2014-02-21 / Front Page

Winning smile

Local collie recognized nationally
By Tracy Orzel
Contributing Writer


Delaney Ratner and her 7-year-old border collie, Kelso, took first place in the Westminster Kennel Club’s first-ever agility competition on Feb. 8 in New York City. 
(Westminster Kennel Club photo) Delaney Ratner and her 7-year-old border collie, Kelso, took first place in the Westminster Kennel Club’s first-ever agility competition on Feb. 8 in New York City. (Westminster Kennel Club photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – If every dog has its day, then that day for one 7-year-old border collie was Feb. 8, when Delaney Ratner and her dog Kelso won the Westminster Kennel Club’s first-ever agility competition in New York City.

During the timed competition, dogs are judged on accuracy as they navigate jumps, tunnels, ramps and weave poles alongside their handlers.

Ratner attended the competition with her mother, Cindy Ratner, who competed with her two dogs: Zep, a Shetland sheepdog and BAM!, a border collie. The family’s miniature schnauzer, Jonesy, also walked away a winner, placing first in the 12-inch height class.

Ratner and Kelso, however, are used to winning. In 2013, he was an alternate on the world team and won the United States Dog Agility Association National Championship in 2012, as well as several regional championships.


Delaney Ratner, a Cape Elizabeth native, has been training and competing in agility competitions since she was 6-years-old. 
(Jack Grassa courtesy photo) Delaney Ratner, a Cape Elizabeth native, has been training and competing in agility competitions since she was 6-years-old. (Jack Grassa courtesy photo) The Cape Elizabeth native received Kelso as gift from friend and renowned agility trainer Jennifer Pinder in 2010.

Ratner became interested in the sport when she was 6 years old, after watching her mother train the family’s Shetland sheepdog.

“The USDAA has a junior handler program, and so Delaney would be out in the yard with me playing with the dogs when she was really little,” said Cindy Ratner.

Since then, Ratner has gone on to compete in Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, Chicago, Pennsylvania and California.

Both mother and daughter teach agility classes in southern Maine and travel for seminars.


Delaney's mother, Cindy Ratner, who competed with her two dogs, BAM! and Zep, said the Westminster Kennel Club agility competition was a terrific experience. “People were super-friendly; very, very helpful. Very accommodating. It was a really terrific experience,” she said. (Westminser Kennel Club photo) Delaney's mother, Cindy Ratner, who competed with her two dogs, BAM! and Zep, said the Westminster Kennel Club agility competition was a terrific experience. “People were super-friendly; very, very helpful. Very accommodating. It was a really terrific experience,” she said. (Westminser Kennel Club photo) For those interested in entering their dogs in agility competitions, Ratner said owners should be prepared to invest at least a year and a half to two years in series of classes with an accredited agility instructor.

For pet owners looking to teach Fido the fundamentals, like sitting or housebreaking, Cindy Ratner said the sooner training starts, the better.

“A lot of times with basic behavior we only get dogs once there’s been a problem, but if you can get people involved in puppy classes or family pet classes then they can reinforce the behaviors that they want before there’s a problem,” Cindy Ratner said.

Like her mother, Ratner is a huge proponent of positive reinforcement when it comes to behavior training. However she “doesn’t bother with that.”

“My dogs can’t walk on a leash. They jump up on people when they come in the house, they bark at the door, but they can do agility equipment like 4 feet away from me and run really fast, so I don’t care.”

Ratner is a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she studies economics and runs an on-campus student organization.

“It’s a pretty big balancing act, but it’s kind of what I’ve been doing since I was in high school. I played sports. I had a job. I did extracurriculars, so I’m just used to having a really full schedule,” Ratner said.

In order to keep Kelso with her, Ratner petitioned the school, which requires all freshmen to live on campus, for a housing exemption.

Without agility equipment at school, Ratner keeps Kelso active with crosstraining and learning new tricks.

Kelso is able to weave in and out of her legs, beg and can nearly do a handstand by backing up into a wall.

“It’s so cool to be able to know that I taught them those skills, that they learned them from me,” Ratner said. “It’s a really strong bond and then you get to go out there and (compete) … it’s pretty awesome.”

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