Rico’s Adventure with Agility
By Sue Nielsen, MD
What is Dog Agility? Dog agility is a sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles. The handler’s controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals, requiring exceptional focus by the animal and coordination of the handler.
Could a tiny Chihuahua do it?My boyfriend, Ryan, and I had never talked about agility for Rico. Ryan was the first to bring it up, “Hey, did you see that advertisement about classes at OceanWolf?” I looked at him a little startled; was I crazy for thinking Rico could do agility? “Don’t you think he is too small for that?” However, I was secretly hoping he would encourage me to look into it.
Dog Agility Classes right here in Sarasota! I sent an email to Hera, the co-owner of OceanWolf Agility, and asked for her opinion. She offered a short 1 on 1 session to see how Rico would handle the environment and the equipment. I met her husband, Coz, at their training facility on Clark Road in Sarasota. Within 15 minutes it was apparent to me that Rico was interested, and later I received an email with Coz’s review: “Rico did very well – has good focus, good jumping skills and eager to learn…..all ingredients for a good agility dog”. We signed up for Introduction to Agility, a 6 week course for dogs that are completely new to this fast growing sport.
What happens at agility class? To my utter amazement, he learned each new skill presented to him – the dog walk, the A-frame, the tunnel, the hurdles, the shoot and the tire jump. One by one he conquered fears and became the star of his class! It was so much fun for me, and he looked engaged, excited, and determined. Of course, high value treats help in motivation, but I truly believe he loved the mental and physical challenge. Every week, he whines with anticipation as we approach the facility. “Let me at it!!!!!!” Hera laughed at me when she recalled that I wasn’t sure if Rico would like agility.
Agility builds confidence in the dog! It strengthens the bond between dog and human, and is a great activity for both. Don’t think you have to do competitions to do agility; OceanWolf has many students that come for their weekly excursion whether for fun, exercise or socialization. It doesn’t matter the reason – the dogs have a great time and sleep well after each class. A tired dog is a good dog!
Any size of dog and any age of person can do it! OceanWolf trains all types of dogs, and has youngsters to seniors enjoying classes weekly. Rico is officially the smallest dog taking classes at OceanWolf. Only 3.8 pounds but apparently built for pure speed. He graduated from his first class and has moved on to the next level of training.
I’m not sure yet if we will compete on the Teacup Agility tour, as he still has to overcome his tendency to jump off the teeter totter rather than wait for it to hit the ground. Agility is so much fun, I am so proud of Rico – and yes, even a Chihuahua can do it!!!!!!!!!!
Special thanks to photographer Ryan Miller for Rico’s agility images.
If you are interested in contacting OceanWolf Agility, you can email Hera@OceanWolfAgility OR call (941) 922-5704 or (941) 321-9672. Or, if you’d like to reach me, please send me a note at SNielsen2202@gmail.com or feel free to follow Rico and me on Facebook.