Southern Indiana Living

JUL-AUG 2018

Southern Indiana Living magazine is the exclusive publication of the region, offering readers a wide range of coverage on the people, places and events that make our area unlike any other. In SIL readers will find beautiful photography, encouraging s

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Jul/Aug 2018 • 19 T hroughout history, notable ath- letes have come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In the sport of agility for dogs, however, they can even come in the form of different species, too. Thanks to guidance and coach- ing from their handler and owner, Erin Stumler, two Southern Indiana competi- tive canines, named Harley and Gunner, not only break out above the competition, but they also break the concept of what we think of when it comes to our lovable lap dogs. And Harley, Gunner and Stum- ler have had quite the journeys in reach- ing their current levels of performance in their sport. Agility sports require a handler di- recting a dog over a variety of obstacles in a course that accounts for both time and accuracy. Gunner, the first dog Stumler decided to enroll in training for agility sports, began his career more as a way to expend his endless supply of Australian Shepherd puppy energy than an aspira- tion to become a top-tier competitor. Stumler said her friend, who was taking her German Shepherd to agility training at the time, invited her to a class, "and that was kind of the end of that. We were hooked." Gunner was less than confident in his athletic prowess at first. "Actually, the first month, my dog hid under the chair," Stumler said, laughing. But after a few weeks, Stumler said that Gunner came to the realization that "this was awesome" and that he now "lives for agilities." Eventually, Stumler's original train- er in Jeffersonville retired from giving lessons, and Stumler has continued her lessons for about eight years with trainer Misty Young of TNT Performance Dogs in Sellersburg. Young approaches agil- ity training from a far more competitive standpoint than Stumler had previously engaged in. "We were all kinds of a hot mess," Stumler said when talking about the first time her group participated in the more rigorous training structure for their dogs. After this period, Stumler noticed that Gunner was improving in the way he handled the "little sequences." Stumler said that the system her group uses to guide the dogs through the competition and courses is grounded in the handler's emotions. "The dog fol- lows your emotion. That trumps all other cues." The system is based off the teach- ings of trainer Linda Mecklenburg. Stum- ler also taken classes online and has read Mecklenburg's literature, and Stumler's group has also taken lessons with one of Mecklenburg's protégés in Ohio. And Gunner's results are astounding. Thanks to guidance and coaching from their handler and owner, Erin Stumler, two Southern Indiana competitive canines, named Harley and Gunner, not only break out above the competition, but they also break the concept of what we think of when it comes to our lovable lap dogs.

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