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Dogs put through their paces at Nita-Nee Kennel Club agility trials

Indie, a 4-year-old Bernese mountain dog, excitedly gets some treats from owner Julie Bacon after their run in the Nita-Nee Kennel Club agility trials at the Snider Agricultural Arena on Saturday, January 24, 2015.
Indie, a 4-year-old Bernese mountain dog, excitedly gets some treats from owner Julie Bacon after their run in the Nita-Nee Kennel Club agility trials at the Snider Agricultural Arena on Saturday, January 24, 2015. CDT photo

They came in all shapes and sizes — from Great Danes to Boston terriers and everything in between.

Swiftly moving through the obstacle course, they leaped, climbed, twisted and turned. Some completed with absolute precision, and some dislodged a hurdle or two or needed a little extra coaching.

But to be certain, they all had a blast at the Nita-Nee Kennel Club canine agility trials at Penn State’s Snider Agricultural Arena on Saturday.

The trials, an American Kennel Club-sanctioned event, brought in about 150 dogs of all breeds to test their skill against an obstacle course that had them jumping over hurdles, climbing through tunnels and measuring their ability to follow commands.

The AKC has world and national teams, trial Chairwoman Trish Alexander said. During an agility trial, dogs try to accumulate points and qualifications in standard runs and the jumpers run.

To qualify for an invitational or national event, a dog must have a certain number of points and double qualifications, she said.

The club holds two trials a year, she said, while some other local clubs, such as the Mount Nittany Dog Training Club, can also host trials. Dog owners from across the state, as well as New York, Virginia and Maryland, come to participate.

“It’s a lot of fun to watch,” Alexander said. “It’s a lot of fun to do if you have a dog that likes to do it.”

Trial judge Howard Etzel agreed, saying the relationship between the owner and the dog is paramount.

Etzel said he has been judging since 2007. He determines whether the dogs are doing what they’re expected to do, and hedesigns the obstacle course.

He signals to a panel of scribes his observations.

“Anytime the hand goes up, it’s a bad thing,” he said.

Etzel said he has judged agility trials across the country, including the AKC nationals in Harrisburg last March. This March, he said, they will be held in Reno, Nev.

He enjoys working with his own dog, a Weimaraner, saying, “When we’re doing something like this, he’s having such a great time.”

Elaine Swancer, proprietor of the Rottyden Learning Center in Milesburg, took her Rottweiler Wizard to compete in the trials. Wizard, a master-class dog, needed to complete the course perfectly in order to gain points.

Unfortunately, she said, he knocked over a bar during his run, causing him to fail.

It was no worry to her, she said. Wizard is a master agility champion and a veteran of the Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Fla.

He has enough points to qualify again, she said, as he’s No. 2 in his breed in the country. Right now, he needs to keep his points up to make sure he stays in that spot.

Swancer said she’s been competing for about 12 years.

“The dogs have fun with it,” she said. “It’s accommodating to any size dog, and it’s great exercise for the dog too.”

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