Dogs, owners test dexterity on the field
Mar 08, 2018 02:41PM
● By Keyra Kristoffersen
Dogs of all breeds and sizes run through over, under, around and through a series of obstacles to test speed and agility. (Randy Gaines)
Dogs and their well-trained humans performed myriad tricks, turns and aerials at the AKC All-Breed Agility Trial held Feb. 9 through 11 at the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park in South Jordan.
“There are a lot of dogs that people have that need a job,” said Sheryl Hohle, vice president of Salty Dogz Agility Club of Utah. “They love doing agility, especially the high-energy dog.”
The trials and club are officially sanctioned by the American Kennel Club—which allows mixed breed dogs—and will prepare the teams for the Utah Beehive Cluster, a four-day dog show held every May in South Jordan by the Intermountain Kennel Club. Each trainer and dog team will perform trials in agility, speed and games, with awards for first, second and third places. The fastest dog to get around cleanly is the winner.
“It’s really just a matter of the human handling the dog and explaining the dog using body language and cues and vocal cues, and that’s where the dog will go,” said Hohle. “It’s sort of like dancing; you have to learn the choreography.”
The participants can walk the course, first without the dog to learn the best steps and how to position their bodies so that the dog understands where it needs to go before bringing them in. Each team competes in different levels of agility and games that best showcases the skills of the dog and breed.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks; a lot of training goes into it,” said Hohle. “Any kind of dog can do it to a certain extent.”
Hohle has noticed an increase in the popularity of the sport and hopes more people get interested, especially young people. Not only is it fun, she said, but it is really helpful for getting along with a high-energy dog. She originally started out 18 years ago by showing her Vizsla dogs’ abilities in obedience, rally and tracking but became hooked when her friends introduced her to agility. She started out as a volunteer when Salty Dogz began in 2011 and for the last five years has served in various capacities on the board of directors. Hohle currently works with her Vizslas Perp, Higgs and Zeta.
Salty Dogz is a nonprofit club that specializes specifically in agility, and its membership includes Team USA agility competitor with the United States Dog Agility Association, Keith Highley. He picked up his dog, Cisco, at the Humane Society of Utah. The duo has traveled the world competing in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge many times. Each year, the club puts on four free events between South Jordan and the Legacy Events Center.
“We love to have people cheer us on, and we’re happy to talk to people and answer questions,” said Hohle. “We’re a pretty friendly bunch.”
While the club is based in Cottonwood Heights, most of the members spend their time training at Bad Ass Agility in South Jordan and offers training classes for interested people, including trainers especially interested in working with kids to get them started. The club also raises funds for various Utah rescues such as Community Animal Welfare Society and other dog organizations.
Another trial will be held over Thanksgiving weekend at the equestrian center in South Jordan. Starter classes will begin March 19 and April 23. For information about classes or signing up for agility trials, visit: http://saltydogzagility.com.