Spotlight on Trainer – Tracy Sklenar
Tracy will be designing the International courses for the at home video trials for the week of March 6 – 10, 2021
How long have you been a dog agility trainer?
I have been teaching agility since 2001 and full time as an agility instructor since 2005.
How did you get into dog agility?
I got into it when I was learning how to be a pet dog trainer. Someone showed me a video and it looked like SO MUCH FUN! And… it is so much fun! And far more intricate than I ever dreamed it would be.
What is a favorite training tip for agility?
For handling: Make connection! Always try to look at your dog while you run, except when your motion and verbal cues support the line… then just RUN!
For training: Success rates are key to getting the behaviour you want as well as to getting the dog to want to be your teammate. Set your dog up for success, reward heartily, and enjoy the adventure!
What are your dogs’ favorite rewards?
My 14 month old puppy, Contraband, is a complete frisbee enthusiast. He will do ANYTHING for a frisbee! And my 9 month old puppy, Elektra, loves the toilet brush and dragging the cat around by the head (oddly, the cat seems to enjoy this too). My oldest, Export, loves to swim as a reward! Nacho, my Papillon, thinks the Manners Minder is the greatest thing EVER. 2-year-old Hot Sauce thinks tennis balls are AMAZING. Voodoo, my Crollie, is more normal and enjoys ‘regular’ treats and toys.
Any brags from any UKI events in the past you’d like to mention?
Trivia: My club hosted the very first UKI Match in the USA on January 10th, 2010 (I think that is the correct year, maybe Laura will remember).
My fondest UKI memory is Export’s retirement run at the 2018 US Open, winning the Gold medal overall in the Games Challenge! We have had fun this year with the cyber-events, Voodoo won the Gold Medal in the Speedstakes event at BOTH the Canada Open and the US Open! Two big event wins, without having to leave home. I also loved hosting the Vine And Fig Tree events at the Sweet Tea Festival and sharing teary, happy moments with friends and their retired agility partners.
With your trainer’s hat on, what benefits do you find with UKI?
The NFC options in UKI have provided an amazing path to bringing our youngsters into the competition ring, building confidence in dogs learning to compete, helping dogs understand criteria in the ring, and developing an atmosphere that is rich with positive reinforcement for dog and handler! The variety of classes, provides training options for everyone, whether it is an NFC run or making up your own path in one of the games classes. The spacing on the courses and the course design elements allow the dogs to have a BLAST on course while testing the handler’s skills and strategies. UKI pushes me to improve my dogs’ skills – I have added tools as well as trained better skills, thanks to challenges I have encountered on UKI courses. It is also great for the mental game: you can’t play it safe! You learn how to go for it and have a great time while doing so.
Well, there are a lot of calories burned on those big courses so I can eat more chocolate! Ha! Personally, I love that UKI is open to all dogs and that it is run by fellow competitors. I feel that I can send them an email to ask questions, suggest changes, or voice a complaint and they will actually hear me out! It is great to feel ‘heard’ and I trust their emphasis on safety in course design and obstacles. As a competitor, I have a lot of options available to me on UKI courses. I can tackle fast, wide-open courses or focus on strategy or work technical skills – sometimes all on the same course! I also really enjoy the variety of skills needed on course – I always come home with new training ideas and handling skills to practice. I love being able to earn extra points for going fast AND being accurate – Challenge Accepted! UKI also makes it easy and affordable to host trials, so I have been able to bring trials to our local area and have a blast running with my friends!
How have your training and competing practices changed during Covid?
Everything has changed for me! I have not been to a live competition since early March and I have no idea when I will get back to one. I was able to participate in the online trials in March and April, and I really enjoyed the Canada Open and the US Open! For training – all of my instruction has moved online and expanded to include live online classes and seminars. It is amazing how well they are going, and I am sure we will keep doing them even when things get back to ‘normal’. I have taken this time to give my adult dogs a break to ‘save’ their bodies. They are enjoying hiking, swimming, running the fields – and very little agility. I am focusing on my 3 young dogs – 2 year old Hot Sauce is rehabbing a luxating patella, so I am learning a lot about fitness and conditioning! My 2 puppies are learning an entirely different foundation method and it has been really exciting to see them blossom.
Besides competing with your dogs in agility, what other activities do you enjoy doing with your dogs?
Flyball! Well, THE Flyball, as Nacho would call it. We love to compete in NAFA with our team, K9 Kamikazes. There are similarities between NAFA and UKI: embrace the challenge, go fast, be accurate, and have a great time doing it. Plus, I have learned how to make pudding shots that have gotten the seal of approval from the UKI team, particularly Barrie James. When we are not agilitying or flyballing, my dogs and I spend time roaming the fields on our property, shaping silly tricks, and generally making a lot of noise in the early morning when my husband is trying to sleep.
Any other hobbies you enjoy outside of agility?
I love to cook and bake and feed people, as well as check out celebrity chef restaurants. I love watching celebrity chef competition shows! I am also an avid fan of theater, and love to go to see shows or fangirl over things like Hamilton. I also love to travel and have been to amazing places around the world!
Give us a plug on Agility University!
Agility University is my online agility training school! We are proud to offer amazing classes with awesome instructors on a variety of topics. Come check us out at http://www.agility-u.com