Question: How did you become the coach for AKC EOJ Team USA?
Susan’s answer: I heard about the team the first year the U.S. sent a team to the EOJ. Some people over on the East Coast coached and managed the team for the first three years. I was just kind of sitting in the wings following the team. Via Facebook, I discovered that those people had stepped down from their role, so I sent my proposal to the American Kennel Club asking if I could be the coach and promising to grow the team. I’m happy to say that I’ve kept that promise for the last four years; since I’ve been coach, the team has increased from one member to a full roster of 22 juniors!
Question: When and how did you get into the sport of agility?
Susan’s answer: Many years ago, I saw an agility trial going on in a field next to where I was doing conformation, the beauty pageant for dogs, so when I got home I started doing some research on it. I attended a demo going on the following weekend, and there I found a trainer here in Sacramento whom I started taking classes with.
Question: What kind of dogs do you run in agility?
Susan’s answer: I currently run a seven-year-old Border Collie and a four-year-old miniature poodle.
Question: What’s your favorite aspect of agility? What’s your least favorite aspect?
Susan’s answer: Doing stuff with my dogs! I like teaching my dogs to do things and then being able to perform with them. I’m just such a dog person, so it’s so fulfilling for me. And I like the competition of agility! I also love seeing the variety of people: young people, old people, young dogs, old dogs, dogs of all different shapes and sizes. And it always amazes me to look around and see people of all different backgrounds out there enjoying the sport.
My least favorite aspect of agility would be when I see people berate or blame their dogs for making a mistake (in the handler’s eyes, not the dog’s eyes, that is). I just don’t enjoy witnessing that part of it.
Question: Can you share some of your most memorable agility moments?
Susan’s answer: The big wins are always fun, such as winning and Grand Prix and making the podium at the EO one year. I think my most memorable moment was with my first dog (who was not trained at all), a little Australian Shepherd named Freddie. We made a top ten at USDAA Nationals. It was all of these Border Collies and my little Australian Shepherd on the list. That moment really stands out to me because it was my first dog and I really just went out there to try my best on the course with no expectations. It was so thrilling and unexpected when we made the top ten!
Question: Do you give 1TDC™ to your dogs? Have you noticed any differences while using it?
Susan’s answer: I’ve been giving my dogs 1TDC™ for several years now. I started giving it to my older dog as a supplement. I think that when you give supplements to young dogs, it’s sometimes difficult to see if it’s working or not. However, when I stopped giving it to my old dog for a short time, I noticed a real change in how he was getting around. It was clear that it was really helping his joints when he was on it, so I started giving it to my dogs again and haven’t stopped since.
Question: What are your hopes for Team USA this year?
Susan’s answer: My first goal for all future years is that the team continues growing and being viable for juniors to be a part of. I would like for all of the juniors in the United States to be aware of it and gain more interest in it. This comes from support from the juniors, the parents, and the AKC. The AKC is getting behind us more and more as the team is growing. It’s really nice that we are in their good graces—that they’re starting to believe in the team. I think the whole experience is really important for juniors to have. Getting to represent your country in Europe as a junior handler is just amazing—I would’ve loved to have had that opportunity when I was a kid. I just think it’s a real growth experience for any junior to be a part of. The team camaraderie seems to grow every year also, so it’s really cool to see kids from all across the country come together with this common bond that they utilize to become lifelong friends. When there are so few junior handlers in America, they often don’t get to spend time with people their own age at local trials. It is such a special experience for them to go to the EOJ where there are 400 juniors competing all together.
Question: What would you want every parent to know about agility for their kids?
Susan’s answer: I would just hope that parents come to realize what a great sport it is because it gives the juniors something to do. It’s a clean sport in which they have to deal with another being that doesn’t speak the same language. They really have to create a bond with that being (the dog) that I don’t think normal pet people usually achieve. And there are such great opportunities for juniors in dog agility, such as the EOJ team, where they can take the dog across the ocean to compete at a big, fun event! And if they don’t have aspirations to do that, it’s just a nice, clean sport that teaches responsibility for taking care of something other than yourself. I’m a big proponent of all sports for children, but especially agility. If any junior in the country wants to do agility, I hope their parents will back them up and support them. And, if they have aspirations of international competition, I hope everyone becomes aware that we try to get every aspiring junior on the team. Agility is a great sport for both juniors and adults.
We can’t wait to see where Coach Susan Cochran’s passion takes Team USA this year. Best of luck to her and those competing in the EOJ this July!