Cheryl Killam and Whitney

Cheryl Killam and Whitney
Whitney at her qualifying Grand Prix run at the New England Regionals in July.

Whitney Goes to Cynosports 2017

by Cheryl Killam (Raymond, NH)

Whitney is a seven-year-old rescue Miniature Australian Shepherd that I adopted from Miniature Australian Shepherd Rescue and Support when she was six-and-a-half months old.  I was told this red-tri puppy was extremely active and needed a job to do so it was easy to accept the challenge.  We soon learned that she had not been socialized properly outside of the house or yard where she was born.  She was fearful and skittish of people and other dogs. 

We had three other middle-aged Mini Aussies in our home, two that we had from eight-week-old puppies, Katie and Trango, and another rescue that we got at 13-months-old, Mak, who was our son’s dog. I trained and competed in flyball and agility with Katie and Trango and attended Cynosports back in 2007 with Katie.  All three of our dogs helped Whitney acquire some confidence as she grew up.  

Training Whitney in agility and flyball was the normal thing for me to do, however I quickly learned that she would not do well on the flyball lane with strange loose dogs in close proximity to her.

I dropped flyball training with her and focused only on agility training and getting her comfortable with people in different places. Once she learned the skills of each of the obstacles, I needed to constantly stay connected to her to build her confidence and trust me that nothing would happen to her on the agility course. 

For the first four years or so she ran agility extremely nervously and scoped out the ring crew and was afraid of the judges.  She would be scared when a judge called snooker numbers if she was inside a tunnel, she would get scared if a judge was running behind me as she ran down the dog walk or was beside the seesaw or A-frame watching for her feet to get into the contact zones. She never barked at them, she would just run a wide circle around them if they were near a jump and even jump off contact obstacles to move away from them. 

However, in class she would bark at people that she was uncomfortable with and we constantly put people around the floor and near obstacles for her to learn how to stay focused on me and ignore people around her, while I gave her lots of praise, to help minimize her fear of strangers.

I started her competing in CPE first, back in 2012, and waited until she was running level 5 courses before entering her into USDAA trials. Her first USDAA trial was in June 2014 in the Performance program jumping 16 inches to continue building confidence, and she earned her P-ADCH in May 2016.  I then moved her into the Championship program in June 2016, jumping 18 inches and then 20 inches, and she earned her ADCH in June of 2017. 

I really need to give credit to my agility instructor, Lauri Baker, for not only coaching me on significantly improving my handling skills but teaching me how to stay better connected to my dog by keeping my eyes on her and praising her as we run the courses together so that she feels secure, is successful and enjoying it.

This will be Whitney’s first time competing in the USDAA Cynosports World Games.  I am so very proud of my little red-tri girl and how much she has overcome over the years to be able to go out onto a floor and run the courses with me knowing that the energy and excitement in the air and new environments really stress her. 

All I know is that Whitney and I will have a ton of fun running agility together in Tennessee at the USDAA Cynosports World Games no matter how we do.      


Photo Credit: Donna Kelliher Photography