Matters of life and death

Matters of life and death

By Karen Laker,

The intention for this month’s blog was to write about how the competitive nature of people can influence their attitude to risk. Many agility competitors believe they are not competitive by nature, the truth is that humans are intrinsically competitive which is why we as a species are always striving for better. What that better means overall is a wide debate that will go on and on – but not in this blog.

So back to competition and agility

It is good to see that agility groups and clubs up and down the country are now running training within Covid-19 guidelines, however the usual KC competitions are not scheduled for any time soon. For some (myself included) this completely changes the dynamics of training.

To help people maintain some kind of focus I’ve run a Summer league which was appreciated. Due to that success I am also running a winter league which has drawn a few more clients out of their self-imposed isolation. We will take a look at that further next month.

More pressing matters arose for us today

Our old dog Torro had a vestibular last night. Most dog owners who have had old dogs will have encountered this at one time or another. Years ago it was talked about as being similar to us having a stroke and the effects are the same. The outcome is also varied with some dogs making a great recovery. Fingers crossed that is the case for Torro. He has a strong heart and determined mind.

The difference Covid-19 made to what is already a distressing experience was emotionally draining. The thought of not being able to go into the vets with our dog or be with him in worst case scenario was indescribable. On top of that, it was at the on-call vets instead of our own familiar vet. However, the vet nurses and vets were amazing. Although we had to let them take him in, we were completely reassured by their behaviour and compassion that he was in the best care.

Luckily, he is home with us and we’ll be giving him extra care for the next 24 hours or so.

I’m sure there are so many stories like this and worse all over the world with people not being with their loved ones in their greatest need. It is an awful virus to take that away from us.

Hats off to those in the caring professions who have to deal with this daily

Thank you all for your dedication and mostly thank you for stepping up and adapting your processes whilst maintaining all your caring skills. Once again evidence that human nature will strive to do the best.

What can you and your dog achieve?

By Karen Laker

Like many other agility competitors our dogs have been brought up to love training and competing.

As lockdown eases, we are carefully able to resume weekly training and training days etc. Some COVID friendly competitions have even been run and I’ve done a Summer League with my own customers just to keep up training with an end purpose.

Personally, I have used this down time to also take a look at other dog sports for new challenges.

All the different activities I have researched have one thing in common – awards and/or titles. This is the focus we use to motivate us and give us something to aim for.

So, what about a COVID K9 programme incorporating all the skills our dogs have had to develop recently?

Basic Dog

Aim – to enjoy daily moments of living with your canine.

Evidence:

  • Pictures of dog sleeping,
  • Dog posing for yet another photo
  • Dog being taken for yet another walk with each member of the house as they go outside for a break/ daily exercise.

Lockdown Dog

Aim – to show how adaptable your dog is.

Evidence:

  • Dog settled for several hours in order to watch another box set/classic film.
  • No barking when someone comes to the door as nobody ever comes in,
  • Dog playing with hose whilst you are finding something in the garden shed (which tbh you didn’t even know existed),
  • Dog not bothered by furniture being moved around/decorating etc.

Lockdown Agility Dog

Aim – to show how obsessive we can be.

Evidence:

  • Dog enjoying ‘going back to basics’ on all training as they have time and they will now be able to get it perfect with handler sat down and using verbal commands only.
  • Dogs completing a 20-obstacle course in the garden avoiding the shed (which is now filled with garden agility equipment and actual gardening stuff), the new wildlife pond and bee attracting flower bed and still nailing that weave entry.

Outside the House Dog

Aim – to display any old dogs can learn new tricks.

Evidence:

  • Dog can at last walk on a loose lead (after all no rings to pull to, no exciting training to get to and no room for off lead zoomies), lead is obviously only 2m maximum.
  • Without instruction the dog automatically sits by your side when they see someone new, a new dog, someone on a bike or someone on a horse.

*New Outside the House Dog July 2020 – dog does not freak out when it sees you with a face mask on.

Easing of Lockdown Dog

Aim – no idea frankly as rules get a bit hazy.

Evidence:

  • Dog does not bark once whilst, yet another driver takes a photo of you receiving home improvement/ gardening/ bike accessories deliveries or dog barks continuously for the whole 10 minutes.
  • Dog wags tail furiously from a suitable social distance and does not leap all over their trainer that they had always leapt on since puppy class.
  • Dog can recall off other dogs, bikes and horses most of which have gone back to pre-lockdown activities never to be seen again.

Specialist categories

Good Pub Dog – evidenced by dog relaxing in pub.

Character Pub Dog – evidenced by dog winning over all staff and being given any leftovers.

Think about what great skill/character trait your dog has displayed this year that they should be honoured with.

Whatever your dog would win an award for, there is no doubt that their unfailing companionship is priceless in these times.

However you adapt to this new Covid-19 world, enjoy the summer and your dogs

However you adapt to this new Covid-19 world, enjoy the summer and your dogs

By Mark Laker

As lockdown gradually eases in most parts of the UK, people are adapting to the new ways of living and working with Covid-19. I’ve recently changed roles in my daily work life and having a vertual interview, meeting my new colleagues and team all online virtually, has been an interesting experience. Going into an office is an unlikely prospect for me until sometime in 2021.

Talking about new roles, my successor as Agility Team GB Manager, Greg Derrett is now in place. I’ve been in touch with Greg a few times and offered my support as he gets up to speed in the role… although I don’t think it’ll take him too long. Greg has a wealth of experience and a lot of passion for our sport – I’m sure he’ll do a great job.

It’s strange times for many sports

Some activities are still very much stopped, others are easing their way back and the more innovative ones are finding new ways to play. I’ve spoken to people who are taking stock of their interests… dare I say life, and considering their future direction in this new Covid-19 world. Many people have already adapted to a different way to life over the last four months and are enjoying spending more time with their families, appreciating the natural world more, taking more exercise and making different use of their time. 

As someone interested in psychology, the ability of humans to adapt and change according to our environment both fascinates and worries me. I’m shocked how people can be so destructive to one another and our world, but also amazed by how creative and resourceful we can be too.

One things for sure, those of us reading this article will always gravitate and find solace in our dogs.

Enjoy the summer and your dogs.

Mark.

Strange Times

Strange Times

By Mark Laker

Life is strange at the moment isn’t it? We live in a peaceful world (mostly) with people who love to spend time with their dogs. For us particularly, that involves training our dogs to be great at agility. With no shows to attend for the foreseeable future, we’ve taken the opportunity to establish and enjoy more relaxing routines and weekends.

Our dogs have been brought up to utilise their energy and enjoy regular training. They’re fed high-quality food to enhance their performance and maintain tip-top fitness. With no shows or training classes to attend, like many agility competitors we’ve scaled down the agility training.

In our household we currently have four border collies and a terrier-cross and they love learning and being active. They’re on a training programme of: learning how to just chill-out and relax around the house and garden; learning how to loose-lead walk and practicing social distancing around the extra people, bikes and horses we meet on our usual walks.

The Border Collies and Pikachu’s all love working, and although running round an agility course is the most fun in our house, anything that involves figuring out what we want them to do is fun too.

We’ve started using other activities to channel their mental and physical energy. These include:

  • Waiting in their beds patiently while their dinner is being prepared.
  • Waiting at doors & gateways until they get called individually.
  • Waiting for their turn to fetch their toy (Torro (old boy) doesn’t get this and gets 3 x as much exercise whilst we are doing this with the others). And Pikachu was a bit snooty of joining in, but now has her own toy which nobody else can have.
  • Doing sit, down, stand or a left / right turn before or on the way to their toy.
  • Loose-lead walking – in the past the main time they were on a lead was on the way to the agility ring and no one was interested in doing that calmly. J
  • Walking and balancing on logs.

They play most of these games all together, which challenges them further and its intriguing how they learn as a pack members and as individuals.

As we come out of lock down and small training classes are restart, it’s noticeable how some partnerships have definitely got tighter with this extra time we’ve been spending at home with our dogs. We’re going to keep up some of the fun training we’ve been doing as we all enjoy it.

We hope you and your dogs are keeping safe and well.

Mark & Karen.

“Stay safe and make the most of this opportunity to grow” Mark Laker

“Stay safe and make the most of this opportunity to grow” Mark Laker

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May Agility blog

By Mark Laker

We’re still in lockdown, the world is still coming to terms with covid-19, and life still goes on as people adjust to the situation.

Coping strategies

Over the last month or so I’ve been asked to share coping strategies that might help people while they’re working remotely, feeling isolated and are concerned about what our new normal might look like. I thought I’d share a few with the CSJ readers.

My sports psychology research and learning has led me down some interesting paths over the years. One common thread I hear from many experts is ‘turn obstacles into opportunities’. And even though this phrase was around long before the coronavirus, it still applies.

For me this means, I could mope around at home longing to get out, socialise, travel and be free to wander. Or I could accept that the situation is the right one for everyone and turn this into an opportunity to get stuck into projects and activities that I never normally get a chance to do. There are lots of new opportunities out there at the moment, we just have to look for them.

Control the controllables

‘Control the controllables’ is another well-used tip. There is little point worrying and wasting precious energy on things we cannot control e.g. when is lockdown going to be eased, when are canine competitions going to restart. We can be mindful of these things, but we cannot control them. We’re better off putting energy into things we can control. Like:

  • What can I do to maintain my physical and mental health and fitness;?
  • How can I offer support to family, the community and friends?
  • Controlling how much/little news and social media I absorb

Focusing on contrallables helps to build resilience, confidence and self-esteem, which are good traits to have in these times.

Don’t let the external affect the internal

My third ‘top tip’ this month is ‘don’t let the external affect the internal’. Start by writing down your key values and beliefs (if you haven’t already). Revisit them and think about how they influence your life and your decisions. Don’t let external influences distract you away from these values and try not to let external pressures sway you. Maintain a growth mind set and live to your values.

Stay safe and make the most of this opportunity to grow.

The world has changed massively…

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April 2020

By Mark Laker

Wow, the world has changed massively since my last blog. Who would have thought nearly half the world’s population would be in a lockdown situation under the threat of a nasty virus back in February.

I hope all the CSJ readers are keeping safe in these difficult times

It’s a huge challenge to the world. I have been home based for the last six years, so I’m lucky that I’m used to this way of working. We also have space to get out for daily exercise and living in a rural area means social distancing isn’t a problem either. However, I do understand the challenges, the worry and uncertainly other people are experiencing and readily offer my support where I can.

I’m confident we’ll pull through this and move on to a stronger future

In March I announced my retirement as the Team Manager for Agility Team GB. I had always planned to review my position in 2020, and after seven years in the role I decided that the time was right to hand over the reigns.

My time as Team Manager has been immensely rewarding. Of course there were challenging times and some incredible highlights too. In a role like that you grow broad shoulders and learn a lot about people; I’m sure there’s a future book in my journal somewhere.

I thought I’d have a lot of time on my hands now with no agility shows and no team manager responsibilities. However I’m finding myself busy with other projects and interests that have been on hold… a subject for future blogs.

I hope all our readers keep safe in these difficult times. And if anyone wants any hints and tips about working from home I’m more than happy to share.

Mark Laker

Agility Team GB Manager

Follow Mark Laker’s blog: http://marklaker.blogspot.com

 

Agility competition in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands raises money for children’s hospital

Agility competition in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands raises money for children’s hospital

By Adelaine Bastiaansen
Sophia benefiet wedstrijd podium 2
We had a competition last weekend in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands on 6-8th  March.
It was a competition to raise money for the children hospital Sophia in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. They raised 17.710 euros.
We had a several clear runs, but on Saturday Spice and I went 3rd on the agility course.Sophia benefiet wedstrijd podium 1

 

Watch the run on Facebook:

 ‘Fit ‘n’ Fast! review – Molly’s story

 ‘Fit ‘n’ Fast! review – Molly’s story

By: Kirsty Dodd

I’d just like to share Molly’s story with you mostly as a huge thank you for your amazing food!

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This is a very very happy Molly! 

Molly is my 4 year old rescue large munsterlander/collie mix. She was rescued along with her sister from a drunk farmer who was threatening to shoot at them. Their rescuer drove through the night to fetch the two girls from him.

She kept them as foster dogs till they could be re-homed. Molly was initially re-homed at around 6 months old but unfortunately that didn’t work out so she went back into foster care. Just as she turned 1yr old she came to live with me as a trial for the weekend with me and my husky.

Within the first week I quickly discovered Molly’s health issues! A couple of nights in I woke up to what in all honestly looked like somebody has slit their wrists in my living room. My insides dropped, Having never seen anything like it before I thought I was going to lose her.

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After many vet visits, medication trials and allergy testing it became apparent that Molly suffers from hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. The slightest bit of food that her body doesn’t agree with and it sets the whole process off again. I’ve tried Molly on grain free, sensitive, hyper allogenic, raw, the list goes on without particularly great results.  Her weight drops so fast when she has an episode and nothing seemed to be helping. Not to mention living on a budget is important to me – £70 a month on dog food for one is a last resort.

I decided to try Fit ‘n’ Fast! by recommendation of our trainer Hayley Laches. After looking into the ingredients I could see that it had all the ingredients I have seen in foods that are specific for sensitive tummies. Beet pulp, milk thistle, mint, yucca, marigold, salmon, the list goes on. So I agreed to give it a go.

Molly has been on Fit ‘n’ Fast! now since August 2019. Her tummy episodes have since since near disappeared! Her weight has gone from a very skinny 15kg on average to a healthy 20kg! – my vet was astonished last month at her weight! She loves the food so much I can carry it around as training treats too. She looks healthy! Her coat is shiny and she feels like she has some muscle mass on her for the first time in her life. Her energy and endurance has lifted and I am seeing a significant difference in her strength whilst competing in agility and hoopers.

I’m so happy with Fit ‘n’ Fast! that I have also moved my youngster, Misha Bear, on too who is also looking amazing and loving the food. She will be competing in Crufts this year in the Border Collie Breed Classes and is already looking to be an absolute superstar in both agility and hoopers! She turns 16 months old on Crufts weekend, after which she will be able to start competing in both sports.

Here are some links of Molly so you can see how amazing she is doing and I’d just like to say thank you very very much for having such an affordable and amazing food product on the market that agrees with my girl! It really has been a big deal to me how well she has done on it!

https://www.facebook.com/283716994978093/posts/3132183726798058/?vh=e&d=n

https://www.facebook.com/1781433575507217/posts/2488051634845404/?vh=e&d=n

https://www.facebook.com/1781433575507217/posts/2488050081512226/?vh=e&d=n

https://www.facebook.com/1781433575507217/posts/2484470415203526/?d=n

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/1781433575507217/posts/2383617511955484/?vh=e&d=n

Why Mark Laker looks forward to February…

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Rhyme

By Mark Laker

I look forward to the month of February. Firstly, it’s my birthday and I like to take the day off and do whatever I fancy for the day. Often that day extends to a long weekend spending time with family, friends and of course our dogs. I’ve done all of that this year.

 

Our wedding anniversary is in February too

Celebrating this day often rolls on the end of the birthday weekend…making it an even longer weekend, possibly week. And then as it’s the end of my annual leave for the year, I use up any remaining time off too. So rather than being a dark, wet, often cold month, February ends up being really enjoyable.

 

I also look forward to the second agility team GB squad day

We’ve extended this to a weekend this year just so we can cover all the topics and activities we’ve planned. There’s lots to do this year with the European Open in the UK in July. As host nation we’ll be taking our biggest team yet – up to 40 dogs.

Countdown to Crufts

 

And the other thing I look forward to in February is the countdown to Crufts. Of course this is more exciting if I’m competing there, which I am this year, so my training with Rhyme is well underway.

 

Come rain or shine, birthday celebrations or not, Rhyme and I set out to do something together everyday towards our Crufts preparations. Thank fully we’ve had some beautiful weather so far this month so we’ve been able to stick to the plan.

 

I just need to go easy on the birthday cake…

Happy New Year – 2020. Mark Laker talks about the challenges facing dog sports

Happy New Year – 2020. Mark Laker talks about the challenges facing dog sports

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Happy New Year – 2020 has arrived and promises to be another interesting year with big challenges facing us politically, on a world scale, the environment and of course topics closer to our own interests – dog sports.

On the 1st January a new jump height was introduced at Kennel Club licensed agility competitions. The new height is 50 cm and called Intermediate. It aims to address an age old issue of smaller large breeds (if that makes sense) jumping in the highest jump height category (65cm). So in effect, Border Collies (sorry to be breedist, but they’re a good example) could measure into either the intermediate or large height category.

The debates, arguments and reasoning for this additional height have been going on longer than Brexit. I won’t go over all the pros and cons – it’s done and it’ll be interesting to see how the competitions deal with the increased number of classes this year….we could have probably told Teresa May that even a simple thing like changing agility dog jump heights can’t be enacted in less than three years; she didn’t have a chance on a Brexit deal in any less! 

MLaThe new height category doesn’t effect my current agility dogs Rhyme (large) and Pikachu (small) but the three existing heights (small, medium and large) have all been reduced by 5cm too. So they will be jumping slightly lower obstacles in the future. Karen’s young bitch Chic has measured in this new height.

This reduction in jump heights for the small, medium and large categories bring KC competitions in line with the FCI and most other organisations – a good move. Increasingly more countries who compete under FCI rules are introducing a 4th intermediate type height and I wouldn’t be surprised if the governing body introduce this at their showcase European Open and Agility World Championships within the next five years too.

A more pressing matter is to get Rhyme and myself back up to agility fitness ready for Crufts in six weeks (yikes!). We’ve both had a few injury niggles over the last few months, and put on a few extra pounds over Christmas. We now need to knuckle down and get working on our fitness plans.

All the best for 2020.

Mark