I was recently asked if I had any advice for someone who is interested in getting a Dalmatian someday and would like to give agility a try. I'm a little late on my reply (sorry!), but I thought I'd share my thoughts.
It probably goes without saying that I think Dalmatians, in general, are great candidates for agility. They are very athletic dogs known for their (sometimes endless amounts of) energy and endurance. As many dogs do, they certainly benefit from having a job and a positive outlet for all that spotty enthusiasm! I've only worked with a few agility Dals personally, but have watched a number of others over the years and am happy to share my observations.
When it comes to picking a dog with a performance career in mind, it's my honest option that temperament is probably one of the most important considerations, along with structure. As much as I love Peyton, and wouldn't trade him for anything (most days!), he has quite a bit of genetic baggage, as one of my trainers would say. When choosing the Derby pup, temperament was at the very top of my list. I honestly couldn't even tell you if there are any top performance dogs in his lines as that's just not something *I* really consider all that important.
While I do think there is a lot of value in selecting a pup from an experienced, reputable breeder who can help find a good match in terms of temperament, structure, and personality, there are certainly some great rescued Dals out there competing too! If I were looking for a performance candidate specifically, I would probably look for a dog (with those qualities) that's at least a year old, but that's just based on my personal experiences only. I love puppies, but they certainly can be unpredictable.
As far as training goes, while there really aren't any issues that are *unique* to Dalmatians, I have found that many Dals share similar challenges.
I thinks the breed, in general, can be deceptively soft. I say deceptively because I think the average observer sees their high energy and fun loving personalities and will often mistake training issues and signs of stress for stubbornness or even stupidity. I'm sure that most people who watch Peyton run in a trial have no idea that he's very capable of melting into a puddle of spots (so to speak) if he feels like he's done something wrong.
Not that their sensitive nature is a bad thing, but it's definitely something to keep in mind when training. Training has to be *fun* for both dog and handler, and I think building confidence is more important than doing everything perfectly. This can be a hard concept for a lot of handlers (myself included!) to grasp, especially when first starting out, but I think it pays off in the long run.
Dals are clowns and boy dals in particular can be especially silly and verrrrrry slow to mature. A sense of humor is a *requirement*, and I'm pretty sure my boys think their number one job is to keep me entertained. :) I have found that it's much easier to work with their instincts rather against them. Resources such a Control Unleashed (books and DVDs) are invaluable for those struggling with various control/reactivity/training issues.
Probably the best training advice I can give is to find a really good (positive!) trainer (or school) that you're comfortable working with. I've been fortunate to work with some really amazing trainers, but I've definitely met a few that made me want to run in the opposite direction...quickly!
Those are my off-the-top-of-my-head rambling thoughts! Now my Dal friends, it's *your* turn - have any advice to offer? Please leave a comment!
Since no post is complete without pictures, here are some of Peyton from a recent trial...love them ears!
In other news, we have a winner in our shampoo giveaway! Suzanne, please send me an e-mail (to agiliespots(at)aol.com) with your address.
Also, for my Honest Kitchen fans, I've uploaded new coupons! Just click on the Honest Kitchen logo on the right hand side of the page. And if you are in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, I'm happy to report that Holistic for Pets is now carrying several varieties in their stores!