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As Kayla Stanley was taking photos at her local dog club in 2018, she realized she wanted her own dogs to get in on the fun. But at the time she only had two older dogs and a Beagle who weren’t interested in dog sports.

Kayla told her husband they needed another dog just for athletic adventures. That’s how they met Millie.

Millie: A Natural Born Athlete

Kayla started her journey searching for dog breeds that would excel in dog sports. She considered Border Collies but decided that Australian Cattle Dog Millie was the perfect choice for the family.

Millie’s a “people pleaser” and will do whatever it takes to make the humans around her happy. While she’s friendly and happy to say hello to anyone, she’s happiest being right next to Kayla’s side.

And just like Kayla predicted, Millie loves participating in sports. When she’s performing tricks or running a course, Millie “barks and barks and barks and barks.”

“Ball is life for her,” Kayla says.

Millie loves Flyball and dapples in Barn Hunt. But of all the dog sports Millie competes in, Dock Diving is her favorite — even though it was the one she was most hesitant to love.

Millie loves swimming, but something about the clear water of the pool Kayla was asking her to jump in startled her. She refused to leave the dock.

Millie wasn’t ready to dock dive, but Kayla wasn’t ready to give up. Kayla made it a goal last summer to get Millie to jump. She began by taking Millie to their local dog pool. Clad in a life vest, Millie would venture off a small dock into the pool over and over again.

LB Photography

Even after conquering a mini dock, it was difficult to convince Millie that jumping off the large dock was a good idea. Sometimes she would be started by the flags floating in the water, or distracted by the dogs around her. But one day she did the big leap, and there was no going back.

Now, whenever Kayla asks Hey, you ready to go jump? Millie’s response is to sprint, bark, and spin circles to the dock.

Adding Maple to the Sports Family

A year after bringing home Millie, Kayla and her husband added Maple, an Australian Shepherd, to the family. Unlike Millie, Maple was a fearful puppy. She would look at a fire hydrant and “lose her mind.” Kayla worried that Maple would be reactive as she grew older.

Thankfully, Maple grew out of her fearfulness and fully embraced dog sports as an outlet. Whereas Millie enjoys a good lounge on the couch, Maple doesn’t slow down. Millie might snuggle up, but reserved Maple will keep her distance and sometimes try to wander off on hikes.

Maple’s favorite activities are Fast CAT, frisbee, and Flyball. She “loses her mind” when the frisbee appears. But when Maple hears the Fast Cat machine and sees the bag, she becomes a completely different dog. She’s ready to run.

While Maple immediately took to Fast Cat, it took her a little longer to adjust to Flyball. The chaos of dogs running and barking around her was distracting and she would shut down. Kayla would take her aside away from the dogs for a game of frisbee before trying again. Finally, Maple did something called “power jumping” which is when she ran and jumped over the jumps with another dog running behind her.

“The first time she was able to do that, I was pretty excited because she had previously shut down and she did not want to do that,” Kayla says.

Now, when Maple is in the start position at Flyball events, she’ll look around at the other dogs she’s competing with and realize what’s going on around her. Instead of freezing up, she barks and lunges, ready to go.

Get Started in Dog Sports

Anyone can get started in dog sports. Kayla recommends beginning with a sport your dog will be interested in based on their favorite activities.

“Try to find a sport that you think your dog might enjoy,” she says. “and even if you hit big bumps in the road, just keep going with it. Keep reaching for the goals that you wanna achieve with your dog.”

Canine Good Citizen is a good foundation for any dog athlete but it doesn’t matter what sport you choose. You can always try multiple sports, and you never know where each opportunity will take you.

“I never, ever in a million years would have thought that I would be in the position I am with my dogs,” Kayla says. “I would’ve never thought that I would have these two awesome dogs doing dog sports.”

Follow Mapple and Millie on Instagram

Follow Maple and Millie on Instagram or Tik Tok to keep up with their progress through Flyball and other dog sports. Canines of any age or breed — including purebred and mixed breeds — can participate in dog sports. If you get inspired from their Instagram feed, it might be time to try out Trick Dog, FAST CAT, or Diving Dogs.

Think your dog has what it takes to be Dog Athlete of the Month? Use the hashtag #ThisIsAKC on Instagram.

Related article: Are Your Dog Training Expectations Too High?
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