June 21, 2018
Life can lead us in surprising directions. When Drexel Medicine's Dr. Amanda Woodworth first brought home Otis, a Pomsky, at just 7 weeks old, she had no idea that her puppy was a born competitor.
At first she just wanted to train him really well because he was her first dog. So when he was 9 weeks old, she took him to obedience school at the Zoom Room on Girard Avenue. Next she signed him up for puppy agility classes when he was 10 weeks old.
"I work crazy hours and he has a dog walker come a couple of times a day so agility training is a real fun thing he and I can do together as a bonding exercise," she told PhillyVoice.
Although she was teased a little for signing Otis up, she knew she was on to something when he began to pick up the commands easily.
When she brought him back for the second class and told him "Table," he jumped right up on the table. At 10 weeks old, she had never seen him obey like that before.
Otis took to the training so well that when he was a little over a year, Woodworth decided to join the agility league organized by the Zoom Room. During the league, dogs from the area compete for the fastest times to successfully get through an obstacle course.
"A handler or owner will take the dogs through the multiple obstacles, usually 15 to 18 of them. I run Otis through myself," she said. "We teach the dogs the commands for the different sequences they are put through."
Just like with human sports, there are spring, summer, fall and winter competition seasons, and the obstacles are constantly changing. The dogs might be expected to walk across a balance beam, jump through hoops, weave in and out of poles or run through a tunnel.
Otis and Woodworth, who is director of breast health, an assistant professor of surgery and a breast surgeon at Drexel Medicine, train for competition every day, whether it is working on different tricks or looking for mini obstacles to tackle on their walks together. Woodworth is always looking for different ways to engage him.
"I work crazy hours and he has a dog walker come a couple of times a day so agility training is a real fun thing he and I can do together as a bonding exercise," – Dr. Amanda Woodworth
Otis won the fall competition season but unfortunately the Zoom Room on Girard is now closed and Woodworth is looking for a new agility training place to take him.
So how does Otis, now 2 1/2, feel about agility training?
"He loves it," Woodworth said. "Whenever he runs a successful obstacles course he sits up and is so proud. It's hysterical. He does this little swagger on the way home after he has had a good competition. I love to see him so excited."
Woodworth, 37, said one of the best things about doing the agility league with Otis has been watching him grow and overcome his fears as he tackled new obstacles.
Considering making an athlete out of your own dog? Woodworth explained that it takes a lot of discipline for both you and your dog.
"You have to really know your dog, how to engage him to go onto the next level. You really need to work with your dog on a daily basis."
So what is up next for this dynamic duo?
Woodworth is considering looking into national agility leagues now that Zoom Room has closed, but is not sure how to break into the national level.
She is affiliated with Hahnemann University Hospital, and lives in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.