Dogs are not meant to just lay around the house and look adorable.
Their ancestors once bounded through woods, going over, around and through obstacles as they hunted a meal.
Few domesticated dogs today get to do that, but more than 200 dogs at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter on Saturday were an exception.
The dogs were competing in a dog agility show that is a qualifier for a regional competition to be held at the fairgrounds in June, as well as the national competition to be held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in November.
Competitors on Saturday came from around the Southeast, and there were a few from Middle Georgia. One of those was a Shetland sheepdog named Katy, owned by Diane Greene, of Byron.
Greene said that about 10 years ago she happened to attend a dog show at the fairgrounds and saw a Shetland sheepdog puppy for sale.
“It was love at first sight,” said Greene.
She had never heard of the breed, and upon doing some research learned that the dogs liked agility training. At the time, Greene said she was going through a bad time and suffering major depression.
But in working with her dog on agility training, she found healing.
“It has been a godsend to me,” she said, just before going through a run with Katy. “It’s a big social event. Everybody cheers for everybody, and you’ve got the best teammate in the world.”
Today she has six Shetland sheepdogs.
Another local participant was Jennifer Miller, a Byron holistic veterinarian. She specializes in acupuncture and chiropractic for dogs, and treats many agility-show dogs. She attended shows as a veterinarian before deciding to try it herself with her English cocker spaniel, Frida. Spaniels are bred to be hunters and Miller wanted her to have an outlet for her high energy level. Miller takes Frida with her on vet calls and wanted her to be better behaved.
Agility show training turned out to be perfect for Frida.
“She has definitely been a better partner,” Miller said. “She’s a more respectful dog. I can take her anywhere and she gets along with any dog.”
Miller and Greene lamented that there is no agility dog trainer in Middle Georgia, or practice facility. Miller said she drives to Gainesville, Florida, for training while Greene has mostly done it on her own.
Erin Queen of Charleston, South Carolina, is a trainer who came to the show with her cocker spaniel, Jefferson. Queen said its difficult for anyone getting into agility training for the first time to do it without some professional help. But she said the rewards are worth it.
“It’s testing how big of a bond you have with your dog,” she said. “He depends on me to show him where to go and I depend on him to do it.”
The show is a U.S. Dog Agility Association event, put on by Sirius Dog Agility, a training center in Atlanta. Meryl Sherad, owner of Sirius, said about 220 dogs were at the show this year compared with 150 last year.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.