Clean Run - September 2011 - (Page 33)

Dylan’s STORY By Lisa Barrett, photos by Great Dane Dylan wins national and international championships, has earned the highest titles in AKC and USDAA, and at 15" tall frequently beats the times put up by the big dogs. She runs with joy and is blazingly fast and very accurate, even after repeated high-dose chemotherapy. Yet she is Angie Benacquisto’s first agility dog, she came from a shelter, and she is at heart a timid, quiet dog. How has this mild little dog learned to be so bold, so fast, and so successful? Instructor and world-class competitor Jen Pinder says Dylan’s amazing success “all comes from the bond between Angie and Dylan. That dog is a piece of her. Dylan gives her all for Angie. You can’t put heart into a dog—they have to have that heart on their own.” Dylan is not a high-drive dog and is inherently fearful. Loud noises and sudden movements scare her. She is also Angie’s first agility dog. Yet, she earned her ADCH, MACH, and C-ATCH before she was three years old. By the age of five, she had won the AKC Nationals and the AKC Invitational, was the IFCS Snooker World Champion, the IFCS Jumpers silver medalist, and placed second at USDAA Cynosport World Games in the Grand Prix Finals, and third in the Dog Agility Steeplechase Finals. The first piece of the puzzle is that Dylan’s handler, Angie Benacquisto, is a top-flight athlete. As a child, she learned the value of hard work and determination. She tried to be on a community basketball team but was excused because she wasn’t very good. Angie spent the next two summers endlessly working on her skills by herself, practicing free throws and jump shots, running, and doing drills. She even had a personal coach who helped her develop her skills. She was one focused eighth grader. By the following fall, she was the first freshman at her high school to make the varsity basketball team. Through continued practice, she made the All-State Team as a junior. Since Angie is only 5'3" tall, this was a huge accomplishment. Her portrait now hangs in the high school hallway. September 11 | Clean Run Angie played in two state championships, five national events, and the Junior Olympics. She became so accustomed to performing at big events that she had some important skills to bring to agility. She learned to perform without “nerves” affecting her. She learned to focus on the game and be the best she could be, regardless of the pressure. Angie expresses her basketball experience this way: “I learned that if you are at the bottom looking up, you are not stuck there. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do about it.” Dylan started out like many other dogs. Angie and Mike Benacquisto went to a shelter for their first dog. They picked out a seven-week-old Rat Terrier pup and named her Dylan. They heard about agility, and Angie decided it would be fun to take classes with the new pup. In the beginning, Dylan was so afraid of the teeter that she would hide from it and avoid going into the room where the teeter was located. It took a long time and many baby steps to desensitize Dylan to the teeter. First, she ate all her meals in a room with the teeter, then near the teeter, then eventually on it. Early on, Dylan was not particularly enthusiastic about agility. She definitely wasn’t a high-drive dog; in fact, Angie admits Dylan has very little drive on her own. (For a video of their beginnings, see the YouTube video called “Agility Journey with Dylan.”) Because Angie had been a highly competitive athlete in the past, she wasn’t satisfied with Dylan’s moderate speed and accuracy. And she was not happy that Dylan was leaping over the dogwalk contact. Dylan had an 8-second dogwalk, and Angie wanted more speed. She went to Jen Pinder for lessons, although Angie was so new to the sport she didn’t even know that Jen was one of the greats in agility. Jen says Angie “soaked up instruction like a sponge.” First they taught Dylan a two-on/two-off dogwalk contact. With Jen’s help, Angie used Rachel Sanders’ box method to train a reliable running A-frame, and Angie decided she wanted a running dogwalk as well. Together they used Jen’s interpretation of Sylvia Trkman’s method to teach Dylan. Once the foundation 33

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run - September 2011

Clean Run - September 2011
Editorializing: When a “Lifetime” Only Means Five Years
Tip of the Month
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Agility
Backyard Dogs
Who’s Premack and What Does He Have to Do with My Start Lines?
Power Paws Drills: Front Side, Back Side
Improving Your Sports Vision, Part 1
Choosing the Most Efficient Path for Your Dog: Decision Making
Dylan’s Story
Teaching FOCUS and Impulse-control Classes: Week 5
Ready, Set, Trial! Should You Move Up?
Agility Bloopers
Training to Your Weakness: Exercises for Dogs with a Straight Front
Building and Balancing Handler and Obstacle Focus, Part 6
Great Expectations
Agility Games to Play with Puppies
Challenges for Rising Stars: Snooker Expanded
Agility Defined by Me

Clean Run - September 2011