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An Interview With
Twister Dog Agility
Nancy Haddock is the owner of Twister Agility & Dog Sports in Edmond,
Oklahoma where she helps dogs and their owners learn, and enjoy, the fun
sport called 'dog agility'.
Dog agility is a 'team' sport - in the sense that you and your
dog are the team!
Nancy has been working with my daughter Tasha and her
dog Candi for some time now, and I can tell you that this is definitely a lot of
fun for both dog and 'handler' (that's YOU). It helps to strengthen the
bond between you and your pooch, and gives you a bit of a 'work-out' at
the same time.
Nancys' website at www.TwisterAgility.com
is full of great photos and has tons of information about dog agility
training. You can learn more about Nancy and her dogs there, but first
check out the online interview she was kind enough to give me - I'm sure
you're going to find it as interesting and enjoyable as I did.
I really appreciate Nancy taking the time out of her busy schedule to share her experience and knowledge with us.
Thanks Nancy :o)
Okay, let's get this interview started....
The questions I asked are printed in bold, the answers follow.
For those visitors who aren't really familiar with Dog Agility, can you give us a little background on this sport?
Agility is a dog sport that tests the dog's
coordination and speed while working with a handler to negotiate and
course of obstacles.
The obstacles may include jumps, tunnels, weave
poles, and your contact obstacles,which are the A-frame, dogwalk and
seesaw. The dog is guided around the course fluently by the handler and
the fastest, most accurate dog wins.
How long have you been involved in Dog Agility, and what sparked your interest in this sport?
I started agility in 2001 with my Alaskan
Malamute Nanook. I trained and showed horses in the hunter/jumper arena
for almost 20 years. Due to some chronic back problems, it was
suggested that I curtail my riding. I had this young, energetic
Malamute who needed a job! I discovered agility at a local pet festival
and was immediately hooked!
I began training and competing with both
of my Malamutes, whom I have recently retired. I currently am training
and competing with my Texas Blue Lacy and my young Belgian Tervuren.
It is a sport for people and dogs of all ages.
Nancy, what would you say it is, in your opinion, that makes dog agility such a great activity for dogs and their owners?
Agility is a great activity on so many
levels. First it gives the dogs an outlet for their energy both
physically and mentally. It also builds an incredible bond between
human and canine.
Certain breeds tend to excel in the sport, but dogs
of any breed or mix of breed can participate. I also enjoy the sense
that people can become
as competitive as they want, or just have a good time with their dog.
Either way, the benefits are tremendous
Can any breed of dog take part? Are there any
particular breeds that seem to excel and are there any breeds that
shouldn't attempt dog agility?
Any breed can participate and any size of
dog can participate.
The very large, giant breeds have some extra
challenge due to their sheer size. Tunnels are only 24" in diameter, so
a large Great Dane really has to bend to crawl through tunnels and must
bend their bodies more in the weave poles.
Herding dogs seem to excel
in the sport, in particular Border Collies and Shelties. They are very
athletic breeds, but more importantly it is my opinion they also excel
due to the natural focus and drive they possess.
Are there any special 'pre-requirements' for a dog
who wants to join an agility class. I know they need some basic
obedience training first, what do you suggest as a minimum 'entry-level'
Most important is the dog's desire to work
with his handler. Therefore, I think a relationship and desire to
"play" with his owner is the most important pre-requirements. Secondly
recalls are extremely important.
You have to be able to keep your dog's
attention in the presence of 'distractions'. Distractions can be other
dogs, scents on the ground, birds flying overhead, etc. Stays are a
good pre-requisite, but I would say a solid relationship between the dog
and handler is the most important pre-requirement. If you have that,
everything else can be trained.
I know that this sport gives the dogs a good
'work-out', but it seems to me that the owners ('handlers') get their
fair share of exercise too! Just how fit do you need to be to take your
dog to agility classes?
I have students in a wide range of physical
fitness ranging in age from 6 years old to 78 years old. It truly can
be a lifelong sport/hobby for people. You will run a lot, so,
cardiovascular fitness is very, very helpful.
Although you run a lot,
it is in short bursts,so you don't train like a marathon runner. But, it
is a physical sport. However, I have seen people at every fitness level
participate, including physically challenged handlers.
Some dog owners like to practice agility in
their own back yard and you can buy all sorts of dog agility equipment.
What pieces would you recommend for someone who wants to give their dog a
bit of extra practice themselves?
Jumps, a contact trainer and weave poles.
Tunnels are very fun
for the dogs, but in reality most dogs love tunnels and practicing them
at your agility class is usually enough.
However, jumps and weave poles
are a must for home equipment. I would also suggest a contract trainer
to teach your dog proper behavior on the contacts.
You currently teach dog agility classes, and
participate with your dogs in competition/trials. Can you tell us a
little about both?
In 2006 I opened Twister Agility & Dog Sports.
I am passionate about training dogs, and using reward motivation to do
so. Agility is a passion of mine that I want to share, but I also think
it is extremely important dogs are given the opportunity to participate
in the sports they have been bred to do.
So, although herding dogs
excel in agility, they should also be able to herd. Sled-dogs should
have the opportunity to pull. Scent hounds should be able to track, etc.
My dream is to have a dog sport facility that offers every dog
sport and promotes the training of these sports using kindness and
reinforcement training as opposed to correction methods.
We also try
to educate our students on nutrition, physical fitness and therapy for
their dogs. Owning a dog is a lifelong responsibility and the more you
are involved with your dog, the more rewarding the relationship is for
both human and canine.
Personally, I am very competitive by nature and enjoy competing.
traveling and competing in agility trials because it gives me a chance
to see how my dogs and I are progressing on an individual level as well
as compared to others.
I have also gained many wonderful friendships with people through competition.
So, traveling to competitions is always a social event too,
spending time with those people whose companionship I enjoy. It is a
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