Once Team Malibu had finally earned its first qualifying AKC agility run in JWW (jumps with weaves) I was feeling more confident than I had in a long time. “We can do this”, I began thinking. And we did, but only in JWW. The Standard courses were stressful for Malibu and I began to feel like I was forcing her to do something that she didn’t want to do. While at trials Malibu definitely enjoyed her one on one time with me, but she lacked the joy that I hoped she would experience during her time on the course.

The AKC environment was tough on both of us. Tension runs high in the AKC world of agility and it permeates the atmosphere. Many competitors take the sport of dog agility very seriously and sadly I witnessed dogs being verbally abused if they didn’t perform well in the ring.  I too wanted to do well, but I certainly wasn’t going to berate my dog if we didn’t earn a Q (qualifying run). Sure, my goal was to qualify in our events otherwise I wouldn’t be there. Most AKC agility competitors dream of earning a MACH (Master Agility Champion) title and I was no different, but I soon learned that not all dogs can withstand the pressure of performing in such a stressful environment.

Malibu loved agility in our backyard, so it was sad for me to see a different side of her while running a course at trials. Not a social dog to begin with, I was not very surprised that Malibu was no fan of the trial environment. I thought that over time her desire to play would supersede her fear and anxiety.

We continued to compete in AKC agility and I was incredibly proud of Malibu when we earned our first AKC title, NAJ (Novice Agility Jumpers).               Malibu's first agility title2

We went on to earn our OAJ (Open Agility Jumpers) title.

We were then competing at the Excellent level in JWW, but still had not earned a Q in Novice Standard.  Despite having no issues at home or in our classes, the contact obstacles and chute (which is no longer used by most agility venues) were scary for Malibu at trials. In hindsight, I wish I had stopped entering Standard events since Malibu had made it quite clear that she did not enjoy running those courses.

At some point, I began entering less trials and even stopped going to agility classes with Malibu. I was frustrated and disappointed, but also experiencing guilt for expecting too much from my sensitive Malibu. We just could not get past this roadblock standing in our way. She could not get through a Standard course at a trial and despite our qualifying runs, did not seem too keen on even running the JWW courses. I didn’t want to quit, but I recognized that Malibu was never going to be comfortable in the AKC trial environment and began to accept that reality.

By now, we were mostly competing in AKC agility. CPE (Canine Performance Events) is another agility organization and our very first trial experience. Although we did not leave that trial with a ribbon, the venue proved to be more to Malibu’s liking. The vibe at CPE trials is much friendlier and Malibu usually performed well. It was almost like competing with a different dog when I ran Malibu at these events. Unfortunately, CPE trials were seldom within a reasonable driving distance for my anxious canine passenger. Ninety minutes was usually the maximum amount of time I would drive to a trial due to Malibu’s nervousness while riding in the car.

Malibu CPE titles

Malibu, the CPE Rockstar

I don’t recall how I learned about TDAA (Teacup Dogs Agility Association), but I was interested in learning more and seeing if it would be a better fit for Team Malibu. There was an upcoming trial and I planned to attend. Maybe this venue would allow Malibu to finally enjoy agility away from home and show off her talent. If not, then it was time to walk away from a sport that I had grown to love for a dog who I loved more.