By Paolo Cernuschi
We often see dogs as pets, but sometimes, we see them as man’s best friend. Dating back several thousand years ago, mankind and dogs forged an unmistakable bond, which today, is evident in numerous unique dog and owner relationships. Research has also found that our furry friends not only offer companionship, but also provide health benefits such as helping lower blood pressure, keeping us active, helping us to relax amongst many others.
An incredible relationship is built between a dog and its handler through work and training. Dog training is the modification of dog behaviour in order to create strong owner-dog relations and raise well respected canine citizens. Training usually revolves around playing games with our dogs. This starts with teaching the dogs that running around a field and chasing their human partners is fun an exciting – all dogs love that! Progress is then made by gradually adding some challenges and introducing more exercises. Within a few weeks to a few months, most dogs start successfully running sequences and courses or entering competitions. Dogs that are regularly trained tend to be happier, more manageable, more obedient, and more responsive to their owners. Shy or insecure dogs often blossom and become more confident and relaxed once they have a job to do and can successfully be part of a team.
On the weekend of June 2nd and 3rd, the Kennel Club of Harare will hold its annual championship show which is kindly sponsored by Bow-Wow pet food. This event, which is set to be the biggest dog show of the year in Zimbabwe, will see dogs of all ages competing for titles in agility, dog jumping, obedience and best in show. At last year’s event, a total of 85 dogs entered, making it the biggest dog show in Zimbabwe in over a decade! This year, we aim to make it even bigger. A total of five judges will be officiating: two from South Africa and three from Zimbabwe. Spectators are welcome and there is no entry fee for spectators. Dogs wishing to compete must obtain a registration number from the Zimbabwe Kennel Club (ZKC) and entries must be submitted by May 13th.
On the morning of Saturday 2nd June, dogs will compete in agility and dog jumping. In agility, dogs run an obstacle course consisting of hurdles, tunnels, see-saws, weaving poles and others. The handler guides the dog through increasingly challenging courses, aiming to beat the clock with the fewest faults. The key to success is for dog and handler to learn to understand each other, trusting that the other member of the team will be up to the challenge.
In the afternoon, we will offer various levels of the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) exam – this is open to all dogs provided they have the required vaccinations. The Zimbabwe Kennel Club’s CGC Test is a programme that is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community and it encourages and stresses the importance of responsible dog ownership by the owners. The ZKC CGC Test is a three part programme comprising of a Bronze, Silver and Gold Level, with an introductory puppy level for dogs under one year of age. These tests are not competitive and lay down the foundation for ZKC progression to disciplines such as Obedience, Agility, Dog Jumping etc. Successful participants will receive a ZKC Certificate and Rosette.
On Sunday morning, we will start with an obedience show. Obedience tests the capacity of the dog to work with their handler through a series of progressively difficult exercises. In obedience, dogs are asked to walk nicely in heel position around a course that is provided by the judge on the day. They also have to retrieve various articles. There are five levels of obedience, and dogs must start from the first level (“beginners”) and over the years make their way to the top grade (“C-Test”). We currently have only two dogs qualified to compete in the top grade in Zimbabwe. If they score more than 95% on their test, they get a qualifying certificate. If they earn three of those under three different judges, they become Obedience Champions.
The program concludes on Sunday afternoon with a breed show. The breed ring is open only to dogs registered with the ZKC. Dogs from each breed are assessed against each other and the best specimen of the breed is awarded the best of breed certificate. All dogs are judged against the approved breed standard particular to each breed which include soundness, health and well-being as well as coat, character and temperament. Dogs winning five qualifying certificates under different judges earn the title of “breed champion.” The winner and reserve from each group then compete against each other in the final line up – known as the “Grand Challenge” – for the title of “best in show”.
This will be one of the largest dog events of the year, and we hope to demonstrate all the exciting things that can be done with our best friends!