Get involved !

Perhaps you have always wanted to get involved in some sort of canine sport. Maybe you already are and are looking to try something new.  Maybe you are looking to exercise your Havanese’s body and mind. Well March is here!! HOORAY!

For many of us Canadians this means we can come out of hibernation and slowly begin to peel off the layers of long underwear. It seems that whenever winter rears its ugly head we all naturally retreat to the great indoors. And who can blame us??  The average temperature on the prairies in December and January is MINUS 30!
It has been so long since there has been sunshine and nice weather that I almost can’t remember what to do with myself beside huddle in front of the fireplace with a blanket and a book.
For those of you who are as excited about Spring and Summer as me, I have made a list of things to do.
Perhaps you have always wanted to get involved in some sort of canine sport. Maybe you already are and are looking to try something new.  Maybe you are looking to exercise your Havanese’s body and mind.

The following is a list of dog sports.  It is certainly not ALL of the dog sports but more of a list of things that I know Havanese can and do excel at.
Most local kennel clubs offer some sort of classes to the public and if not then I am sure they could put you in contact with a local club or organization that teaches classes on which ever sport you are wanting to learn.

Agility- Governing bodies: Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), Agility Association of Canada (AAC), North American Agility Association (NADAC)
CKC agility is open for registered, purebred dogs or dogs with PEN number. NADAC and AAC agility is open to all dogs, mixed breed and purebred.
The handler directs the dog through an obstacle course comprised of jumps, tunnels, weave poles, A-frame, teeter totter and dog walk.  It is all done off-leash and without the help of food or toy motivator. Each course has a set time, faults are given for going over the time or for any refused obstacles or obstacles taken out of sequence or for jumps knocked down.  Havanese make ideal agility dogs because of their eagerness to learn new things and please their owners.  They have a knack for being quick, accurate and precise while running an agility course.  CAUTION! AGILITY IS HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!!

Competitive Obedience- Governing bodies: CKC, AKC
Novice title: Companion Dog (CD)  Open title: Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) Utility: Utility Dog (UD)
In CKC obedience there are 3 official levels.  Novice is the beginners level. The exercises include heeling pattern on leash, figure 8 heeling pattern,  a stand for exam and a recall. The final two exercises are a one minute sit-stay with handlers across the room and a one minute down-stay with handlers across the room.
The second level of competitive obedience is called “Open.” It is all done off leash. In this level the dog must execute a heeling pattern and perform a figure 8 heeling pattern.  Instead of doing a regular recall, the dog must drop into a “down” position when signalled before returning to the handler. The dogs competing at this level must also retrieve a wooden dumbell on the flat as well as over a jump.  There is also a long jump exercise. The Open level concludes with a three minute sit-stay and a three minute down-stay, both are done with handlers out of sight.
The third level of competitive obedience is called “Utility.” It is all done off leash. In the Utility level dogs must once again heel off leash, they must perform a scent discrimination exercise in which they retrieve one scented dumbell from a pile of several others. There is a directed jumping exercise  as well as a non-verbal exercise in which the dog must respond to a series of hand signals.

Conformation Showing- Governing bodies: CKC
Basic titles: Championship (Ch.)
Conformation shows are open to all purebred registered dogs that have not been sexually altered. Havanese cannot be shaved or clipped short. Our breed seems to really enjoy flaunting their beauty in the show rings.
Conformation dogs should be trained to walk loosely on a lead as well as be friendly with strangers.  Basic manners such as stand, stay, sit and down are a must.

Dog Hiking/Backpacking
Havanese love to travel and be with their owners constantly.   They are small enough that they wont take up too much room in the family car and sturdy enough that they can withstand a two hour long hike through the woods on a summer day. Many local provincial and national parks permit dogs on their hiking trails as long as the dog remains leashed at all times and the owners pick up after them. Going for hikes is a great way to bond with your Havanese while seeing new sights and exploring new surroundings. Several companies manufacture Havanese sized backpacks, ideal for carrying the car keys, poop bags and a supply of treats.

Flyball- Governing bodies: North American Flyball Association (NAFA)
Titles: FD, FDX, FDCh, FM, FMX
Ball crazy Havanese?   This may be a sport for you! One at a time, four dogs race down a set of four hurdles to a spring loaded box.  Once the dog hit’s the spring loaded pad on the box a tennis ball is released, the dog must catch the ball and run back over the four hurdles.  For this sport dogs must love tennis balls! They must also enjoy running and jumping.  They should also be comfortable being handled by others and being around other dogs.

Musical Freestyle- Governing bodies: Varies by region
Havanese excel in Musical Freestyle because of their fast pace movements and agility.  Not only does freestyle include heelwork to music but also other components such as leg weaving, jumping, rolling over and spinning.   For this fast paced sport dogs must know basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay, come, back-up.  Handlers also must have a creative imagination and be able to keep  thinking of new and exciting tricks to teach their dogs.  Scoring of Musical Freestyle varies from club to club but it is usually based on how well your routine matches your music and how well the tricks are executed. It also doesn’t  hurt your score to wear a costume and have your dog match you with a cute bandana or t-shirt.

Rally Obedience (Rally-O)Governing bodies: CKC, Canadian Association of Rally Obedience (CARO)
Basic Titles: Rally Novice (RN) Rally Advanced (RA) Rally Excellent (RE)
Basic obedience skills such as heelwork, sits and downs are required for this relatively new sport.
It is said that Rally-O is supposed to be a more relaxed and less formal version of obedience. Handlers are encouraged to talk to their dog. It is similar to agility in that the judge designs the course ahead of time and handlers are allowed to walk it beforehand.  The dog and handler navigate their way through the course, stopping at each “station” to read the sign and perform the correct exercise before continuing. The judge evaluates the team at each station for accuracy. In each course there can be anywhere from 15-20 signs depending on the level. To keep sport fast moving, each dog and handler team is tied. Each dog and handler team is scored out of 100 and must receive at least 70 to pass. Each qualifying score is called a leg and you need three legs for a title.

Therapy Dog:
Governing bodies: vary by region, St. John Ambulance is most well-known.
Havanese are known for having wonderful, loving, clownish temperment. This trait, along with their convenient size, makes them ideal therapy dogs.  Many hospitals and senior citizen’s care facilities benefit from regular therapy dog visits. For each visit, the dog and handler team spend and hour or sometimes more visiting residents. Residents are allowed to touch, stroke and cuddle the dog as well as speak to the handler.
The orientation period to become a therapy dog is quite extensive but in the end it is very rewarding work.  Here are the tests that help to determine if your dog can be a therapy dog:
-Accepting of a friendly stranger
-Sitting calmly for petting
-Walking on a loose leash
-Walking through a crowd (including wheelchairs)
-Sitting on command/staying in place
-Reacting well to another dog or to distractions (noise, jogger)
-Reacting well to an unresponsive human
Dogs that are well socialized and have basic manners will pass this test with flying colours!

Well, have you picked one? Have any of them sparked your interest? Did you read one and think, “Oh my goodness, that has my dog’s name written all over it!”  
I sure hope so!
The Havanese is such a smart, easy to train and eager to please little dog why wouldn’t you want to showcase that to the world? Havanese really can do it all!

Authored by: 
Claire Paulson, Published in Hav News & Views - Spring 2010