a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: History of Dog Sports--the Taj MuttHall view

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

History of Dog Sports--the Taj MuttHall view

SUMMARY: Are obedience, agility, and rally-o "traditional" dog sports?

A friend's comment on one of my posts identifying those as traditional made me laugh out loud in bemused amusement.  Which are "traditional"? Which are "new"?   I suppose that this goes along with my own place in time, which begins in a global sense with "What were you doing when Kennedy was shot?" which I don't think that even any of my younger sisters can answer.

Not that I'm saying that I'm old.  I'm still in my 20s, just the face is changing.

Sooooo here is my immediate reaction.

Agility and rally included in "traditional" dog sports!  Rally-O wasn't even invented until about 4 years after I started agility, which in turn didn't have a presence in the U.S. until only 7 or 8 years before I started.  So they're both new in my world view.  (And both, incidentally, were introduced into the U.S. in a large way by the same man, Bud Kramer, whom, incidentally, I believe is in fact the inventor of rally-o because he was concerned about dog folks leaving obedience in droves for agility--and, incidentally about that, see my discussion on MBDCA below).

They're new sports, as are dock jumping (about 2 years after I started agility), freestyle (only about 6 years before), weight pulling (about 10 years before), Treibball (among the baby dog sports, just 10 years old), of course barn hunt and nosework, and a whole slew of others.

In other words, to me, most dog sports are "new."

To me, "old" sports include herding (forever), sled dog racing (forever), field trials (1866), disc dog (early 1970s), and lure coursing (around 1970) (which, incidentally, was founded by Lyle Gillette, a man for whom I did some work at his kennels* one summer as a kid--which, incidentally, I blogged about 10 years ago).

The rise of dog sport varieties has amazed me--when I got Amber, my first dog, nothing really existed in my world view except Obedience, and we couldn't compete in that because it was only for purebreds. The Mixed Breed Dog Clubs of America, which provided  a place where non-AKC dogs could do conformation and obedience, was founded only at about the time that she came into my life, and I didn't learn about it for another 15 years, when Remington arrived in my life.

The MBDCA lived for only about 30 years. Remington won tricks contests there our first couple of years.  Dog agility gave that club a nearly mortal wound--people like myself found the new sport to be more exhilarating than obedience--and AKC allowing all dogs to compete has pretty much killed it off.  They still exist, but the CA branch, which was thriving when I first got Remington, has gone extinct as near as I can tell.

SOoooooo there you go, a short history of new vs. old dog sports!

Wikipedia has a pretty good list of dog sports: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dog_sports. --Which, incidentally, I created in 2004 and contributed to greatly -- and, incidentally, I refer to that effort in the old blog post that I mention above, where I said that I was researching lure coursing: It was for Wikipedia articles. And here are the sports that I listed off the top of my head in that page before saving it for the first time:
By the time I was pretty much done with it a year later, it had added:

And that is PLENTY of "incidentally"s for today.

The house and kennels, incidentally, went to the big house graveyard in the sky reserved for those cleared away by freeways (to which, incidentally, I also briefly refer in that previous blog post); CA State 85 was nothing more than a corridor cutting through the west side of the Santa Clara Valley for decades, and Gov. Jerry Brown in his first stint in office (incidentally, he's also the current governor) declared that it would never be built, so it stayed empty with occasional bold folks building in it, believing his statements.  When we were kids, my friends and I used it as a shortcut from one neighborhood to another. Decades later, when I was in my 3rd purchased house, just a quarter mile from the right-of-way, plans were finally finalized to start building on it. Friends who had bought a lovely new home facing the open space that "would never be built" 20 years earlier suddenly found themselves facing a 6-lane freeway. The day before the freeway opened to traffic, they allowed pedestrians and bicyclists all along it for a last shortcut from one neighborhood to another.  The point being that Phydelma and Lyle Gillette's home was in that right-of-way and is no more.  I still often think of them as I drive over the freeway overpass where, if you look to the right going south on Stelling, you can imagine the ghost of their spread.


  1. Besides actual hunting, I'm guessing the oldest dog "sports," sadly, are probably dog fighting and using dogs to bait various kinds of animals in front of an audience. Glad those are illegal and they've discovered ways to test dog's hunting instincts without actually tearing small animals apart.

    I'd always wanted to try formal obedience training when I was younger, but my dogs were always non-purebred shelter rescues. My first heard of agility in the 90s, and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. Plus, you didn't have to have a purebred dog to do it. Once I got a chance to do it, old style obedience seemed pretty dull in comparison. Nosework looks like fun. I keep thinking maybe I should try it with Flick, since she's been too high strung so far to be a safe, reliable competition agility dog.

    1. You're probably right about the oldest. When I saw dogs doing Obedience as a teen, I determined right then that I was going to have an obedience champion. It was a shock after working with Amber on my own to discover that it didnt matter how good she was because she wasn't purebred. With Remington, I took it very seriously, took private lessons for a year or so and it was much more interesting than I had thought it would be--except, yes, I had also just started competing in agility and never went back to the Obedience.