Your Kerry & Obedience
You’ve acquired a dog, not just any dog, but a Kerry Blue Terrier. You want what everyone wants of a dog: an enjoyable pet, one who doesn’t destroy things, one who doesn’t bite, one who always comes when called, is housebroken and is not a nuisance. Guess what? Dogs have their own agenda, and, unless you work right from the start to teach these intelligent beings what your rules are, they will use their own instinctual behaviors.
How do you begin? If you want to take advantage of a dog’s instinctual behaviors, you have to know what they are and how to mold them. There are several good books on dog behavior, one of the best being “Understanding Your Dog” by Dr. Michael Fox. Once you’ve read, re-read and understand the workings of a pack animal’s mind, get a good training book that includes chapters on house-breaking, chewing, barking and other potential problems, as well as how to train “formal” obedience exercises. One of the best books in this category is “Mother Knows Best” by Carol Lea Benjamin. Armed with this knowledge, you can begin.
First, you have to decide on your rules. For example, if you don’t want the dog to be on the furniture, don’t let the puppy on the furniture, even on your lap. Think ahead. What is cute in a puppy may not be so pleasant in an adult dog. Then, decide to give some time to this project Usually in about two months of concentrated effort, you can have a pet that will understand how to behave for the rest of his life. Consistency and patience are the keys.
A younger dog is easier to train than an older one because the older one has built up bad habits and experiences that you must undo before proper training can take place. Although, a dog of any age has the capacity to leam.
The use of a crate with any dog makes training easier. It acts as a playpen does for a small child. A crate provides a safe, secure environment when there is little or no supervision.
Kerries are intelligent and easily visually stimulated. It is vital that they are exposed to many situations as youngsters so that they grow up with a stable mental attitude. For example, many Kerries are prone to carsickness. Taking many small trips with pleasant endings, such as a romp in the park or a small meal, will quickly overcome it.
As a pet, the advantages of “formal” obedience may not always be obvious. Yet, many formal lessons can be adapted to home situations: a sit-stay will keep a Kerry from bolting out an open door, a reliable trained recall will insure his return if he does get out; a stand-stay will make him welcome at the vet’s and the groomer’s; making a dog obey rules will show him that your are the boss and give him confidence without aggression.
Formal obedience can be a lot of fun and can result in obedience titles from various kennel club registries, such as the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, the States Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, etc. It requires a little more concentrated effort and time, but if you’ve laid a good foundation as a puppy, it can be easy. Most titles are similar requirements by awards four obedience degrees. The first three are earned by showing the dog as AKC licensed obedience trials and qualifying with a minimum score of 170 out of a possible 200 points under three different AKC approved judges. The Companion Dog title (C.D.) is earned by the above criteria, which also included the requirement to having to pass each exercise with at least 50% of the points allotted to each. It includes these individual exercises: heel on lead, with figure 8, heel off lead, stand for examination (by the Judge) done off lead, recall (come when called from 30 feet away) and the group exercises (with a maximum of 12 dogs): a sit-stay for 1 minute and a down-stay for 3 minutes with the handlers across the ring.
The Companion Dog Excellent (C.D.X.) is proportionately harder and includes heel off lead, with figure 8 drop on recall, flat retrieve, retrieve over the high jump and the broad jump as individual exercises. The 3 minute sit-stay and the 5-minute down-stay group exercises are done with the handlers out of sight of the dogs. The most difficult the Utility Dog degree (U.D.) is composed of all individual exercises, including the signal exercise, scent discrimination, directed retrieve, moving stand for examination and directed jumping. The coveted OTCH or Obedience Trial Champion had yet to be won by a Kerry. It involves placing first or second in Open B or Utility classes consistently enough to amass 100 points. Points are awarded based on a schedule determined by the AKC and in a ratio to the number of dogs defeated in each class. It is an achievement on par with having a conformation champion in the national top 10 rankings.
The AKC also awards two tracking titles, the Tracking Dog (T.D.) and Tracking Dog Excellent (T.D.X.) titles. They are also looking at various types of terrier field work and agility competition with an eye to possible titling.
“The Dual Ring Dog” by Jacqueline Fraser and Amy Ammen shows how a dog can be successful in both conformation and obedience at the same time. Many exhibitors doubt that it can be done. My experience is that it can, having had a Kerry bitch who was in a run off for second place in her first try at Novice and on the same day was Winners Bitch for a major and still went Best of Winners! It is a good idea that both types of showing are trained separately so the dog does not get confused. Use different collars and leads, body English, tone of voice and commands – your Kerry is smart enough to know the difference if you are!
Having a trained pet makes life easier around the house, too. I live with six house dogs. Three are spayed Miniature Schnauzer bitches; one is trained with no titles, one has a C.D.X. and Canadian C.D. and the other a U.D. and Canadian C.D. Of the three intact Kerry bitches, one is a Champion with a C.D.X. and Canadian C.D.; the two young sisters are in training for their C.D.s and have points toward their championships. They have free run of the house and even share being free-fed from a common food dish! Imagine that with no obedience.
The 1991 title AKC statistics for Kerry Blue Terriers are: