Every year, the famed Westminster Kennel Club holds a dog show, which is televised around the world and is attended by hundreds of dog lovers. Virtually every breed of dog competes against his or her counterparts to achieve the final goal ? Best in Show. Owners of dogs everywhere dream of competing against the ?best of the best? and the chance to be in the spotlight for one great moment. The road to the Westminster, however, is not an easy one. Owners must begin competition from the bottom up ? gaining experience and points along the way at small shows, spending a lot of time and money on the road, with no guarantee that their dogs will ever be ?good? enough to attend the Westminster. Most of us will never get to that level of competition. The Westminster is an admirable goal, but there are less lofty, and just as satisfying, venues in which to compete and show off your dog?s talents. Most dogs were originally bred for a purpose. For example, the Maltese, with its flowing white mane of hair, was a favored companion and lap dog for royalty. The loyal Dalmatian has been used throughout its history as a coach dog and firehouse dog. The strong and dependable Alaskan Malamute earned its keep by drawing sleds through the cold climates. Whatever the breed, dogs have had a favored place in the lives of humans for centuries. As times progressed, the need for dogs in working environments became less necessary, but the love we have for them remains. It has become more and more important to find ways in which we can share our lives with our loyal friends. Dog clubs have been formed for literally every breed of dog. Their goals range from providing a place for owners to socialize with others who share the love of their breed to offering training and advice to new owners. Others have developed specialized clubs where dogs can use the skills for which they were originally bred. Earthdogs clubs are for owners of dogs such as Rat Terriers, Dachshunds, and other small hunting breeds. The dogs compete against each other by racing through narrow tunnels, approximately nine inches in diameter, to find their quarry ? a caged rat at the end. The dog uses his or her scenting skills and is able to work off the excess energy which is inherent in these breeds. Agility clubs are for owners of virtually any breed of dog who has the enthusiasm and energy to run through a specially designed obstacle course. The competition is timed and also evaluates the abilities and skills of the owner in controlling their dog. The dog must be able to maneuver through weaving poles, jump over obstacles, and closely follow their owner?s instructions. This is a high-energy event and lots of fun for both dogs and their owners. Obedience clubs may be attended by all breeds, including mixed breeds. Dogs learn basic skills, such as sit and stay, and then advance to off-leash obedience skills. Competitions in Obedience require that a dog perform a prescribed set of exercises with no errors. Within this club, dogs may earn the Canine Good Citizen, which rewards the dog for good behavior at home and in public. The ten part test requires the dog to behave properly around strangers and other dogs, walk politely on a loose leash, react appropriately to distractions, and demonstrate good obedience skills, among others. There are so many ways we can share our lives with our canine pals. Dog clubs abound for all skill levels and interests. It is important not only to fulfill our own needs, but also those of our pets who may still be yearning for the great outdoors of their ancestors.
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