And then the leash comes off…..

by Deb Wheeler

Agility ‘the ability to be quick and graceful’. Shih Tzu ‘one of a Tibetan/China breed of toy dogs’. Tanya ‘death of me yet’. Death of me yet……..well, I’m sure you get the idea……….

Dog agility is a one of the fastest growing sports one can do with their dogs. There are literally a plethora of venues and levels one can find. At this point I compete in both AKC and CPE with my Shih Tzu, Tanya and TC.

All of my Shih Tzu competes in AKC conformation to their Championship, and then I train for agility. To properly train an agility dog, one must have the time and patience to work thru the layers of learning with proper foundation. It can be a painstaking process, but a rewarding one as you and your dog build a team working towards the day when you step up to the start line and compete.

And then the leash comes off…….. Unlike conformation shows, agility dogs are off leash, and in some venues are not even allowed to wear a collar for safety reasons.

Tanya has always had a mind of her own, and a huge following. She is absolutely adorable, and knows it. I decided to get two titles in AKC agility with her, and then retire her to CPE agility reserving AKC for my other agility dog, TC. Tanya soared thru the Novice level of Jumpers with Weave Poles (JWW). One needs 3 qualifying scores to achieve that title, and she got them easily in 3 trials. Then we moved on to the next level Open Jumpers with Weave Poles. She easily got her first two qualifying scores. I thought, TC, you are next! Then Tanya discovered the crowd…… and more and more of the crowd discovered her.

In JWW the dog must enter the 12 weave poles on the left of the first pole and successfully weave thru the poles to the end. At home I could drop Tanya from a helicopter blindfolded, and she’d find the correct entry and weave……the first 5 trials she could do that……..then her fan club grew. As the people started to clap or yell ‘yeah’, she’d play to the crowd……running to the side….’oh look, that man looks like Dad!’……..’oh look, there is the timer’……’hi, judge’…….no, I couldn’t possibly get that entry right….can’t we weave from the right? More than once a TANYA MARIE!!! was yelled in desperation as she insisted on placing that cute right shoulder where the left should be.

I was almost ready to give up – I had started TC competing, and he absolutely loves it. Maybe Tanya only needs 1 AKC title, she’s already ‘Dual Titled’……… It was at the last AKC trial I had entered her in, we walked up to the start line, the timer yelled ‘GO’, I kissed her and thanked her as I always do all of my dogs at the start line……and then ‘the leash came off’……..

Tanya took off like a rocket – effortlessly jumping each and every jump, following my every cue, and when we came to the weaves, nailed her entry and hopped thru those weaves like the pro she is! The Open JWW title was hers!! The crowd roared, and Tanya looked around as if to say “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my Close-up”!!

And then the leash went back on……………..