Traditional Dog Sports

Many people start in dog sports with Conformation or Obedience.



Bayla & I practicing novice obedience exercisesObedience training is useful, satisfying and relationship building. It can range from basic household manners to high level obedience competitions where a team is judged on their performance and scored on responsiveness and precision. I used to consider obedience training a necessary evil. As training has evolved and I’ve evolved in my own methods and philosophies, I've come to realize it does not have to be painful or boring, it can be fun! My attitude plays a big part. While it is necessary our dogs have skills that will keep them safe, and we want them to be a pleasure to be around for us and others… it’s also true that teaching those skills can be joyful and fun!

Many instructors and training mentors have influenced my growth and helped me change throughout the years. I am very grateful to Ellen Hardin, Laurie Bandy, Cindy Brick and Beth Knotts for their guidance, support and encouragement! To get results, I use many different methods and strategies. I favor positive reinforcement, shaping behaviors (with and without a clicker) and playing lots of games. Susan Garrett has been a huge influence on me! I've taken her online Recallers© course and also Puppy Peaks©. I highly recommend her online courses to anyone; whether your goal is for a wonderful housedog and/or a high level competition dog! My training and competing success has increased tremendously with her courses.

"Your dog is a reflection of your ability as a dog trainer”
- Susan Garrett. 

That quote is so close to my heart and always at the forefront of my training... it reminds me;
•  it takes two to effectively communicate
•  we all have our good and not-so-good days
•  make time; give energy to what's important and matters most
•  always listen to and learn from my dog
•  be careful what I reinforce~ I'll see more of that behavior

Entlebuchers have been a fully recognized AKC Herding breed since January 1, 2011. Data earned his AKC Obedience Beginner Novice title (BN), March 31, 2012! The Beginner, "Pre", and Graduate Obedience classes were added by AKC in 2010 as optional titling classes. Personally, I think the optional classes are smart, fun and a great addition to the AKC Obedience program! The optional classes combine skill elements and are a wonderful transition for training and competing. Working your dog in the optional class skills helps to build confidence and allows smaller growth steps toward those bigger goals. That makes so much sense for success, keeping sharp and active plus having fun!

Data earned his AKC Novice Obedience Companion Dog title (CD), March 17, 2013 in Madison WI at the Badger Kennel Club.
He was only 28 months old! We pulled off a respectable score of 190 with a 3rd place. He is a very special boy with incredible focus, work ethic, a wonderful attitude and a lot of heart! You can see he is a very willing and a happy worker! Watch the 3rd leg of our CD title performance. Data earned his Graduate Novice title (GN), July 19, 2015 in Rothschild at the Paper Cities All Breed Show. He was competing in "Open A" but unreliable dogs and insensitive owners that care more about their own egos and aspirations have convinced me that the out of sight stay exercise in AKC Obedience has become unsafe. I do not think it is right or fair that someone else's deficiencies can ruin our training and hard work. Data has been stared down menacingly, lunged at and jumped at trials during or before the out of sight exercises. This has ruined his attitude and sense of safety. I do not blame him one bit. I thought about trying to train or proof for rude dogs, but decided there are enough other sports that we do not need to expose ourselves to that. Until AKC changes the out of sight stays, we will not participate in AKC Open Obedience, unless it's Preferred Open where there are no out of sight stays to be concerned if another dog will go after my intact boy!

I also learned through the challenge of dealing with inconsiderate owners of not well enough trained dogs, that we can enjoy obedience without competing. Another great resource that helped us inject fun, joy and enthusiasm into our obedience and especially our heeling is Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I really enjoy Denise Fenzi's classes, I've taken both Precision Heeling & Heeling Games and would not hesitate to take another of her classes! She has a wonderful, clear way of demonstrating and explaining techniques plus she is positive and you can see how much she loves obedience, training, and relationship building with her dogs.

Rally Obedience

Rally Obedience incorporates skills of teamwork and agility. It's very enjoyable; a little more relaxed and you can talk to your dog- which makes it more personal and fun for me. Thinking up a strategy and executing the course exercises together is a thrill. Our Entlebuchers enjoy the mental challenge, bonding, special treats and attention they get whether training or competing. They both have their favorite "moves." You can see them light up when they get to do a rally sign/command they like.

Data & I doing rally obedienceThe greatest benefit of training for these sports is that a well trained dog is accepted and welcomed more places... and they are so much fun to be with
that you want to take them as many places as possible.

Entlebuchers and Rally

They love it! There are many Entlebuchers titled in rally. In 2011 NEMDA offered their first AKC sanctioned Rally (and Obedience) trials. It was a special treat to observe just how much fun everyone had while working with their dogs. The teamwork was very impressive as well!

Bayla had 8 of the 10 double qualifiers needed toward her AKC Rally Advanced Excellent title. She never missed! Every time she competed in rally obedience
she qualified, throughout her entire career. Bayla loved to work! Kai earned her Rally Advanced title (RA) at the 2011 NEMDA Specialty. Data earned his Rally Advanced title (RA) at the 2012 NEMDA National Specialty.

* Photo courtesy: Marie Murphy

Conformation Showing

Data's Championship photo Data & I explored showing in conformation as a learning experience and new adventure we could do together. Each sport has its own lingo, nuances and culture. I found out that there is much more involved to conformation showing than I had imagined. It's easier to be a spectator handler than an in the ring handler! My previous dog sport knowledge and experiences gave me some distinct advantages and also some challenges due to patterns and habits I'd already established. It was really a giant step outside my comfort zone to show a dog in conformation! Data has been an easy partner and amazing first conformation dog, he makes me look good! Data is outgoing and "showy"~ he loves attention.

We got Data with the hope that he would grow up to be an excellent example of the Entlebucher breed and become a stud dog. To me that meant I owed it to Data and his breeders to show him in Conformation. I thought about hiring a professional handler, but was encouraged by many dog friends to try it myself first. So I committed to put in the time, work and make a good faith effort with the goal to accomplish earning Data's Championship (owner-handled) by the time he turned 3 years old or re-evaluate then. I also knew it would mean more if we could accomplish the goal together.

* AKC Judge: Mr. Raymond Filburn Jr., Joyce & Data (11 mo.)
New Champion Photo October 23, 2011

We began with classes at the Wisconsin Rapids Kennel Club and continued with Carlin Rasmussen. Data entered his first show at 6 months and 1 week old. To my shock and delight, he took Best of Breed one of the days. That gave me the desire to learn more and work harder. Together we experienced a magical, fairy tale road to his Championship and Grand Championship! Earning his Championship took only 5 months and 5 shows (10 "show" days total). He earned his points under 6 different judges. Data even took "Best Opposite" in the Puppy Sweeps at our 2011 National. Data is only the 13th Entlebucher to earn an AKC Championship title (CH), and so far he's the youngest male (at 11 months old). Having met my only conformation goal, I did not plan to continue. I decided that I would just show him as a "Special" in bigger shows like Nationals, or if/when there were any Judges Education presentations put on by the parent club. I am also a PC Mentor for the breed. We focused on other goals and sports while showing in conformation very sporadically. Once we got Jaylah and I started showing her, I figured why not take Data along to show as well. Data was red hot and didn't miss a beat successfully going BOB- Best of Breed at almost every show plus garnering a few Herding Group placements along the way. Data earned his Grand Championship in 12 shows. He earned points under 8 different judges to reach the magic number for GCH = 25 points.

Photo taken by Canine Chronicle after winning the Entlebucher Specialty In 2014 we set out on a grand, ambitious adventure of showing in multiple sports at our National Specialty. Data ran agility and earned a QQ (Double Q) in the morning then went on to win BISS (Best in Specialty Show) at the 2014 Entlebucher National Specialty in the afternoon under judge Carolyn Herbel. That places Data in a very elite class being an agility Champion athlete (MACH) that won his breed's National Specialty. Data is also the 1st and currently the only Entlebucher with dual Championship titles. He is an extraordinary dog and I am lucky to have him as a teammate, partner and best 4-legged friend!

There are not many Entlebuchers showing in conformation yet, especially in the Midwest (or in the East). I will continue to show Data very sporadically. I have a hard time with the politics, subjectivity, lack of meaningful feedback and expense involved for the small amount of ring time in conformation. We exhibit at bigger shows or if Entle friends are getting together. I understand the need to get our rare breed out to be seen and experienced by judges but it's hard for me to justify the time and expense when I can choose a performance sport any weekend. Plus if there are no other Entles showing it is pointless (pun intended). The commeraderie and friendships add to my enjoyment of dog sports. I have wonderful dog friends in other breeds that also show in conformation but it's just not the same experience as hanging out with your own "breed peeps" sharing stories, catching up and cheering each other on.

Our female Kai was also shown in conformation. Kai is pretty and structurally a very nice example of a female Entlebucher though she is a bigger, "doggy" female (not as feminine & gets mistaken for a male). Kai is not naturally "showy" plus she hates strangers touching her. I worked hard at making it fun hoping she could learn to enjoy it. We gave it our best shot but Kai retired from conformation having both majors and 13 of the 15 points needed toward her Championship. While I believe in the journey, partnership and bond that develops by working together as a team, I started feeling like it was not fair to Kai. Looking into her eyes anyone could see how much she truly hated the conformation showring. And if it's not fun, why do it? I asked myself if we did get her championship, what would it really mean? As the human in the partnership, I have to do what I feel is right. Kai has many gifts and abilities, the relationship is best spent pursuing activities of mutual enjoyment!

Jaylah's first conformation winJaylah entered her first conformation show just shy of 8 months old. Getting together with Entle owning friends, we entered the Oshkosh Kennel Club show relatively close to home. I went in with no expectations. Jaylah is super friendly and obliviously happy! She has a hard time standing still calmly and not kissing or giving her signature {hugs} to everyone she meets. I said we could call it a huge success if she could stand still for exam and had a positive experience. To my surprise, her first day she earned her first conformation point. In her second show she was able to turn a 4 point Best Winners into a coveted 5 point major by going BOS-Best Opposite Sex (beating a Special) to BOB- Best of Breed.

Jaylah finished her Conformation Championship (CH) October 21, 2017 when she was just 1 week shy of 13 months old. She finished her Championship at the same show that Data finished his 6 years earlier. It only took Jaylah 5 shows and 4 different judges to complete this title. I feel very honored to be her partner and proud of our crazy girl! I really did not expect for her to finish her championship so quickly. She is not yet quite as "showy" as Data, although she is probably even more friendly than he is. She just has not had the experience or luxury of practice time/attention I gave to him when we first started out. Jaylah has been to relatively few conformation classes but she does have the advantage of my previous experiences showing. Jaylah has a lot of nice qualities about her and is growing up nicely. She is displaying amazing talent plus the ability to switch sports almost effortlessly with focus and enthusiam. I have a feeling we're in for a thrilling ride while she continues to make her "Czech" mark on the Entlebucher breed in the U.S.

Conformation Links

The Canine Chronicle- magazine with events calendar, articles, and statistics
Info Dog- Conformation Showing Resources
"Conformation Study" by Helen King
DogFolk Enterprises- Pat Hastings website
AKC Conformation- Link to information on getting started in AKC
IABCA- International All Breed Canine Association "European-style" shows
Judging To Standard- Great article by AKC Judge Katie Gammill
Canine Structure Learning Module- Fascinating and educational website on structure
The Functional Saluki- by Dan Belkin, phD; Excellent article on breeding for functionality vs just appearance. Important insights & wisdom across all breeds!



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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras

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