Under cloudy skies, dogs of all shape, size and breeds, as well as their owners, were on hand to compete at the Kenai Kennel Club dog agility trial this weekend.
Participants from across Alaska, along with their four-legged companions, traveled to Kenai for the three-day event that included standard agility course, jumpers and weaves and time to beat events. A total of 300 dogs were entered in the trial, from the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Great Dane, the field was filled with colorful, furry participants.
Kathy East, agility chair for the Kenai Kennel Club, said during the standard agility course, dogs go through jumps, teeter totter and A-frame structures, as well as tires and tunnels. Courses are set up differently each day and handlers are allowed to walk the course without their canine.
“It’s a surprise,” East said.
The jumpers and weaves course is the same, with the course set up differently each time and only the handler is allowed to see the course before the trial.
“They idea is to try and get (the dog) to take everything in the right order and do it correctly,” she said.
On Saturday and Sunday, the new time to beat course was set up. The idea of the course is to get the dogs to have the best time.
East said each dog had a chance to run the courses twice a day. On average, most dogs and their owners spend weeks before a trial training.
East said the main goal is to enjoy the pet and spend quality time with them.
“The idea is to have a good time,” she said
Outside the fence, campers and trailers lined parking lot. Inside the fence, covered tents lined the outside of the agility area.
One tent was occupied by Kenai resident Jeannie Fanning and Elaine Olson. Both ladies have spent several years working with their dogs on agility.
Fanning praised her border collie, Peach, inside the tent Monday morning. She explained that Peach participated in six courses over the three days and won first place in the standard course. Fanning said she works locally with the PenDOG group. Before participating with Peach, she ran trials with a Maltese, who is now a bit too old to compete.
Fanning said Peach is excited to compete and loves to get on the course.
“It is supposed to be a fun sport for you and your dog,” she said, petting the dogs light, wavy coat.
Olson, who proudly displayed her border collie, Rumble’s photo on her iPad case, said she and her pet had a great time at the event.
Rumble, the dark brown 4-year-old border collie, won first place Saturday on the excellent standard course.
As both ladies offer their pets treats, they laugh as they explain the varied diet the dogs get while training.
Olson said she buys bulk steak, pork, chicken that she cooks and cubes up for Rumble. She also cubes up cheese.
Fanning lsaid she boils liver and cuts it into strips, then coats it in garlic powder, as incentives during training.
But it is made clear by both women that treats are not allowed on the courses.
Aside from elaborate treats, both women agree that the cost of the sport can be high, factoring in travel costs, kennels, tents and entry fees.
East stressed that the dog agility trial was not a competition between the participants, as much as a event to better one’s time and encourage the dogs.
“You’re competing with your dog and always trying to get better as you do it,” East said.
After each dog and owner ran through the course, the crowd would offer applause. Owners would walk by and congratulate each other and stop to praise the well-behaved dogs.
East said it is just a great activity to be involved in.
“It is a very neat community of dog people who cheer each other on,” she said.
Reach Sara Hardan at firstname.lastname@example.org.