Canine Nosework (or Scent Work) is a canine scent detection activity where the dogs learn how to find target odors and alert their handlers. It is very similar to the way police dogs are trained to detect drugs and bombs however, in this recreational sport, the three target odors that are used are: Birch, Anise, and Clove.
In the beginning stages of training, your dog learns how to find food. Using food for teaching the game helps the dog to build on their desire to hunt and to work without help from the handler. The food is initially hidden in boxes and then the challenges increase as the food is hidden in different environments and types of containers. The more places and situations the dogs are exposed to during primary training the better!
Once the dogs have a good understanding of the game, the three target odors are slowly introduced and the food becomes the reward when "source" is found. The goal is for your dog to develop "odor obedience" which means that they are 100% listening to their nose and dedicated to the three target odors no matter what.
At this point, if you are interested in competing in Nosework with your dog, there are tests, trials, and element specialties that you can enter! There are a few organizations that put on trials and tests for the sport: National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) and Performance Scent Dogs (PSD) are two of the more popular ones.
If trialing is not your thing, that's okay too! Aside from being an extremely fun game to play with your dog, it can help shy and nervous dogs to build confidence, allows energetic dogs to burn excess energy by using their noses and their brains, and can even help to refocus reactive dogs too!
Lure Coursing is a competitive sport where dogs chase a "lure" through a course that is designed to simulate a live prey chase.
In a Lure Coursing Trial (where only Sighthounds are eligible), each dog is judged on their overall ability to pursue the hunt, follow the lure, their speed, agility, and endurance. The courses are set up in open fields where white trash bags are tied to a mechanized system of pulleys that simulate prey running from the dog. Each course includes multiple turns and can be anywhere from 600 - 800 yards in length. These trials allow Sighthounds to develop the hunting and chasing skills that they were born and bred to perform without the cruelty of using live bait.
In Lure Coursing trials dogs can run by themselves in Single Stakes, or if they are qualified, they can run in braces or trios in Open, Special, and Veteran Stakes. Points are awarded and your dog can earn titles based on accumulation of points.
Coursing Ability Tests (CAT) are another lure coursing sport and are open to all AKC breeds. CAT's judge the dog's instinct and ability to hunt by sight. It is a pass/fail event and the dogs always run alone. To pass the test, the dog must pursue the lure with enthusiasm and without interruption, and complete the course within the allotted time.
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Obedience training is the foundation of the relationship between dog and handler. It is how we build trust, communication, reliability, and it is how we strengthen our bonds with our dogs. All dogs should be properly trained in order to be happy and social members of our families and communities. It is NEVER too early or too late to start training your dog!
The most basic obedience begins with puppies! Puppy classes will usually include a short play period, basic commands (sit/down), crate training, and housebreaking techniques. Proper socialization and interactions with other puppies, dogs, and humans is how they learn what is appropriate behavior and what is not. The more things they are exposed to when they are young, the more confident and stable dog you will have as they get older.
Once your puppy has learned the basics, you can move on to a Beginner Class. These classes are usually designed for dogs 5-6 months or older. Here you will learn commands like: come, stay, stand, and wait. You will learn how to loose-leash walk with your dog and begin to train with more distractions.
There are also Competitive Obedience classes for handlers who wish to compete with their dogs for titles. These classes are much more advanced. They will teach you heeling, figure eights, retrieving, long sits, long downs, scent discrimination, drop on recall, hand signals, and more!
There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to training methods and techniques, however, Ridgebacks tend to do best with positive reinforcement training. If you are interested in getting started in obedience, research your local training facilities and find one that is best suited for you and the needs of your dog. Private lessons are also a great option for getting the most out of your training sessions.
Click here for more information on AKC Competitive Obedience.
NEW ENGLAND RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK CLUB
Conformation dog shows are designed to judge and evaluate breeding stock. Contrary to popular belief, the dogs in the show ring are not being judged against one another, but rather each individual dog is being judged against how it measures up to the breed standard. The judges look at the dog's overall appearance and structure to determine which one has the best ability to produce exceptional purebred puppies. For this reason, all of the dogs entered in conformation shows must still be intact (meaning they are not spayed or neutered) and only purebred dogs recognized by the AKC can participate.
Each Conformation show begins with "Breed Judging" where several dogs of the same breed enter the ring to compete to win the "Best of Breed" title. When the Best of Breed (BOB) has been chosen, that dog then moves to the next round of "Group Judging".
All AKC breeds are categorized into "Groups". There are seven Groups total: Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, Toy, and Working. The Rhodesian Ridgeback can be found in the Hound Group. In Group Judging, all of the BOB's now enter the ring in their respective Groups. Again, the Ridgeback is not being judged against the Greyhound or the Wolfhound in this round either. Each breed is being judged against it's own breed's standard. If the dog wins the Group earning a "Group 1" Placement, it then moves in the last round to compete for "Best In Show."
As there are only seven Groups and one winner chosen from each, there are only seven dogs who then participate to win "Best In Show". This is the most coveted title to earn in a conformation dog show.
If you are interested in learning more about conformation shows you can visit the AKC website. Most breeders who participate in conformation will be willing to help you get started as well. There are also "handling classes" that are offered at training facilities to help you get started in learning how to show your dog.