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Fatherhood and Agility

Father's Day is around the corner, so we are celebrating dads in agility! By Brenna Fender


Last month, we celebrated moms in agility with an in-depth look at how motherhood affects agility competitors. This month, we ask agility dads how parenting has affected their agility experience.

Kids at Trials

Bringing kids along to agility classes and trials can be a challenge. How do agility dads handle it? Mike Tickle, father of daughter Peyton, age 5, and son Caleb, age 3, does agility along with his wife, Ali. They train in their own yard so the kids aren't a worry there, but the children do attend some trials. Mike says, "If the facility is a nice one and we can find reasonable activities, we will take them. For instance, the big indoor horse arenas work well for the kids. They like to play in the dirt. Tight places like indoor soccer centers aren't that great. Outdoor shows are usually ruled out for the kids." 

The Tickle family. Photo courtesy of Mike Tickle.

Jim Nashed has two children (daughter Kirin, age 6, and son Michael, age 4) and they attend many shows with Jim. He says, "Certainly after children I had to initially make sure my wife was available on weekends of trials, but I soon started taking my daughter to local trials.  So my time at trials did not change much. She would come even as a toddler and baby over 6 months of age as long as the trial was in a place with climate control or it was not going to rain, or be too hot or cold.  When Michael was born, he came too.  They typically would not come to trials where I [had] to spend the night or where it was too far away, though, as some days get too long. So, no regionals or real large trials.... Initially at trials when they were young, I would do a lot of stuff with them like going for walks and reading books, and playing iPad games, etc.  Kirin is just getting old enough to do some working (leash running, etcetera)."

The Challenges

What challenges do agility dads experience? Tickle says, "My biggest challenge is teaching my kids to be good stewards of the sport. As in, be respectful of other people and their dogs and show good sportsmanship." He also finds some competitors have concerns about his children attending trials and helping in the ring, which has provided a challenge. 

The other challenge frequently mentioned is time, and the lack of it. Nashed says, "The challenges of being a dad are mainly time. Can I devote time to other things with my family and do agility? So far the answer is 'Yes.' I have other hobbies [and] I work full time, as does my wife. So time is the challenge. Because of this and other reasons, agility is a hobby and a fun one at that. I enjoy working and playing and training the dogs and the competition.  But I never devoted myself fully to agility and never competed more than one, maybe two weekends a month even prior to children. Even with that, I've had fun and been competitive so it works.  I'm sure as my kids get older and they have their own activities, I will need to adjust things and maybe have to skip a trial or two, but I can still train and play with the  dogs so I'm okay with that. In addition, my daughter Kirin is showing a lot of interest in training Gus [Nashed's 18-month-old Border Collie] and running him. So, if she likes it and wants to do more, I may have a agility pal to go to trials with and have fun."

Jim Nashed with Kirin, Michael and the dogs. Photo courtesy of Jim Nashed.

Randy Hagood, who has three young adult daughters who watched him do agility as they grew up, also agrees that time is the biggest agility dad challenge. He says, "The 'challenges' are always the same: finding time to do agility. It doesn't matter if we are talking about training, practice or competition, time is the limitation. If doing agility paid more it might be a different story...."

The Benefits for Dad

Can an agility dad have an advantage in the sport thanks to his experiences as a parent? Yes! Tickle's goal of teaching his children good sportsmanship through agility has in turn made him a better sport, he says: "[Being a parent] has made me more aware of how I act.... It has also made me want to see the sport truly turned into a family sport when people who are world team serious can chill with the folks who just want some pretty ribbons."

Hagood points out that the behavior management and "training" that are involved in parenting are good for those learning to train dogs. "Training kids or dogs requires lots of time and patience. Both like treats and positive reinforcements. Sometimes I think the dogs were easier to train, but then BCs are really smart!"

Benefits for Kids?

Children of agility dads also benefit from agility. Many competitors find that the agility community makes a great extended family for their children. "Both of our kids were raised at agility trials and have so many 'aunties' and 'uncles' who they see on the weekends. There's a whole social thing at work there that is great for the kids," says Tickle. 

Nashed describes the many benefits he believes his children have received from agility: "I think agility is great for my children.  It shows them dog training is important to having a happy dog.  It shows some responsibility. It shows the fun of competition and goal setting, especially goals of achievement as a team. In other words, 'How well did we do as a team?' not 'How many teams did we beat?' It also shows that connection with the dog is key." 

Nashed's daugher, Kirin, is learning agility handling. Photo courtesy of Jim Nashed.

Hagood agrees that his daughters benefited from having an agility dad. He says, "They got to see how much fun it can be and what a great activity it is for both  members of the team." 

Happy Father's Day, Agility Dads!

There aren't many dads in agility, but the ones that are out there are working to set great examples for their kids. Keep up the good work, agility dads!

Brenna Fender is the editor for USDAA's newsletter, the Overview, and USDAA's news page (among other things). She can be reached at bfender@usdaa.com.

Thanks to Greta Kaplan and Mary Pankonen for their help with this article.

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