WEST GARDINER — Around 100 dogs spent their Saturday jumping over candy cane-striped plastic hurdles and dashing through tunnels as their owners ran alongside, whistling, shouting and pointing where to go on the obstacle course.
The dog agility competition was held at Shamrock Stables by Agility Central of Maine, a organization that promotes dog sports and organizes two agility trials each year.
“Sometimes there’s a little friendly competition, but really it’s about trying to beat the course and your goals,” said Lisa Howard, the club’s vice president and the organizer of the event.
Experienced dog owners and novices took part in the competition, Howard said, both with the goal of having fun with their dogs. Some, such as Howard, have traveled all over New England competing in dog agility trials; others were just starting out.
Katie Anderson, of Freeport, said Saturday’s event was only her and her dog’s third competition.
She said she started doing agility lessons with her dog, a white border collie named Denali, just for fun and to work on communicating with him because he’s deaf.
The owners can’t touch the dogs during the trials, so they have to rely on hand and verbal signals to help the animals navigate through the obstacle courses. But because Anderson’s dog can’t hear, he has to rely on just her hand signals and body language.
“He loved it so much that we finally decided to try competing in it,” Anderson said.
The club’s president, Kristie Hutchinson, said she started it in 2010 to give people doing agility activities with their dogs an opportunity to practice together. The group meets at least once a month to practice at a facility in Litchfield and at one member’s home. She said it helps to have other people observe and give feedback when practicing.
The club holds the agility competitions every April and November and fun runs throughout the year.
Only one other group, Eastern Maine Agility Club in Newcastle, hosts Canine Performance Events-sanctioned agility trials in the state. CPE, a national dog agility association, has a specific set of rules for competitions.
Hutchinson, a border collie breeder from Readfield, said she likes doing the agility activities because of the bonds she builds with her dogs, as well as with the agility community.
“We’re like one big family,” she said.