Animals and the future of the Olympic Games |

Animals and the future of the Olympic Games

Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

While across the pond Londoners are preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games, local canine athletes are preparing for one of the animal world’s Olympic-worthy competitions to be held this year in Reno. The American Kennel Club National Agility Championships are free to the public Friday through April 1 at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Event Center. An exciting spectator sport as well as high level competition, the canine sport of agility features handler and off-leash canine working as a team. Competitors prepare by qualifying in local and regional competitions. Some local hopefuls have been coached by international agility judge Chris Vaught, founder of Carson Dog Sports. Last week the facility, now named Carson Canine Adventures, hosted intense prep sessions with international trainer and World Champion Team member Elicia Calhoun. Up to 1,000 competitors are expected in Reno.

Canine Agility was patterned after the equine dressage, jumping, and eventing Olympic competitions. With interest in canine sports increasing and standards elevated to Olympic levels, the next natural progression is campaigning for official Olympic status. In 2001, the first international conference on cynological sports took place in Moscow. (Cyno is derived from Greek for “dog” and is used to describe all things canine in Russia, especially training.) Under the umbrella of the International Federation of Cynological Sports nation members from five continents have joined to participate and set standards worthy of Olympic consideration. The first Cynosport World Games was held in Dallas in 2003. In addition to agility, the event brought together disciplines governed by independent canine sports organizations for Flyball, Flying Disc and Canine Freestyle, as well as the introduction to North America of “Summer Combined Competition”, a paramilitary sport from Eastern Europe. This year, the United States Dog Agility Association celebrates 25 years putting on the Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships. September 26-30, the USDAA will host the 2012 Cynosport World Games in Commerce City, Colo. 

Cynosport event categories are Agility, Obedience, Freestyle, Summer Combined and Winter Combined. Summer Combined competition features exercises which handler and canine perform together: a 100-meter sprint, 300-meter obstacle course with hurdle, barrier wall climb, steep A-frame stairs, zones with “grenade” throwing, trench crawling, beam walking, and five air rifle targets with dog at rest, ending with the canine catching a “bad guy.” The Winter Combined competition includes skijoring for 800 meters, air rifle target shooting, running three slalom gates, and “grenade” throwing at three targets. Both Summer and Winter Combined events are considered extreme sports.

Freestyle competition has become familiar to many due to the popularity of Internet videos featuring dogs dancing to popular music. There are two types of Canine Freestyle. Freestyle Heeling requires the handler-canine team to perform obedience moves while remaining close together although creativity is encouraged. Flashier Music Freestyle allows distance commands, tricks and full on entertainment. To witness another potential canine Olympic category, venture to Santa Rosa for the Freestyle Regional Competition to be held April 21-22 . It is sanctioned by the World Canine Freestyle Organization.

The Olympic Cynological Movement intends to further the human-animal bond through education, recreational dog sports activity and family involvement with their best friends. IFCS events are open to all people and all dogs, purebred or mixed breeds.

– Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and S.P.C.A. to help “Keep Tahoe Kind. Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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