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Where are the agility-training clubs?

Trying to find clubs or English speaking trainers teaching agility who have the appropriate equipment is not easy unless I am looking in the wrong place. For those of you who are interested in agility the best suggestion I can offer is for you to ask at your local pet shop or your vet to see if they know of anyone in your vicinity.

One I did find locally only came to my notice whilst I was driving and came across a sign with a picture of a dog on it and I wondered what it was and paid them a visit. One day I went along with Kathryn Hollings to see what goes on there.

Unfortunately, we saw many glum faces from not only the owners but also the dogs. Choke chains as well as spiked collars were the order of the day and if you did not use them with vigour, the trainer or a steward took the dog off the handlers and jerked the lead so hard it made the dog squeal in pain.

If you question such harsh treatment, they tell you they are professional trainers and this is the only way to train a dog. Yes, I know this harsh method does work but happiness and enjoyment for both the handlers and their dogs were conspicuous by their absence.

Even when they used the agility equipment, it was still using enforcement training. I only saw a few dogs show any sign of happiness when they used the jumps but control was sadly lacking. One dog jumped a fence, the owner dropped the lead, and it came straight over to Winston and attacked him whilst I held his lead. Winston tried to defend himself but the trainer came over and dragged Winton off as if it was his fault. He was very harsh with him and I had to say it was not his fault so he should do something about the other dog.

All he did then was to push the dog into Winston’s face and every time it tried to attack Winston, he jerked the choke chain while the handler watched with a pained expression. Teach a dog with pain and it will learn to inflict pain on others it feels are beneath it.

This method of dog and handler training it is not for me and I hope it is not for you either. I promote painless training but it would be informative to all of us if any trainers who supports such methods or any other methods would like to inform us all as to why they believe such methods are better than other ways of training please write in so we can have an informed choice.

Last week I received an email from Bruno who has training classes in Benitachell and who organised the agility fun day a few months ago where I went along to watch. Having learnt that I had visited the fun day he invited me to visit his class one Thursday evening at 6 pm.

Once I eventually found his villa, Bruno was waiting at the gate so I did not drive right past and met me along with one of his rescue dogs. As we walked through the agility equipment area, his dog was obviously eager to use the jumps and this was not even his competition dog.

The first two things that pleased me were to see happy excited dogs wanting an opportunity to use the equipment. The second was to see not one dog wore a choke chain. Nice soft rope slip leads were the order of the day.

Many years ago, the old-fashioned police double length-training lead was the standard training lead of both professionals and civilian dog handlers. Working in Trials such a lead was an impediment and often you would see handlers hand over their leads to the stewards, as they were a distraction to both handler and their dog.

I would like to think I invented the soft rope with a ring on one end and a big knot on the other. Such leads were so easy to slip into a pocket. I use to make them free for anyone who wanted one but they were very easy to make so once seen people made their own.

Even some police handlers working in Trials moved over to using them but like all things I never got down to patenting it. I learned one day that a manufacturer was now producing them. How will I ever make my fortune when I keep giving everything away free?

Some people say that because this lead slips like a noose it is no better than a choke chain. One, it is not chain and does not pull out a dog’s hair nor rip its skin as I saw so graphically in a photograph shown on a notice board at the APASA barbeque held the other week. Second, the rope slip leads do tighten if the dog starts to pull but as it tightens like a Halti, the dog should simply back up to release itself.

I am aware people do use them like a choke chair but all I can say is the damage is less severe even accounting for rope burns or a sore neck.

I did not take Winston along to Bruno’s, as he is not yet ready to try any of the actual competition equipment yet and to have taken him that night could have been a push too far.

Bruno though did give me the opportunity to work his competition dog but my German is sadly lacking unlike his multi language skills. Never the less he still worked by taking instructions from my body language one jump at a time.

As I wrote in last weeks article that working with a dog is quite an extraordinary feeling, even with a dog, that you know is questioning all my verbal commands as to what am I wanting him to do and when was I going to give him his ball. Even Bruno was surprised and pleased that his dog would work for someone else using only body language.

Last year when I visited Ollerton Working Trial, I watched Moira Rogerson working John Rogerson´s dog for him whilst he was in America. It is excellent training by using multi handlers because a dog learns not just one person’s body language but it is also excellent sociability training. Each of us will express slightly differing body language yet we can still achieve the same result. Sometimes my wife could work my dog better than I could.

There were two main points that both Bruno and I must emphasise and they are that training could be dangerous if the owners lack the commands and control skills or training on the equipment is too soon for the experience of the dog and the second is it must be FUN.

Certainly, Bruno does have a complete set of equipment and all permanently set out in one of two small field areas attached to his villa. When handlers do reach the point of having trained their dogs in agility using all manner of natural obstacles and their dogs will listen to commands then here at Bruno’s is a set of equipment that you can use in one of his classes.

Bruno also has all the information needed should anyone wish to take their training further and want to compete here in Spain.

If there are other Agility trainers who would like to send me details, I can pass this on to those people who contact me asking for information of agility clubs in their area.

Winston and the Spiral fire escape

One final update is that Winston now goes up and down the fire escape on his own so I have removed the paper raisers and stopped giving him titbits. Who’s a clever boy then?

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