Anna Rumer, firstname.lastname@example.org 4:30 p.m. EST December 25, 2014
Dee Sims claps as Tucker the pit bull makes his way through an obstacle.(Photo: Chris Crook/Times Recorder)
Dog agility, a sport in which dogs are led by handlers’ commands through an obstacle course that includes tunnels, jumps, seesaws and tire jumps, was popularized in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and quickly spread to include thousands of competitions worldwide every year.
Stacey Sucky, of Bow Wow training/" title="View more posts about Dog Training here">Dog Training in Zanesville, has been teaching dog obedience for years, but only 12 years ago began experimenting with agility. Now, she teaches beginner and advanced classes at We Lov Pets, showing other dog-human pairs what to do with the assistance of Blitz, an 11-year-old border collie with nine years of agility experience.
“Agility is more outside the box, where obedience, there’s one way to do it,” she said. “It’s like a dance. That’s what I like about it.”
Not only must the dogs learn in which order they should take the obstacles, they must learn the proper procedure for each. Weave poles require the dog to look past its instincts and slalom between each pole without skipping any, while the seesaw requires the dog to find the board’s center of gravity and gently tip it before continuing on.
That is often the most challenging obstacle, Sucky said; dogs generally catch on to what they need to do quickly.
“They are so aware of where their mouth goes and where their feet go. I mean, that’s how they stay alive,” she said. “It’s all about harnessing it ... because they follow you.”
Sucky said it’s generally the handlers who need the most training, partially because of their tendency to second guess their actions.
“The people are generally a little bit slower on the learning curve because you have to manage the dog’s position, your position and rewarding at the right time,” she said. “Fast is not always a plus because there is less time to fix the dog’s and your mistakes.”
One of the best things about agility, Sucky said, is that any dog and any human can do it. Breeds such as German shepherds and golden retrievers that have been designed to work with people may take to the sport quicker, but all are trainable.
Tucker, a 2-year-old pit bull that once had been abused, is working at the basics of agility with his human, Dee Sims, in the beginner’s class. Sims said she finds agility is a fun way to bond with Tucker in a more fluid setting.
“The dogs have fun, versus obedience, where they have to behave,” she said.
Russell, a 5-year-old herding dog/Labrador mix used to country living, is giving agility a go to try to lose weight while helping his owner, Leslie Mitchell, learn how to teach agility herself.
Clients and dogs of all ages come for different reasons, Sucky said, but they all stay for the friendship and laughs that come when you’re trying to get a dog to literally jump through hoops.
“It’s a very social sport. It really has to do with the relationship between the dog and owner,” Sucky said. “It enhances both lives.”
People looking to learn more about the sport can spectate at one of the Fieldhouse’s upcoming American Kennel Club Agility trials, which take place Dec. 27 and 28 and Feb. 8 and 9. Trials begin at 6:30 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m.
People who want to sign up for agility classes can get more information at bowwowdogtraining.com or by calling Sucky at 740-704-6493.
If you go
Parkersburg Obedience Training Club will be hosting AKC Agility Trials on Feb. 8 and 9 at the Fieldhouse.
For more information, visit furrydogs.com.
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