In June 2011, Raja and I reported from the Canine Performance Events Agility Nationals in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. We followed the careers of Cy and CT, two Shih Tzu, and Skamp, a Mini Aussie. And we promised to keep you in the loop as Cy and CT achieve their goals of Champion, as well as to keep tabs on Skamp’s career. Following is an inspiring interview with Carolyn Linsday, owner of Cy and CT, and Rhea Hartley, owner of Skamp. You know that some of you will want to get started in agility after you read this.
CT, Cy and Skamp (fore) with Chloe and Cara, co-owners of Think Pawsitive training facility in New Berlin, WI
With Carolyn’s dogs, we focus on Cy, who will Champion before CT does. Rhea’s Skamp is competing casually now, but casual competition might suit some lifestyles best.
Helen: Carolyn, as I understand it, Cy’s Championship category is the highest and hardest.
Carolyn: “Cy’s title will be the C-ATCH (CPE Agility Trial Champion). He will compete in all of 7 required categories, including the ominous jackpot, in which the dog and the handler are separated remotely as the dog runs the course.” (This is always the hardest for Cy personally.)
Helen: How many points are required for Championship like Cy’s?
Carolyn: “For Cy’s title, he has to complete in the categories of Handler Games, Strategy Games and Fun Games. Cy started in CPE at Level 1 (you are allowed to start as high as Level 3), so when Cy receives his C-ATCH he will have completed 120 qualifying runs!”
“Cy’s first trial was in August of 2005 when he was only entered in a few events- and the same in 2006. It was 2009 before we started doing a few more trials, so it has been a slow process getting this close to our C-ATCH.” He has now only 11 Q’s to go!
Helen: What does his achievement mean to you? In what ways does this fulfill a dream for you? What have you done, day to day, to work toward this goal?
Carolyn: “Cy and I are partners on the agility field. We have to work together to have a good run and Cy and I have a very special relationship during a run. He just wants to do what I ask him to, so, if I give him the right signals, he is happy to do what I want. In the beginning, we did not have much training and we both learned a LOT of bad habits, which have had to be retrained for both of us.”
“I cannot describe the feeling you get when we have a really awesome run where we are both in sync and everything goes smooth. It isn’t a feeling that we are anything special, but that we are a special partnership. I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t run agility can fully understand it. It is a sense of accomplishment that you have both done your job to your best ability. Although those runs are especially special and awesome, every run has something in it to be grateful for. I can always find something that they did well, even if we don’t Q (qualify).”
Helen: How has Cy benefited from his training and competing?
Carolyn: “I think doing agility gives a dog confidence. It teaches them to work with you as a team. Both Cy and CT were never shy, but I have watched others who were able to overcome shyness because of agility. They love the special attention they get from me while we are training and at a trial- the treats, the praise and just spending time with me. They like using their minds and they know when they have figured something out or that they did a good job. It helps keep them fit. A lot of people are surprised to see a Shih Tzu competing, but of course we know they are not just couch dogs. They love running and jumping. They only jump an 8″ jump so it is not too hard on their knees. They could both jump 12″ if they had to.”
“Cy is a momma’s boy, but he is also confident enough that he can stay in his crate while I walk a course or someone can hold onto his leash, he may look for me, but he does not get over stressed. He knows he is going to get to go and play.”
“Being at an agility trial does relieve stress for me. Everyone at a trial enjoys playing with their dog and understands what it feels like when you have that special run. You just can’t find that with someone who hasn’t experienced the feeling. We are all supportive of each other. I have only competed in the CPE venue, but I have found it to be a very friendly group.” For CPE, the canine/human team compete against their own challenges and every dog can become a champion some day!
Helen: Rounding things off, on average, what does it cost to train and achieve a champion?
Carolyn: “The cost averages around $12.00 per run, so we have spent a considerable amount of money. There are no cash prizes, only ribbons, of which we have a lot. We will receive a special ribbon, a plaque and a “bar” (like from a jump) especially decorated and everyone at the trial is welcome to sign it, something to remember that special run. Of course the ribbons don’t mean anything to Cy and CT, but the praise and treats they receive tell them they have done a great job and we have had fun together.”
Helen: How do you feel agility achievement enhances the breed of the Shih Tzu?
Carolyn: “I do think people change their perception of the Shih Tzu when they see them compete. I have heard a lot of people say they thought they just like to sleep and stay indoors. People are very surprised at how fast they can run. I will say they don’t have the endurance that a border collie has, but they can compete throughout a full 3 day trial without a problem. I am careful when we are at outdoor trials in hot weather.”
“My husband and I saw a Shih Tzu walk into a pet store once and were both instantly intrigued with the breed. They are sturdy dogs, caring dogs, funny dogs, ready to please. They can be a bit stubborn at times, but I have always been able to easily work through that. It is the only breed I will ever have!”
Helen: Thanks so much Carolyn. I’m sure Cy will finish sooner, but you know Raja (also very stubborn) and I will be reporting at the 2012 Nationals! It would be incredible to be there for the moment! Now let’s talk with Rhea. Skamp’s career is more relaxed- just enough competition to have fun, but no pressure for the long term.
Think Pawsive's indoor arena makes it easy and comfortable for dogs to compete and learn in all seasons.
Rhea, when you started out in agility with Skamp, what were your goals and dreams for Skamp?
Rhea: “The first time I saw an Agility Competition, I saw a bonding between the handlers and their dogs. That was what I wanted for Skamp and myself. My goals were for Skamp to become more focused on the agility course, become more obedient and the big dream was some day to have her qualify for Agility Nationals, which she accomplished in June.”
“Skamp is retired, but seeing her compete again this past week-end I do believe she does enjoy it. Enjoying it doesn’t always mean they have to be perfect. I just want to make sure she is always having fun”.
Helen: How has agility been beneficial to Skamp and how has it been beneficial to you?
Rhea: “Agility keeps her active, moving, and still lets her know she needs to be obedient to certain commands. When I have been in training, Skamp is always assured of having fun times with Mom. Now that we aren’t in training, she doesn’t always receive that one on one time with me. Yes, we go on walks daily, but there is a big difference between walks and training!! Agility training and competition has brought lots of new friends into our lives. I also think that Agility Competition has allowed Skamp to be more socialized, so she enjoys being around other dogs. I also enjoyed running with Skamp because she kept me going. Very good exercise!!!”
Helen: And you and Skamp are still attending Agility Events, right?
Rhea: ‘Skamp and I enjoy going to Agility Events because, once you have been in it, you are kinda “hooked”!! It’s kinda like fishing!!! I noticed this past week-end, Skamp would lie in my arms and watch the other dogs run. Her head would go back and forth! I enjoy going because I learn from other handlers. It is always fun to see other dogs have a GREAT run. Believe me, I saw some top notch dogs this past week-end along with their handlers. It also thrills me to see the “Junior Handlers” because you know CPE has taken them away from television/computors and other activities and you see a love from them for their dogs. It just is sooooo exciting to watch!! All I can say is, “I never get tired of watching”!!!’
“Skamp has learned a lot from her training sessions. Before training, she had a problem focusing and listening. When we go hiking, we do let her off her lead and she does come when called. I have also noticed that through all of the training she really gets excited with all of the praise. Skamp is an Aussie and that breed can be very stubborn, but, through agility, we have pretty much broken that cycle. We are never afraid of taking her with us regardless where we go. Skamp is always with us with fishing, hiking, trips to other states to visit friends or relatives and she does GREAT. Everyone loves Skamp!!!”
A future junior handler enjoys some Halloween fun with Skamp, CT and Cy
Readers, a lot of Agility Training yields the honor of National Champion living in your midst. A moderate amount of Agility yields a dog who listens better and can move with confidence wherever her paws take her. Everybody Wins With Canine Performance Event Agility!
Many thanks to Carolyn, Rhea, Cy, CT and Skamp. Raja and I will be seeing them all at a fairgrounds somewhere in rural New York State in June 2012!
In her Carolyn's Originals Halloween dress, Skamp plays in the grass.