By Elizabeth Varville, Journal Correspondent
The Bell County Expo Center hosted the three-day event of the Austin Golden Retriever Club Agility trials December 18 – 20. Along with the Golden Retriever, as many as 100 different breeds were represented. The American Kennel Club sanctioned trials has all levels of competition from advanced to beginner.
“Your dog does not have to be a member of the AGRC but they do have to have an AKC registration number,” said The Membership Director Mark Slevin. “Your dog is also not required to be a purebred; you can register your dog as a mixed breed in order for you to receive a registration number. The registration number allows the winnings of the dog to be tracked. Once you have gone through the entry process, there is much training that is required to get your dog ready to compete. Most dogs begin around a year old and take an average of a year to be ready to compete at the beginner’s level. The sport is very popular and it is a great way for the handlers and the dogs to bond. It is a test of team work because the handlers and the dogs have to work together. Handlers are not permitted to touch the dogs in the ring, only verbal and physical commands are permitted. The course is unique just to the current trial so practice in advance of the course is not available. So the test is to see if you can guide your dog through the course without making any mistakes. The class your dog competes in is determined by the height of the breed.”
Ribbons are awarded from first to fourth place.
“It is all based on time. So the fastest dog with the best time with the fewest errors wins,” said Slevin. “The judges determine if the dogs make any mistakes ranging from knocking the bar down to missing an obstacle all together. If the dog runs a clean course, the dog qualifies to earn points towards winning the Agility Championship which takes a fair amount of time. The dog is required to earn 750 speed points to be considered a Master Agility Champion.”
According to www.austingoldenretrieverclub.com the AGRC is supported by a diverse group of people, united by their love for their Goldens and sharing their life and activities with them. Fifty club members are active in many activities with their Golden Retrievers whether it be field activities, obedience, conformation, agility, hiking, pet therapy, or just hanging out.
“I had a Sheltie puppy that had a lot of energy and I didn’t know what to do with it. So a friend of mine suggested that I do agility to wear out the dog. We go to class and have fun and then the dog would go to sleep. Then it turned into something about me. I had to learn how to be a handler. It’s a community and it is fun. I go to class once a week and we do some stuff in my backyard for fun,” said handler Susan Suedemar of Austin.