Friday, January 2, 2009

Cairns and Agility

'My name is Pam, and I'm an agility addict!'

There, I've said it! Playing, training and trialing with my dogs in agility is about the most fun a person OR a dog can have!

So, what is agility? Well first and foremost, agility is a team sport! The handler does the 'steering' to guide the dog around a course of agility equipment as fast and accurately as possible. The fastest dog with the least faults wins!

Agility obstacles consists of various types of jumps, tunnels, an A frame and dog-walk, teeter, weave poles, and a pause table. There are a variety of games, including a standard course with all of these obstacles, an all-tunnel course, an all-jumpers course (really fast and furious) and games of strategy, where the handler decides on the path. Teams are broken down into classes based on size (size of the dog J ) and level of experience, though you're really always competing against the clock and the course that the judge has designed.

But agility is much more than that - it is a chance to spend time with your dog and is a bonding experience like no other! It takes months and even years of training to perfect technical and communication skills and come together as team, but the journey is a ball! And the end result is like a magical dance! The human aspect is an added plus - hanging out at agility class or trials is fun for the 2-legged member and its great exercise for BOTH of you.

I got started a few years ago after Charlie, my 'Benji Terrier' pup, had eaten a couch, 2 cell phones, and several of my favorite lipsticks - it was clear that the boy needed a full time job! We completed a basic obedience class at the local dog club, where he was a C student at best. We next took an intro agility class. Charlie loved it and was the class superstar - and we were both hooked! Soon after, Quincy joined the family, then Gracie and Henry, CP kids, joined the party. Now all 4 kids are in various phases of agility training, with Charlie and Quincy competing, and Grace and Henry taking intermediate classes. I'm teaching an intro class myself (and all the kids take turns being 'demo dogs'). We train 4 nights a week, and on weekends, we're at some kind of function: agility trial, or Earthdog, or tracking or something dog-related.

If you're wondering how little Cairns do in agility, well, one of the most titled dogs in the sport is a Cairn named 'Redwood's No Place Like Home' (aka Dottie) with a MACH 12 (Master Agility Champion, Level 12) - folks, that's nearly unheard of! And she's only 9 and still competing.

This year at the AKC Invitational's in the 8" jump height, 3!!! Cairn Terriers were in the top ten (of over 90 dogs). Cairns are tenacious, energetic and OH SO SMART. No need to drill over and over like some of the breeds- nope, do it once, 'Got It, Mom, lets try something harder!' So get yourself and your Cairn off the couch and give agility a try! I highly recommend that you find a local trainer and observe a class or a trial first, then sign up for an intro class to get you started. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Pam in So Fl and the agile pups, Charlie, Quincy, Gracie and Henry

1 comment:

  1. My cairn Macy is in basic agility classes. Generally she works well and pays attention, but when her hunting instincts kick in, she likes to run the fence looking for rats and rabbits. Recalls do not work at this time. Any advice for this based on training other cairns. I have three shelties with advanced agility titles so it is not the agility training, but the hunting that is the issue here.
    Agility mom