A specialty club or a group of enthu- siasts may make an application to the Dalmatian Club of America to host a road trial. Also the DCA’s national spe- cialty show includes a road trial. Dogs completing these requirements are awarded these titles by the Dalmatian Club of America and can then have the titles recorded by the American Kennel Club for their dogs in accordance with the AKC’s recording of a parent club title procedure. The rules and regulations of a Dalmatian road trial are under the aus- pices of the Dalmatian Club of America. These rules and much more information on road trials can be found on the DCA website at www.thedca.org. It is no easy feat to train a Dalmatian to be reliable off-lead beside a horse, even though they often instinctively choose a position by the side or behind the horse and/or carriage. Yet most Dal owners will confess that the sense of accomplishment they feel with their Dal when together they earn a road dog title. It’s worth every early morn- ing sunrise practice session and every dismount for a correction they have to do. And pretty? Go see a road trial, not much in this world is more breathtak- ing than seeing a pretty spotted dog trotting beside a nice moving horse as both move in tandem through a mead- ow of green with the sunlight breaking through the cover of leafy trees, a dog effortlessly and easily doing naturally what it was bred to do. That is after all what makes our dog world go round!
a safe hocking distance when working in the field. (Photo © Kathy Clark Photography)
or carriage. These early events appar- ently died out without leaving much information about them but new rules were drafted in the 1940s that included competitions for riders on horseback with no cart or carriage. Dogs coached by trotting at the side of the horse. After a short revival of road trials in New Eng- land and Long Island they again died out. In 1989, the road trial mostly as we know it today was recreated by a small group of Dalmatian enthusiasts who studied the early trials and paired them with how we test dogs today to be reliable off-lead, attend to the job at hand, and show possession of stamina to trot/run long distances daily. This is the road trial as we know it today! A modern road trial involves sev- eral obedience tests from horseback or cart/carriage (always off-lead). Dogs are judged in the hock exercise (which is similar to the heel exercise in obedi- ence with the dog staying at the hock of the horse) for correct positioning to the horse and ability to keep up, the recall, the stay (dog stays for one minute in a sit or down), the hock with distraction, and the speed exercise. After comple- tion of these exercises that show the owner/rider/driver has complete con- trol of the dog by voice commanding only, the competition continues with a timed endurance portion of the trial, as the team is asked to travel a marked trail for either 12.5 miles (to be com- pleted within 3 hours) or 25 miles (to be completed within 6 hours). Dogs which qualify by passing the exercises and completing the trail within the 3 hours earn a Road Dog or RD title. Dogs which qualify and go the 25 miles earn a Road Dog Excellent or RDX title. A dog which earns three RDs then is awarded
the rare and coveted title of Road Dog Champion or RDCh. Similarly, a dog which earns three RDXs can then be awarded the Road Dog Excellent Cham- pion title or RDXCh. Dogs may also be entered in a road trial in the exercise portion only, exclud- ing the endurance trail portion and if successful in qualifying would earn a Coaching Certificate or CC. An owner may choose to compete for a CC when they want to show their dog has the abil- ities and instincts of a true coach dog, but for some reason they cannot train for the endurance portion. Horses must be used as part of the trial to showcase the Dalmatian’s affinity for and ability to work with the horse. They must be rid- den or pull a cart or carriage for the dog to coach to in order for the team to suc- cessfully compete in a road trial.
The hock exercise as seen from the rear. (Photo © Kathy Clark Photography)
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