A little dog from Lenore will be zipping through tunnels, weaving through poles, and high jumping over an agility course next week at the European Open Agility competition.
Diana Dafoe and her miniature poodle Ventress will compete in a world class dog agility event in Arnhem, Netherlands from July 25 – 28.
It’s a huge milestone for Dafoe. It’s also the first time that a Manitoba dog has qualified to be a part of the Canadian Kennel Club Agility Team.
Bred and raised by Dafoe under her kennel name Axinite Poodles, Ventress is a seven-year-old Agility Trial Champion with the Agility Association of Canada.
Initially, Dafoe had no plans for this year’s world competition, but circumstances changed for her and the poodle.
Dafoe explains, “I tried breeding Ventress and she didn’t get pregnant.”
So, she changed streams and concentrated on agility, which ultimately led to a competition in Edmonton at the end of April - the qualifier to join the CKC Agility Team bound for the European Open.
In agility, the dogs run a circuit similar to maneuvers seen at the Super Dogs show at the Brandon Fair.
While the dog’s talent and training are important, Dafoe says, “The main thing you need in agility is a good working relationship with your dog, a dog that is focused and finds you exciting and rewarding.”
The Edmonton qualifier was a big event where Dafoe had to conquer her fears and grow as a competitor.
“We had a bit of a rocky start. I was just too nervous.” Over five runs where the initial course is altered each time, with jumps, tunnels and weave poles, she says, “I slowly kept getting better.”
After the points were tabulated, they ended up fifth overall. Another qualified dog could not go to the European trial, but Dafoe was ready to say yes.
The mother of three and a teacher at Brandon’s Assiniboine Community College, Dafoe lives near Lenore where her husband Ed Hunter farms. The couple share their love of dogs. “It was a common interest, from square one,” Dafoe says.
Hunter, known for his border collies trained to herd sheep, has helped Dafoe create her own agility course on their farm.
She has taken online courses and has studied under Susan Garret, the most famous agility trainer in Canada.
Dog agility is physically demanding for the human as well.
“I did learn how to run better. We actually had a person from England come and do an agility seminar. Part of the seminar was learning how to run. Getting up on your toes. Pumping your arms.”
Dafoe, a second generation dog handler, has benefitted from her mother Jeanette’s bloodlines. She knows how to make the most of her dog’s willing personality.
“She’s always up, always wanting to go. Even if she makes a mistake, she’s always wanting to go again. “That’s partly how I raised her. Positive reinforcement. But not permissive.”
The pair has been training hard, preparing for the new elements they will encounter at world competition in Europe.
A Facebook auction has helped Dafoe cover the expense of uniforms, management and entry fees. She is grateful to her home supporters - Virden and Brandon businesses along with dog clubs and friends who donated items to the fundraiser – and to others who are cheering her on.