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Pooches show off their stuff in agility trials
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Jerry Kiah of Covington leads his German shepherd, Frenzi, through the agility course at the Chicopee Agricultural Center Sunday morning during the final day of the Canine Capers Dog Agility Trials.
To learn more about dog agility competitions, go to the Canine Capers Web site: www.caninecapersagility.com; or the American Kennel Club site: www.akc.org.
Their owners may have been a little subdued by the cold, rainy weather Sunday, but the dogs competing in agility trials at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center were raring to go.

Canine Capers, a Norcross-based agility training club, sponsors five competitions around the area each year, including one in Gainesville. Club President Chris Danielly, who was serving as trial secretary for the two-day event, said the sport is growing in popularity. Some 153 dogs competed in this past weekend’s event sanctioned by the U.S. Dog Agility Association.

“This is supposed to be fun between the owner and the dog,” she said. “It strengthens the bond between the owner and the dog.”

Cathy Rakestraw, who competed Sunday with a 5-year-old female black lab mix named Rio, said she certainly developed a bond with her dog through the agility training. The pair attend weekly training sessions.

Rio, who was rescued from an animal shelter in Elbert County, started off as a shy, nervous pup, but quickly took to the agility training, Rakestraw said. The tunnel and dog walk are Rio’s favorite obstacles, though the teeter still throws her off a bit, Rakestraw said.

“She enjoys it. In the beginning, she wasn’t sure ... now she loves it,” Rakestraw said. “You’re just amazed at what they accomplish. It’s amazing because she was this little fluff ball that was going to be put to sleep.”

Rio’s success story isn’t that unusual for agility competitors. Owner after owner shares a heart-warming story of saving their dog from a puppy mill or adopting it from a shelter.

“There’s a lot of rescue work done in this sport,” Danielly said. “But a lot of people also breed dogs specifically for this sport.”

Danielly also said many mixed breed dogs compete in agility trials. The American Kennel Club is adding an agility program for mixed-breed competitors next year, she said.

Rakestraw and Danielly both stressed that training a dog for agility competitions takes time.

“You have to keep them occupied and keep them challenged,” Rakestraw said.

Danielly suggested dog owners interested in agility training for their pets should make sure to find a trainer who uses positive reinforcement and select a trainer who competes themselves. Though some dog breeds may have more a little more skill in certain aspects of the agility trials, “almost any dog can do this,” Danielly said.
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