Certain breeds of dog were traditionally developed as working dogs. In olden times their purpose was, to some degree, to serve their owners. The dog's job was not only to guard and protect the family but also the livestock. Dogs often had a physical function as well, such as pulling the milk cart.
While such functions might have become a thing of the past, the dogs' characters have not. Some breeds, such as the shepherd dogs and the Bouvier, are still referred to as working dogs. They are ideal for training and are often found in many areas of training both at home and abroad. Many thousands of dog owners train their dogs enthusiastically several times a week. It is important that we recognise just how important it is for these types of dog to work. Indeed, to deny such a dog this kind of training would certainly not benefit the animal's welfare.
The German Shepherd is trained worldwide according to a special training program, known as the 'Schutzhund' program. There are three elements to this training program: tracking, obedience and protection (bite work). This kind of dog training resembles the IPO program ('Internationale Prüfungsordnung'), a worldwide training program that is open to all breeds of working dog. It is practiced by thousands of dog lovers worldwide, and World Championships are held annually. Another much-trained breed besides the German Shepherd is the Belgian Shepherd, a breed that could be characterized as a universal working dog. Not only does the breed excel in IPO training but also in disciplines such as police dog training and the so-called Belgian and French Ring sports. Annual IPO World Championships for Belgian Shepherds have been held since 1995, welcoming competitors from approx. 20 countries, from Finland to Japan and the USA. In the Netherlands, the KNPV (The Royal Dutch Police Dogs Association) has a very long history. Thousands of dog lovers currently participate in the training program, in which the qualities of the Belgian Shepherd (both with and without a pedigree) are shown at their best. During the KNPV annual championships, you can join thousands of others in watching these dogs' spectacular bite work. Competitions are traditionally held in the first weekend of September at the FC Den Bosch football stadium. Other forms of training such as tracking and rescue work have enjoyed increasing interest over the last few years. Countless other breeds besides the shepherd dogs can be seen here too. Not every dog is automatically suitable for training. However, a selective group of breeders uses particular bloodlines to ensure that the dogs' characters will usually be suited for these kinds of training.
If you are interested in working with dogs and you have chosen a particular breed, we advise you to contact the relevant breed association. They will be able to give you more information on the various breeders of suitable dogs and a training ground near you. In practice, you should have no problem finding a local association as the KNPV and the various associations for working dogs have regional training groups organized by local clubs throughout the country. General information and addresses of breed associations is available from the Raad van Beheer op Kynologisch Gebied in Nederland (the Dutch Kennel Club), Emmalaan 16-18, 1075 AV Amsterdam (tel. 020-66 44 471).
If you would like to know more about the dog sports above, go to:
Of course there are plenty of other dog sports, some of which we will discuss briefly below. We cannot cover the full range of dog sports but would like to give you some idea of the various possibilities.
Flyball is a team sport with a capital T. A team consists of 4 combinations (dogs and their handlers). The dog has to jump the hurdles, eject a ball from a mechanism and catch it, and then take it back to the handler as quickly as possible. Flyball races are run as relays between two teams, the first dogs starting simultaneously. As soon as the first dog returns with the ball, the next dog can start, and so on. The first team to have all four dogs home wins.
G & G is the Dutch abbreviation for Behaviour (Gedrag) and Obedience (Gehoorzaamheid). This includes behaviour towards other dogs, heel exercises both leashed and unleashed, obeying commands, allowing the handler to examine its teeth etc. The exercises these disciplines require are determined on a national level. There is also an exam, which is assessed by an officially recognized judge. Once a dog has passed the exam, it is allowed to participate in national competition.
Agility is a sport where the handler has to lead the dog round an obstacle course, taking all the obstacles in a set order, correctly and as quickly as possible. For this sport dog and handler must form a good team, know each other through and through and they must both be in good shape.
Hunting dogs are important allies in hunting large and small game and sometimes they can even prove to be the determining factor. There are five basic categories of hunting breeds:
Of course, there are plenty of other breeds in each group and the many bastard hunting dogs also make good hunting and sporting dogs.
The K.N.J.V. (the Royal Dutch Hunters Association) organizes hunting-dog trials all over the country in the summer months. A hunting-dog trial is a trial in which hunting situations are simulated.
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