Dogs show off agility skills in Perry

wcrenshaw@macon.comDecember 28, 2013 

PERRY -- Anyone who watches “The Dog Whisperer” knows that boredom is often the root cause of dog behavior problems.

The people who gathered at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter on Saturday believe they have the perfect outlet for their high-energy friends.

They were competing in a dog agility show, in which dogs joyously bound over, under, through and around various obstacles. The event, which featured 150 dogs, is a qualifier for the regional competition that will be held at the fairgrounds in June.

Carolyn Parker, of Atlanta, was there with her mixed breed dog, Maggie Moo.

“It exercises my old brain and my dog at the same time,” she said.

The outcome is based on speed and whether the dog correctly navigates the course.

Training a dog for agility competition takes patience, participants say, and it’s not recommended that anyone try to do it without help from an experienced trainer.

“It’s not easy,” Parker said. “You have to build a relationship with your dog where your dog understands your body movements and commands. But it’s challenging and a lot of fun.”

The show includes a variety of events, each of which have different challenges. One requires dogs to go through certain obstacles while avoiding others. Another requires the owner to stand behind a line and direct the dog from afar, rather than running with the dog. In the midst of running at full tilt, a dog may also be directed to lie down for five seconds.

The events are also divided into various classes, based on the dog’s experience level and size.

Debbie Zahler, who was score-keeping the masters level ring, said most of those dogs will run the course perfectly, so it often comes down to time. There are no points for style or looks.

“You can have the ugliest dog out there, as long as they are running on four legs,” Zahler said.

The show featured a wide variety of breeds, including many mixed breeds, but herding dogs seemed to be the most common. Agility training is considered especially good for working dogs that can become destructive if they don’t have something to do.

“It gives them a job,” Zahler said. “The herding breeds really need to have a job, so this becomes their job.”

The show also featured a wide variety of dog owners, including men and women, young and not so young.

Travis Wall, of Tampa, Fla., came to the show with his border collie, Kali. An auto glass installer, he has been involved with agility training for 11 years.

“She obviously loves it,” he said. “It’s good exercise and keeps them healthy.”

The show is a U.S. Dog Agility Association event, hosted by Sirius Dog Agility, a training center in Atlanta. Meryl Sherad, owner of Sirius, organized the show and brought some her own dogs.

“It takes a good year just to get them in the ring,” she said of the training process. “And then years and years. You never stop training.”

The event continues Sunday and Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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