For Reo, it was the biggest moment in her career. For Timber, it was a chance to whine constantly from the sidelines. The two are NWT history-makers.
Reo is a six-year-old chocolate lab and Timber a seven-year-old black lab. The Yellowknife-based Rruff Diamonds Dog Agility club says they are the first dogs to represent the club in Alberta at regional level.
Over the past weekend, the two competed at an Edmonton event hosted by Dynamo Dogsports that, in a pandemic-affected year with no national championship, even welcomed dogs from British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan – turning regionals into an even larger field with more than 200 entrants.
Corinne Dziuba, one of the owners of Reo and Timber, said she had no idea her dogs were the first from the club to go to the competition.
They both “did so well,” she said.
Reo placed eighth of the 15 dogs in her division and Timber second in his. Dogs are placed into categories based on their size and age.
Both of Dziuba’s dogs have been training since they were puppies.
“You develop a rapport with them, you’re partners, so you learn how to teach them and what motivates them,” she said.
Gay Kennedy, president of Rruff Diamonds, said dogs at the Alberta competition are “pretty sophisticated” and the course can be challenging.
“Most beginner dogs wouldn’t enter that kind of a meet,” Kennedy told Cabin Radio.
“Your dog has to have a really good ability to focus on you and not on the other dogs.”
A miniature family reunion happened for Reo at the meet. Her sister, Lassie, was another entrant. The two met for the first time since they were puppies.
A puppy from one of Timber’s sisters was also present.
To Dziuba, the hardest part is the communication needed to make it through the course.
“You work as a team out there. If you get the right body language and right signals, then they’ll do the course well,” she said.
“But if you, the human, don’t have the right handling, or if you miss and make a mistake, or read the course wrong, then your dog could go off-course or not complete it – and then it’s your fault.”
Dziuba said the connection with her dogs is what drives her and her husband, Franz, to compete.
“The more you work with your dog, the more you understand them,” she said. “We have our dogs because they are pets and our best friends and we want to do things with them.
“For us, doing agility is spending time with them. We’re outdoors with them and we’re having fun.”