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Pamela O'Day

Pamela O'Day

by Beth Ostrowski-Parks, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Every month I want to commit to bringing you an interview with a dog professional.  This month I’m featuring my favorite agility instructor (which is saying a lot since I’ve been training in agility for 20 years.)

Pamela O’Day is an agility instructor at Tails U Win in Manchester, Ct.  I am choosing to interview her because she has an interesting career to share with my clients about dogs, dog training and getting fully invested in the sport of agility.  I’ve been taking classes with Pam for the better part of 5 years.  The 60 minute ride to Connecticut is so well worth it for me and my dogs.  I’ve learned so much from her about how important the foundations of agility are!   My young boy Ninja who you’ve all heard about was already in AKC Masters Agility at the age of 3 because I started his agility career with Pam. 

For those clients who didn’t know about Ninja he passed at the very early age of 3 from epilepsy. To say this was difficult is a huge understatement.  Ninja was only 4 months old when I started training him with Pam which also gives me an extra soft spot for Pamela O’Day.

Here is my interview with Pam.

Beth:  How long have you been training your own dogs?
Pam:  I found my first dog in a shelter in Boston in 1970.  She was a black and tan German Shepherd.  I later fell in love with Belgian Tervuren and co bred litters with Linda Newsome in Oklahoma.  I started competing with my Tervuren in AKC Tracking Competitions in 1985 earning tracking titles in the US and then Canada.  I then started training in competitive obedience. 

Beth:  And then you moved on to Competition Obedience.  I know you enjoyed that a lot.  How long did you actually participate in that sport?
Pam:  I had seen obedience for years, and it looked challenging and intriguing.  I competed for around 12 years from 1986 to 1997 with my Tervuren Soubrette and Savant.

Beth:  What was the highest title you achieved in Competition Obedience?
Pam:  My Belgian Tervuren, Soubrette earned a UDX title.  We also competed in 7 Gaines Regionals and Classics all over the country.

Beth:    I know that you have quite a record of awards from AKC for multiple dog sports. Can you tell me a little bit about those awards?
Pam:    All together I have earned 120 titles in AKC.    I have handled 5 of my Belgian Tervuren to their breed Championships, two of them to BOS (Best of Opposite Sex) at the Belgian Tervuren Nationals, Multiple National Selects, and BOS at Westminster.   I started with tracking, then dove into competitive obedience, and then agility and have recently have added trick titles. I started in AKC with Belgian Tervuren, followed by Shetland Sheepdogs, a rescue Border Collie and Miniature American Shepherds.

Beth:  How long have you been training dogs professionally as a teacher?
Pam:  I started officially teaching people and their dogs in 1989.  I started in Unionville, Connecticut and I am still working with some of those students today with their current dogs!

Beth:  How long have you been teaching agility? 
Pam:  I have been teaching at Tails U Win since 1991 but then started teaching agility at Tails in 1997.

Beth:  How many agility classes do you teach per week on average?
Pam:  I teach 16 group classes including beginner agility to highly competitive classes and multiple private lessons weekly. 

Beth:  You are also an AKC Agility Judge. How long have you been a judge?
Pam:   I became an AKC Agility Judge in 1997.  I am also a VMO (Volunteer Measuring Official) with the American Kennel Club.

Beth:  What inspired you to become an AKC Agility Judge?  
Pam:  I wanted to become a judge so that I could give back to the sport that I loved.  I wanted to design courses that people would enjoy running and I wanted to be a fair and consistent judge.  The first AKC judges were grandfathered in from other agility organizations in the early 90's so the first group of judges came together officially in 1995.

Beth:  Can you tell me about your own personal involvement in agility?
Pam:  I believe in the importance of volunteering and at an agility trials there is such a need for volunteers to help with running them. In 2000, I started the Talcott Mountain Agility Club.  I wanted to create a group that would have the strength to put on great trials for exhibitors and judges with lots of folks coming together to support an event.  The club has grown from a handful of folks to a club of 150 plus members and we have agility trials in February, May, August, September and November every year.   I then started the AKC Agility Judges List so that Judges across the country can communicate on a private group as well as on a private FaceBook group.  I created a New England Agility Equipment group on FaceBook where people can find used or new agility equipment to purchase. I have competed with 11 dogs in agility and have put multiple MACh's on my sheltie Quest and my Border Collie Ren.  I have competed in several AKC Agility Nationals with my Tervuren, Shelties and Border Collies.

Beth:  What is your favorite part of working with people and their dogs?
Pam:  I enjoy helping people learn to communicate with their dogs so that they can work together whether it be in agility or just as life partners!   Seeing a relationship between a dog and handler blossom so that when running agility they are in sync is still a thrill for me.

Beth:  To date, what have been some of your favorite moments in your dog training career?
Pam:  There have been so many proud moments as a coach.   The first would be when my daughter, Katie, was selected to be one of the first two juniors to become  members of the AKC World Team.  She then went on to compete 4 times in the European Opens.  I have coached clients to many MACh or PACh titles.  I have had students who have won an AKC National Agility Championship in multiple height classes.  I have also had students place in the finals. Many have also placed as the top dogs in their breed for a specific year or the top dog of the year in a height class.  Your aussie girl, Grin, earned her MACh and Birdie is on her way in the preferred class.  Ninja was doing brilliantly and heading for the stars before losing his life battle.    There is a part of me that is in each of these teams. There are some that have never competed or never gotten beyond novice who have also been dear to my heart.  Watching a team that has worked so hard and they finally get their first qualifying run is exhilarating.  

(Author's note:  MACh stands for Master Agility Champion, PACh stands for Preferred Agility Champion (Preferred means handler chooses a jump height 4 " lower than their specified jump height per AKC rules))

Beth:  If you could give one positive piece of advice to people with their dogs, what would that be?
Pam:  My advice would be to try and be patient when teaching your dog anything and to be aware of what your dog is trying to communicate back to you.  Every dog is different and they are here to help us learn and grow as a team. Teamwork evolves from trust and the ability to communicate.  Patience, trust, love and devotion all make for the best relationships.  We all have the best dogs who will reside in our hearts forever.