Sport Cynology: the Advantages and Pitfalls of the Royal Discipline

Sport cynology is sometimes also called the royal discipline. It is mainly because of its difficulty – very versatile skills are needed for it both from the dog handler as well as the dog. What aspects are the most difficult and what is its advantage? We talked about that with cynologist Martin Pejša. 

 

What can we imagine when someone says sport cynology?

Sport cynology typically has three parts: tracking, obedience and defence. Each of them has its specific features and needs something different from dogs and that makes it one of the most difficult cynological disciplines.

Is this discipline suitable for any dog? Can any breed be trained for it?

Any dog with sufficient physical and mental predispositions can be trained for sport cynology. However, it also depends on what the handler expects from his/her dog. If they want some common exams, I don’t think there is any significant problem. When it comes to comparing the performance in regional races, more important races or even the highest-level races such as the world championship, the preparedness, the talent and sometimes also a breed play role.

What breeds are the most suitable ones for this kind of training?

In the long term, German and Belgian Shepherds are used for this type of training on purpose. These days, you can see that some Dutch Shepherds, Beaucerons or Border Colies can be trained with quite some success and Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Rottweilers or Giant Schnauzer are also rarely seen.

What can we imagine when someone says sport cynology?

Sport cynology typically has three parts: tracking, obedience and defence. Each of them has its specific features and needs something different from dogs and that makes it one of the most difficult cynological disciplines.

Is this discipline suitable for any dog? Can any breed be trained for it?

Any dog with sufficient physical and mental predispositions can be trained for sport cynology. However, it also depends on what the handler expects from his/her dog. If they want some common exams, I don’t think there is any significant problem. When it comes to comparing the performance in regional races, more important races or even the highest-level races such as the world championship, the preparedness, the talent and sometimes also a breed play role.

What breeds are the most suitable ones for this kind of training?  

In the long term, German and Belgian Shepherds are used for this type of training on purpose. These days, you can see that some Dutch Shepherds, Beaucerons or Border Colies can be trained with quite some success and Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Rottweilers or Giant Schnauzer are also rarely seen.

When is the best time to start the training?

It’s perfect to start with a puppy. It doesn’t mean it needs to be the specific training but it’s about focusing on the dog's general upbringing.

Can older dogs be train or is it necessary to start with trainings with a puppy?

I don’t think it’s a problem. Of course, it’s easier to teach some kinds of exercise to a puppy with regard to their smaller bodies and their “dependence” on the handler. Some older dogs for which the efforts to teach them some behaviour or to start training is a novelty might have problems. These dogs sometimes already have their own world. However, everything is about consistency and thoroughness of the handler.

How does the training look like?

Each handler has his/her own training system that suits him/her and the dog itself. Time is also an issue. It’s sometimes not really easy to plan a training. For example, we should be practising tracking at least three to four times a week but we need to take into account that the route shouldn’t be the same, the terrain needs to change and not all kinds of terrains are entirely suitable, so we need to look for the right terrain and travel for it. The same applies to obedience training and we also need to take into account the availability of decoys – sport cynology definitely needs them.

What do you focus on during training?

It’s necessary to focus on everything during training. We need to pay attention to self-control, we need to foresee the dog’s behaviour and we shouldn’t test it from the skills it should have but we should rather focus on learning and training as such.

What is sport cynology different in when compared to other disciplines?

It is mainly different in the aspects I described above. Time, difficulty and the diverse nature of the disciplines. Maybe that’s the reason why sport cynology isn’t as popular any more as it used to be and there aren’t any children and people interested in it. In sport cynology, the results also depend on the dog’s talent, the handler’s thoroughness and in general on how much time the handler devotes to the pet.  A problem is that a handler can only start to compete after about two to three years (except some very basic exams). Of course, you can try to pass exams or take part in competitions as soon as the minimum age of the dog allows it but the results are unsure. I am not the person who believes that you should try any race and the dog will gain some experience there. It definitely does but this isn’t the experience we would like it to have. So, the only one gaining experience is the handler.

How can dogs who successfully handled sport cynology training be useful?

Sport cynology has many things in common with service cynology. It also covers tracking, obedience and defence. The basics of the training are very similar, but it starts to be different in many aspects in advanced stages. In a nutshell – sport cynology cares about how the exercise looks like, service cynology cares about the purpose of the exercise and its use in practical situations. Straight to the question: dogs from sport cynology can be used in many ways from passing various exams according to national exam rules or international utility dogs regulations (IGP). There are general exams (ZVV-3, IGP1-3) or special exams: for tracking ZPS1-2, IFH1- IFH 2, IGP FH, defence ZPO1-2 or their parts and so on. Dogs can also use their skills in many local, regional, national or international competitions.

Can a dog trained in sport cynology be utilized in practical situations?

I think they can but they need good nature and good handling in training. As I already said, there are some differences in sport and service cynology, but if the dog knows basics very well, it can be very good in a different discipline after some time without problems.

is the best time to start the training?

It’s perfect to start with a puppy. It doesn’t mean it needs to be the specific training but it’s about focusing on the dog's general upbringing.

Can older dogs be train or is it necessary to start with trainings with a puppy?

I don’t think it’s a problem. Of course, it’s easier to teach some kinds of exercise to a puppy with regard to their smaller bodies and their “dependence” on the handler. Some older dogs for which the efforts to teach them some behaviour or to start training is a novelty might have problems. These dogs sometimes already have their own world. However, everything is about consistency and thoroughness of the handler.

How does the training look like?

Each handler has his/her own training system that suits him/her and the dog itself. Time is also an issue. It’s sometimes not really easy to plan a training. For example, we should be practising tracking at least three to four times a week but we need to take into account that the route shouldn’t be the same, the terrain needs to change and not all kinds of terrains are entirely suitable, so we need to look for the right terrain and travel for it. The same applies to obedience training and we also need to take into account the availability of decoys – sport cynology definitely needs them.

What do you focus on during training?

It’s necessary to focus on everything during training. We need to pay attention to self-control, we need to foresee the dog’s behaviour and we shouldn’t test it from the skills it should have but we should rather focus on learning and training as such.

What is sport cynology different in when compared to other disciplines?

It is mainly different in the aspects I described above. Time, difficulty and the diverse nature of the disciplines. Maybe that’s the reason why sport cynology isn’t as popular any more as it used to be and there aren’t any children and people interested in it. In sport cynology, the results also depend on the dog’s talent, the handler’s thoroughness and in general on how much time the handler devotes to the pet.  A problem is that a handler can only start to compete after about two to three years (except some very basic exams). Of course, you can try to pass exams or take part in competitions as soon as the minimum age of the dog allows it but the results are unsure. I am not the person who believes that you should try any race and the dog will gain some experience there. It definitely does but this isn’t the experience we would like it to have. So, the only one gaining experience is the handler.

How can dogs who successfully handled sport cynology training be useful?

Sport cynology has many things in common with service cynology. It also covers tracking, obedience and defence. The basics of the training are very similar, but it starts to be different in many aspects in advanced stages. In a nutshell – sport cynology cares about how the exercise looks like, service cynology cares about the purpose of the exercise and its use in practical situations. Straight to the question: dogs from sport cynology can be used in many ways from passing various exams according to national exam rules or international utility dogs regulations (IGP). There are general exams (ZVV-3, IGP1-3) or special exams: for tracking ZPS1-2, IFH1- IFH 2, IGP FH, defence ZPO1-2 or their parts and so on. Dogs can also use their skills in many local, regional, national or international competitions.

Can a dog trained in sport cynology be utilized in practical situations?

I think they can but they need good nature and good handling in training. As I already said, there are some differences in sport and service cynology, but if the dog knows basics very well, it can be very good in a different discipline after some time without problems.

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