Ever wonder if there's anything you can do to strengthen the bond between you and your dog? Maybe you want him to be better socialized, or maybe you want to teach him some tricks. Maybe, you just want an activity for the two of you to do together that's fun and engaging.
Well luckily, for you and your dog (or any other dog and owner you may know) there are dog sports, like agility available to participate in.
Agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports, and for good reason. It keeps your dog active, it's fun, and it's a GREAT bonding and training experience. Just ask 16-year-old Kiley Bitner-Parish. Bitner-Parish is a Junior agility competitor and trains with her dog, Roscoe.
We got the chance to talk to Bitner-Parish about her experience with agility, her trip to Westminster, and her advice for other dog owners.
Check it out!
AKC: Tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from?
Bitner-Parish: My name is Kiley Bitner-Parish, I am 16 years old, and I am from Columbia, Maryland.
How did you get started in agility?
I got started in agility when I adopted my troubled shelter dog, Roscoe, in 2013. He was poorly socialized and thus very fearful of just about everything. I first learned about agility when my 4-H club offered a beginner agility class. I took Roscoe to the classes hoping to expose him to new things and build up his confidence. It took me over an hour to get him through a tunnel the first time, but after he started catching on, we were hooked.
Tell us about your dog—what is he like? How has agility helped him?
Roscoe is a shepherd mix, an All American Dog, who was adopted from a shelter in 2013 when he was about a year old. He had terrible anxiety because of poor socialization and training. I have spent countless hours training him and he still has these issues, but to a lesser and more manageable extent. Roscoe is a very smart, loyal and loving dog and agility training has brought out the best in him.
Has participating in agility with Roscoe strengthened the bond that you two share?
Agility has strengthened our bond in ways that nothing else could.
What has participating in agility taught you?
Participating in agility has taught me to be patient and persistent. Agility has also taught me to appreciate the small things. Even though I didn't get any qualifying runs at Westminster, I am so proud of all of the things that went well.
How do you balance life outside of agility?
It is hard to balance school, social life, other activities, and agility. Some juniors who do agility are homeschooled, so they have a lot more time than I do because I go to public school. The good part about agility training is that training sessions are often short and can easily be fit in between other activities and homework.
What does responsible dog ownership mean to you?
Responsible dog ownership means a lot to me because I do a lot of volunteering for dog rescue, so I see the unfortunate consequences of irresponsible dog ownership on a regular basis. Before getting a dog, people need to do extensive research and decide if they have what it takes to be a committed and responsible dog owner.
Do you have any advice for young people like you looking to enter the world of dog sports?
For any young people looking to enter the world of dog sports, I would tell them to not give up even when difficulties arise. Find supportive adults and other juniors who can help you work towards your goals.
Want to know more about dog agility? Check out the story of Rush, the Shetland Sheepdog, below!
Learn more about dog sports and how to get involved here.