Dogs test their agility in local trials

Robin Cain rushed around the show ring set up in Fuji Park on Saturday, guiding her sheltie Jubie on with words and gestures.

"Over, Jubie. OK, now the tunnel. Good! Over here! Up and over."

The pooch obediently jumped fences, zoomed through curved tubes, traversed a see-saw and climbed over an A-framed obstacle at a speed that would make an Army Ranger jealous.

Cain, 9, came to Carson City from Eldorado, Calif., to compete with Jubie, short for Jubilee, in the Quicksilver Agility Club's first All-Breed Agility Trials, Saturday and today at Fuji Park.

Agility trials are obstacle course-like competitions for dogs and their handlers, where the dog gets to show off its agility in jumping fences and crossing other obstacles. The handlers' abilities to command and direct the dogs are also judged.

It's like the next step after obedience training, except that the dogs actually enjoy the agility courses, according to Irene Blodgett of Fallon. Blodgett brought her 5-year-old schipperke, Captain, to the trials. They've been competing for three years, Blodgett said. An older schipperke of hers, Shamrock, has retired but she has a pup named Tennille who will be competing along with Captain.

"I already had the Captain, so naming her Tennille was a natural," Blodgett explained.

Blodgett said the trials are scored similarly to horse shows, where each person and animal attempt to complete a course in the quickest time and can lose points for faults like missing a jump or knocking poles.

Cain and her 3 1/2-year-old sheltie, or Shetland sheepdog, have been competing for about 18 months, she said.

"I like going around to all the obstacle courses and spending lots of time with my dog," Cain said, "and meeting lots of people."

Her mother, Bobbi Cain, said the youngster had earned 65 points at agility trials so far this season before this weekend, half of what she needs to qualify for the Agility Nationals trials in Minnesota in September. With that goal in mind, the younger Cain baked and brought along a pile of homemade cookies to sell and earn money for her travel fund.

Agility trials have three types of events, according to Quicksilver President Carrie Dempsey of Carson City. Regular agility uses all the permitted obstacles. Jumper events use only jumps and tunnels with the goal of demonstrating the handler's and dog's ability to work as a fast-moving, smooth-functioning team.

The third event is a two-parter. First a handler guides the dog over all the obstacles in whatever order will produce the quickest time and therefore the most points. If the team qualifies in the first part, the second involves the handler being confined to a specific area and guiding the dog through a series of obstacles with only voice and gesture commands. That event is called, appropriately perhaps, gamblers.

While the smaller dogs ran the course, a lanky vizsla, a Hungarian breed, named Necka relaxes in a pen with her pup, Sutter. On the pen hung a ribbon proclaiming that Necka as the top vizsla show dog, as judged at the 1999 Westminster (N.Y.) Kennel Club's show, the top dog show in the country.

Owner Carol Dostal of Orange County, Calif., said a number of exhibition dogs also compete in the agility trials throughout the country. She said she had come to the Carson agility trials after attending a three-day agility training camp in Placerville, Calif., called PowerPaws 2000.

Though the Quicksilver Club has held similar events for Australian shepherd enthusiasts for a few years, this is the first all-breed trials for the group, Dempsey said.

The Northern Nevada Australian Shepherd Club's ninth annual agility trials are scheduled at Fuji Park on Aug. 11-13, so the community now has two annual agility events.

If you go

What: Quicksilver Agility Club All-Breed Agility Trials

When: Today starting at 9 a.m.

Where: Fuji Park

Cost: Spectators admitted free


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