Agility is a sport in which a dog moves through an obstacle course with the guidance of his or her handler. The judge predetermines the direction and flow that each obstacle must be taken and the handler directs the dog. Dogs run off lead, so the handler's only controls are voice and body language. In competition, both accuracy and speed are important. The fastest dog with the least faults will win in all KC Standard Classes.
All breeds of dog are able to compete at Agility; Belgian Shepherds are well suited to the sport. For KC Licensed events all dogs must be registered with the Kennel Club either on the Breed Register, or the Obedience and Working Trials Register. Before you are able to compete the dog must be over 18 months of age and fit to take part in such a physical sport. It is advised that you attend a reputable training class to enable you to train your correctly in a safe supervised environment.
A list of clubs can be found at www.agilitynet.co.uk/activepages/clubs.asp .
Breed showing requires a pedigree breed, and what better breed than a Belgian Shepherd, whatever coat or colour. Ringcraft classes are the place to go to learn how to show your dog. The Kennel Club usually has a list of registered ringcraft associations and could direct you to your nearest.
The dog press ‘Our Dogs’ and ‘Dog World’ have information on shows and other interesting articles along with a ‘chances to learn’ column where you can find where to attend teach in’s, workshops etc.
The first level of shows are ‘Companion Shows’, here your dog does not have to be Kennel Club registered, you enter on the day. It is a good show to practise your handling skills. You can also take along any other non pedigree member of your household, as there are ‘novelty classes’ ie waggiest tail, prettiest bitch and handsomest dog and great fun can be had. If you enter the other Shows, e.g. Open or Championship shows you have to send off your entry in advance and your dog does have to be KC Registered.
Heelwork to Music (HTM) is a dog sport ideally suited to the Belgian. It uses their intelligence, athleticism and gracefulness to the maximum and they can look stunning in the ring.
The best way to find out about the sport is to go along to one of the Shows and chat to people who are already competing – you will find that everyone is really friendly and keen to help you out. You can join one or both of the main Clubs, join in the email discussions (or lurk in the corner), go along to a training event, buy one of the many videos available and start planning your first routine.
Competitive Obedience is a unique combination of accuracy, teamwork and style. It is often referred to as the Dressage of the canine world: Obedience is a unique combination of absolute precision, cues and signals apparently naked to the human eye.
This results in an almost a telepathic communication between dog and handler, an invisible line of information to the dog. The outcome being a picture of unity and the ultimate display of dog and handler working as a team.
The WBSDS runs a competitive Obedience league for it's members. Joining the leagues is free to all WBSDS members.
Flyball was introduced to this country in 1990 at Crufts. It is essentially a spectator sport in the format of a knockout competition.
Flyball is made up of several teams running against each other and is a relay race. Four dogs independently negotiate 4 hurdles, collect a tennis ball from a box and then return to the handler, negotiating the 4 hurdles on return. The next dog then takes its turn until the entire team has completed the course. The four dogs are timed and the fastest relay team wins.
A team can consist of up to six dogs and handlers, but only four compete in each round. There can be up to 3 runs and it is the team that wins the best out of three (2 of 3) that wins the knockout. The Ball Loader has to load the box with a ball and shouts instructions to the dogs. A judge will start the race and each side has a linesman to check for illegal changeovers. The sport has now progressed and some shows provide electronic timing and a traffic light system for changeovers.
In 1993 a team of Groenendaels 'The Dartford All Blacks' all from the same litter bred by Anne Challis 'Louandi' won the Crufts Flyball competition.
Working trials combines nosework, obedience and agility exercises. Trials date back to the early 1920’s when the Associated Sheep, Police and Army Dog Society organised the first event, which was basically designed to test the ability of working dogs. The trials scene then continued to develop and started to get a dedicated following over the years; a specialist background is not necessary, but a love of being out of doors in the countryside and of being able to cope with all types of weather is!
Working trials is based around a series of “stakes” and marks are given out of possible totals for each individual test. As an example, in the CD search square, marks are awarded out of a possible 20, and the aim is to earn as many marks as possible in this and each individual test in the hope of qualifying in that particular stake.
Belgian shepherds are bright and, providing they have good working conformation, naturally agile dogs with an eagerness to learn.