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Local dogs are on the move

Kathy HeicherVail, CO Colorado
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyBeckett jumps through the hoop at the training area in Eagle.
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EAGLE Up the ramp, through the tunnel, over the jump, across the teeter-totter.Becket and Daisy, two waggy-tailed Cavalier King Charles spaniels love obstacles. With the careful guidance of their owners, Eagle residents Jen Scroggins and Cindy Cohagen, the little dogs have grown quite competent at running dog agility courses. This week, the dogs and women are headed to Sunbury, Ohio for the American Kennel Club’s National Agility Championship. Just qualifying for that level of competition is an accomplishment. The dogs have to post qualifying scores twice in a single day – at six separate trials.Agility is a fast-growing sport that demonstrates a dog’s willingness to work with its handler in a variety of situations.

Dogs, acting on cues from their handlers, have to negotiate a tricky obstacle course with challenges that include weaving through poles, bounding over jumps and balancing on boards. And, they have to do it quickly, and within a specific time frame. Any type of dog can compete.”It is absolutely a team sport,” says Scroggins, noting that a too-early cue, or a glance in the wrong direction from the dog’s owner can result in costly penalties.Becket and Daisy, each about 17 pounds of silky, brown-and-white fur, clearly love running the course, located adjacent to the house on Brush Creek. Scroggins and Cohagen run a dog agility business, Foxfield Agility, teaching pets and their owners the joys of agility.

The women and their dogs put a lot of time into the competitions. Last year, they attended 32 trials, which took them to Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming and Utah. This is their first trip to national competition – in fact, they are likely the first Eagle County competitors to reach that level.”We’re constantly working on refining our teamwork – improving that communication between dog and handler,” Cohagen says.The reality, Scroggins says, is that the dogs think and process information faster than humans. Handlers have to learn the knack of calling the upcoming obstacles early, and using the right body language to cue the dog to its next challenge.For dogs to learn the obstacles is similar to people learning how to ride a bike, Scroggins says. Once you get it, you get it.

“Everything else is the handler,” she says.At this level of competition, the women are shaving fractions of seconds off of the dog’s performance, by encouraging tight turns, and by honing their cues. The women aren’t counting on bringing back big trophies from nationals. But they’re looking forward to some challenging competition, and some great camaraderie with the other competitors and their dogs.But most of all, they point out that they’re having fun.

“I have a dog that does agility,” Scroggins says of Becket. “But first and foremost, he’s my pet.”This story appeared first in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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