A local business hopes to put a literal wag on the tails of dogs and create a figurative one for owners.
In the spring, Standard Stables will provide equipment for dog owners to train their furry friends in agility skills. These are the same skills you see at dog shows when they run through a course of jumps, tunnels and other apparatus.
Theresa Matte, owner of Standard Stables, was raised in Timmins and opened her business in 1997.
“We moved to the house with our two horses and our animals,” she said. “It just kind of progressed from there.
“We do riding lessons, boarding, horse shows, clinics, camps … there’s quite a few different avenues.”
While she loves all animals, Matte also had a soft spot for horses and dogs.
“I’m into dogs as well,” she said. “I worked as a vet tech for a number of years. I’ve had a pet sitting business. I’ve worked with a variety of animals my entire life.
“My dog of choice is border collie. They are meant to do things like agility. I’ve started purchasing all the equipment. I’ve talked to other people and asked if they would be interested in doing agility, and everybody is so excited because there is nothing really for dogs in Timmins.
“The classes that the city holds are only over the winter. What we want to do is continue on over spring, summer, fall.”
Owners will be able to train their dogs to use the equipment at Standard Stables.
“Tunnel, jumping, A-frame, teeter-totter, weave poles … that’s exactly what it is,” Matte said. “We’re doing something else called rally, too. What it is like an extreme obedience at a variety of levels, and you can compete in that as well.”
In order to train a dog for agility, Matte said it is important the animal has a handle on basic commands.
“The most important thing is you have to have a good foundation in obedience,” she said. “They have to heel, sit, down, stay, have a recall — come when you call — and then you have to be very patient and work at each one, and work your way up. It takes a long time.”
She has enjoyed the experience of training her dog, Pip, to use the equipment.
“My little one is a year and a half old and I started working with her at eight months,” she said. “Now, I just say tunnel and (snapping her fingers) she runs through the tunnel. That’s an easy one. But we did that right from when she was a baby.
“She just loves to jump. I say jump (snap), she jumps. But the teeter-totter, that’s going to be a challenge. She’s okay walking across it, but the minute it starts to dip …”
She said not to expect a dog to become a perfect performer overnight.
“It takes a lot of treats, a lot of patience, just take your time,” Matte explained. “You have to love your dog and enjoy working with your dog. You can’t get mad.
“If you’re having a bad day, go back to something that worked and do it again. Don’t take it out on the dog because they will remember that next time.”
The snow needs to melt before the training site can be opened.
“It all depends on weather. If the snow is all gone, we’ll probably start the beginning of May,” she said. “If it is nice, I’d like to keep holding them until the end of September, beginning of October. Then there are classes with the city again by January.”
The training can even be offered to older canines, proving that you can indeed teach an older dog new tricks.
“There are people that have older dogs, they have to be in good health and maybe not 10,” she said. “But there are dogs that are six years or seven years old that are still capable. We just keep the jumps lower.
“Typically, the dogs are over a year old, because jumping can be harder on a younger dog that’s still growing. But it doesn’t mean they can’t come out and learn some of the other things.
“As long as you think your dog can do it. You can even come out and try it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”
Dogs have to be vaccinated. And they have to get along well with other dogs.
“There will be a fee associated with it, that’s still to be determined, whether it is a fee as you come or for the year gets you a discounted rate,” she said.
While owners are responsible to train their own dogs, some help will be available.
“We have some dog trainers that will be here working with their own dogs, so they will be helping each other,” Matte said. “If people are coming that don’t know what to do, there are people here who have already done agility and will be able to help. We’ll have people come up to do clinics, who have already done agility.”
Times and dates have yet to be set.
“I’m very flexible, so if people are on shift work, there will be times they can come during the day and then other people who work can do the evening,” she said. “It will be held more than one day, depending on how full our schedules are.”
She is looking forward to starting up the dog agility camp.
“My current dog loves it,” Matte said. “That’s another reason I’m excited about this, too.
“I just want the snow to go so we can set everything up.”