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Staying the course

The annual dog agility trials took place over the weekend at the Crook County Fairgrounds

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Sandy Lachowski works with her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Magic, immediately before the dog begins the “excellent” dog agility trial at Saturday’s competition.

The Crook County Fairgrounds indoor arena was a flurry of activity this weekend for dog owners and canines as they competed in the annual dog agility trials.
   The event was sponsored by the Mount Bachelor Kennel Club in association with the American Kennel Club (AKC), and featured more than 150 dogs of a variety of sizes and breeds from all over the Northwest.
   Sandy Lachowski, trial chair for the Mount Bachelor Kennel Club, said that the sport of agility strengthens the bond between dogs and their humans.
   “It’s fun and it provides exercise for both of us,” she said. “It’s a good mental exercise and it’s a good physical exercise. We have to remember the course, so we have to be mentally on-the-ball. We are out there running with our dogs too.”
   Dog agility got its roots in England in 1978, and the AKC caught onto the frenzy and began the first agility trial in 1994. It is now the fastest-growing dog sport in the United States. The Mount Bachelor Kennel Club is part of this larger organization.
   On Saturday and Sunday, dog owners took their canines through one of three types of agility; standard, jumpers with weaves, and fast. The standard agility includes contact with obstacles such as a dog walk, A-frame, or a seesaw. The jumpers with weaves only have jumps, tunnels, and weave poles. The fast class is a points-accumulation game that takes place within an allotted amount of time.
   All three of these agility classes offer increasing levels of difficulty in novice, open, and excellent, with courses that are appropriate for each team’s competition ability. The class is also organized by the dog’s shoulder height, from their withers to the ground.
   Lachowski said that each level gradually increases in difficulty for the dog. She explained that the novice level is for dogs that have never competed before, and there are up to 15 obstacles. The open level requires the dog to complete the course with 17 obstacles in a shorter amount of time with fewer mistakes. The last level has 20 obstacles, allows no mistakes, and the dogs must complete in a faster time.
   “It’s about speed and agility,” she added.
   All breeds are scored the same, and they are judged by their time, as opposed to their breed. Lachowski noted that dogs compete against other canines within their own height range.
    “It’s just a lot of fun,” she remarked.
   The event includes all breeds, including mixed-breeds.
   “People that do rescue work and people that get a dog from the Humane Society — if they have a mixed breed, it doesn’t matter,” she explained. “You can come out and play agility too, AKC allows that.”
   The Mount Bachelor Kennel Club also puts on a confirmation, obedience, rally, and agility at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in June each year. Dogs must be 15 months or older, and Lachowski said that owners must make sure that dogs are safe throughout the competition.
   “What could be better than spending a weekend with your dog?” she exclaimed. “The people here all love their dogs, and they are such an integral part of our lives.”
   Lachowski looks at the event as an opportunity to forget about real life and escape for a couple of days.
   “Just be with your best friends — human and canine.”
   For more information about the Mount Bachelor Kennel Club go to MBKC.org or call Sandy Lachowski at 541-388-4979.
   Results will be posted at r2agility.com within the next couple of weeks.