The Kerry Blue Terrier is an active dog, to say the least, and there are a variety of organized events in which we who de- vote ourselves to our selected breed can participate. We all know the basics: com- panion, conformation, obedience and utility. These are the standard events that have stood the test of time for all AKC registered breeds. There are thousands of articles and hundreds of books written about these topics. There are myriad of owners who participate in these events with their dogs-the 'show- dog' owners.
There are other owners who are also de- voted to their kerries who for a variety of reasons do not choose to engage in these standard show events. They choose the
Kerry for her beauty, her intelligence, her sense of humor, and her willingness to investigate everything that she sees. These are the 'companion-dog' owners who enjoy the breed for companionship. There are other organized activities and events that the 'companion-dog' owner and his Kerry can participate. Follow- ing are just a few of the many activities in which the Kerry and her family might want to try.
Dock Diving or Dock Jumping: In this activity, the dog is trained to race down a dock and fly off the end into the water. The goal is to obtain the greatest dis- tance possible-a watery 'long jump' for dogs. For more information see www.splashdogs.com the California club for this sport. See also www.sportmutt.com/training/getting_started_new.htm for the training basics. As two of the requirements for this sport are companionship and fun, it sounds like an ideal activity for the water-friendly Kerry family.
Earthdog Trials: This is a terrier specific activity that harkens back to the breed's original purpose-the fleshing out of vermin and small game. Tunnels, rein- forced by wood sides and tops, are dug with a prey of some sort, usually a rat, placed in a protected container at the end. The dog must navigate through the tunnel to arrive at her prey. The American Working Terrier Association maintains information on this sport (www.awta.org) and has a set of activities that leads to a "Certificate of Gameness." For the Kerry originally bred to hunt badgers, this event could be well suited for the out-door family.
Tracking or Trailing: Although the Kerry tends to be a sight dog (who among us has not had a Kerry stand up on her back legs to get a better look at something interesting down the street?), Tracking and trailing are basic to dogs and are part of the AKC Utility level of competition. In this event, scent-courses are set out and the goal is to follow the sent to its conclusion. Information regarding basic training in scent work can be found at www.funnosework.com. This site also offers target odors and kits for scent training and events.
Herding: Although Kerries are not in the AKC Herding category, long before the Kerry became a show dog and family companion, she was a working dog and herding was part of that work in Ireland, her home land.
My own Kerry used to try her best to herd our granddaughter when we were outside walking. There are a variety of herding events around the country and the website lists the basics of this activity. www.herdingontheweb.com
If real livestock isn't in the picture for the KBT family, there is an interesting herding type alternate, called Treibbal. In this activity, the dog is trained to 'herd' up to eight various sized balls.
See the site www.livigawithdog.us/classes/treibball.html for more information on this interesting activity. Additionally the book Treibball Handbook by Sandi Pensinger gives complete training instructions. This is definitely a sport for the fun loving yet work-inclined Kerry.
Agility for Fun: Although agility is a formal, organized event, it can also be a just-for-fun activity for the Kerry fam ily. Dogs are trained to course through a number of obstacles: a tunnel, a wide balance beam called a 'dog walk', a collapsed tunnel, bar jumps, suspended tires, weaving in and out between a series of poles, and a small table. The web site www.dogplay.com/Activities/Agility/agility.html gives more particulars on this sport and includes other links. An additional benefit of this event is that many of the obstacles can be made by the family. See the book Do It Yourself Agility Equipment by Jim Hutchins, available from www.dogwise.com
Flying Disc: We've seen them in the park, young guys throwing their flying discs to their dogs which leap into the air, adroitly catch the disc and return them to their owner. This flying version of fetch' exists in the organized dog-sport world as Competitive Disc Dog. The basic, solitary sport is as simple as throwing the disc, the Kerry catching the disc and returning it.
Competitive Disc involves two variations: Distance/Accuracy and Freestyle. Freestyle is just that, a free style combination of varying types of throws and catches (for example, throwing multiple discs requiring catching and dropping to catch subsequent discs.) Distance and accuracy involve the scoring of the location and the distance of the dog's catch and landing. See the site www.dogplay.com/Activities/disc.html for particulars.
Music Freestyle: This is not "Dancing with the Stars" but dancing with your dog, a relatively new sport that combines both obedience and dance. This activity is a form of heeling to the dance movements of the owner with some movements and 'tricks' from the dog executed to add to the artistry and grace of the dog/owner couple. It is a competitive sport including Individual (one handler, one dog), Brace (two of each) and Team (three or more handlers each with a dog.)
See www.dogplay.com/Activities/musical.html and www.canine-freestyle.org for more information on this interesting new sport. To see a beautiful video of this activity in action go to www.canine-freestyle.org/Stagetracer.asp This is an amazing and inspiring example of this new sport.
Hiking and Backpacking: For a breed as gamey as the Kerry, accompanying her family in the great outdoors can be a real treat. Trails are full of sights and scents for the Kerry to enjoy as only a Kerry can. This activity does take preparation, especially if you want to train your dog to carry a back-pack. See the website wolfpacks.com/guide.htm for more information, including preparing your Kerry for this activity.
A Final Word: All KBT owners are strongly recommended to participate in at least two very important events: a basic obedience class and the AKC sponsored Canine Good Citizen Program®, (see sidebar). These are but a few of the variety of activities available. The reader is advised to see the site from which much of this material was drawn: www.dogplay.com for even more.