Many members of the Quinnipiac Poodle Club actively participate in the Companion sports of Obedience, Rally and Agility. In fact, the oldest of these sports, Obedience, was introduced to America by Helen Whitehouse Walker, one of the most influential early establishers of the breed in this country, and her kennel manager, later an important breeder in her own right, Blanche Saunders. The two women became interested in Obedience competition in England and were determined to establish it in the US. They barnstormed across the country (in a trailer!) demonstrating, creating enthusiasm, helping to organize trials and doing everything they could to encourage the incorporation of Obedience Trials into dog shows and the AKC. Their Poodles were their “demo dogs”, showing off their intelligence, athleticism and accurate response to commands and wowing audiences wherever they went.
Obedience became a codified and popular part of AKC, trials usually being held in conjunction with breed competition, and sometimes being offered as a separate event by Obedience clubs. Dogs compete at three levels: Novice from which the Companion Dog (CD) is awarded; Open, leading to the Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title; and Utility (UD) the most advanced Obedience title. Dogs must complete the requirements for each title before beginning competition in the next by successfully completing the required test three times under three different judges. Tests are comprised of heeling, coming when called, jumping, retrieving, and staying in place when left by their handlers, among other things. Once the dog has earned the UD title, he is eligible for a variety of additional awards including UDX (Utility Dog Excellent) and OTCh(Obedience Trial Champion).
Agility competition burst on the scene about 20 years ago. Again it was imported from England where it had become a popular spectator sport. Dogs and handlers go from one numbered obstacle to another to complete a course of about 15 to 20 jumps, seesaws, tunnels, A-frames, weave poles, etc. Scores are based on accuracy and speed and each course is designed by the judge to test the dog’s athleticism and willingness to follow the handler’s body and verbal cues. Just as Obedience shows off the intelligence and willingness of our Poodles, Agility offers an opportunity for them to display their speed and flexibility. Consistency and talent are rewarded with titles culminating in the MACH (Master Agility Champion).
The newest Companion sport adopted by the AKC is Rally, it combines the freedom and naturalness of handling seen in Agility with the skills of heeling and other moves used in Obedience. Moving smoothly and quickly through a course of numbered stations, the dog and handler heel from one number to the next and perform the taskspecified at each station. These range from a 270 degree turn, to a sit-down-stand, to a jump, to taking several steps in reverse, etc. The judge watches the entire performance and deducts points for errors in execution of the required moves. Titles earned begin with Novice (RN) and progress to Advanced (RA) and Excellent (RE). At present, the highest title available is the RAE (Rally Advanced/Excellent) which requires the dog/handler team to qualify in both Advanced and Excellent classes at 10 shows.
There are, of course, many other activities and competitions in which Poodles compete. Recently AKC has admitted Poodles to Retriever competitions and they have proved that they are still more than capable of performing the work for which they were originally bred. Our breed has always earned titles in AKC Tracking Trials. Poodles also excel at freestyle (dancing with dogs), herding, carting, herding, dock diving – indeed in any sport at which they try their hand (or paw).
( Ann Mandelbaum)
Agility Photos by
Penny J Wills