When deciding to get a dog there are a number of reasons why you may have made that decision. Going into all the examples could be a post all on its own. I want to focus on those who get a dog with intentions on getting them in to sport and competitions.
When I got Bourbon I had always wanted a dog I could do competition with. Not all dogs are made for competition, some grow up to be people or dog aggressive, and some don’t have the drive and the enthusiasm for training and sport. A lot of the behaviours can be corrected and trained yes. It is always better to know what kinds of behaviours you are working with before you start your training schedule. Always start with a strong foundation. Training is much more fun and exciting when you and your dog develop and work together to sharpen skills and prepare for competition when you are prepared for the work load and ready to get serious.
If you are thinking of getting your dog its BH there are a few things to know. First this is not a closed trial, all dogs are welcome.There is no breed or size restriction but in order for the dog to participate in the BH test the dog needs to be at least 15 months old. There is 3 components to getting your BH one of them is a practical test on theory that is completed before you do the other 2 components in front of a judge.
Your dogs temperament is under watch throughout the entire process. Your dog could pass the initial temperament assessment made before the trials begin, but that doesn’t mean a judge could stop your dog from continuing through the following phases of the trials.
Many breeds that take part in the BH testing are capable of being a danger to other dogs and people. It is the responsibility of the handler and the judge to make sure that any dog participating in the trials are behaviourally sound and the temperament under control.
Failure to have full control of your dog or any traces of temperament issues will result in disqualification and a comment in the score book in regards to the temperament/behavioural test failure.
During the first part of the evaluation (part A) you must achieve a 70% before you are able to continue on to the next portion of the evaluation called the traffic test. The judge does not give you the results of the points earned but rather a pass or fail. In order to complete the trial a total score of a minimum of 70% of the points available must be earned in both portions A and B of the trial. If you are not successful you are able to try again at a later date.
During this exercise there is a start and end point. At the starting point of the dog is to be at the left side of the handler in a heel position with its shoulder at the handlers knee. During the trial handler help to direct the dog is not permitted, any direction given by the handler will result in loss of points. Using toys treats and other aids to assist in the process is also not permitted during the trial. The only voice command given by the judge will be direction to begin each exercise,the change of pace, turns and stops required within the trial are done without command of the judge. It is however ok for the handler to make request for the judge to give the verbal directions.
Praise is ok, but only after the trail is complete. Between exercises it is expected that the dog remains at a heel to the handler. A three second pause is expected between the praise and the start of the next exercise.
During the exercise the dog is to be wearing an animal rights approved collar or harness. During the first exercise of portion ‘A’ the dog will be on leash, the leash is not to be on the live loop of the collar. your dog is expected to be in compete obedience and follow the handler with out having to give correction or extra command.
At the beginning of the exercise the handler may give the command heel, and then proceed 40-50 paces forward in a heel before performing a round about. On the return the dog and handler will preform 10-15 paces and then show the judge fast and slow paces of about 10 paces each. During the exercise the handler may only give the command of heel at the beginning of the exercise and at the beginning of the change of pace.
It is expected that throughout the exercise that the dog stays at a heel with its shoulder at the handlers knee. Whenever the dog stops the dog is expected to sit quickly without command or adjustment from the handler. The handler at this time is not permitted to fix any incorrect positioning. Positioning will be scored by the judge and further attempt to correct positioning by the handler will result in loss of points.
At the judges command the handler and the dog will be directed to walk through a group of people. The group will consist of a minimum of four people, their movements may be random and inconsistent, the dogs and handlers reaction to this will be scored by the judge. I have been told that if at any time the temperament of the dog comes into question by the judge they will not permit the dog and handler to continue to the last portion of the exercise of going through the group of people.
During the group portion of the exercise the dog will be guided by the handler in a figure 8 type pattern, heeling beside one of the persons at each turn of the figure 8. at the completion of the group portion praise is permitted but only after the dog and handler are away form the group.
*for those of you wondering why the praise has to be done away form the group…. during training and competition you are building drive with your dog in order to have them perform better during the trails. Putting a dog in drive in a group of people can increase the level of stress a dog may feel, praising a dog in the middle of all of this will only increase the drive. In close quarters with strangers that drive may become unpredictable and someone can get hurt*
On and Off Leash
Once the dog has completed the on leash portion of the exercise, only at the command of the judge will the handler remove the leash. Hanging the leash over the left shoulder or in the pocket, the dog will complete the group exercise again, stoping at a heal at least once during the process. At the end the handler and the dog exit the group and the pair goes to the starting point and stops at a heel waiting for the judge to give the command to continue.
On the judges command the handler will give the command heel to the dog and both dog and handler will complete the exercise exactly as it was competed on leash at the beginning of the trail.
Both parts of this exercise are worth 15 points each.
Sit and Motion Exercise
Completion of the first portion leads into this next exercise. During this exercise the dog will be off leash. ‘Heel’ the dog and handler take 10-15 paces forward. when the handler comes to a stop it is expected that the dog sit quickly with the dogs shoulder at the knee and the focus on you. The handler can give the command sit, and then take 30 paces forward without the dog, and without turning back to look at the dog. After 30 paces the handler will stop and turn to the dog, on the judges direction the handler will return to the dog and step beside the dog in order to be back in position. The dog is not to stand up or lay down at all during this process, if the dog does, there will be a deduction of 5 points.
Successfull completion of this exercise could earn you a maximum of 10 points.
Down and Recall
To do this the handler gives the command heel and takes 10 passes forward. The command of down is then given by the handler, the dog is expected to go down without further assistance from the handler. Without assistance from the handler and without turning around the handler walks another 30 paces, stops and then turns to face the dog.
On the judges command the handler will recall the dog. the dog is expected to come to the handler quickly and with excitement. when the dog reaches the handler the dog is expected to sit straight infront of the handler. At that time the handler may give the command heel, and the dog returns back into the heel position.
If the dog stands or sits when the handler walks away form the dog or anytime after but the recall is perfect, 5 points will be deducted. A total of 10 points can be awarded for completion of this portion.
Down Stay Under Distraction
This position is kept while another dog is doing the exercises. Your dog is placed in a down stay at a location designated by the judges. the handles is to take 30 paces away from the dog and with their back to the dog stay in position until a judge gives the command for the handler to return to their dog, getting in position with the dog on the left side.
The dog is expected to sit calmly while the other dog is completing the exercise, if the dog fidgets gets up or sits only partial points will be awarded, if the dog moves more then its only body length away form the down position the exercise is failed.
At the completion of all exercises, the dog and handler much achieve 70% or a minimum of 42 points in order to continue. failure to do so will result in the dismissal from further participation in the trial.
Portion ‘B’ – Traffic Test
During this portion of the trial there is a number of different variations that may take place. There are no points awarded for this portion of the trials but the judge will be watching the dogs every move and reaction the a number of distractions.
During this exercise the dog will be exposed to cyclists, cars, pedestrians, and a number of other distractions that can put your dog ion a position of stress where they may break away from the handler. This will result in a negative outcome.
There is no hard fast layout for this portion of the exercise. The judge will decide a location and circumstance that will best assist the needs of the exercise but also facilitate a safe environment to do so.
Once you have successfully completed these exercises you are able to continue onto getting further IPO titles. As mentioned, if you are not successful in your first attempt at your BH you are able to make another attempt at it.
The above is a list of the different trails you are able to take part in with your dog. IPO training is tough for both dog and handler but it is a great bonding experience. Many of the dogs that participate in these trails are those of the gardian breeds such as German Sheppards, Mastiffs, Rotweilers, Dobermines, Bully variations and many more.
As an owner who has a Cane Corso who went through a very bad teenage stage, I am a firm supporter in IPO training and the importance of a strong obedience foundation for your dog.
Bourbon will be entering the BH portion of the IPO trials this summer. It is the first of many of a career in competition.