Chasing Agility: A Dog Trainer’s Journey
From a college dorm to international competitions, one co-op member’s interest in dog agility takes flight.
In 1998, Daisy Peel, a college student, longed for a furry companion. However, the restrictions of dorm life made owning a dog impossible. As she spent her summer as a “dorm mom,” an idea took hold while watching Animal Planet’s agility demonstrations. Inspired by what she saw, Peel decided she wanted to explore dog agility when she moved off campus and into her own apartment, a time when dog agility was still a relatively niche specialty.
Undeterred, Peel, originally from Oregon, started working with her first dog, honing her skills and finding her talent.
While she was working as a high school chemistry teacher during the day, Peel’s passion for dog agility continued to grow. She started teaching evening agility classes and sharing her knowledge and expertise with others.
She clinched her first national championship in 2007 and as her reputation grew, demand for her teaching increased as well. That’s when Peel had to make a difficult decision: continue to teach or devote herself fully to dog agility.
Seizing the chance to turn her passion into her profession, she left her teaching job for an opportunity that would take her around the world, competing in prestigious events and sharing her expertise through clinics and workshops.
Calling Ohio home
“Last year, I was in Pennsylvania for an event and if you live on the West Coast, you pretty much have to fly everywhere because most of the big events are on the east side of the country,” says Peel. “I was pretty tired of flying and my husband had taken a new position and we had three places to consider — Seattle, Washington, Texas, or Ohio — because we had to be close to his work.”
After some consideration, Peel and her husband, George Mariakas, determined Ohio would be the best fit. They had long-time friends in Ohio and knew there were a lot of good dog agility handlers throughout Ohio. Peel and Mariakas started looking at property in Ohio in December 2021 and by February, they had sold their home in Oregon.
They found an ideal property, served by Pioneer Electric Cooperative, in Troy, Ohio. They were drawn to the dog agility community and unique property prospects to house her business, Agility Challenge Acres, a training facility where they conduct private lessons and workshops, and host competitions.
Whether dogs and trainers are starting from scratch or refining their skills, Peel takes a personalized approach, tailoring her teachings to their individual needs and goals.
Her success stems from her ability to teach handlers to communicate effectively with their dogs, resulting in exceptional performances on the agility course.
“I also teach online. So I’ll set up a sequence in here and then video myself attempting the sequence and describing the sequence and coaching people on how they might run the sequence with their own dogs and their own training spaces, and people all over the world sign up for those online services,” says Peel.
While most of her clients hail from various parts of Ohio and neighboring states, her reputation extends far beyond. People from all over the country and even some outside the country, as far as Australia, seek her guidance, either through in-person training or her online training services. Her dedication to finding and building on the talents of both dogs and their handlers has led to numerous successes, with students achieving national and international recognition in the world of dog agility.
With a focus on high-level training and a commitment to providing challenging and enjoyable courses, Peel’s training has gained popularity among agility enthusiasts seeking a new level of athleticism and teamwork.
“I have won five national titles. I have students who have competed at the national level and they have done well, and I have students who have competed internationally,” says Peel. “To have students who’ve been on those teams representing our country overseas, yeah, it’s awesome.”
From her college dorm room to standing atop national and international podiums, she continues to enhance the potential of dogs and their owners, strengthening the bond between them and shaping the future of dog agility.
For more information on Daisy Peel and Agility Challenge Acres visit: www.daisypeel.com.