Just for Fun Dog Agility provides a socially distant and affordable way to challenge and train your dog


Adopting a dog is an extremely rewarding experience for most people. Not only are you giving a deserving dog a home, but you are also gaining a loyal companion. However, adopting can present many difficulties that aren’t always spoken about. If you adopt a dog from a shelter, the dog might struggle with anxiety around humans and/or other animals. This can make it difficult to form a bond with your dog and cause trouble when trying to train it. Certain breeds might need more mental stimulation than a few chew toys and going on walks. In a town as small as Ridgecrest, it can be difficult to find ways to deal with undesirable behaviors in our pups at an affordable price. Some trainers can cost thousands of dollars. But, you might find some local luck at Just For Fun Dog Agility. 

Laura Miller — known to some as Laurie Miller — currently runs Just for Fun Dog Agility. About 20 years ago, she and Sherry Licklider put together a dog agility group out in Inyokern. After Licklider moved to Texas, Miller moved the equipment to her property and has been running it ever since. She currently hosts practices alongside her four furry companions: beagles Sierra and Temperance (Tempe); her dachshund, BumbleBee; and her terrier mix, Hamish. 

Agility is a course of different obstacles that challenges dogs to use different skills such as jumping, weaving, and balance. It is a great way to mentally stimulate dogs, and even has national-level competitions. Agility offers many benefits along with the mental challenge of the obstacles.

Agility is widely used to develop confidence in dogs and is really great at building the relationship between a dog and their person,” said Miller.  “No dog needs to continue to feel fearful.  We can help a dog overcome fear and develop some coping strategies.”

At Miller’s agility class, she will guide you and your dog through the courses, then allow you to work independently with your dog while giving feedback as you practice. There are no size or breed restrictions; however, she recommends that puppies practice obstacles that don’t involve jumping to ensure that they don’t injure their growing bodies.

Denise, who has been attending agility for the past three years, has seen the changes that agility can bring in her mini Australian Shepherd, Snickers.

“He had gone from a shy, overactive dog to a confident and happy competitor,” said Denise. “Although his shyness still surfaces with strangers, he is outgoing with known friends and dog buddies.” 

For those who wish to further their dog’s training, Miller also hosts Rally obedience practices in Upjohn Park. Rally obedience is a more relaxed style of training consisting of different stations with different commands for the dog to perform. Miller started these classes after she began competing in Rally competitions with her previous dog, Jaxom. She found that they were better suited for dogs who were nervous around strangers. This style of obedience can also be brought to national-level competitions.  

During the pandemic, Miller has taken multiple steps in order to ensure the safety of participants.

“Most of the time we are separated by two dog leash lengths anyway, so we are probably at least 10 feet apart from each other naturally,” said Miller. “If someone is not comfortable joining others, they can work in the playground by themselves with a reservation.”

Along with these precautions, Miller wears a mask for the duration of the practice, and asks that attendees do, too. Both Rally and agility practices are held in large outdoor spaces. Furthermore, weekend and holiday events have been cancelled to fit the guidelines of group gatherings. 

With any new activity with your dog, you might experience some hesitation, especially if you have a nervous dog that barks at people or dogs. For the safety of humans and dogs alike, Miller does not recommend agility and Rally practices for dogs with severe behavioral issues, such as aggression. However, dogs who are simply nervous may benefit from the interaction with other dogs at these practices.

Linda Finco, who currently attends agility and Rally practices with her golden retrievers Tucki and Kyon, suggests potential participants see firsthand how the agility classes work.

“For new owners, I would recommend coming out without your dog and just observe and talk to people about the activity,” said Finco. “Next bring your dog out and just walk around the activity to see how your dog reacts.”

Before attending the practices with other dogs, participants must meet with Miller to learn more about the course and see if it will be a good fit for your dog. For dogs who are hesitant around pups bigger than them, Miller hosts separate practices for dogs of different sizes. Additionally, if you are looking to prepare your dog for competition, Miller can set up agility and Rally courses that would be similar to those in competition. 

Many attendees have high praise for Miller’s practices. 

“Laura makes both activities fun and relaxing,” said Kathy Martin, who currently attends practices with her Dalmatian, Rocky. “Most people come out to have fun and even those who compete don’t put any pressure on anyone whose dog isn’t perfect — and none of the dogs are perfect.”

Miller’s affirmations and relaxed environment are what pushed my family to continue bringing our dog, Dusty, to practice. When we adopted him at four months old last August, he was very nervous around unfamiliar people and dogs. He would bark and growl at any strangers, except for children. At his first agility practice, he barked the entire time. Throughout the practice, Miller reminded us that it would get better, and it did! He now has a few close puppy friends that he loves to run around with after finishing the course for that week. He even approaches familiar human attendees. We have also seen a cognitive change in him. After starting agility and obedience practice, he picks up on new skills and tricks in just a few days, whereas before it could take upwards of a week. He loves to run through our makeshift backyard agility course in between practices and show off his new obedience skills.

Along with helping dogs become more confident, Miller has also helped owners train their dogs for prestigious competitions and titles, such as the National Agility Invitational and the Master’s Agility Championship Title. Miller’s Just For Fun Dog Agility and Rally obedience classes have helped people establish closer bonds with their dogs and train for competitions. For all that Miller helps owners learn, she doesn’t charge for any of her practices. Her practices have produced some amazing results in dogs, and are a great resource for anybody who wants to help their dog be the best they can. 

To contact Miller with any questions and for more information on practice schedules, visit her Facebook page: Just for Fun Dog Agility Playground.