoy yourself. Heelwork in trials is very different from obedience heelwork. The dog and handler must walk in a free and natural manner and some judges will deduct marks for obedience style rounds where the dog is touching the handler’s leg and the handler has one hand held rigidly in front of them.
Working trials are best suited to those who want to really enjoy working with their dog to a high standard, without the precision of obedience, but with a lot more variety. The classes (called stakes) become progressively harder and more varied. All but the beginners’ stake (Companion Dog) involve the dog tracking a human scent on a line and harness and there is the opportunity for dogs that do well enough to even do the Patrol Dog stake, which includes manwork (catching criminals – only pretend ones!) Please see the Kennel Club website for more information.
Working to the Gun
Several Irish Terriers, past and present have worked in beating lines, as roughshooting dogs and as pickers-up. This work should not be undertaken lightly though. A dog that is out of control on a shoot can ruin the day for everyone.
Gun-dog training has enormous benefits for your dog, because it is all about having your dog working under control in an exciting and sometimes noisy environment. Your dog will need to stop dead on a whistle, follow hand signals, retrieve and flush out game but resist the urge to kill it!
. To train a gundog properly takes several years, but is incredible rewarding. The key is to ‘make haste slowly’. Most purpose-bred gundogs take 2 or 3 years before they are fully mature and able to work effectively and efficiently. There are gundog training clubs, some of which will be suspicious of a terrier and others with a more enlightened view.
. Dogs in the beating line must be able to work in a line with beaters and other dogs, crossing left and right, sniffing out game just (only just!) in front of their handlers, who walk forwards in line with the other beaters.
Pickers-up work after the beaters have done their work and the shooting has stopped. They must ‘mark’ (watch out for) where the birds have landed and then go when told to pick them up and give them un-mouthed, to the handler. Sometimes, birds are lost and the dog must work hard to find them.
Another term you may hear is HPR (hunt, point, retrieve) These are dogs that work with the hunter to locate game and indicate by ‘pointing’ when they find it. They only go in to flush it when instructed and then retrieve the shot bird back to the hunter. Many of the Continental gundogs breeds are HPRs. Interestingly, many Irish Terrier owners remark that their dogs will point before flushing.
CaniX (pronounced cani-cross) is cross-country running with your dog. It is a relatively new sport and an Irish Terrier(Mungo) has already represented Great Britain in the World Championships. Sadly, Mungo is from the South, so it would be nice to see a Northern dog start competing! For more information, please see the CaniX website - www.cani-cross.co.uk