Backed with preparation that includes hiking and swimming as well as agility training and other competitions, Ditto, a five-year-old Border Collie who lives in Stone Mountain with his owner, Meryl Sheard, is heading to the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge in Atlanta this Saturday, March 31.
Sheard, who started in dog agility training in 1992, said she and Ditto are ready.
“I’m more excited" than nervous, Sheard said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Ditto is the sixth dog Meryl has competed with. He made the AKC finals last March. There were close to 300 competing dogs in his height alone. He placed eighth. "I'm very proud of him," Sheard said.
Sheard owns the Sirius Dog Agility Training Center in Scottdale and also teaches in the respiratory therapy department at Georgia State University, something she’s been doing for 26 years.
Sheard said courses with an international flavor tend to be less flowing courses, which can be a little more difficult than others.
"You never know from week to week when you go to a show what you're going to see," Sheard said.
The dog handlers will get course maps to look at on paper, and they, along with their dogs, are given eight minutes to walk the course and make a plan.
The competing dogs must be accurate, make all their contacts, and can’t knock any bars.
The challenge is the qualifier for the national championship that will be held in St. Louis in October.