|Agility in Action
By Taylor Blasko and Audrey Wrobel
On May 28, 2009, we set up an agility course on the grounds of Orefield Middle School in the Lehigh Valley PA. Our teachers were interested in our sport, and asked us to do a demo for each class. Since the students were our age, we wanted to let them know about the sport we love called dog agility. It may surprise the people in the dog world, but not many people know of this sport.
We did seven, fifteen minute demos with our dogs: Dallas, a five-year-old male Belgian Tervuren, Hershey, a four-year-old female Belgian Sheepdog, and Max, a three-year-old male Pomeranian. When our audience arrived, we explained each obstacle, and then ran the course with each dog. While one of us was running the course, the other would “narrate” it for the audience (explaining lead-outs, crosses, etc.) After each demo, we gave everyone a chance to ask us questions. One of the questions stood out. “Why do you make your dogs do this?” “Dog people” know that we would never make our dogs do these performance events if they did not like it, or did not want to. But some, “non-dog-people” think that we do. Our response was simple. Audrey said, “We do not make our dogs do this, they enjoy it. You can tell they want and love to do it by looking at the expressions on their faces. Dogs want to do any activity in general to simply please us. They want to job to do.” Taylor’s response was, “We would never make our dogs do performance events such as agility if they did not want to. As you can see, our dogs are off lead. If they didn’t want to do agility, they would most likely run out of the ring.” We then brought up the fact that performance activities reduce stress, which is related to behavioral problems, such as chewing homework, or ruining toys, because it gives the dog something else to focus its energy on.
Overall, the day was a great first demo. It was a great learning experience for the students, and a great training experience for the dogs and us as well, and it definitely showed in the ring. Dallas and Max also earned some nicknames. Dallas was called Buh-Buh, and Max was Buttercup.
The second demo was on June 1st at Schnecksville Elementary School. We targeted younger children, the 4th graders. At this demo, we talked about dog agility, and how to be a responsible pet owner. We also pin-pointed pet safety, because every time we go to dog shows, we are appalled by the number of people of all ages that approach a dog and pet it without asking the owner first. It really bothers us, and many people feel the same way.
With the 4th graders, we did the same thing we did at the first demo, explaining each obstacle and then running the course. Along with agility, responsible pet ownership, and pet safety, we explained other performance events such as rally, obedience, and conformation. Since we had a younger age group, the questions were different, such as, “How can we get started on our own?” We told them to put a few bricks on each side and add a broomstick to simulate a jump, or put a blanket between two chairs, and call it a tunnel. This is how agility got started. A man named John Varley, a member of the Cruft’s Dog Show committee was given the task in 1978 to entertain the public during breaks at the Crufts Dog Show in London, England. The course and the obstacles of the first agility course were slightly different than the ones we see today. For example, the course was in the shape of a figure eight, with the table in the middle. Basically, it has evolved from horse jumping shows…with a twist!
Overall, it was a great experience for the dogs, the kids, and us. We hope to do many more agility demos in the future and, truth be told, we are just getting started with them. We will be competing in agility for many years to come. On those hot, early mornings with our bad tempers, sometimes we question our sanity in doing these dog shows…but we love them anyway!
Audrey is thirteen-years-old and attends Orefield Middle School in the Lehigh Valley, PA. She will be going to the 8th grade this coming school year. She has two very smart, fun-loving dogs named Dallas, a Belgian Tervuren, and Hershey, a Belgian Sheepdog. Hershey and Audrey are a great team. They have been doing agility together for almost three years. Hershey has just earned her Novice Agility Jumpers title. She is also a Champion, and has her Rally Novice title. Audrey competes with her and Dallas in Jr. Showmanship in the Open Intermediate class. Audrey’s mother, Heidi, runs Dallas in the other performance events. They are a great team, and they are still working on getting agility titles, but have their Rally Novice title. Audrey volunteers at a local cat shelter called Forgotten Felines, and would love to become a veterinarian, or any career that involves animals.
Taylor will be attending Parkland High School as a freshman this coming school year in the Lehigh Valley, PA. She is fifteen years old. Taylor has a cute, loving and smart orange-sable Pomeranian named Maxwell. They have been doing agility together for almost three years, and just recently got a qualification in Novice Jumpers, and have a leg in Novice Rally. Taylor and Max also compete in Junior Showmanship in Open Intermediate. Her mom, although she does not run a dog is always a great company at shows. They both plan on getting another dog for her to show soon. Although in the future Taylor plans to become an architect, she would also like to be a professional handler.