Rhonda Koeske and Tack and Tine

Rhonda KoeskeTell us about your dogs.

  • Tack, Female, 14-½ year old Cocker Spaniel and Chinese Crested Dog mix
  • Tine, Male, three-and-a-half year old Mini Aussie and Poodle mix

How did you end up adopting them?

I found Tack on Petfinder. Her whole litter of eight puppies were taken into rescue when the owner of the mother was “giving” them away at five weeks old because they had become too much work.  Rescue went in and took them in order to make sure they got their shots, a good home and were spayed/neutered, then adopted them out at 12-weeks-old. 

A friend of a friend was fostering Tine after the person who owned him fell on hard times and needed to reduce the number of dogs she had.  He was 13-weeks-old at the time. He was covered in fleas and ear mites and had been living locked in a bathroom for about six weeks (as far as we can tell) because the person had to move into an apartment building and he was a barker.

Rhonda KoeskeWhat about the dogs made you want to adopt them? Was there something different or special that moved you to the decision?

Both of my rescues were selected with agility in mind.  I wanted a puppy that I could teach to learn.  When I was looking at rescues, I knew a little bit about puppy temperament testing and both of them tested well.  We first met Tack and her litter mates at a friend’s house (the foster mother brought them there for us to see) and my friend kept saying “pick the little girl!,” she was the runt and very cute!  With Tine, I had been looking for a long time and there was a certain amount of “it’s meant to be” the way he came to us.

What made you want to get involved in agility with your dogs? Had you competed in agility before you got your rescued dogs involved or was it new to you?

I was already totally bitten by the agility bug when I got my current dogs.  My first dog was also a small poodle mix, he was not a rescue, but he was also a great agility dog and he was a great first dog.

Did your dogs happen to have any behavior or training issues when you adopted them?

Both of my dogs were very young when I got them, still puppies, so perhaps not the same as an older rescue dog.  Tine does have some issues, barking, backing away from people who reach toward him, and some dog reactivity issues while on leash.  Whether or not they stem from his lack of socialization during formative weeks, is anybody’s guess, but he has not been the easiest dog in those ways.

Rhonda KoeskeDid you find that agility helped to improve your relationship with your dogs?

Tine seems to love training and doing agility, always wants it to be his turn!  He definitely needs something to do, so I would say yes, it has helped our relationship.

Was there anything about training for agility or competing in agility that was a challenge with your dogs?

Both of my current dogs don’t like to repeat sequences and re-do things, training has to be very short. In Tack it manifest itself in being slow in practice and very fast in competition (no re-doing!), so when she was young, handling was always very difficult for me as she would be SO amped in competition, it was fun, but was like competing with a totally different dog than I practiced with!  For Tine, he can get very handler focused, which means he barks at me and will go around obstacles or just stop in front of them.  I attribute it mostly to lack of confidence, so doing what it takes to make him confident is more important than any specific training.

What previous USDAA events prior to Cynosport 2017 have you competed in with your dogs? What titles, etc. did they earn or other accomplishments you’re proud of?

This will be Tack’s twelfth Cynosport.  Last year at the age of 13-½, she was first place in PVP Snooker.  Other major Cynosport accomplishments are Silver Medalist in the 2012 Performance Versatility Pairs competition (with teammates Elizabeth Evans and Hemi) and Bronze medalist in the 2015 Performance Grand Prix competition.  She has also been a finalist in Grand Prix in 2008 and Performance Grand Prix in 2012.  She is the thirteenth dog in USDAA history to earn her Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award and was a member of the 2010 IFCS World Championship team that competed in England.

This will be Tine’s first Cynosport and he is only competing in Steeplechase and Team as I only thought he was maybe ready to try getting qualified a couple of months ago.  I’m proud that he proved to be a decent enough team dog to get his two Qs in the only two team events I put in him with the hopes of getting a Q.  Six months ago I wouldn’t have thought it was possible.

What are you looking forward to this year with your dogs at Cynosport?

This is a no pressure year at Cynosport to just enjoy running my dogs and seeing all my friends.  I hope to take Tine to at least one of the finals events so he can get used to that environment, because, maybe someday…  Tack always loved competing for the crowds, including being the white dog for PGP finals last year (and when it was in California)! 🙂

What would say to people who are considering adopting a dog who might want to do agility some day and are concerned a rescue dog may be more difficult to work with? Likewise, what do you think makes competing with a rescue dog a real benefit?

What would I say to someone considering competing with a rescue dog?  Do it!  Don’t let the pedigree of your dog, or lack of one, determine how far you can go in the sport.  If you have an older rescue that has issues, find someone that can help you, work on relationship first.  Remember that there are no “right answer for every dog” fixes, your dog is an individual, find what works for them!  Programs like Control Unleashed are a great starting point!  Make it fun for both of you and build your dog’s confidence each and every day.  Sure there are easier paths, but no sure things.  I would love to see more folks running rescue dogs, especially some of the top-notch trainers and handlers. I would love to have them show what can be done, but I get that there is a lot of pressure on them to be successful.  So many of them had “non-traditional-agility-breeds” or rescues when they started, it would be neat to see more of them do it again!



Photo Credit: Second picture, Karen Moreaux