Megan, a photographer, lives in The Cotswolds with her two dogs, Woody the six year old English Cocker Spaniel and Wilma the one year old Apricot F1 Cockapoo. They travel the country finding the best dog friendly places along their way, then tell us all about it on their blog, The Cotswold Spaniels. Megan and Woody are part of the Colliewobbles Agility Team competing at Crufts 2018 which starts tomorrow! Let's find out more...
1. Congratulations on qualifying for Crufts again this year! When did you first think that Woody might be good at agility and what happened next?
I believe all dogs need a job in life. Woody was from a gundog background but as I knew I wasn’t going to work him, I needed to find another job to keep his mind active. I searched for local agility clubs and we found the perfect one... six years later and they’re like my second family! We spent a year at our club training him up (mainly training me – he was a natural!) before first qualifying for Crufts with our team just one year after beginning agility.
2. How old was Woody when he first started agility training, and was he a natural from the start?
Woody was just over a year old when he began agility. To be able to actually go over jumps and the contacts, dogs have to be over a year old to make sure their bones are fully developed. He took to it straight away and is such a fast learner! Wilma started agility at about 16 weeks old. We had to wait a whole year for her to be able to go over the equipment properly but leading up to her first birthday we did what is called ‘foundation training’. Most clubs offer this for younger dogs – it’s where you learn all the commands and techniques needed to give them the best head start on to the full equipment. I believe it’s so much better beginning earlier now I’ve had the experience with both of them, but no dog is too old to begin agility. There are classes for all ages and abilities and the dogs absolutely love it.
3. Are some breeds of dog particularly good at agility?
I’d definitely say that agility is a Collie dominated sport. I think they have got the speed and brains for agility and if you look at any agility final the large dogs will be 90% Collies. Having said that, absolutely any breed can do agility. I’ve seen Huskies and Bernese Mountain dogs, to Basset hounds and pugs! There is such a mix and it’s great that they can all get involved and use their brains. Tiny dogs like Chihuahuas sometimes struggle to tilt the seesaw because they’re so light, and Great Danes have to crouch to fit through the tunnels, but owners can always adapt which pieces of equipment they put their dogs over.
4. How often do you practice and how often do you compete?
I train twice a week with each of the dogs so four hours in total, but I also have a couple of pieces of equipment at home for us to practice on in between. I’m such a bad dog mum as I must admit we hardly ever go to shows. I’ve got friends who compete every weekend, so this year it is my goal is to go to more shows! So far we’ve been to three which is good for us.
5. What is the qualifying process for Crufts?
There are a variety of classes to qualify for, some require points added up from shows throughout the year, and others are a class at a show where you need to win to qualify for Crufts. We qualified as a team. In a team there are five handlers and five dogs, you each run individually and any mistakes are counted as a score. Your four best dogs' runs are counted and the lowest score over all wins and qualifies for Crufts. Your team can be a mixture of breeds and abilities. The final then takes place at Crufts with the same scoring idea.
6. What tips would you give to anyone wanting to start their dog on agility training?