Eliot’s Agility Career

Eliot’s Agility Career

This post could also be titled “I feel compelled to always jump at least one animal competitively over fences.”  There’s only been one extended period of time in my adult life when I didn’t ride.  I filled some of that time with model horses and the other bulk of it was spent learning agility with Eliot, my springer spaniel.

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When I first got Eliot, I wanted to do therapy dog work with him.  Of course since that was the plan, Eliot decided to hate old people and children in a rather serious way… which pretty much eliminated therapy.  I thought agility was rather interesting as a sport, and since we already had our Canine Good Citizen and had done some Rally Obedience classes, I decided to start an agility training class to see how we liked it.

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By random fate, I stumbled upon a really good agility trainer based out of Cape Cod, MA.  I thought we’d jog around the agility course and be doing jumps and tunnels after a week, but the reality was a very rigid, step by step learning process.  Seriously, we were doing what looked like choreographed dance moves for weeks (because I did them wrong often) with no jumps or any agility obstacles of the sort.  At first I was all, “This is boring” but then I began to respect agility a ton.  Sure, it looks like you’re running around pointing your dog at things, but really it’s a very intricate sport of communication.  I was glad for such a solid background.

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Since we took our time, Eliot progressed correctly and never had any fear of any of the obstacles.  He wasn’t a natural agility dog by any means.  Some dogs have this fire to them and they can’t wait to get started on the course.  My dog was more like this…

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“Hey Eliot, let’s go jump this jump!”

YAY!  I’M RUNNING AND JUMPING WITH MY MOM!  I LOVE MY MOM SOOOOOOOO MUCH!

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“Hey Eliot, let’s do the A-Frame”

YAY!  I’M WALKING ON THE CLOUDS!  I’M LIKE A GOD OF SPANIELS!  I LOVE MY MOM SOOOOO MUCH!

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On and on and on.  It was really fun learning everything though, even if we weren’t fast and spectacular.  We took our agility class once a week for almost the entire time we lived in Massachusetts, almost two years.  Towards the end of that time, our trainer said we were ready to compete in the 20″ Novice A division.  20″ is for Eliot’s height, Novice is for us not being awesome sauce  the A is for both him and I being total newbs basically.

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In agility, the scoring is kind of like show jumping and kind of not.  You have to execute all of the elements with no faults in order to get a qualifying score.  Since we weren’t fast, the goal was always to qualify.

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Our first starts were fun, but had some missteps.  Eliot was kind of sloppy jumping (and I wasn’t amazing at handling), so we would knock some poles and get disqualified.  He was very good at his contact spots though, so that wasn’t an issue.

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I remember our second show course, he was doing really well and I was so excited we were going to get our first qualifying score.  The last three jumps were all in a row, and pointed towards the crowds outside of the ring.  Eliot saw my husband (his beloved Dad) and was like OMG IT’S DAD I’M GOING TO JUMP TO DAD and jumped all three jumps… and then out of the ring.  That is also a disqualification, but we all laughed because he was so happy to be cuddling with Dad after his run.

I see Dad!
I see Dad!
I'M COMING DAD!
I’M COMING DAD!

Eventually we managed to get two qualifying scores in competition.  Since we were in the total noob class, we ended up competing against ourselves.  So I can report that I officially have an AKC Blue Ribbon winning agility dog… we just won’t mention  that we didn’t have to beat anyone to get it!

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I promise I did buy these pictures, just have this proof saved

When we moved to Austin and I got back into horses, I stopped taking agility lessons with Eliot.  Sometimes I regret this, because he loved the one on one attention.  Other times not at all, because he is happier fetching a ball and was always a little bit stressed at the competitions.  Either way, it was a fun learning experience for us.

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Have you ever tried agility with your dog?

23 thoughts on “Eliot’s Agility Career

  1. Aw! Elliot jumping is totally adorable!

    We did agility with my Black Dog. He wasn’t the best at it, though he loved jumping. Honestly, his sense of humor often got in the way. I remember once, he thought it would be hilarious to play hide and seek in the tunnel. He was sent into the tunnel, popped out the other side with a wicked grin on his face, popped back into the tunnel and did the same on the other side. This went on for a good long time, until everyone was good and winded.

    Love that dog. 🙂

  2. I did agility with my Storm Dog, he had the intense drive for it but unfortunately the minute we set foot in a ring in a competition setting all rational thought fled his Sheltie brain. He would fly around the course and blatantly ignore my commands but he was having fun so I would just laugh. So ended our competitive careers but I still took him to classes and training places to play on the equipment.

    It’s a great sport, the people overall seemed very nice.

    1. We had an Australian Sheepdog in our group that would do that a lot. It was always really funny to everyone else BUT the owner 🙂 She took herself a bit too seriously though!

  3. Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard at your dialogue because that’s seriously my Labrador. I would love to try agility with her but I don’t have the means. 🙁

  4. I took a parks & rec agility basics course several years ago with my schnauzer/terrier mix, and we both had fun. I bought a cheapo backyard agility set (small tunnel, poles for jumps, etc) that we play with maybe 3x per year. I think every dog could benefit from some basic agility lessons – after all, its all about developing communication skills as you say.

  5. Awesome! Thule and I tried agility for about a year. She caught on quick, but it’s for sure a lot harder than it looks. So much subtle communication between handler and dog. I felt like it was like riding a horse without being on the horse. We never got to the point to compete before we moved to SD, but now we are trying out flyball which she LOVES and is easier on the handler as well 🙂

  6. Look how calmly he is going over the teeter-totter! I’m so jealous. Harley is like “wooooo look how fast I am. I dont need anyone to direct me around this course. Yay teeter. Do you see how fast I did it? I dont even need to wait for it to hit the ground like all those other suckers.”

    This is why we are not doing any contact classes at pur first trial. She’s a flyer.

  7. I really wanted to try Earth Dog Trials with Rockie, but the only club is on the other side of the state. He is too much of a spazz to concentrate for agility I think. He would probably jump out of the ring and run off!

  8. Those pictures are awesome! He looks so springy and happy!

    I’ve been seriously thinking about it with Arya. She’s got the athleticism – she cleared a 36″ baby gate to get to the litter box, sigh – and she is smart and quick. The humane society offers an agility basics class that I’m aiming for after we complete the Canine Good Citizen classes this fall.

  9. When your dog’s name is Puff and it fully describes her figure, agility is not an option lol! It seems so fun though!!

  10. I have ALWAYS wanted to try agility with Oscar. He is such a determined dog when he puts his mind to it, but he gets stressed so easily so I didn’t think it would be too great for him. And unfortunately theres no flyball training or competition nearby.

  11. SOOOOO cool. I would love to have done Agility with my Springer girl, but first there was no $$ and then she tore both knee ligaments and then got back arthritis, so it never worked out. However, I did teach her a few commands on my own such as “Over” and “Walk” and “Up” and we enjoyed fooling around in the back yard with jury-rigged jumps and such. She LOVED doing it but would get a little too excited… after every jump she had to jump all over me and bite at my hands like, “Did you see me? Huh? Huh? Aren’t I awesome?” We did enter a “Silly Dog Tricks” contest locally and win a prize putting her through hula-hoops, so that was fun. 🙂

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