An obstacle for every dog |

An obstacle for every dog

Kathy Heicher
Kathy Heicher/Enterprise Becky Sobek's golden retriever Lexi conquers the ramp.

EAGLE – The class graduates were excited, a touch nervous, and eager to deal with the obstacles before them.The people were looking pretty pleased, also. There were wagging tails and smiles all around.The Foxfield Agility Center on Brush Creek had successfully introduced the sport of dog agility to yet another set of eager dogs and their equally enthusiastic owners.Three years ago, Foxfield owner Jennifer Scroggins was just beginning to learn dog agility. Now she’s teaching other pet owners throughout the valley how to safely participate in the sport, which involves running dogs through an obstacle course. The course involves a variety of challenges for the dogs. With a couple of exceptions, the canines in the graduating class were eager to walk a teeter-totter, climb ascending and descending ramps, traverse a balance-beam, run though a pipe tunnel, weave through a set of poles, jump through hoops and over barriers, and crawl through a cloth tunnel.

Eagle-Vail resident Jeri Penland signed up her Australian shepherd, Misty.”She’s so smart – I wanted something challenging for me and her,” Penland said. Misty is showing enough promise that Penland is hoping to go on the competitive circuit with the dog, and win some ribbons, Penland added. Hula hoop of destiny

Dog agility is patterned after English-style equestrian competitions, and was introduced as a sport in the late 1970s. The obstacle course tests a competing dog’s dexterity, and also measures the ability of the owner to control the dog. The sport is sometimes televised on ESPN, or on the Animal Planet cable television channel.Scroggins got into the sport a few years ago, with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Sir Becket. A friend with a dog that was just a week older than Becket proudly showed how the pup jumped through a hula hoop.The next day, with a hula hoop bought from the Eagle Pharmacy, Scroggins and friend Cindy Cohagen taught Becket to jump through the hoop.Scroggins and Cohagen fenced off a 5,000-square-foot agility course on a portion of their land on Brush Creek; and purchased equipment built to American Kennel Club standards. Professional dog trainer Laura Van Dyne from Carbondale taught the first course.

Scroggins and Cohagen were immediately addicted. Cohagen now has her own King Charles Spaniel, Daisy, and the women and the dogs spend nearly every weekend on the road competing in agility trials and attending training seminars.Becket has collected a number of titles at the beginner and intermediate levels; and has one excellent level title. Daisy, a year younger, is also doing well in competition; and is showing some great promise.Lots of treatsDuring an average training session, the dog owners might hand out 75 to 100 treats and rewards.

The summer that Scroggins started training Becket, he gained six pounds – a notable amount of weight for a 15-pound dog. Realizing the error of her ways, Scroggins switched to nuggets of diet dog food for the treats.Suzy Gleason of Gypsum signed up with her dog, Sami, whom she described as half Australian cattle dog and half terrier. She saw dog agility on television, and thought the sport was just the kind of busy, active activity that would keep Sami happy, she said.”She’s a dog who needs to have a job,” Gleason said.At an actual agility trial, dog handlers have a time limit during which they use voice commands and body language to direct their un-leashed pet through an obstacle course. Typically, handlers can give the dogs any number of commands or signals, but are not allowed to touch the equipment or the dog.Scroggins said dogs tend to be apprehensive on their first visit to the course. However, after the first of class session, the animals look forward to the adventure, showing excitement as soon as they see the yard full of ramps, tunnels, and teeter-totters, she said.

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The owners are pleased to be there, too. “It’s a blast,” says Gleason.=======================To Learn MoreFor more information on Foxfield Agility Center, visit the Web site at or call 328-2671.

========================Vail, Colorado

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