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Agility Dogs Put Best Paw Forward In Yearly Show

One of Saturday’s K9 participants makes her way through the course.

by Beverly Amsler

Dogs dodged raindrops as they jumped through hoops, ran through tunnels, and weaved through polls on their way to the finish line in the annual Star City Canine Club Agility Trial held at Hollins University last weekend. Rain poured down for the majority of the 3-day event.  Last year, the canines and their humans had to contend with snow and ice.

Anne Marie Green from Salem competed with Bella, her 3-year-old Sheltie.

Green says her family was watching an agility trial on ESPN2 and the children wanted another dog after theirs had died.

“There was a Sheltie going through the weave polls.  My son said, ‘I’d like to have that kind of dog’, and I said, ‘I think I would, too’. . .So we got her (Bella) and then we took the basic classes, Puppy Kindergarten and Obedience and stuff at Star City Canine and then started taking agility with them, too.”

The Hollins event was Bella’s first competition a year ago.  “We’ve traveled a little bit down to North Carolina and Virginia shows and we’re having a lot of fun.”

But it can become expensive if you decide to travel to trials.  “If you go somewhere where you need to spend the night, like we went down outside of Charlotte for two nights, my husband and I.  So it was like a little mini-vacation.”

Green and Bella won hoopers and tunnelers in their category.  They also received a qualifying score in tunnelers.  “You try to aim for a qualifying score that’s based on doing the course the right way and the time involved.  So you get a qualifying score and then you can get first, second, or third place depending on your speed.”

The secret to having an award-winning team of human and canine is “Practice, lots and lots of practice-and patience.  The dogs don’t screw up; the people screw up.  And so it’s lots of practice.  And some dogs are more naturally good at agility.  Shepherd dogs seem to be (good at agility).  You don’t see a lot of hound dog-types.  They do other things.”

While everyone wants to win, Janet Jonas of Salem says the main thing is to have fun.  “If they go off course, it’s your fault.  Your dog didn’t do it – you did it.  You sent the dog to the wrong thing or moved something wrong, so it’s your fault.”

She’s been competing with 6 1/2-year-old Golden Retriever Emmy since the dog was two.  It’s her second Golden Retriever agility dog.  “Goldens really want to please you.  She’s very soft so I have to be careful not to do many corrections because it just de-motivates her; if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it.  So you have to be careful with Goldens . . . You can’t do a lot of reprimanding.”

If someone is thinking about getting their dog involved in agility, she suggests observing a trial first.  The Roanoke Kennel Club is hosting an AKC trial in May at Camp Bethel.

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