gmhTODAY 10 gmhToday Sept Oct 2016 - Page 76

Super Dogs Morgan Hill Dog Sports Written By Robin Shepherd T here’s nothing like the bond between people and their dogs. Our four-legged friends are trusted companions at home . . . and talented teammates on the sports field. And nobody knows how to bring out a dog’s natural smarts, agility and eagerness to please better than Vici Whisner and Laura Pryse. As co-founders and owners of Morgan Hill Dog Sports, Vici and Laura take a systematic approach to dog agility and obedience training with a focus on competitive events. They teach clients (aka “handlers”) how to train their dogs, and the dogs learn that training is fun. Laura and Vici have many years of dog agility training and competition experience under their belts. They’ve also assembled a top-notch team of trainers to round out their program, and their accomplishments in the show ring have earned them a strong reputation in Northern California. Laura teaches advanced to master level classes. She and her four Border Collies, Stat, Fireball, Hotshot and Dare Devil, are serious contenders in competitions hosted by the Bay Area American Kennel Club, UK Agility International, and the US Dog Agility Association. Fireball placed first and Hotshot was also a finalist in the Cynosports 2015 Grand Prix event. Vici teaches foundation and beginning dog handling classes. She herself competes primarily in USDAA venues with her Sheltie, Fin, a Cynosports 2015 Steeplechase Finalist. She also competes with Olive, her Jack Russell Terrier. Recently, gmhTODAY had the opportunity to observe these “super dogs” and their owners during a training session at the Morgan Hill Dog Sports training facility in San Martin, and to learn more about the business from Vici and Laura. Q: What got you started in the business? Years ago, we began training dogs in our own back yards. We got to know each other and decided to go into business together to provide dog agility training for clients who waned to enter competitions with their dogs. As the business grew and more trainers joined our team, we added new classes to our schedule. Q: What questions do people ask most often and how do you respond? What is Dog Agility? In agility competition, the handler must guide his or her dog through an obstacle course set with tunnels, jumps, a teeter totter and other challenges while racing against the clock. Handlers whose dogs have the cleanest round and the fastest time win the competition. Local events provide opportunities to progress from novice to master level and from regional and national events. Morgan Hill Dog Sports 13505 Murphy Avenue, San Martin 76 People want to know how long before their dogs will be ready to compete. Depending on the abilities of both the dog and handler, it can take eighteen months or more of training before most are ready to compete. When asked about training in areas other than agility, we connect customers with our experts in “Rally-O” and traditional obedience training. Occasionally we get a call from someone who wants a more casual program. We let them know ours is geared toward training for competition and we currently have a full schedule devoted to it. Q: Describe the “ideal” client and dog for your program. It depends on a number of factors.  We assess the experience and skills of the dog handler and the dog and their interactions, and place them in an appropriate class.  For our advanced classes we look for people with previous experience. For foundation level work, we take anyone with an eagerness to learn.  Our program is designed to bring them up to a competitive level of discipline and skill even if they don’t end up competing. Those who do compete have won many awards for their agility dogs at regional and national events.  Competitiveness is always balanced with good sportsmanship and fun. We not only celebrate every qualification and title earned, but also the positive relationships that we develop with our dogs. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016