Dog agility trials

Kimi, a Shetland sheep dog owned by Sue DeMar of Austin, moves through weave poles during a dog agility obstacle course at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton.

BELTON — Bonding was the main goal of those putting their dogs through the American Kennel Club agility trial at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, said Ginny Robinson, trial chairman for Waco Agility Group, which put on the annual event.

About 125 dog owners from all over Texas entered the three-day trial, which ended Sunday.

“For some people it’s more of a sport and a competition,” she said. “Probably for the majority of the people, it’s a way to spend time with your dog.

“Even if you go out there and don’t get a qualifying score … just to be able to create a communication system with your dog … it’s really neat to be that close to your dog,” she said.

The agility trial is like an obstacle course for dogs, she said. The canines go over jumps and see-saws, through tires, weaves and tunnels. They must be at least 18 months old, and sometimes 12-year-olds are still competing, she said.

Once restricted to purebreds, the AKC event is now open to mixed breeds as well.

The handlers walk the course beforehand, to determine how their dog should run it, she said. They accompany the dog, and give it hand or voice signals. The dog must run the agility trial without fault, and for the fastest time. Dogs at the beginner level might get an extra try at the weave, for example, she said.

The dogs benefit from the exercise and mental stimulation, she said. “There are some breeds of dogs that need something to do.”

Her daughter, Shiloh Robinson, 11, has been learning to train dogs for about a year.

“It’s also a good way for you to work as a team with handler and dog,” Shiloh said. “It’s something I enjoy.”

She likes the border-whippets, she said. “They’re very smart. One of ours, she has good distance,” she said, meaning the handler can work the dog from farther away.

Gina Bujalski, owner of Quail Creek K-9 Services in Robinson, has been competing with her 3-year-old female Belgium Malinois for almost two years.

She qualified for the AKC national agility trial March 18-20 in Tulsa, Okla. She uses a combination of verbal and body language, she said. The dog can follow her master’s body movements, which are “very similar to dancing,” she said.

WAG offers agility training classes in Lorena, Ginny Robinson said. More information is at www.wacoagilitygroup.org.