The Organization for the Working Samoyed

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Agility

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by Lisa Peterson

Samoyed in tunnel

"Sirius" owned by Doris McLaughlin
and Lisa Peterson

Agility is relatively new sport to the American Kennel Club, but it has been known in other venues and other countries for many years. Agility is also sponsored by other organizations such as USDAA, NADAC, AAC, and UKC. From being a novelty, and the avocation of a relative few, agility has become the most recognizable canine sport in the United States. Agility trials often reach their entry limits within days or even hours of opening, and spectators are the rule rather than the exception. As with anything else that allows them to run, show off, and work independently, Samoyeds seem to enjoy this sport! Classes are divided by jump height (based on the dogs’ height at the withers) and expertise.

Samoyed in Tire

"Fancy" owned by Doris McLaughlin
and Lisa Peterson

It has been suggested that the sport of agility had its beginnings in the training of military, police and search dogs. Certainly there are some similarities between the obstacles used, but there the resemblance ends. Modern agility is a celebration of the teamwork of dog and handler maneuvering through an obstacle course as quickly and cleanly as possible. Those who have tried to make it less than a cooperative effort have rarely experienced success.

Starting in agility has few requirements. As with any training endeavor, it will need a commitment of your time and perseverance! Unlike traditional obedience, agility allows the dog considerable independence-something our breed appreciates (sometimes too much!) Most Samoyeds are well suited to the sport. Physical and mental soundness are the main needs. If you have any doubts about your dogs' fitness, especially hips and elbows, check with your veterinarian before beginning training.

Samoyed jumping

"Cyber" owned by Helen Smith

Agility requires that the dog learn to negotiate particular obstacles, and to take direction from a distance. Some obstacles such as the bar, panel and broad jumps, are relatively easy. Others, such as the tunnels and chutes, require sufficient confidence to leap into a dark hole . The A-Frame requires a strong rear to propel the dog up, and enough canine humility to be willing to come down rather than stand and allow the world to admire him on his perch! The Dog Walk and Teeter Totter require a sense of balance, and an awareness of the position of each foot. The tire jump and weave poles need a willingness to please, while the pause table tests the dog's willingness to accept control. Introducing the obstacles carefully and positively allows most Samoyeds quickly develop the confidence that marks a good agility dog.Once introduced, most Sams take off on their own, running the courses well away from their handler, but still listening for and accepting direction.

Samoyed weaving

"Bridger" owned by Brad and
Marjorie Welch

Persons who have never trained a dog for agility work need to start out with a class or club. In most areas, there is a choice of trainers and clubs. The sport, and most classes, is dominated by Border Collies. They seem to be designed for it in many ways. By their temperament, they are happy being drilled over one set of obstacles or in one set of exercises, doing it better each time. Samoyeds, on the other hand, become more creative the more often that they are drilled. Trying to teach them in this manner will only frustrate both dog and handler. Find an instructor or club that realizes that all dogs do not learn in the same way, and that Nordics are different from most! The equipment is too expensive for most of us to have – at least at first even if there is space in the yard. Anyone, though, can throw together a few bar jumps, suspend a hula hoop for a tire, and place a plank on two milk crates to simulate a dog walk. A series of "plumber's friends" can be used as weave poles, when placed about 22-24" apart. These simple supplements to a weekly class can increase both yours and your Sam's enjoyment of the sport.

Samoyed in chute

"Targhee" owned by Brad and
Marjorie Welch

The AKC will not allow any dog to compete in agility before it is 15 months old. Many people strongly suggest that the larger dogs not compete until their OFA x-ray at two. Younger dogs, however, can be trained for competition, being brought along slowly. Puppies can learn basic commands, such as sit, down, come, and stay. They can learn to walk through a ladder set on the ground, crawl through a tunnel, and, as they grow, to jump low jumps. By the time they are physically ready for formal training, they have learned the basics of the most fun they will ever have off leash!

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