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IFCS Team Profile: Kerry Smith

A profile of IFCS Team USA Member Kerry Smith and her dog Hype.

Where do you live?

I live in Magnolia, Texas which is outside the city of Houston.

How did you first get involved with agility?

I had two Dachshunds, and with my competitive personality I wanted to try performance events. One Dachshund competed in obedience and the other, Xena, I started in agility. She was not easy to train and was a very frustrating dog for a few years, but once we clicked she became my go-to dog. She is one of a kind. I then decided I had international aspirations and I had always loved Border Collies. I still remember in July of 2009 I had a dream that I had a Border Collie named Hype. Four months later Hype fell into my lap. We clicked from our first interaction.

What made you decide to compete?

I have always been competitive. I grew up riding horses; hunter/jumpers and eventing, as it seems many agility people have a horse background. I always felt like something was missing if I wasn't working towards some goal or competition. Not that most people get a Dachshund and think agility but she was actually pretty athletic and quick. Once I started there was no turning back.

Do you participate in any other dog sports or training with your dogs?

I have done competitive obedience, some earthdog and dock diving, but agility has always been my main focus. Hype has also been in several commercials. She loves the camera!

Tell us more about the dog you will be competing with as an IFCS Team Member?

Hype is a big-hearted dog in a small package. She is small but feisty and wants everyone to know it. Hype is 110 percent all-in when she is in the ring but at home she is the easiest dog to live with. She is very sweet and loving and quiet, with a great off switch. To see her run you wouldn't know it. Even as a puppy she was serious about work and would work till she dropped if I let her. She has taken me on an incredible journey in such a short time.  

Does your dog have any quirks or unique habits that you would love to share?

Well anyone who knows Hype knows that she is not a very quiet dog in the ring. At home though she is usually sleeping and the quietest of all my dogs. One of the funny things about her is if I cough she drops to the ground and hides and is quiet. This worked great to teach her to be quiet outside the ring waiting for our run. I think of it as my Hype kryptonite. :) She is a very tough, pushy and confident dog so it is very bizarre to see something so minor bother her so much. Not sure what caused it, but she doesn't do it when other people cough and no other noises bother her. I can even tell her I'm going to cough and she knows the word and calms down. At least it spares everyone's ears around us when we are standing on the line.  

Are there any challenges you have faced with your dog that you'd be willing to share and how you both overcame the challenge and achieved success?

Obviously coming from running a Dachshund there were drastic differences. I trained Hype on my own at home. I read a lot of books, watched videos and tons of YouTube videos of handlers I admired and studying runs in slow motion over and over. That alone was a huge challenge as it was basically trial and error. I think a background in training horses and obedience really helped. I also had only run AKC with my Dachshund so I really had no knowledge or guidance as to what to train for international type competitions. We started the more technical courses later, so not having that foundation from the beginning has been a challenge. I have also spent a lot of time traveling to work with top instructors from the U.S. and Europe. Hype has shown its never too late to learn.

Do you have other dogs/pets aside from your IFCS dog? Tell us more about them:

I have another young Border Collie named Trick. I still have Xena, my Dachshund who is about 15-1/2 years old and I recently rescued a Cavalier King Charles, Ember. She is almost two-years-old.

Describe for us what you do in your other non-agility life/work life?

I was working in IT sales until recently. Before that I was a middle school and high school Science teacher for 13 years. Now I am teaching classes and seminars full time. 

How does it feel to be on the IFCS Team this year?

I am very excited and it is an honor to be part of this years team for the second year in a row. We have a great group of dogs and handlers.

What are you looking forward to the most at the World Agility Championship event in Spain this April?

I love to travel for shows. It is so exciting to visit other countries, combine it with a dog show and have Hype with me. This will be our third time to Europe and will be staying there a month.  While it is a lot of planning I am very excited for the experience. I am looking forward to the competition itself of course, site-seeing in Spain  with my  friends, and making new friends from other countries.

Do you do anything special to prepare yourself for a big competition?

Both Hype and I have been preparing with a specialized conditioning program. In addition to her agility training, Hype is using a water treadmill once a week, strength/stability exercises, and distance conditioning on a regular treadmill. She also is seen periodically by her chiropractor Jackie Doval and weekly by Ken Bain, our team's massage therapist. This way I can monitor how she is doing and also prevent any issues. I also having been working with mental management coach Heather Bassham.

People who enjoy agility with their dogs are often intimidated by the idea of competition - what advice would you give them to encourage them to take the plunge?

Ultimately it is a way to enjoy time and bond with your dog. Not everyone has or needs to have the same goals. My goal with my Dachshund was not to win nationals or make world team. It was the journey and the bond we shared I will never forget. We all had to start somewhere, fail and make fools of ourselves. There are times I still do. No one is perfect. It has only helped me grow as a handler and teammate to my dogs. 

I encourage students to go to shows. Get the feel of the environment and rules. Volunteer to help. Anything to make the first time less stressful. The first time is scary no matter what. If you have an idea what to expect though it can take a lot of the pressure off so you can focus on your dog and your run!


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