St. Helena Island trainer and her dog win agility contest

abredeson@islandpacket.comNovember 25, 2012 

Tina Eastman has a lot of fun with her dogs. The St. Helena Island woman begins training them when they are tiny puppies, teaching them little tricks, such as "look at me" and works her way up to agility competitions.

She works with her two Shetland sheepdogs -- Fiji, 4, and Chanel, 9, -- every day. She walks them for at least an hour a day. They often go swimming at the beach or the pool, and they practice their balance using balls. And they practice on the agility course she has set up in her yard.

All that hard work has paid off for Eastman and Fiji, who placed first in the small agility competition at the 15th annual Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals on Oct. 6 in St. Louis.

"Oh, that was very exciting, especially because he is a baby, and we haven't done this much," she said. "It was really fun."

The duo qualified for the national competition because they won at the regional show in March in Atlanta. They were invited to the regional show because a trainer in Atlanta recommended them for it.

Eastman said Fiji has competed in shows in South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia over the past two years. He holds the titles of master excellent jumper and master excellent agility dog. He's working toward nationals next year and only needs one more qualification to get there. He's also working toward becoming a master agility champion.

Eastman and her dogs compete in shows about twice a month -- mostly in Atlanta, Florida and North Carolina.

"They're all really talented, but (Fiji) truly lives to play this game," she said. "He just thinks that I came up with the best idea in the whole wide world."

Eastman, who had another dog before the two she now has, has been competing in dog shows for about 10 years. Her first dog, Guinness, was an 11-time master agility champion.

How does she train her dogs to do so well in these competitions? She said she uses clicker training. She also rewards them with small treats.

"Reward what you like," she said, "and ignore what you don't like. ... It's amazing what you can do with a Cheerio."

The two received a plaque and a dog bone-shaped medal for coming in first. And Fiji got something a little more substantial than a Cheerio for doing such a great job -- filet mignon.

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