Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m really excited to have a new place to write. I want to dive right in and introduce myself so I can start sharing my experiences with all of you.
My interest in dog agility started when I was just a kid. My mother gave me the book The Soul of the Silver Dog by Lynn Hall, which is a fictional tale about a Bedlington Terrier who learns to do agility after going blind. That was my first introduction to this great sport. Shortly after that I started watching it on television and I was hooked.
At the time my childhood dog, an English Springer Spaniel named Tessie, was about two years old and had never been to a training class before, but that didn’t stop me from encouraging her over broomsticks and under lawn chairs for pieces of leftover hot dogs. We found a local outdoor agility class that required us to take her to an obedience class first. By the time we finished that prerequisite, winter was coming and agility classes were done for the season.
I was really enjoying taking her to classes, so I stuck with obedience for awhile and trained her through Novice level in AKC. I was in middle school at the time and my instructor and fellow students (all adults) taught me some really important life skills and values.
Though the training techniques I learned left a lot to be desired, my instructor had a profound impact on me as a person, which is why I ultimately decided to become a professional dog trainer.
In the spring, Tessie and I joined agility classes. We climbed the levels of the “just for fun” agility classes, entered a trial we were woefully unprepared for, and got hooked on this incredible sport. Tessie competed in agility for six years until she was retired from competition at the age of 12.
She taught me so much about perseverance, about sticking with the dog you’ve got (“buying a better dog,” as was often suggested, was not an option as a high school underclassman with marginally supportive parents), and about helping dogs that get stressed out or are easily distracted in an agility atmosphere. I could not have asked for a better “first dog” in the sport. Tessie is still with us and is fourteen and a half years old.
I met my boyfriend, business associate, and all-around partner in crime Dan in high school nine years ago, just before I started going to agility trials. He wasn’t a dog person when we met, but Tessie was quite persuasive, and quickly he was driving me to classes, video taping my practice, and helping me build and set up equipment. A few years later as Tessie was approaching retirement, together we brought Strata home.
Strata is currently six years old and he is the best dog on the planet (unbiased fact!), truly worth his weight in gold. He went through Karen Pryor Academy with me, eagerly tolerating my training mistakes and the re-training that went along with them. We’ve attended two ClickerExpos, flown across the country to put in clean runs at AKC Nationals and International Team Tryouts, and driven all over the northeast for agility trials and seminars. Everywhere he goes, he’s a happy camper. If I could bottle and sell his temperament, I’d be a millionaire!
At the same time I brought Strata home I became an assistant instructor for some local agility instructors, then began teaching my own classes. I graduated from Karen Pryor Academy in June of 2010 and Dan and I started our business Spring Forth Dog Services shortly thereafter.
I have been a full-time dog trainer since September 2010 and love my job! Dogs are my life, and I devote most of my time to working with them and learning more about them. I’m a continuing education junkie and am always trying to expand my knowledge.
For many years, my goal has been to provide quality dog agility instruction to people and dogs of all levels and backgrounds. I love teaching and I love what this sport brings out in dogs and people at all levels, from beginners who realize “wow, my dog really IS smart, look at him learn,” to owners of fearful or reactive dogs who use agility as a tool to build their dog’s confidence, to agility enthusiasts who use the sport as an inspiration to get healthy and take better care of themselves. It has been my privilege to be a part of that through the agility classes I have taught elsewhere. And that is why I am thrilled that classes in Smithfield, RI start next week!
All dogs and all handlers are welcome in my program. All I ask is that your dog has graduated from group dog training instruction, such as a basic manners or puppy class, at some point in the past.
If my classes don’t fit into your schedule, or if your dog doesn’t get along with other dogs, I teach private training lessons, too. I’m happy to work with dogs with behavior problems that other instructors may not be able to accommodate. Just drop me a line if you’d like to get started.
So what does the future hold? A lot more agility, for me, for Strata, and for my youngsters who I didn’t get a chance to introduce (Finch & Spark), and for you! Even if you can’t join us in Smithfield, I’ll be sharing articles, videos, links, and more great agility information right here at this blog. I’m looking forward to a very agile 2014. Are you?