Agility competitor Verlynda Hurr demonstrates how her border collie, Devlyn, watches her for instruction on what to do next in the agility course. (Kelly Ducote/The Observer)
NORTH POWDER — Four-legged, furry-tailed girls Roxy and Devlyn jumped through hoops Thursday to impress students from North Powder Charter School.
The students walked over to North Powder’s Dog Agility Park just down the street for a presentation from owner and instructor Carolyn Flynn on the sport of dog agility.
“It’s important to understand dogs are our friends and part of our family,” Flynn told students before Roxy and Devlyn took center stage.
Flynn explained that dogs communicate with their owners.
“Can you tell when they’re hungry? Can you tell when they want to go outside?” she asked students.
Agility competitor Verlynda Hurr then brought out her dogs, Roxy and Devlyn, to run the course at the park.
Hurr said dog agility is a great thing to expose to children because it encourages them to get active outside.
“A kid can do this,” she said. At Hurr’s latest trial a 5-year-old girl took her dog through tunnels for the first time. Though she did not place, the audience cheered for her all the same. “That was her first show,” Hurr said.
Dog agility dates back to the late 1970s in Great Britain, but competitions can now be found worldwide. Hurr and Flynn said that the sport builds teamwork and isn’t about being perfect or winning.
“They don’t always do what you want, but you see how happy Devlyn is,” Flynn told students after Devlyn skipped an obstacle in the course. Devlyn, a 3-year-old border collie, is in her second year of competition and still new to agility.
Flynn describes herself as a dog psychologist who understands the wants and needs of dogs. She has been training dogs for more than 30 years and holds agility classes at her park. Flynn said she was “thrilled” when North Powder teacher Christine Aldrich approached her about doing a presentation for the students.
Aldrich said she and Flynn had been talking about doing the presentation for a while, but the timing didn’t work out until now.
“I know how much children like animals, and I knew that would be something that would interest them,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich stressed the importance of sharing something positive with the students. That positivity is a keystone of Flynn’s training methods.
“I think we can educate them to treat dogs well,” Flynn said. Hurr and Flynn agreed one goal of theirs is to stop animal abuse and encourage healthy, familial and communicative relationships between owners and dogs. “It’s not because people are unkind, they just don’t know what’s required to take care of dogs,” Flynn said.