Canine coursework: Dogs test their agility skills at trials in Palmetto

jdeleon@bradenton.comMay 26, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Dog lovers and their companions came out to the Manatee County Fairgrounds to put their dogs' abilities to the test.

The Dog Training Club of Tampa hosted American Kennel Club Agility Trials in Palmetto on Saturday as part of a three-day event.

Kathryn Clark, 33, had three dogs competing in Saturday's trials: Bling, a 2 year-old Italian greyhound; Pixie, a 5-year-old Chinese crested; and Bella, a 10-year-old Italian greyhound.

"My first dog, Bella, was very bad so we went to obedience school and they had agility equipment there," Clark said.

Bella's bad behavior, however, is what got her into agility training.

"She got away from me one day and chased the FedEx truck, so we enrolled in obedience school and the rest, as they say, is history," Clark said.

For Clark there were three generations of her family there, her mother who started with her and son Tristen, who was competing for the first time with their 9-year-old Italian greyhound.

"He's not nervous, I'm nervous," Clark said.

Others like Clark also got into agility training after a trip to obedience school.

"We took a pet obedience class and they had agility equipmentoutside," Sarah Duke said. "I thought that would be really fun to do."

Ten years later, Duke is stillcompeting. Her older dog retired, but she now competes with her 7-year-old Australian shepherd, Java, often times traveling around

the country to do so.

"This is a really big show," Duke said.

While most of the dog owners were women, there were some men, such as Capt. Sandy Forseth, a 30-year veteran of the Pinellas Park Police Department, competing with their dogs.

Forseth was a K-9 officer for six years during his career so he was familiar with the training.

"Some of this is a little similar to K-9 agility training, not as technical as this though," Forseth said.

Forseth had two dogs at the event, Lily, a border collie, and Splash, an Australian shepherd. Splash is still training, so was not ready to compete. Both dogs, he says, enjoy it.

"You have to make them enjoy it. If they don't enjoy it, they shouldn't compete," Forseth said.

It was Forseth's wife who got him into agility training when she took their older dog for basic training.

"So I picked up on it where she left off," Forseth said. "And then we started competing."

For those interested, the trials are open to the public to watch for free.

Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. Follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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