We talked this week to Olympian Greg Louganis about his latest endeavors: dog agility. He loves the sport.
This weekend, he and his Jack Russell Dobby are entered in the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals. The event is at the Purina Farms near St. Louis, Mo. They competed in regionals this summer.
Dobby has to navigate an obstacle course consisting of jumps, weave poles, tunnels and other obstacles with Greg running by his side for guidance. Dogs are timed, with penalty times added for faults made on the course. Each dog makes two runs on the course, with the fastest time winning.
Louganis, 49, won gold medals in the springboard and platform diving events in 1984 and 1988.
QUESTION: How did you get started in dog agility?
ANSWER: I had Great Danes originally. A friend of mine said he wanted a small Jack Russell he could travel with. I said OK, I’ll train it. It was the first terrier I’d ever had. After 8 months, I turned to my friend and said ‘Here’s your dog.’ He said ‘She’s too much dog for me. I think I want a Yorkie.’ I thought about placing her, but I’d spent so much time with her I kept her. She needed a job, so we got into obedience training. She excelled quickly. I was doing some obedience work with her at this park and they had agility set up. I looked into classes and she really excelled at that.
And it was fun. She had a blast.
Q: You used to have show dogs. What is different about this kind of event?
A: Taking part in confirmation shows (show dogs) is great, too, because you see some beautiful animals parading around. But that’s rather political. It’s a bit harder to be successful. But with the performance sports, it’s you and your dog. Also, most organizations don’t care if it’s a mixed breed or purebred dog. The AKC is coming around, too., but U.S. Dog Agility Association and some other groups don’t care about a dog’s heritage. You can compete and have fun. It’s nondiscriminatory. I like that, too.
Q: How does this kind of competition compare to your diving days?
A: I was judged and scrutinized so much of my life and now the focus is on the dogs and their performance. The reflection can be on me as a trainer, but I don’t take any of that personally. I’m just out there to have fun with my dogs.
Q: How much do you get back from the dogs?
A: The sport deepens that relationship you have with your dog. They’re with me through thick or thin. Like dealing with a lot of my HIV treatments, they’re there. If I’m curled up on my bed and don’t have the energy to get up, they’re just there waiting for me.