JOPLIN, Mo. — You may have seen dog agility trials on TV before, but what you might not know is that the sport didn’t even find a foothold in the United States until the 1970’s. Now, it’s a booming niche sport that’s growing every day, with trainers from all over the country hitting the road to attend competitions.
Linda Scorse, dog agility handler, says, “That 30 seconds out there, 30 seconds of fame when you’re running your dog, it’s a high just like most people in sports that have that.”
Scorse has been competing in dog agility trials for almost two decades. Now, she and her two border collies, Tinz and Lisa, compete all across the country, which she says keeps them all in shape.
Scorse says, “It’s mentally good for us instead of just memorizing crossword puzzles, is to memorize an agility course and get a dog through it. It’s a great mental exercise. The pressure, just like any sport, you get out there, you’ve got butterflies, are you gonna do the best for your dog, hold up your part of the team.”
With trials held all around the country, the sport requires a large financial and time commitment from both trainers and dogs alike.
Scorse says, “Tt’s big time commitment, traveling to trials, training, seminars, classes, just your time at home.”
For all the time and travel that Tinz and Lisa have to put into competing, they don’t get tired of it. In fact, they love the sport, and love going to competitions.
Scorse says, “That bond, that dog, you can see it their face, you can see it in their eyes, they want to run with you. In fact, my dogs won’t run with someone else.”
Most recently, Linda and her dogs competed in the Summer Canine Olympics in Oklahoma City.
Scorse says, “Tinz got a few more cues than Lisa did. Lisa’s always a work in progress. She’s so much faster than Tinz, it’s, sometimes difficult to qualify with her. You think the faster the better, but it’s also very easy to make a mistake.”
Lisa is just five years old, but Tinz, who’s nine and a half years old, has won two Master Agility Champion titles- which is no easy feat; however, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still learning.
Scorse says, “Going to the back side of the jump and jumping towards you, Tinz didn’t learn that until he was six. He still argues with me that that’s not the way you jump a jump, so there’s still some skills that they’re continually learning.”
As the dogs learn more skills, more people are learning about dog agility as a whole. It’s a sport that means everything to Scorse.
Scorse says, “It’s just such a joy to work with a dog and have them think you’re the best thing in the world. Go in with the best dog, come out with the best dog.”
Tinz has won his fair share of awards, and now, he’s working towards his ultimate goal of achieving American Kennel Club Grand Champion status. Of course, he does it all right next to Linda, and Lisa, who happens to be his daughter.