Every novice agility handler is eager to get to the fun stuff; running courses!! However, it is the foundation skills that are at the core of agility. These are the same skills you will continually reinforce throughout your agility career. Our first student spotlight features a team that began their agility journey with me when the dog was just 4 months old. Starting to build your agility foundations while your dog is still a puppy is a perfect time to boost confidence and lay the framework for building a solid communication system between dog and handler. Let's get to know Team Kaiya!
Owner/Handler: Caitlyn – first time agility handler
Dog: Kaiya – 2 year old Belgian Malinois/German Shepard mix. Loves to play fetch and tug.
Jump Height: 20 inches (CPE)
Agility Experience: Started training in Spring 2016. CPE debut Fall 2017.
Why did you get started in agility?
I started in agility when I decided to bring Kaiya home. I have watched agility trials on television and always thought it would be a fun sport to try. Knowing how high-drive Malinois and Shepards are, I knew Kaiya would need to have a job to be happy. With Kaiya, agility was a perfect fit.
What were your goals when you started agility?
When I first started agility, my goal was just being able to compete at an agility trial. I quickly fell in love with the sport and I have continued to add goals as we grow as a team.
Were you able to realize your orginal goal(s)?
We accomplished my original goal in the Fall of 2017. We competed in our first CPE trial, earning our first qualifying score. Since then, we have competed in several more trials and are looking forward to adding more venues.
How have your goals changed since starting agility?
I have now turned my attention to my two, three and five year goals. Our current goal is to build our skills, continue competing and earn an invitation to national events in multiple venues such as CPE and USDAA. We also would like to compete in a team event like DACOF.
What is your greatest accomplishment or proudest moment to date?
My proudest moment occurred at my last trial. We had a disappointing first run and I was feeling pretty down. Instead of getting upset, I decided to work on increasing Kaiya's focus in distracting environments like agility trials. I took Kaiya out for some exercise and played some focusing games before our call for the next run. That helped Kaiya settle and gave her the ability to focus through all the distractions of a trial. We ended up running our best course in 20.30 seconds with no faults. I was so proud that we didn't give up and it proved to me that we can do this if we focus and work hard.
What have you learned from agility that surprised you?
I had no prior agility handling experience before beginning our training with Mindy. I think my biggest surprise is learning how much work I have to do as a handler to be a good teammate for Kaiya. I never realized how the slightest change in a handlers body position can drastically affect where their dog goes on a course. I also never realized how much strategy is involved with planning out how you will run the course so you can highlight your dog's strengths and complete a clean run.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting agility knowing what you know now?
I would tell someone that's thinking about starting agility to go for it but always remember to have fun. When you are just starting out you will have days where everything goes right but there will also be days when things get frustrating because is not always easy. On those days remember that you will continue to grow as a team and be able look back to see how far you've both come. Those are the days where you will get your inspiration to keep moving forward. Remember everyone started at the beginning and they were exactly where you are now.