Happy Father’s Day to all the daddies out there! While most people relax and have a barbecue, I headed out to the All Dog Sports Agility in North Gower to hang out with my dad, his partner Jill, and their dog Jagger.
Jagger is a Nova Scotia Duck Toller, with a cheerful demeanor and a boatload of energy. He loves to swim, fetch, and run, and ever since he was a puppy, my dad and Jill have taken him to agility classes to help him burn off steam while learning to focus. Today was his first agility trial, and so I drove out down a dusty dirt road into the country, parked under a leafy tree, and found my Dad and his dog sitting in the shade waiting for the next trial.
Tents were set up along the middle of the field, filled with teams sitting around with their coolers, snacks, dog crates, umbrellas for shade, and soon it was time for the trial to begin!
There were 3 rings set up, with the obstacles placed in a formation through each one. Before the trial starts, they call over all of the dog handlers to walk them through the course. Jill, as Jagger’s handler, went over each tunnel, jump, and hoop to think of what she would do, where she would place her shoulder for Jagger to best read her body language, and how she would position herself and her hands. For many of the dogs, it was their first time doing an agility trial, and the first time running outside, away from the indoor practice rings.
The dogs were grouped into different categories based on their height, so more bars would be placed on the hurdles for taller dogs, and removed for smaller ones. Some dogs were eager to watch their handlers and knew exactly what to do, and others started out well but got mixed up and ran off happily to check out the spectators. I saw one dog sidle over to the edge of the ring and lift his leg, which meant a disqualification, and a bucket of water needed to pour over the mark. One lady ran her husky with a leash, dropping it as he ran quickly through the yellow tunnel, and picking it up lightning fast at the other end. With only 2 jumps to go, she decided to take his leash off, but then he was gone, heading full speed for the course’s exit (leashed dogs were doing it just to learn, and weren’t scored). There were several other huskies braving the heat to run and hurdle.
The obstacles are quite tricky in spots. For example, there is a teeter totter painted yellow for a few feet, then blue, then yellow. If the dog leaps off the totter before they have made contact with the yellow section, they are faulted. This was for safety, I learned, with the handlers teaching their dogs to pause, let the end of the teeter totter bank down on the ground, then keep going, and not to jump off before the yellow paint and hurt themselves.
There was also a table in the middle, for the dog to jump up on, lay down, and wait while the judge counts down from 5, before going off to the next challenge. This was tricky for the dogs that wanted to run fast and a few leapt too quickly and skidded off the table, while others waited quietly.
I saw all kinds of dogs there: swift border collies, elegant poodles, fluffy shelties, and lots of mix breeds which were listed as “All Canadian.” Dogs of all shapes, sizes, and speeds ran the course, including Lyca the Basset Hound and Abby the Miniature Yorkie.
Jagger, my dad’s dog, did well for his first time out! On his first run, as soon as he was released, he just ran around freely, but Jill caught his attention calmly and got him to start the obstacles. Once he understood, he did each one with ease, and ended up in 4th out of the 70 dogs!
The last trial was in the center ring, and this included Jagger’s third run of the day. He jumped the hurdles with ease, dashed through the tunnels, danced along the A frame, and laid down quickly on the table, but missed the hoop on the first time around, and blasted by the weave poles in his excitement to get to the tunnel on the other side. Not bad at all though for his first time out!
I really enjoyed watching all of the dogs show their stuff, and was pretty happy with how relaxed everyone was. The dogs seemed to feed off their handler’s positive energy. Out of all the dogs I watched, there was only one owner that got visibly frustrated when her dog went the wrong way through a tunnel. Everyone else seemed calm, proud of what their dogs had achieved, and quick to reward them with a kind word and a treat to congratulate them on a job well done when the course was complete.