Sun Zenner grew up with her kelpie Limit. They are both seven years old, and compete in agility at the highest level.
Limit is a big dog, about the same height as his handler. Still, he is gentle and always adjusting to Sun. He follows every move she makes on the course. Adjusting to her speed and listening to her cues. The bond and communication between the two is amazing to watch.
Recently, Sun and Limit ran the finals at B.A.C.K, the biggest agility competition in Germany. Here they competed against some of the best athletes in the world. The crowd was blown away by their performance.
- It was so much fun. I felt like we were a team! My dog is my best friend, and I love him so much. I am happy that we can do things like agility together. I like sports and to run fast! I also like to spend time with Limit and teach him new things, Sun says.
Sun and Limit started doing agility together when they were five years old. At that time, the kelpie belonged to her father, Jörg. The family also has other dogs. Both parents are competing in agility.
- We love the sport and brought Sun with us to training and competitions from an early age, but we never told her to start training agility. That was her decision.
Since the start, the main focus has been to have fun.
- It is not about winning; it is about being a team and having a good time.
Confidence and focus
Claudia does not doubt that growing up with dogs has had a positive effect on several aspects of her daughter's life.
- She became more confident after starting with agility. Sun is proud of what she and her dog are capable of.
Doing this sport also had a positive effect on skills like focus, concentration, learning, socialization, movement and body control.
- We see changes in daily life situations. Earlier, she would rather back off as situations got complicated. Now she can handle these situations more easily. She is more open-minded towards other people and cares for others. She also learned how to deal with failure. If you work with an animal, things do not always work as you planned. We taught her to not be mad at the dog, but look into what she could have done to help him do better. That is an essential lesson for a child.
Making new friends
At competitions, Sun is always having a good time with other children at the venue. The juniors are also welcome to compete. In Germany, they even have training camps and seminars specifically for children.
One of the trainers doing this is Daniel Schröder. He has been on the national team in agility for several years, winning several medals – he became World Champion in medium and won European open.
- The kids are the future of the sport. Therefore I think it is important to take the time to help develop them. I like to see how much fun they have, and I also like how motivated they are. More than adults! Children learn extremely fast. That is fascinating.
Daniel wants the kids to succeed on the agility course. At the same time, they get challenges suitable for their level.
The course must have challenges for everyone, without causing frustration. I only have one technical difficulty in every sequence, followed by a reward or a fun straight line. I like to give them a lot of fast sequences where they can run and push their limits a bit. I try to provide them with very specific feedback and one new task at the time, so that they can process the information and have fun.
At the training camp, we also talked to Lea Kasper (9) and Bridie Schlathölter (12). They also love doing agility with their dogs.
- What I like the most is to see my dog’s passion and excitement before we enter the ring, Lea says.
They also spend much time with their dogs outside the agility course. Dunn is Bridie’s companion, friend and protector. They can go for a walk, do homework together or cuddle at the couch. Dunn always puts a smile on her face.
- We spend a lot of time together. I love my Dunn.
If you want to know more about how children can benefit from having dogs, listen to this episode of our podcast «Unleashed», where we interview parent Claudia Zenner and professor Gail Melson!