Monique Plinck’s dog Tiki has been running through tubes, leaping over obstacles and weaving through posts, hard at work training for the upcoming International Federation of Cynological Sports World Agility Championships, being held in Holland this May.
Plinck, a Middlefield resident, and Tiki have won awards at dog agility competitions in the past, including several at the United States Dog Agility Association’s BARK Agility event. Tiki is a 6-year-old male papillon.
Plinck explained that preparing for agility competitions takes two to three years of training. Plinck developed an interest in the sport 20 years ago when she owned a “very smart, very active rottweiler who was doing really well in obedience school but needed more than obedience could provide. It was recommended that I check out Agility. There weren’t many in the area at that point, so I started out in Newtown and I’ve continued from there.”
Plinck now trains Tiki at Criterion Agility, a facility she owns and operates in Middlefield, where she teaches her dogs and shares her expertise with others part time to “help pay for my habit,” Plinck said.
Plinck said she began participating in competitions because, “You get to a point in your training where you are really excelling at the sport and someone recommends that you compete. Everybody else that is like-minded in the hobby is there doing it with you as well. It’s a pretty supportive community that I know well regionally and nationally with all the travel I do. I have friends all over the country that I get at chance to see at the different trials that I go to.”
The highest honor Plinck has achieved thus far has been winning one of the classes at the world agility open in Belgium in 2012 with Tiki. This year, she said she hopes Tiki may win the overall combined class at IFCS in Holland next May.
The obstacles at IFCS include a “dog walk,” “See-saw,” “A-Frame,” “closed tunnel,” “tire jump,” and “weave poles.” IFCS regulations describe with exacting specifications how obstacles are constructed.
During competitions, participants in the sport direct their dogs to run through each obstacle using only hand gestures and voices - whistles, toys, and food are forbidden, although a baton is allowed during relay events. Trainers run alongside their dogs and direct them through the obstacles. After training, dogs only need to be directed toward an obstacle to know what to do with it. Well-trained dogs will be familiar with the tasks of weaving around poles, running through cloth tunnels, and jumping over posts without touching them.
Plinck is currently training another dog, a “one-year-old that is following in Tiki’s footsteps that I think is going to be even more talented than Tiki is. I’m really looking forward to bringing him out to competitions in 2014.”