A dog’s life

Chris Vaught

Chris Vaught owns Carson Dog Sports, a dog training facility that opened this month. She says the only closer competitive dog training facility in the region used to be in Sacramento. Now people can go to 5242 Highway 50 East at the Silver Sage Industrial Park in Carson City. For more information, visit www.carsondogsports.com or call Chris at (775) 297-2427.

What makes Carson Dog Sports different from other dog training businesses?

It’s the first facility in the Reno-Carson City area that’s indoor and fully matted. I do competitive agility. I’ve been teaching out of my home for a number of years, but we’re shut down in the winter due to the weather. We have quite a few people who’ve always bemoaned the fact we don’t have a facility to train in the winter. … Truckee Meadows in Reno has a small facility, and they do obedience, but this is the first that will have the full gamut of dog sports—agility, rally obedience, competitive obedience, flyball, canine freestyle, and hopefully we’ll be bringing a new sport called canine nose work.

Is this something for average dog owners as well as competitive?

Everything is covered from puppy preschool classes and on up. We’ve tried to cover the gamut of those people who don’t want to compete—your pet dog folks—and folks who have designs on getting their dog out there and showing the dog off for the world to see.

How did you get involved with dog training?

I’ve been in dogs for about 16-and-a-half years. I grew up on a farm and did competitive horse sports growing up and through high school and college. I got into dogs when I moved to Alaska a number of years ago, and there weren’t many horses there. I got my first dog, Ebony, and started doing competitive dog sports. She was a mixed breed, and it was right around the time the United Kennel Club changed their policy on allowing mixed breeds to compete. In 1997 is when I got involved in agility, and I’ve been teaching agility for nine to 10 years, and I’ve been an agility judge for the United States Dog Agility Association.

What is agility?

It’s the obstacle course for your dog—jumps and tunnels and A-frames and teeter totters.

How many dogs do you have?

Five. Australian kelpies and one mixed terrier breed.

What’s the secret to training a good dog?

The relationship, which is what we’re trying to emphasize at the center. If you have a good working relationship built on mutual respect and trust, the relationship can be a lot of fun, and the dog has a lot of confidence, and there’s really nothing you can’t do. It’s kind of like a dance—you each have a part in it and each have to learn your dance steps. Our program goes step by step to allow the dog to be confident and get it to where you can do anything you want to do with that dog.

What are the biggest training mistakes people make?

One: training for too long. You don’t want to burn the dog out. Sometimes it’s only a minute of working on a specific skill. People want to push the dog until it’s perfect, and then the dog quits on them. The other thing is punishment. If the dog is always being corrected, it gives up, and the dog is like, ‘Tell me what you want me to do because I don’t understand.’ … If my dog’s not having a good time, I’m not having a good time. We’re trying to get people to see they can have a much deeper level of communication with their dog than they ever thought possible. I don’t care if people never compete, I just want to see the people having a good time with their dogs and the dogs having a good time with their people.