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Lauren Mulvihill didn’t grow up with dogs, but that never stopped her from wanting one. Growing up, her cousin’s dog Casey — “the perfect Golden to a T” — was friendly, goofy, and smart. Lauren begged her parents for a dog like Casey.

“I would ask every single holiday,” she says. “I’d be like, please put a dog in the Easter basket.”

At home, Lauren had cats she loved (even though they were the reason she couldn’t have a dog). But she’s always been a dog person at heart.

A Golden Retriever was the perfect choice.

Bringing Home Bauer

Bauer was born the day before Thanksgiving, one of the many holidays Lauren used to spend begging her parents for a pup of her own.

Lauren connected with a reputable breeder through a friend. The timing was perfect as she had just moved and was living on her own for the first time.

“I didn’t want anything too challenging, but just something that would be versatile and just kind of blended into my lifestyle,” she says.

After receiving updates and photos, Lauren brought her new two-month-old puppy home. After more than two decades of hoping for a dog of her own, Lauren had him in her arms.

Getting Started in Dog Sports

Like many dog owners, Lauren took Bauer on puppy adventures around town as he grew up.

When they went to the dog park, other puppies would run around together, playing as puppies do. Bauer stuck to Lauren’s side, not interacting with other dogs. The same would happen on a restaurant patio or out in a crowd.

Bauer’s a shy homebody that has all the energy of a typical athletic Golden — a Sporting breed known for their exuberant friendliness.

To Lauren, it seemed like Bauer was lacking confidence.

“When I got Bauer, my whole life basically changed because I had never had a dog before, so it was a huge learning curve,” Lauren says.

Walks were a good start, but that just made him physically tired. She needed to challenge him mentally and grow his confidence.

So she started teaching him tricks at home.

“I started noticing that things were getting better,” she says. “He was getting more confident on shaky surfaces or doing things that he wasn’t used to doing with his body.”

That’s when Lauren decided to get Bauer started in Scent Work an activity she’s heard was good for a shy dog. It was perfect: Bauer was searching for confidence, and Lauren was searching for a hobby.

They started with basic obedience classes when he was three months old at local Texas facility What a Great Dog! Training Center. Next, they started scent work. And their love of dog sports grew from there.

“He just loves it and he thrives in it. So I just figured let’s just keep doing it.”

Bauer’s tried Fast CAT and Agility but his favorite is Dock Diving — something that surprised Lauren.

Bauer was terrified of water when they started. The first time they went into the pool, Bauer clung to Lauren, nails sinking into her back, ready to run.

The second time at the dock, he jumped off.

“It wasn’t anything impressive,” Lauren says. “It was just kind of like a belly flop in, but that takes a lot for a dog who’s not just fearless.”

Bauer even kept his cool when fireworks were launched the first day of a competition. The next day a Texas thunderstorm poured down, and Bauer was scared while waiting in line, but still wanted to jump.

By the end of the season, he was jumping more than 20 feet.

“Dock diving is by far his favorite by a million points. I mean, he would do that every single day.”

Lauren thinks dock diving is a bit like a tailgate, with loud crowds cheering on athletes (but four-legged instead of two). Comparatively, Barn Hunt is quiet and calm.

They practiced for months before their first trial, and even though Bauer was nervous, he completed the challenge in under a minute.

“We went in and he just killed it,” she says. “That was a true competitor. That’s one of the best things about him. And I didn’t think it would be like that, but he went in and he just did everything I asked him to do and it just went super well.”

Bauer got second in his first Barn Hunt trial — second only to their trainer.

Bauer’s not a dog park dog. He’s not a restaurant patio dog. But he is a dog athlete — and now a Dog Star.

You Can Get Started in Dog Sports Too!

Anyone can get starting in dog sports: it’s easier than you think!

Lauren started learning about dog sports by following local and national dog athletes on Instagram and asking them questions. Now, she shares her journey with Bauer on Instagram and makes knowledge about dog sports accessible to everyone.

Like Lauren, you can start learning by following other athlete’s journeys or by starting your own adventure with a local trainer, club or mentor. You’ll learn a lot just by attending trials and watching.

“I think a lot of people are nervous to do [dog sports] because it’s very intimidating,” Lauren says. Her advice? Give it a shot!

“There is a sense of camaraderie and teamwork in sports. Even if you’re just competing with your dog, people are really supportive once you kind of put yourself out there.”

Lauren also advises trying out different dog sports to see which ones your dog enjoys best.

“You’re never really going to know what your dog’s going to cling to, until you try it. I never thought Bauer would excel in dock diving. But he really loved it. He excels in it. It is just very natural for him to do it. And I would’ve never known that if I hadn’t tried it.”

Join Lauren and Bauer

Follow Lauren’s adventures with Bauer on Instagram!

Any breed — including mixed breeds — can participate in dog sports like Trick Dog, FAST CAT, and Diving Dogs.

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

Related article: How to Teach Your Dog to Weave Through Your Legs
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