Neighborhood pets making it big in the dog competition world

Photography by Jessica Turner

Piper

Story by Natalie Murphy

Piper, also known by her show name, Woodbe’s Sunny Sundae Sensation, has an acupuncturist and chiropractor. She gets regular blood work and X-rays done to ensure she is in the best health.

“They probably get taken care of better than we take care of ourselves,” says owner Charlene Chaney. “Because they’re really athletes, the conditioning part is very, very important.”

Piper competes throughout the country with whippets, a British breed loosely re-lated to greyhounds. She has won national titles such as best-in-breed in lure coursing, first place in triathlon and second place in versatility.

“She’s pretty driven when it comes to activities,” Chaney says.

Piper started competing in agility in 2016, when she was 16 months old. Later, she be-gan competing in dock diving, fast Coursing Ability Test (a timed 100-yard dash) and rally. Chaney says Piper’s strengths are versatility and drive.

“Once you get out there, the dog knows the difference between practice and the real thing, because they feel their adrenaline from you,” Chaney says. “You can see their progress, and you learn to work as a team, and you kind of bond, you know. You really bond a lot with them.”

Besides getting to spend the whole day with Piper, the best part of competitions for Chaney is the community.

“Everybody’s really supportive. We all cheer for each other, and everybody helps each other out. We all kind of travel together,” Chaney says. “They’re always willing to lend a hand.”

On days when Piper is not competing and conditioning, Chaney likes to take her on hikes. She also enjoys swimming, playing around the house and taking naps. When it comes to playing with siblings, Chaney says she’s the alpha.

“She’s the party police. If the other dogs are playing too much, she’ll put an end to it, and if she thinks it’s getting out of hand, she’ll intervene,” Chaney says. “She doesn’t miss a thing. She watches everything. We think she’s not watching, but she’s watching. Don’t try to sneak and give somebody else a treat.”

Adelaide

Story by Alejandra Puente

When David Briggs’ son moved out, he left 7-year-old Adelaide, a yellow Labrador. She wasn’t a hunting dog, much less a competitor. She’s a therapy dog at Baylor Scott & White Health.

Adelaide and Briggs are members of the Lone Star Retriever Club, a club that trains dogs to compete in hunting competitions. They made friends, trained and fell in love with the idea of competing.

There, Briggs met neighbor Larry Lauck, who helped him train Adelaide. Almost every night, Briggs, Lauck and Adelaide meet near White Rock Lake to practice three or four commands and tasks.

Turns out Adelaide is a hunting dog.

“In a competition like this, it simulates the hunting experience as much as possible for the dog. It’s a way for the dog to get out and in and test their skills,” Briggs says. They practice with both live and dead birds and bumpers. At competition, Briggs is the handler and commander.

“Training Adelaide was much like having a child. When they compete and they do what you ask them to do and they go out and they retrieve the bumper and they follow your command, it’s like a father standing on the sideline, watching his son at a baseball game throwing the first pitch. It’s very rewarding and very exciting,” Briggs says.

Adelaide competes in hunting shows, where they chase different birds. A bird is launched into a field, and the dog will track down the scent, retrieve the bird and bring it back to the handler.

“Each dog is competing against himself,” Briggs says. The competition life is still a bit new to Adelaide and Briggs, but they enjoy it and intend to continue.

“She has some ribbons. We’ve not taken it as far as all the way to the champion level, but she has won some ribbons,” Briggs says. “And we’re proud of her for that. In fact, we have them on my refrigerator right now.”

Ellie and Dover

Story by Alejandra Puente

Larry Lauck loves retriever dogs and hunting so much that he founded Lone Star Hunting Retriever Club in 1981. The club trains dogs to compete in hunting competitions.

He met Labrador retriever Ellie and Llewellin setter Dover as puppies. Dover is recognized by the American Kennel Club as an English settler. Lauck knew he wanted them to participate in hunting competitions.

The dogs have been training and competing for close to a decade. Lauck has developed trust with Ellie and Dover as their owner and handler.

“It’s critical that you and your dog develop that relationship, where you’re both acting together as a team, because he or she will trust you,” Lauck says.

On the field, Lauck learned the boundaries of Ellie and Dover and how to properly push them to per-form their best.

“Many times it’s similar to raising children,” Lauck says. “If you push them too far, they lose confidence, especially when they’re young. So you have to make sure they maintain that level of competence.”

Ellie’s first competition was one to remember.

“She comes within 10 yards for me. And then you have a judge right there scoring you. And you have about 50 people behind you watching you. Ellie stops, sees all those people, she has a duck in her mouth, while she wants to go show off. She takes off, runs in front of everyone in front of the whole gallery showing off,” Lauck says.

It didn’t bother him too much. He knows each puppy needs time to learn.

“It usually goes back to confidence and drills and training and showing them over and over and over again,” Lauck says. “It’s repetition just like us. You learn something in school, and then route for the summer. And teachers have to remind everyone what they just learned when they get back to school.

“They are so proud of themselves. They just want to show off. And they’re puppies. And you got to re-spect that they’re still puppies. And they’re proud that they’re able to please you.”