Puppy Care Interview
An interview with......
Nancy Haddock from
Twister Agility & Dog Sports
Nancy 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 (see Candis' Page 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)
- Sue: For those visitors who aren't really familiar with Dog Agility, can you give us a little background on this sport?
Nancy: Agility is a dog sport that tests the dog's coordination and speed while working with a handler to negotiate and obstacle
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.
- Sue: How long have you been involved in Dog Agility, and what sparked your interest in this sport?
Nancy: 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.
- Sue: Nancy, what would you say it is, in your opinion, that makes dog agility such a great activity for dogs and their owners?
Nancy: 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
- Sue: 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?
Nancy: 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.
- Sue: 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' standard?
Nancy: 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.
- Sue: 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?
Nancy: 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.
- Sue: 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?
Nancy: 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.
- Sue: You currently teach dog agility classes, and participate with your dogs in competition/trials. Can you tell us a little about both?
Nancy: 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. I enjoy 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 win/win situation.
Thanks so much Nancy!
It's been great to get an 'insider' view of the sport of dog agility, and having seen it first hand myself I can vouch for what a great time is had by both dog and owner.
You can also learn more about dog agility training on my Dog Agility Enthusiast? page. Enjoy.
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