Trainers and dogs bond at agility competition

By SAMANTHA MIDDLESTEAD/Montana State News

When young Sadey was found in a dumpster at three weeks of age, nobody expected her to become anything more than just another rescue pet. Now, at 10 years of age and with two titanium knees, Sadey is running competitively in dog agility and has never looked back.

The Galloping Dog Agility and Flyball Club hosted a dog agility event at at the Circle L Arena this past weekend that offered lively canines and their trainers the chance to compete in this increasingly popular sport.

Catherine LeCours, Sadey’s owner, was hooked on agility after watching a demonstration in her local obedience class. “I signed up for a few lessons and told my husband that I wasn’t planning on competing. It was just something fun to do,” LeCours said. After the second class however, “I was building my own equipment in my back yard.”

Nearly six years later, LeCours is running competitively with Sadey and her border collie Terra in all upper elite levels offered by the North American Dog Agility Council and has competed in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge where she finished second in the national finals.

“Any dog can do it,” says LeCours, who took any chance she could this weekend to cheer on her fellow trainers and their varied breeds of dogs.

Mark Wissinger and his wife Joni got started when they adopted a timid springer spaniel from their local humane society. Dog agility gave their new addition “self confidence,” and the couple has found that training has “established a better bond with their dogs.”

“Dog agility is a lot harder than people think,” said Joni Wissinger. “It’s a real science, and never boring.”

Though the commands these trainers use vary from the traditional “sit” and “stay,” the foundation for the more complex maneuvers stem from basic obedience.

Stefanie Herrera, who got started in agility from local 4-H, has worked many hours with her border collie RJ and says agility has really changed the way he acts. “He was all over the place when I first got him” says Herrera, but through positive training and persistence she has guided him successfully through the obstacle course filled with tunnels, weaves and hoops.

“I love the communal feeling of love for the dogs,” continues Herrera, and that is clear when the crowd erupts when every dog finishes the course no matter how well they did.

“We come out here for the love of the dog,” said Mark Wissinger. And dog agility has transformed the connection between humans and canines through more than just a leash in the hand.

Edited by Meghan O’Neal

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