We adopted Shayla from her previous owner the day before she was to be dropped off at the pound. At 13 months of age, she had only been potty trained and then stuck in a back yard with a cement patio. When we got her home, we gave her a bath, had her fixed, changed her name and began training her to be the wonderful family companion she is today. We had so many bad behaviors to break, she was uncomfortable around women and she had no self-confidence. In public she would cower behind our legs and then viscously bark or snarl at any other dog or person. At the suggestion of a local breeder, we began agility training at USAgility to create a bond between Shayla and me, and to boost her self-confidence.
Sandy and Bruce were so patient with both of us. Shayla had to be in a class with only little dogs because she was afraid of any dog her size or bigger. Bruce spent extra time with Shayla gaining her trust so she would feel comfortable trying new equipment. As Shayla gained confidence and agility skills, we were able to move into more and more competitive classes and train with dogs of all sizes. It was Sandy who spent time building my confidence up, and we entered our first trial after less than a year of training. Shayla swept through her Novice NADAC/ASCA titles so fast, picking up mostly first or second place awards. We began to exploit our strengths as an athletic team, moving quickly to Elite Gamblers with a streak of first and second place ribbons, while we concentrated on training techniques to improve our Jumpers and Standard runs. We recently completed our last Open title and are competing at the NADAC Elite level, working on our NATCH.
Sandy continually attends workshops and seminars to bring new handling techniques to our class. Her weekly course designs and exercises are challenging and fun for both Shayla and me. Sandy also personalizes instruction for her handlers when they are having difficulties, and recommends alternative techniques to overcome a problem. Attending her classes has made me more competitive and has pushed me to begin traveling to shows outside the San Diego area. We recently competed in USDAA for the first time at the LA Fairplex, and camped overnight with another dog and trainer from our class.
Overall, even without the competition at trials, I have bonded with my dog more strongly than any other furry family member, I have made great friends in a supportive network of fellow dog-lovers and people that were in our beginning classes still remark at how Shayla has become a totally different dog. She can go anywhere in public, on or off leash, play with other dogs, people and children, and she always has a smile on her face.