Diane Allen often travels out of state to bring her two border collies to Dog Agility competitions.
So when Zippity Do Dog, a Grand Junction, Colorado-based dog agility club, began sponsoring competitions in Moab five years ago, Allen was happy for an opportunity to participate locally.
“For most people, and for most dogs, it’s very exciting,” Allen said. “It gives dogs a lot of confidence about the world.”
Dogs and their humans will get an opportunity to demonstrate their skills when the Dogs on Course in North America Dog Agility competition returns to the Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. U.S. Highway 191, on Friday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 26.
Zippity Do Dog began sponsoring the competitions in Moab five years ago, said Cathy Stampe, who runs the Colorado club with her husband Anthony.
“We started having it in Moab because Grand Junction doesn’t have an indoor arena,” Stampe said. “We love the Old Spanish Trail Arena. It’s one of our favorite trials.”
The agility dog sport consists of humans running with and directing their dogs through various obstacle courses. Dogs jump over bars, run through tunnels and scamper up and down a 5-foot A-frame incline.
“The dogs read their owners’ body movements; they notice the slightest turn,” Stampe said. “The sport creates an amazing bond between (the) handler and the dog.
“Usually it’s the owner running the dog because of the really deep relationship that forms between handler and dog.”
There are three levels of competition – beginner, intermediate and specialist. Dogs earn points toward the Master of Excellence of Agility by completing qualifying runs with few or no faults within the course time.
The canines have 40 seconds to run the standard course without making a mistake, such as missing a jump, or knocking into a bar.
If a dog does commit an error, it’s important not to show your disappointment, Allen said.
“Dogs can tell if you’re disappointed,” she said, and that will slow them down.
“Dogs should be happy,” she said. “If a dog does something wrong, its handler probably told them to do something wrong, like turn too soon, or they call their name at the wrong time. They probably did just what you told them.”
Stampe said it’s important to train your dog before entering an agility competition. Some people – and their dogs – take classes, while others set up courses to practice on their own. Paid registered judges watch for mistakes and keep track of time.
What Allen describes as an “esoteric sport” has become quite popular in the past 10 years, according to Stampe. She expects there will be 60 human-dog teams competing in Moab, with 400 runs over the course of the weekend.
“A lot of our competitors compete once a month, in Denver,” Stampe said.
The sport of “agility is full of rescue dogs, from miniature poodles to Great Danes – any dog can play it,” Stampe said. “Dogs absolutely love it. It’s crazy how much they love it.”
Spectators are welcome and there is no charge for admission. However, spectators are not allowed to bring their own dogs, as the dogs’ presence is disruptive and distracting for the dogs who are competing.
Canine agility competition comes to arena on Feb. 24-26
What: Dogs on Course in North America Dog Agility Competition
When: Friday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 26
Where: Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. U.S. Highway 191
Cost: Free to spectators
For most people, and for most dogs, it’s very exciting … It gives dogs a lot of confidence about the world.