Tyne, a three-year-old prodigy of sorts, is not particularly tall and not especially handsome. You might not notice him in a crowd. You might even step on him unwittingly. But Tyne, a brown-haired Pembroke Welsh corgi, will do anything -- well, nearly anything -- on command.
He'll sit, stand, jump, heel and probably roll over until he's dizzy. He'll do it for his master, Patricia A. Hess of Upper Marlboro, or anyone else who should happen to ask. It's a heckuva show.
Tyne was not the only ultra-obedient dog at the Adelphi Manor Recreation Club in Hyattsville yesterday. He was just the best. About 150 dogs, from Dobermans to Dachshunds, turned out yesterday, accompanied by their benefactors, to strut their canine stuff in a practice obedience competition.
The dogs, all purebreds, were from all over the metropolitan area. Some of them were comely, some of them . . . well, not so comely, but the judges weren't there to note their looks. This was a contest of brains, not beauty.
"This is where a dog's intelligence comes in," said Shirley Harry of Takoma Park, whose one-year-old Doberman pinscher, Maxwell Titan Von Scorpio, (just call him Max) finished second in one of the novice categories.
"With show dogs," she continued, "they've either got it or they don't. It's not a matter of talent at all. But with these obedience competitions, it's a reflection on you and your dog's character."
Harry, like most of the 200 masters at the match yesterday, said she worked with her dog daily for 10 minutes to a half hour. And Harry, like all the others, cited patience as the most important dog trainer trait.
"You've got to be able to say in a real nice way to the dog that he's done something wrong," she said. "You've got to be able to say when he goofs up, 'Okay, it's hot. I understand how he feels.'"
As a group, these dog owners seem low-key, willing to put up with dogs that seem to forget all training at the slightest distraction. Still, this dog obedience is serious sport, even if it is only a practice run.
Dominique Dunn, a shy 15-year-old with a big ambition, is a perfect example. She works with her two-year-old Russian wolfhound, Czar, three times a day, 20 minutes a stint. It's paid off.
Czar recorded his second first-place finish yesterday in his category in three practice matches. (The real competitions, which count toward various titles, are called trials.) Dominique is eyeing something a little bigger: By next summer, she wants Czar to be an Obedience Champion -- the highest possible title, which is held by only about 150 dogs in the country.
One woman at the match yesterday already boasts an Obedience Champion.
"It's a real source of satisfaction for me to see a dog do a really perfect job," said Joan Thurlow of Marshall, Va., whose five-year-old collie, Beebee, became a champion three years ago.
"It's a very basic thing to get a dog to respond," she said. "And it's a great feeling to communicate across such a large gulf -- human to animal."
The masters were unanimous in their belief that they know their dogs far better than the average dog owner. And many of them were even disdainful of breeding competition -- the beauty shows of the canine world that usually attract all the attention.
Kenneth Nagler, a retired meteorologist with the National Weather Service is a board member of the Dalmation Club of America and has seen both sides of the dog show world -- talent and beauty. But if he's pressed, he'll acknowledge his bias.
"The breed show world . . . well, that's much more dog-eat-dog."