MORRISONVILLE — Canines took over the playground as Agility Dogs of the Adirondacks held its first competition in the Plattsburgh area this past weekend.
With jumps, tunnels, weave poles and a climbing wall, a virtual canine playground was set up at the East Morrisonville Recreation Park for the event.
Off-leash, the competitors moved through courses of mixed obstacles, their handlers directing them by hand motions and voice. Knocking down poles cost points, and the dogs competed against the clock, as well. The sharp blast of a whistle marked disqualification, sometimes when an overenthusiastic dog zoomed over jumps that were off course; other times, handlers got mixed up and sent their pooches in the wrong direction.
A Doberman named Titan cruised through the snooker course with ease, drawing loud applause Saturday afternoon.
PICKING UP POINTS
Pets ranging in size from tiny Yorkshire terriers to majestic, long-legged Titan competed in the Canine Performance Events-sanctioned trial, with the winners accumulating points toward certain titles.
“Some people are really casual about it, and some people are trialing every weekend,” said John Sims, an event organizer and one of the founding members of Agility Dogs.
“They get points, and the major competition that the more competitive people are striving for is the national event. You need a certain number of points to run in the national event.”
An event must be certified by Canine Performance Events in order to qualify for national points.
WESTPORT HOST SITE
Turnout for the two-day event was strong, with about 60 dogs competing on Saturday and another 45 on Sunday.
The crowd watching the event was a mix of competitors and spectators, with some people bringing their own dogs to watch their brethren in the ring. Most of the dogs, however, lounged in kennels or under lawn chairs, content just to soak up the nearly perfect autumn weather.
Agility Dogs had held two trials in Westport this summer but wanted to come to Plattsburgh to give agility enthusiasts there the opportunity to compete without having to travel.
Competing closer to home, in fact, is why the group was originally formed one year ago.
“There wasn’t one of these events locally, and we wanted to bring an event closer,” said Dave Reckham, another founding member of Agility Dogs.
He said they are discussing now whether to return to Westport or to stay in the Plattsburgh area for their trials next summer. No winter events are scheduled.
FUN FOR ALL
For the competitors and their owners, it’s all about having fun. Some of those competing started out in the conformation ring but made the switch because they found agility to be less stressful and more fun, for them and especially their dogs.
That was the case for Jennifer Moore, who traveled from Randolph, Vt., to compete.
“They love it. This is so much more fun. The dogs love it; the people are friendly — it’s a great way to spend a weekend with your dog,” she said.
One competitor in Saturday’s trials traveled from North Carolina.
The Canine Performance Event-sanctioned events are friendly to less competitive dogs as well. Those just learning the sport can take part as an “enthusiast” or a “specialist,” both of which feature lower jump heights. Older dogs as well take on lower jumps.
Jump heights vary from 4 to 24 inches, depending on the height of the dog at the shoulders, and increase at 4-inch intervals.
Unlike American Kennel Club-sanctioned events, Canine Performance Events allow mixed breed dogs to compete.
A list of upcoming trials around the country can be found on the website: www.k9cpe.com.