When she’s not teaching at Channel Islands High School in Oxnard, Marla Cooper can be found training with her four competitive boarder collies or organizing dog agility workshops across the country. Cooper is a serious dog lover who has become an expert in dog training through experimentation and studying with professional trainers and competitors around the world. Cooper used to teach obedience courses, but ever since she saw her first agility demo in 1999, she was hooked. “It’s a full time hobby,” says Cooper.
Two of Cooper’s border collies, Spritz, and his daughter, Synergy, will be competing in the Purina Pro Incredible Dog Challenge on May 30 at Huntington Beach State Park. The premiere canine event features dogs from around the region participating in different “Olympic-style” events including, dog diving, freestyle flying disc, head-to-head weave poles, hurdle racing, and agility. The course is not pre-determined, and the dogs are judged on how quickly and accurately they can complete the 20 obstacles with the cue of their owners.
“You don’t realize until you do a sport like this how connected you can be with your dog,” said Cooper. “It’s like they know what I’m thinking.”
This won’t be Spritz or Synergy’s first competition, as the two of them have travelled around the country for national competitions and crossed boarders for competitions in Italy, Slovakia, and Peru. At the upcoming event, Spritz will be competing in the 30-weave and Synergy will be competing in big dog agility. If they win, they will be qualified for the National Finals in St. Louis, Missouri at the Purina Farms.
Cooper and her dogs practice a couple nights a week with the Goleta Valley Dog Club at Girsh Park where the focus is on building coordination, balance, confidence, and socialization skills through positive reinforcement.
“When you’re training for a pet, you focus on sit, stay and stationary things,” explains Cooper. “When training for agility, it’s a lot more fun action stuff.”