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Agility course turns work into play for dogs

Staff writer

Dogs bounded over hurdles, climbed up walkways, and even walked across a seesaw Saturday at Marion County Fairgrounds.

4-H members and their dogs participated in an agility competition after showmanship and obedience demonstrations in a dog show, the first event of the fair.

Cassidy Hill of Pilsen thinks her Welsh corgi, Cheyenne, and other dogs enjoy the agility course more than the other events.

“They get to run around and just have fun,” she said.

It is their third year participating in the project. Cassidy and Cheyenne practice one or two times per week. Trainers reward dogs for correctly completing obstacles with treats and praise during practice, sponsor Deb Geis said.

“It has to be fun for the dog,” she said.

Agility competitions quickly gained popularity after 4-H sanctioned the event in 2004, judge Kathy Ewing said. Children see it as a way to play with their dogs, but it also improves obedience, she said.

Morgan Gaines of Peabody said the obedience training was important for her Australian shepherd, Ginger, because she helps work livestock.

It was their first year in the agility competition. She and Ginger practiced on a course at home, she said.

Morgan hopes to continue participating in agility competitions in future dog shows.

“It’s really fun and gets your dog to do well and try new things,” she said.

Ginger’s favorite obstacle is running through a tunnel, Morgan said. She handled the tunnel well Saturday, running right through, unlike several dogs that stopped to sniff where a dog marked its territory.

Despite their training, several dogs required multiple tries to complete obstacles. Dogs wanting to run around a hurdle rather than jumping it was the most common error. Dogs and their trainers have three attempts to complete an obstacle.

Last modified July 29, 2010

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