Chances are you’ve seen those dogs on television or at local agility shows who run through weave poles, dash through tubes and race through various obstacles.
We caught up with Kama Rueschenberg of Club-Doggie, while she was traveling between dog agility shows. Rueschenberg is one of those individuals who sets up these unique courses and judges the dogs who tackle them; as well as trains her own dogs for the competitions. She took some time to discuss what it’s like to be a dog agility trainer.
Q:How did you become interested in dog agility?
A:It was my mom who got me into agility. She had started competing with her Aussie (Australian Shepherd) and she thought I’d enjoy agility with my Border Collie, Crash. She trained him while I was at school, and we got him into the Junior Handler Finals at the USDAA Cynosport World Games. I was hooked! Crash is still with me today, but at fifteen-years-old, he is very much retired and just living life.
Q:How did you gain enough knowledge about agility to pursue it as a career?
A:Agility is a specialized field and much of my knowledge came from seminar presenters. I started taking seminars on animal behavior and training, then combined that knowledge and began creating my own training programs to both design courses and teach dogs how to run courses. I started my business, Club-Doggie, after having success in the training and handling of my own dogs in agility. I want to say it’s been about ten years.
Q:That brings me to the question of how did you get into designing courses?
A:You learn to design courses from the organization that certifies you as a judge. In my case, I am a certified USDAA judge. I’ve also applied to become a certified AKC judge. Right now, my course design knowledge comes from personal handing experience, as well as the USDAA Rules and Course Design clinics.
Q:How often do your dogs compete, and how well do they fare on the course?
A:My dogs compete one to two weekends a month. Most recently, my rescue Chihuahua, Porky Pig, earned the honor of a clean sweep at a regional event. She earned four (the maximum) gold medals at the event in her height class. My Border Collie, Popeye, earned his qualification to attend the IFCS World Team Try-Outs by earning a bronze medal at a regional competition. I have so many “brags,” but these are my most recent!
Q:What are the biggest rewards of your pet-centric career?
A:Being able to spend all my time with my pets. Nothing in the world can bring you as much joy and love as your pets. I am so thankful that my entire life revolves around them.
Q:What are the biggest challenges associated with your career path?
A:My life is anything but normal! I don’t go on vacations, I go to dog shows. I don’t go out Friday nights with friends, I get up super early on Saturday morning and meet them at competitions. My free time is dedicated to classes. Naturally, I find time each day to train and play with my own dogs. I guess, the truth is, I don’t sleep much!
Q:How would someone follow in your career footsteps?
A:Dog training is a vast field. The best course of action is to decide what kind of dog trainer they want to be. I love agility, so for me, becoming an agility instructor was an easy choice. There are also obedience trainers, behavior trainers, rally trainers, service dog trainers and many more.
Part of learning to be a trainer is from doing. If you struggle with achieving the goal your (future) students would want with your own dogs, you are not ready to start training for a living. Education is also key. Not all dog trainers are created equally so the effort you put into your knowledge can make a big difference on your ability to help your clients.
Dog agility was already my career as I’d been training my dogs for around seven years. I decided to become certified for two main reasons: to increase my knowledge of the sport, and to give back to the sport (without judges there are no competitions). I believe passion is a pre-requisite for both training and judging!
Q:I believe you also work with dogs for commercials, is that correct?
A:Yes! About five years ago, I opened a second company, Arizona Animal Actors. I had some incredibly talented dogs of my own and some that belonged to my students. We were interested in getting these amazing dogs of ours into print and into film work, but were having trouble finding a way to get them represented. So, I started a company with the intent of getting our amazing dogs into the industry. Over the past five years, I’ve earned clients including Kay Jewelers, Dingo Pet Treats, PetSmart, and SyFy Channel.
Q:What pets do you share your life with?
A:It’s a long list and here it is from oldest to youngest: Crash, Border Collie, fifteen-years-old; Nitro, Border Collie, eleven-years-old; Google, Border Collie, six-years-old; Polly Pocket, Chihuahua, four-years-old; Emmy, Sheltie, three-years-old; Porky Pig, Chihuahua, two-years-old; Jelly Bean, Jack Russell Terrier, one-year-old; Fancy, Beagle, eight-weeks-old; three cats. I am truly blessed that I can care for so many pets.
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.