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Agility, Rally and Barn Hunt, oh my!

Things that make you go hmmm....

When you are a pet sitter, it is crucial to continually learn and study pet behavior. I listen to podcasts, read books, watch YouTube videos, and follow people in the pet industry on Facebook and Instagram. And every day working with pets, I’m learning something new. Whether it be a dog walking technique to help control a hyperactive dog, teaching a dog good recall, or working with a reactive dog, it’s a continual school of learning.

One of the most surprising things that I have learned pertains to hyperactive dogs. I always used to think that by taking an overactive dog on a brisk walk, or playing fetch with them for ½ hour straight, it would physically wear them out and calm them down. I was always puzzled that some dogs seemed to be even more hyper after coming in from a straight 30 minutes of hardcore fetch. They seemed to behave worse after exercising than before exercising. That’s because I was missing a key element….mental stimulation. (See K9 Scentwork information at end of this article for more on that!)

This was not something I figured out on my own. I happen to know an awesome dog trainer who educated me about this and many more dog behaviors that I had no idea about!

Fun With Dog Training

Erin and her dog Wiley winning first place

Erin Kelly, owner/operator of Glacier Dog Training has been working with and training dogs for over 30 years! I have learned so many canine behavioral techniques from Erin that have proved to be invaluable. I decided to pick Erin’s brain about how she became an authority when it came to dogs.

While in college (about 30 years ago) Erin decided to take a local dog obedience class with her Keeshonden named Hanz. After the first class she was hooked, and it turned into about 10 years of obedience competition. Then one day at a local park, Erin noticed that someone had set up a small agility course, and that the dogs and the people were having so much fun! In case you’re not familiar with dog agility, it’s a sport in which the dog handler directs a dog through an obstacle course race, and your judged for both time and accuracy. Erin and her dog loved it! She noticed that agility was really growing and becoming more popular, and more and more people were showing interest. Erin was involved in the formation of an agility club called “Quicksilver Dog Agility” and the group would meet once a week and train and eventually the club started hosting their own agility trials. Erin started competing in agility and is still competing in agility today.

Always seeking new dog activities, Erin got involved in a dog sport called Rally. Rally puts a fun spin on obedience classes, and it is where the dog and handler perform 15 - 20 separate obedience style exercises. In Rally, you are very interactive with your dog versus standard obedience classes, where you can’t talk to or praise your dog. Currently, Erin has two dogs, Wiley and Finney, that are at the Master’s level in Rally, which is the highest level in Rally. Then after Rally came Barn Hunt. Barn Hunt is where the dog must locate an unknown number of rodents that are in tubes which are hidden in bales of hay. (no rodents are harmed during this process!) You never know what you’re going to get in Barn Hunt. Erin stated that “sometimes you come across a rattle snake or a mouse in the hay bales.” Erin’s dog Wiley has reached Master’s level in barn hunt.

Wiley showing off his trick dog skills

The Fun Continues

Erin has also trained her dogs to the highest level of Performer Trick Dog, which is an AKC (American Kennel Club) trick dog titling program. Trick training is a great way to build a fantastic relationship between you and your dog, no matter what age your dog is!

Fast forward to a dog sport called Scentwork aka Nosework. Inspired by working detection dogs, K9 Scentwork is a searching and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This easy to learn activity and sport builds confidence and focus in many dogs and provides a safe way to keep dogs fit and healthy through mental and physical exercise. This activity can exhaust even the most active dogs, because it is causing them to use their mental facilities, which can wear a dog out! 15 - 20 minutes of Scentwork for a dog is equivalent to 40 minutes of physical activity!

And Erin just happens to be teaching a Scentwork class in Eureka, Montana next month! (March 2023)

Once the dog knows how to search, you can train for tracking, canine search and rescue, shed hunting, trailing and locating, etc. Erin’s 2 dogs – Finney and Wiley- were the first Keeshonds to title in Urban and Rural Trailing and Locating.

Try Everything!

I was lucky enough to have gone to one of Erin’s classes with my dog and learned so much! And Erin makes it easy and fun to learn, and the dogs are having a blast!

I asked Erin if she could give a word of advice to anyone that seems to be intimidated by

Coco (my dog) doing agility

training their own dog. “There is more now to do with your dog than ever before. Once your dog learns how to learn, your dog can do anything! Try everything! Your dog might hate agility but love barn hunt. Or hate Rally but love Scentwork. And there is a budget for all of it, even virtual training! You can literally pay $15 for a virtual course.

Don’t get stuck on one thing, try it all! And remember to have fun!"

Erin and her dogs Wiley, Hunter and Finney

For more information about Erin and her classes, check out Erin’s website at

*This article written by Mary Augustine,

Owner/Operator of Pets & Plants*

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