Monday, 22 August 2016

And we're off...

My young dog Moog had his first experience in the agility competition ring this weekend - wow! I'd forgotten how exciting it is to take a new dog around the course. He was great, hopefully this video clip works.

I tend to focus on foundation work until my youngsters are 18 months old at least. Moog needed all of this time and more. He has strong herding instincts due to his breed lines which has meant I needed to adjust my speed, timing and commands so we work together. I think we're going to have great fun together. I love his attitude, work ethic and speed.

For a an experiment I entered Devo in the Lower Height Option (LHO) at the same competition; that was interesting. Obviously he was a lot quicker, you don't need to be rocket scientist to work out lower height means more speed and his jump action was different. I wouldn't say better or even cleaner, just different; probably more of a hurdle than a jump.

The courses were quite straightforward, not particularly testing, although enough to give me a feel for the difference this height makes to overall handling. Would I enter another LHO with Devo? Probably not as I would want to continue competition in qualification classes.

I did notice older dogs entered in this class, I wondered if they had stopped competing at full-height and are now back running in the lower height...

Watching the Olympics and reading about how these Olympians prepare and dedicate so much in their quest for medals got me thinking about the level of commitment and work our top agility athletes prepare for their international competitions. There is certainly a lot to take from Team GB's fabulous performance in Rio and how their success will filter down to other sports.

Quite a few people have asked me why agility isn't a sport and if it'll ever be at the Olympics.

I wouldn't suggest I'm a world authority on what is/isn't a sport, however through Agility1st and working on Coaching programmes, it's clear that to be recognised as a sport in the UK there are number of criteria agility needs to have in place such as: programmes have to be available for all age groups; certain policies have to be in place about data protection and training children; structured development and training programmes need to be established, common rules and governing bodies etc. and the one big one... it's the performance of the person that counts, not the dog. All of our awards are based on the dogs performance. 

Agility1st is working in this area and will gradually address these topics through the various programmes offered to instructors. Meanwhile dog agility as a sport appears to be moving on in other countries while we're hung up on the minutiae...


Pup said...

Interesting comments about Agility as a sport. I would question whether there is much difference between controlling a horse round a set of obstacles and controlling a dog. Certainly the rider/handler has to perform perfectly to achieve a win, but the horse/dog has also to contribute and be trained, and prepared physically nd mentally for the sport.
In Equestrian sports the horse and person are BOTH marked. The horse will be faulted for knocked poles, and refusals, as the dog is in agility. The horses paces and way of going are marked in dressage.
The only real difference is that the person is on top of the horse and beside the dog.

Mark Laker said...

You make a valid point and a common observation about likening equestrian sports to agility.

As you point out the horse and the rider are both marked. In agility the handler can accumulate faults for touching the dog or equipment too. However, the final rosette/award/CC has the dogs name on it, not the handlers and this is one of the things that's stopping agility being recognised as sport in the UK.

Thanks for your comment.