woman works with a dog as it goes up an incline during a training exercise

Symphony of speed: Professor’s pups master the course

Most people know Angela Morgan, DM, as the chair of the Department of Music at Augusta University, or with a violin in her hand. What most don’t know is Morgan competes in several dog agility competitions a year and has even appeared on ESPN in the American Kennel Club National Finals.

Her journey started with a dachshund named Mattie in 1999. She saw a sign for dog agility training, had seen the event on television and decided to give it a try. Now, she’s hooked and has been doing it ever since.

While she had done dog obedience classes in the past, this really provided more enjoyment of working with dogs.

“It’s the adrenaline rush,” Morgan said. “It’s all over in 25 or 30 seconds, and I like dogs that are fast. That’s why I’ve switched to shelties. A dachshund can only do what a dachshund can do with their short legs. With shelties you have a really athletic dog, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Currently she has three dogs. One of them, Ariel, just retired at the age of 14. Morgan said she gets them when they are around 10 weeks old, starts with basic obedience and works up from there. It takes about two years to really get them in competition mode.

She and her husband have even put together a full-blown agility course in their backyard. It has jumps, a tunnel, teeter-totter, dog walk, A-frame and poles that dogs weave in between. This allows her to train the dogs on a regular basis with the convenience of not leaving home.

A woman in jeans, tennis shoes and a pullover runs alongside a white dog going through a covered obstacle course
Angela Morgan, DM, and her canines have competed all over the country in dog agility competitions.

Tempest and Miss Ariel are her two competition dogs these days, and they certainly have their own personalities. Sometimes that can be a challenge to reign in, she said.

“You try to adapt your training to that,” she said. “Both my girls, and particularly Tempest, she comes to the line barking, and she has something to say all the time. Full of opinions. My females are always full of opinions.”

At any given show there could be upwards of 400 dogs competing. For the most part they are well behaved. But on one occasion, Morgan said Tempest did something wrong and knew it, and took off for a minute. She was finally able to get ahold of her, and then it was time for the “walk of shame” back to their trailer.

woman runs with a dog as it goes over a jump at a compitition

On another occasion, Ariel saw another dog waiting for its turn, barked at it and then ran the course all by herself.

Usually they mind their manners and are rewarded accordingly with treats.

Even the very first competition in Perry, Georgia, with Mattie was memorable, but not for what you might think.

“Back then they had an obstacle called a shoot. A short tunnel and then a fabric shoot that was 10 feet long. Mattie got into the shoot and started meandering through. It was the most bizarre thing; I thought she would never come out. The crowd was laughing, and she finally came out, and everyone cheered. It was great,” Morgan said.

There are plenty of success stories, and Morgan has competed at the AKC Nationals four times. The dogs and trainers have to qualify for nationals, and speed can make a big difference. That’s where the shelties come into play. Not dropping a bar in a jump and other requirements are also figured into the scoring, but Morgan’s training has certainly paid off. It doesn’t mean the anxiety level wasn’t high.

woman poses with three dogs on the beach

“It’s a bit terrifying. Probably my background in music helps to deal with the stress,” Morgan said. “The last time was with Ariel. I knew it would be her last nationals, and I just wanted to have fun with her.”

That approach paid off as they made it out of the first two days with clean runs and then appeared on ESPN in the finals. While she called it an eerie feeling with the added lights and microphones, Morgan emphasized it was so much fun.

Finding the right dog isn’t as cut and dry as you might think. She said when she sees a litter of puppies, she wants a dog that will work with her and wants to play with her. When she got Charlie, it was more the other way around. He wanted her as much as Morgan wanted Charlie. It was a natural bond between the two.

Woman runs with her dog as it hurdles over a jump

Currently she competes in a couple of shows a month depending on her schedule, with very few in the summer. Mostly, she goes to Clemson, South Carolina, for competitions that draw dogs from all over. In the past they’ve done shows in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Oklahoma and Florida.

Up until about six months ago, she was running Charlie, Ariel and Tempest in the shows, which got to be hectic especially when they each do two or three runs a day. With Ariel being older now, Morgan has decided to retire her and goes full speed ahead with Charlie and Tempest.

For Morgan, there’s no signs of slowing down. She enjoys the competition and the rush that goes with it.

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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at kfaigle@augusta.edu.

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Avatar photo Written by Kevin Faigle

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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