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Agile minds and bodies

Dogs get course in obedience and agility

Posted: March 2, 2009 11:36 p.m.
Updated: March 3, 2009 9:00 a.m.

Scout, a Chihuahua, walks across a horizontal ladder as part of his agility and obedience training. Animal Encounters teaches the class in which dogs get exercise and obedience training as they complete obstacle courses.

Dogs large to small, from Great Danes to Chihuahuas, jumped through hoops, ran through tunnels and weaved through line-up poles in a dog agility class.

"We do it just for the fun of getting out and being with other dogs on the weekend and challenging some new things between he two of us," said Terrie McDiffett, a Saugus homemaker who brought her 2-year-old Great Dane, Paisley, to the dog training class at Valencia Meadows Park Saturday afternoon.

The nearly 3-foot-tall, black-and-white spotted Paisley jumped over poles and panels of the obstacle course with ease. It was the small tunnels she struggled with as she crouched low to crawl through.

"She's so big, that's a real effort for her to do," McDiffett said as her dog experienced her second class of the six-week session.

"She has to work pretty hard at it. She's a little bit more of a tentative dog, so this is going to give her some confidence to do things that she wouldn't normally get to do."

For 9-month-old Shih Tzu "Choco," the tunnel was a simple, but he struggled with the concept of jumping through the mounted rings. The dog, whose white coat was mixed brown and gray, slowly made his way through the exercises and at one point strayed from the course. It was also his second class in the session.

"He's brand new to school," said Shelly Culver, Choco's pet-sitter.

The Saturday morning training sessions are taught by animal trainer Fawn Nyvold, who owns Animal Encounters in Santa Clarita, a business that specializes in wild life education and pet training.

The six-week training sessions, which cost $90 and are hosted by Santa Clarita's parks, recreation and community services department, combine exercise and obedience training while teaching owners how to better communicate with their dogs using cues, Nyvold said.

While Paisley and Choco are new to the training scene, some dogs that participate have experience in shows and competitions.

"Both of our dogs are in the obedience and rally shows with the (American Kennel Club)," said Santa Clarita resident Chris Talbott, who brought her two Red Australian Shepherds, Merced and Trekker. "We come here once a year to give them something that's more fun, something that they can just go out and relax (in).

"It helps them with their other training because they're learning to have fun but also be in our control and do as we ask them to do through the course."

When Merced's turn came up, he showed he was no rookie. He sped through the obstacle course and then quietly sat on the grass as soon as he passed the two orange cones that marked the finish line. His record for the course is 26 seconds, Talbott said.

Talbott's husband, Brad, said he liked the fact that the class offered new scenery for Merced and Trekker.

"There's such a variety of different equipment and different things they're exposed to than the dog normally would just in your home," Brad Talbott said.

Nyvold said that while the current session is closed, the next set of classes is set for April.

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