Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Professional dog trainers?

I carried out an Agility1st assessment last weekend, the first one I've done for a while and I was impressed.

This assessment was on two trainers for a club who have signed up all their trainers to the programme. Its a good idea, all club members get the same standard of training and it maintains consistency as the handlers and dogs learn the sport. 

What also struck me was each of the trainers brought their own unique style and character to the group and yet they delivered the session to the same high standard learnt from the Agility1st programme.

Dog training clubs provide a service to the general mass of dog owners wanting a well behaved pet. As people learn about the different areas of dog training e.g. agility, obedience, heel work etc. they tend to specialise and often move away from their main club to local trainers or more specialised groups. I understand this, I've done the same in the past, however I still believe its important to support these clubs.

Agility1st set out to support and develop agility trainers in a way that helps them learn about good instruction methods, deliver structured, organised, training programmes in a professional way based upon proven methods. What I saw last weekend reassured me that our original aims were being met.

As a Preferred Education Provider to the Kennel Club (KC), Agility1st work closely with the KC in areas of agility training education. As agility continues to grow in numbers and popularity I believe this partnership will grow too. I'm sure the time will come when dog trainers will need to be registered as are many other trainers, coaches and education bodies in other sports. 

The subject of unscrupulous coaches has been in the news again recently. This has highlighted the need for people who provide training and education to be accredited or approved by the organising body. 

At the moment anyone can hire a local hall or a grass field and offer dog training services.  Isn't that a bit concerning...

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Our house...

I’ve run some great seminars this winter. They’re always interesting enjoyable days and the group dynamics and settings make a huge difference to the day. I also enjoy catching up with people later in the season for an update on their plans. So what about my 2018 plans...

Well I’ve finally finished them. There’s something in there for Moog (my young agility dog), some personal objectives for the year and of course plenty for Agility Team GB too. I’ve also been trying to develop a few new habits since the New Year. Some of these are quite straightforward like eat more fruit, less chocolate, drink more water, waste less time on social media and some are more challenging. I should be able put what I know about forming habits in to practice easily...but that’s the other hard thing about habits, they’re hard to break too!

Meanwhile other news from our house:
  • Karens young pup Chic is gorgeous and very amusing. She’s fitted in well with our other dogs and growing up to be a great dog.
  • The Japanese Chins...aka one-eye and two eyes or three-eyes as a collective, have settled in well. Eve (one-eye) is very adventurous she enjoys being outside following us around what ever we’re doing. And Lula (also known as Lula-Lula Masenbulla) likes showing us how she can jump over low jumps, hop on steps and show-off around agility equipment.
  • Devo is enjoying training with Karen while I focus on Moog. At 9 years he’s very fit and still loves his agility and made first champ final a few weeks ago...with Karen.
  • Torro Laker is still a bit special. He’s become very tolerant of puppies and little wee dogs in his old age (12 now). For a dog that had little patience with puppies when he was younger, he has been brilliant with our newcomers.
  • Mr Rhyme has been on a focused fitness programme over the winter. Karen and his physio’s have worked hard on his reoccurring injury and he is looking good... it shows how important it is to have good Health Care Professionals (HCPs) for agility dogs. 
  • And then there is Pikachu.... a great character. She has decided now Karen is running Devo and has Chic to train, that she actually likes agility. She has made good friends with two-eyes Lula and even shares a bed with her... although its probably a ploy to get more food.
Writing this makes me realise how different, special and individual each of our dogs are, and what a huge commitment it takes to look after their individual needs.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Time to perform

The Team GB Performance Weekend (PW) schedule has been published this week and we’ve made a few changes this year.

Firstly we’re holding it at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) which the Kennel Club has a partnership with. NTU has excellent facilities for all weathers, classrooms and spectator seating. The next two EOs and EOJ 2018 will be held on sand at equestrian centres, so it makes sense to hold the last squad day on a surface similar to the one we’ll be competing on.

We’re also holding a final for the EO win-on-place (open to squad members) at the PW. This should be an exciting to watch.

Once again the Coaching Team will be looking for up to 12 dogs and handlers to invite to the 2019 development squad. The 2018 development members are all part of this years squad and I hope they have benefitted from working with the Coaching Team. Bringing new people under the Coaching Teams radar is something I’m keen to progress. 

Unfortunately we’ve had to limit the eligible grades and entry numbers again. This is due to the time available and having manageable classes numbers. I’ve been asked if there can be more Team GB events held during the year to attract new handlers. If we had resources to help organise, host and run them that maybe a possibility in the future. In the meantime we’ll be filling the PW to the max in each height.

We will be ‘spotting’ dogs and handlers around the competitions again this year hoping to see some outstanding young partnerships (dogs and handlers) who we can also invite on to the 2019 development squad.

If you’re interested in coming along and watching this years adult squad and the junior team competing on courses set and judged by an international FCI judge then we’d love to see you.

Have a great week.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Just start somewhere...

So 2018 has started I guess a lot of people are going back to the day job today feeling motivated for the new year ahead... or not....

At this time of the year there are a lot of blogs, articles, forums etc. encouraging us to set goals and targets for the new year and how it will make us incredibly successful. The more I read about this the more options I discover. Should I be setting long term goals, short term targets, writing stuff down, using Apps, buying wonderful diaries that will magically enable me to hit every goal...so many choices.

Each year I aim to have two or three big goals in each area of my life, home, career, sport, interests etc. Depending on what they are depends on how I focus on them. Some require project management software to track them, others I use my daily notebook and others I need more of a daily prompt through habit trackers. I've come to the conclusion that there isn't a one-size fits all for me.

What system do you use?

I recently read interesting research on the use of electronic devices v paper. The research showed that over 80% of people using paper systems remembered more of what they wrote than those who used laptops/tablets etc. Apparently there is a strong cognitive connection between taking pen to paper compared to tapping keys. I use both methods and I find physically writing with a pen on paper requires more thinking than tapping keys or even writing with pen on a tablet. 

Personal preferences?

What about those people who never set goals? Research shows we are more focused and enjoy life more if we have something to aim for. That could be a holiday, a family event, a sporting achievement, a financial achievement etc... We are wired to push forward and evolve, so if you've never written goals or targets for the year and don't know where to start, my advice is just start writing. 

There's a great book called 'write it down, make it happen', a good place for anyone wondering about where to start.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

An amazing agility year for a junior handler

This week I'm very pleased have Sara Bacon as my guest blogger. Sara is a junior handler who did very well with her three dogs at the Agility Team GB Junior Try-out day making it through to the second day and she also won the Novice Olympia finals this year - an amazing result for a young handler.

Over to Sara...

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

How far have we come ....guest blogger

This weeks blog comes from Laura Hope. Laura was on the Development Squad and has been invited on to this years squad preparing for 2018 Team Selection.

I've asked Laura to write about her experience at her first squad day. 

Squad Day 1……

Upon reflection of my first squad day I have found myself thinking of how far we’ve come.  Jade, my first collie has taken us from grade 1 to 7 and after the performance weekend in 2017 we were asked to join the GB Development Squad and now the 2018 GB Agility Squad. 

This in itself brought up many emotions, excitement, elation and nervousness. This also led me to begin to analyse our performance.  As our first squad day approached I felt apprehensive, a day spent with some of the best agility handlers - eeekk!!!!  I woke up incredibly early on the day and left with plenty of time, arrived and got Jade out of the van to stretch her legs.  I was still incredibly nervous and then I saw a friendly face – Sian Illingworth.  She smiled, said hello, we had a small conversation then went our own way.  I immediately felt a little less nervous (Thank you Sian).  More of the squad arrived and the day began. 

First off, registration and onto the intro where all of the key management members introduced themselves and gave an overview of their roles within the team.  I found this very useful to understand people’s positions and what they are looking at specifically.  All the squad were present for this, we then split into our groups for various activities.

There were four different sections each group participated in.  “Welcome to the Squad 2018” presented by Mark Laker, which really made me think about the squad as a whole and the team work within it.  What it means to be on the squad not just for both Dog and Handler individually but as a team member.  

Second up for my group was a very thought provoking presentation by Martin Cavill around technical analysis.  This session was interesting and caused a lot of discussion within the group.  Having such capacity to analyse courses / runs in such technicality is something I found fascinating.  The conversation within the group was interesting and also comical at times.  Next up was vet/physio check with Maria Johnston and Hana McNicholas who were very friendly and accommodating.  Their manner with Jade was brilliant and just what I expected and wanted from a GB vet/physio. They introduced themselves, were gentle in their approach - spot on in my opinion.  

As our group was the biggest group the vet/physio checks made some of us late for the handler fitness session.  Did we manage to get out of it?  We weren’t that lucky.  There were four different tests with Nicky Grant and Ruth MacGill, all designed to assess different aspects of fitness and I must admit I was surprised at how competitive I got with myself.  As we were a little late with this section and the other groups had pretty much finished they were all congregating in the arena and were able to watch us doing our sprint tests etc.  “Oh no, people are watching - there was that nervous feeling again” I started my sprint test and I heard the group shouting and cheering me on.  The team spirit within the squad and encouragement shone through.

On my way home after stopping for a coffee with Lucie Hinchley, I thought about not only how tired and achy I was but also how much I enjoyed the day.  I will never consider myself an elite agility handler, but being among them on the squad day helped me to realise that we all love the sport, we all want to do and be better, but our dogs are what always come first.  The team spirit within the day was obvious and everyone appeared to embrace this, everyone came together, there was comradery and encouragement alongside support.  A long but a great day.

Thanks Laura, great blog of the first squad day.

To find out more about Agility Team GB visit the Kennel Club International Agility pages

Sunday, 10 December 2017

And we're off again...

The journey to selection for 2018 the GB International Agility Team has started. Last weekend young handlers and this years senior squad attended the first two Agility Team GB days at Nottingham Trent University Brackenhurst Campus.

YKC EOJ Try-out Day 1.
Interest in the European Open Juniors [EOJ] increases each year. Two years ago 70 handlers attended the first try-out day, this year there were 140. And of course the standard increases too. Approx. 50% of the top performing young handlers from day 1 will be invited to go forward to the second day in February.  

We'll then select the team who will represent GB in The Netherlands in 2018.

For the senior handlers their first squad day was designed to set the scene for the 2018 World Championships in Sweden and the European Open in Austria and help them start their preparations. For the first time this years squad includes handlers from the Development squad and ex-juniors. So we have a diverse group with good depth across all heights.

We received useful feedback from this years teams helping to shape our plans for 2018. Preparations are designed around the specific championships, our objectives and longer term plans. Squad Day 1 is an important day to share information with the handlers.

Marc & Mr Big
Sadly we were missing Marc Wingate-Wynn [Team Assistant] at squad day. Marc has decided to set down due to his work and personal commitments. 

Marc has been a huge help and support for me and the Coaching Team. His professionalism and experience will be missed.

I'm sure the Coaching Team, our sponsors and the handlers who've worked with Marc appreciate all his support as Team Assistant.

EO 2017 Coaching Team

To find out more about Agility Team GB visit The Kennel Clubs Team pages