AgilityNerd is written by Steve Schwarz. Living and training in Chicago, I’ve found that there are unique challenges and benefits for performance dog trainers and handlers living in a big city.
In 1994 Nancy brought home Mr. Peabody, the Border Collie puppy she always wanted. I never had a dog as a kid and, in my mid 30s, didn’t know what a life changing experience it would be. We started playing Agility in 1997 and Flyball in 1998. We got our second dog Milo from Illini Border Collie Rescue in 2000 at about 18 months of age and started him in both Agility and Flyball. Since then we added Meeker, Petey and Flyer to our family.
One of my goals for this site is to share the lessons, trials (in all senses of the words), and tribulations of a “regular guy” dog trainer and handler. Since I’m not a professional dog trainer I hope my layman’s perspective may be helpful to others. Please comment on any posts that strike a chord.
I named this site AgilityNerd for two main reasons. The main reason is that I really enjoy the course analysis and design aspects of Agility, the puzzle solving part, to a what one might call a “nerdy” degree. Thinking about course design, handling options and discussing them is almost as much fun as running a course; and I can do it during the commute to and from work…
Secondly, as a software developer, I’m interested in ways of applying technology to improve teaching and training for all aspects of dog agility. I’ve been working in my free time on software to simplify the sharing of agility courses between designers, handlers, and instructors. In pursuing that goal I’ve come up with some enhancements to both the types of information that can be represented in a digital agility course format and the presentation of that information.
I’ve been training in Agility ever since we started training Mr. Peabody. Starting in 1999 I assisted training other Agility competitors as part of Dearlove’s Agility program. I later joined Windy City Agility Club where we trained and competed in UKC agility. Since 2003 I’ve been training with Dana Pike and she has helped me take my handling, training, and teaching skills to the next level. I currently teach Advanced and Masters agility classes at FYK9 in Melrose Park, IL.
I really enjoy helping others learn Agility and Flyball. I get a real kick out of seeing both the dog and handler gain confidence, learn new skills, and strengthen the bond between them. There is a lot going on during an agility course run. Thoughtful planning and confident execution are important. But communication and trust are the most important parts of the sport and they are built during all the hours of training. The trial course is one way to test the whole package. In addition to handling and obstacle performance, it is these more “philosophical” aspects of the game that I also try to communicate to newcomers to agility.
We were fortunate to find and join the Black Sheep Squadron Flyball club in 1998. We’ve helped train Flyball enthusiasts with Black Sheep Squadron for Lincolnwood Dog Training Club since 2000. After seeing the positive changes in Milo on the Agility course after he “understood” flyball, I’m a real believer that cross training dogs in multiple sports can help them be more confident members of the family and more successful in each sport.
I’ve benefited greatly from training with some really nice and supportive people in both Agility and Flyball. I’d especially like to thank all the teammates and students with whom I’ve had the pleasure to train.
Photo copyright Whitney Rupp Chops Photography