The Torrington Telegram | Exercise, Obedience, Agility

Bonni Christopher and her dog Shiloh completing the A-frame obstacle on the dog agility course at Thursday’s class.
Pete completing the hoop jump.
Cynthia Sheeley/Torrington Telegram

Commuinity ed dog agility class meets at EWC

TORRINGTON – Exercise, obedience and agility are the main goals of the community education dog agility class that is currently meeting at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This class is held once a year. To get into this class, dog owners must first complete the beginning dog obedience course. 

There are a total of seven sessions for the dog agility class held in the EWC gym.  They teach the dogs to perform the different jumps, go through tunnels, stay on a pause table, complete the A-frame obstacle and perform the teeter-totter. Each obstacle works on different obedience and agility skills.

All of the equipment is owned by dog agility instructor Penny Hutchison and is stored in her trailer most of the year. When it is time for the agility class, they set up all of the obstacles in the gym for the class. Because of the EWC’s gym availability, the class can only meet once a year.

For each class, which includes seven practices, it is $65 to enroll. Usually, there are about 12 to 17 people in the classes. To register for the class, dogs must have their DA2PP, Bordetella vaccinations and rabies. Pitbulls are not allowed in the class. 

“This class is for the dogs to learn to listen to the specific commands to complete the course,” Hutchison said. She explained that she does several voice commands with her dogs to teach them what she wants them to do. 

“For the big barrels (an obstacle on the course), what you’re doing is you are working your dog close to your side,” Hutchison said. “Then as you step in you’ve got to push your dog away and then pull in.”

It is up to the handler to learn and then teach the proper signs and commands to their dog. On the course, it’s these actions that hint to the dog what they are supposed to do on the obstacle. The final goal is to have a disciplined dog that can run the entire course with its handler off its lead.

“It’s more fun than anything because none of us here go to compete,” Hutchison said. “I competed a long time ago.”

Hutchison said while they mostly do it just for fun, if an individual wanted to and had a registered dog, they could go compete in shows and compete in championships. This is helpful for dog breeders.

Hutchison said currently they have one young girl who comes to the class and competes in dog training for 4-H. In the future, they hope to get some of the other 4-H kids to get involved and also bring in their dogs to run the course.

“The only way to get into this class is to take the beginning dog obedience,” Hutchison explained. “That way we know that your dog knows come, sit, down, stay, heel, stand for exam, long sits, long downs, reverse and U-turns. That way we know if we have tough dogs.”

“In the obedience class, these people work very hard on teaching their dogs to focus and listen,” she continued. 

The dog obedience class is held in EWC’s CTEC building in the commons area. It meets four times during the college’s first semester and four times during the second semester. One of the sessions is level two training, where they work more towards off-leash commands with the dogs. 

“We teach the dogs to go up and down the stairs, close stairs and then open on the other side,” Hutchison said. “We’ll go outside if the weather is nice.”

Taking a dog through the obedience course can have a significant positive impact on both the animal and the owner.

“I started obedience with [my dog Tucker] when he was about five, six months old, [he’s three now], so, he’s done it about three different times,” dog agility student Deb Yeik said. “It’s good for him to be around the other dogs and get the refresher. This is the first time we’ve done agility.” 

“A long time ago, about 12 years ago, I had a Belgian Malinois and basically he controlled us,” Yeik continued. “He wouldn’t listen to us. I heard about the dog classes and thought that I would put him in them and it made a world of difference. So, anybody who gets a puppy, I tell them they need to do dog school.”

“I’ve put [my one-year-old dog Petey] through one obedience class but I’ve been going through obedience with Kenny for the last 11 years with all of my dogs,” dog agility student Tabitha Lambert said. “They go multiple times.”

“The benefits of obedience for the dogs is that they’re calmer and more engaged,” Lambert continued. “It works their mind along with the training.”

Hutchison said she used to teach at a school in Chicago, Illinois, many years ago. After a bad incident close to the school, the school became unsafe for students and faculty. After they closed the school, she moved back to the area. 

“[When I lived in Chicago], was when I got my first show dog, Great Dane,” Hutchison said. “I showed them and had a great time. It was wonderful, but I wouldn’t want to live there again for anything.”

“When we came out here, I showed AKC for a while and then got more involved in good hunting dogs,” she continued. “We started with the UKC hunt test and then we had Aussies and then West Highland white terriers.”

As a result, Hutchison has a lot of experience to share with her students.

I’ve been doing this for a long, long time,” Hutchison told the Telegram. “I love working with dogs and I love working with people. I’m a retired teacher but I sub for fun. I love getting to be around the people and the dogs.” 

For more information about the community education dog agility or obedience classes contact Community Education Director Donna White at 307-532-8323.

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