by Sheryl Wall
I have been going to Agility Trials for several years and I just love it. My West Highland White Terrier, Cosette, achieved her Championship in October of 2011. She was my first Agility dog. Now I am competing with my Irish Setter, Maiyah and my daughter gets to run Cosette.
My daughter, Kiana, started showing interest in Agility when she was two years old. One day when I was training in our backyard, Kiana just walked over to a jump, held out her arm and said, “Over,” then went to the next jump and said, “Over” and then at the tunnel she said “Tunnel.” At that point I hadn’t taught her anything about Agility, but that was the day I knew she may be a Jr. Handler.
Around three years of age, she was drawing pictures of Agility trial maps. She would call the obstacles by the command I give to my dogs to take them–for example, a jump she called “Overs” and the A-Frame she called “Climb it.” Kiana really wanted to run Agility like Ma Ma, so I began teaching her a little at home when I would go out to train. We have our own equipment at home, so I train every day. At trials she would walk the courses with me and got to help set jumps during a run.
Kiana has always had a special connection to dogs even as a baby, so she took to training quite easily. Cosette and Kiana formed a bond and began training together everyday. It’s a lot different teaching a three year old about Agility versus an adult. I don’t think adults need to be reminded that treats are for the dogs and not for people to eat! Nor do you need to tell a grown up to go to the bathroom before you run your dog.
At four years old, Kiana would run Cosette in Agility demos with me at places like Bark for Life and The Kingsburg Farmers’ Market. She was asking all the time when she could run, so we set up some goals. She had to be able to leash and unleash Cosette at the beginning and end of a run. I got her a two-foot leash with a slip collar so she could learn, because a buckle collar was just too complicated for small hands. Then she had to be able to count to 20 and follow the numbers on the course. She worked really hard until she had these skills down.
In April of 2013, she was ready to run Cosette in Elk Grove at her First CPE (Canine Performance Events) Agility Trial. I loved watching her during the briefing with all those adults and the judge. She was asking all the questions and the judge at first just thought it was cute, but when I told her Kiana was running too, everyone gave her their full attention.
She ran twice that weekend. Cosette was still trying to figure out why I wasn’t out there with her so kept looking for me and her first run she ran out of the ring. By the second run Cosette stayed with Kiana and they had a great run together. Kiana’s second trial was in May in LA and she achieved her first Qualifying run and got third place. I think almost everyone at the trial was watching her run. I think she is among the youngest Jr. Handlers in Agility. Kiana just turned five years old and she continues to train daily and enjoy going to trials. She works hard and has a great time out there running.
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