Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why Agility

I've been asked several times why and how I got into Agility. The short answer is, believe it or not, by random luck! The long answer is, well, it's long :)

I've been obsessed with dogs even since I can remember - I was one of those children that wanted to hug every doggie on the street and bring them all home. I also got into reading about dog training early on, for some reason it just fascinated me. At some point in middle school, my family finally gave into getting me a dog, and I got my hands on training an actual dog rather than just reading about it. When I had to move for school, the family dog stayed back at home, and I was back to theoretical learning and no hands-on practice.

In college, I decided to volunteer at a local no-kill dog shelter to get my dog fix. I applied my self-taught methods and learned lots of new ones. Lucky for me, I met and got to know one of the long time volunteers there, who saw my potential, and taught me so much about dogs, I couldn't possibly tell you all about it. He even let me work with the "lead only" dogs - these were difficult dogs with issues like aggression, biting, fear, etc. It was hard work, but I loved it, and am so thankful to have had that opportunity!

When time came that I could finally get my own dog, I started my research. Somewhere along the way, I ran across the various dog sports, and thought it could be fun to try one. When I finally settled on getting Philip, I had decided that I would give either Herding or Agility a go, just to see what it's like.

Yet again, by pure luck, Herding wasn't readily available, while an Agility training opportunity practically fell into my lap. I knew next to nothing about the sport at this point, but I took the opportunity. It would be something fun to do with my dog, and he was reaching the right age for the sport, so why not, right?

Philip took to training like he was born for it. Other handlers had trouble teaching their dogs going over a jump or through a tunnel, while mine pranced through the obstacles, and made it look like he's been doing it all life long. Not to say we didn't have problems, but he certainly made it look easy in comparison! Again, I was lucky to have a dog that made the beginning process so easy for me. After a few classes, I realized that both Philip and I had a ton of fun learning Agility, and so I decided we'd continue the training.

The class I was enrolled in at the time was more for fun, so when faced with continuing training, the trainer suggested that I go to another local instructor, who teaches purely competition-focused Agility classes. Lucky for me, this instructor wasn't too far from me and is amazing - she competes with her own dogs, and the classes are very well structured (I'll tell you about our classes another time).

All in all, the whole experience has been simply amazing, and so, by pure luck, I was training Philip to compete. Several months later we entered our first trial. It's been an amazingly fun and rewarding experience, I never looked back, I love Agility! As for Philip, you only need to see the expression on his face when we enter the class, and how impatiently he waits for his turn, he most certainly loves it too!

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