It doesn't matter whether you became interested in agility with the intentions of earning championships or if you are just looking for a fun activity to do with your dog. Agility offers a dog and handler the opportunity to form a bond unique to each and every team. Our student spotlight highlights the amazing journey of one of my loyal students and a great friend. Meet Debi and her lovable canine teammates; Dixie Belle and Keegan Klown.
Owner: Debi Ritt
Dog(s): C-ATE C-ATCH Dixie Belle (aka Devil Dog) ExJP, ExST, ExWC, ExSN, ExFH, ExCL
C-ATCH 3 DFF Keegan Klown, ChCL, ChJU, ChJP, ChST, ChSN, ChWC, ChFH
Jump Height: Dixie now jumps 12" as a veteran, and Keegan recently changed to 12" as a specialist
Agility Experience: CPE and USDAA
I have been involved in agility since Feb 2007 when I first started training Dixie. We have been training every day since. I started trialing in Oct 2007, before either Dixie or I were ready so we took a year off from trialing and continued to train. We returned to competition in Jan 2009. I have trialed in both C.P.E. and USDAA. In May 2012, I began hosting CPE trials as Pawsitive Action Agility, Inc.
Why did you get started in Agility?
In 2005 I had an elderly dog that I needed to get socialized so that I could get a pet sitter. Our trainer at PetSmart introduced us to agility. Back then we were doing kiddie tunnels, and broomstick or hullahoop jumps. Then one day I was driving down the road and saw a sign that said Agility Fun Run, I followed the signs and stood there and watched for a couple of hours. Everyone was so nice and I knew that I wanted a dog that I could do agility with, that dog came into my life July 2006 as a little 6 week old puppy Dixie Belle.
What were your goals when you started in Agility?
My goal was just to have something fun to do with my dog that she would also enjoy. Yes I have met that goal and continue to meet that goal with both Dixie Belle and Keegan Klown.
How have your goals changed since starting Agility?
My goal has not changed and although this can be a very competitive sport, I am not a competitive person. I have never looked at competing as we are competing against another team, instead I have always looked at it as how well can my dog and I do on the course. I look for opportunities to use a new handling skill I may have learned, or can we make it through that tricky part of the course without a mistake.
What is your greatest accomplishment or proudest moment to date?
There will be many moments of great accomplishments along your journey. It was a difficult start with Dixie in the trial environment, and after our second trial I decided that it was not for us, however she loved agility and we continued to train. A year later we were encouraged to try a trial again, and when she made it through 14 runs over the weekend without once barking at the judge or ring crew I knew we were on our way. Memories of the day she earned her C-ATE still brings tears of pride to my eyes!
With Keegan, I was not originally going to train him in agility as I didn't want him jumping out of my 3 foot fenced yard. We did lots of other things to keep Keegan busy, but with encouragement and guidance from our coach Mindy Lytle, I let him start playing some agility on Dixie's lesson day. So when 7 months later we stepped to the line for our first trial agility run and qualified I was extremely proud of him. Then just 17 months later, he earned is first C-ATCH and I couldn't be more proud!
What have you learned from agility that surprised you?
Oh so many things, it really is all about the journey! It takes time and patience, but along the way you will meet wonderful people and dogs who will become great friends. Those are the people who encourage and support you along the way and who you support as they traverse their own journey with their dogs.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting agility?
First find a good coach. Get recommendations from others who are doing agility. And remember this is a journey. Learn the foundations. This is a sport, so if you are starting with a young dog there are many things you can do to prepare yourself and your puppy for the future. Never give up on yourself or your dog. And if you decide to someday trial with your dog, remember you never know when you step to that start line if it may be the last, so always smile at your dog. And when your run is finished, regardless of how it went, let them know that he/she is a great partner and you love them for their effort. Keep in mind they do not know what Q means. It may seem hard at times but think back because each success and every less than successful run brings learning experiences. Just because it may have been an NQ run doesn't mean that there were not successes. Celebrate the small wins, like WOW he really nailed those weave poles! He hit every contact! And above all else, have FUN!