Another dog-gone day at the park
August 27, 2006
Whoever said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” probably hadn’t witnessed agility dogs in action ” racing, jumping, balancing and weaving through an obstacle course with precision and determination.
Dog lovers gathered at River View Sports Park in Truckee on Thursday afternoon to watch a pack of eager animals demonstrate how an agility dog competition works.
Lynn Saunders, Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce president and a Truckee resident, said she’s been involved with dog agility training for about three years.
“It’s very addicting,” Saunders said. “It becomes a lifestyle.”
Her two shelties, Chloe and Liam, sat at the ready by her side as they anticipated the doggie treats she kept tucked in her pocket.
Saunders said people see the agility competitions on television and the sport catches their interest. Sometimes dog owners look for ways to expend their pets’ pent-up energy, which leads them to agility training.
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“It’s good to give them (dogs) a job to do,” Saunders said.
Typically herding dogs ” such as shelties, border collies, Australian shepherds and corgies ” make good agility dogs.
Lin Battaglia of Reno has been a dog trainer for 42 years and has taught agility dog training for 14 years. She rescued one of her agility dogs, Pebbles, from an animal shelter.
“She’s kind of a princess,” Battaglia said of the petite, bright-eyed border collie. “We had to teach her how to be a dog. She was afraid of everything.”
The bond Battaglia forms with her dogs is the greatest reward in her training, she said.
In the middle of September, Saunders said she will pack up her dogs and head to the North American Dog Agility Council competition in Gillette, Wyo. where as many as 300 of the “best of the best” dogs will compete in a five-day event.
Having a dog trainer with expertise in agility dog competitions is one of the first steps in learning a course, Saunders said.
“There are nuances with the shoulder or hips the dog reads,” she said.
Some of the obstacles require an incentive to convince the pooch to try, like using treats as bait at the end of the tunnel.
The weave poles on the course are the most challenging obstacle for a dog to learn, she said. It can take up to one year for a dog to master the skills of racing left and right through 12 poles set up in a straight line. Saunders said one of her training secrets is setting up gates on either side of the poles to keep the dog focused.
For competitions the animals are timed in trials, with a judge making sure each dog gets “at least one toe in the yellow (contact) zone” for every obstacle or they get disqualified.
Dog-owners can also be disqualified for poor sportsmanship in a competition.
“We’re here for fun and for the dogs to have fun,” Saunders said.