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


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.


Dark nights, muddy Moog – oh and Christmas too!


By Mark Laker

It’s that time of year again. It comes round quickly every year… I’m sure the years are getting shorter as it comes quicker each time. Yes you’ve guessed it dark nights, colder weather, wet muddy dogs and log fires….oh and Christmas too.

Until last month we noticed how much drier the climate is living on the Eastern side of the country. We don’t seem to get anywhere near the amount of rainfall we used to experience in the South. That was until this winter, then it all changed.

thumbnail_DB036B1C-2CD2-4F61-91B1-3A5A87406EFA_4_5005_cFor the first time in five years the ditch around our field became a stream in full flow.  For the first time we had our very own puddles and not far away the River Trent has burst its banks flooding 100’s of acres of farmland. After a few days of constant rain, even the dogs appeared to be getting fed up with being wet – except Moog, he loves the rain and adores puddles.

So that’s winter here then

We give our dogs a break from competition and serious training over the winter. If we do any competitions they’re generally local, low key competitions and more to keep us and the dogs practiced.

I use this time of the year to catch-up with planning for the next year

My coaching students have already started thinking about their 2020 objectives and we often have a few seminar’s planned in too. The dogs would do agility all year round. However, they seem to appreciate the rest, they look forward to their exercise walks and a different winter maintenance routine.

2020 is looking like another interesting year for us with some new projects and opportunities on the horizon.

I wish Ceri, all the CSJ Team and all our readers a very happy and relaxing Christmas and New Year.  I hope you manage to stay warm and dry and enjoy some time with your families, friends, and of course your dogs.

Happy Christmas,


Team Manager of Agility Team GB

Helping Moog to understand


By Mark Laker


This is the training that Karen Laker is using  with our young dog Moog, I asked her if she would be happy to write about the training she’s doing  to help him understand start-lines. It’s called… WAIT.



Moog does really want to be a good boy and is so willing. It’s actually his willingness that can cause a problem.

He’s willing to get going as soon as I give the signal or maybe he’ll go sooner just to make sure 😊

Training needs to help him understand various things:

  • It’s not helpful to me for him to use his initiative;
  • Sit/stand/down means do that until given another command;
  • Only ‘okay’ or ‘go’ means release;
  • He can do things away from me.

Able – to deal with external distractions:

  • Other dogs;
  • My movement;
  • Other dogs moving;
  • People talking to me.

Until he is comfortable and confident around these things, it’s much harder for him to stay on the start line. His lack of confidence means he really isn’t able to stop there.

Training includes simple daily confidence building. I never underestimate work revolving around recall and loose lead walking for relationship and calming when out and about.

He is also on CSJ Focus as recommended by Ceri. It has made a difference and I used it previously with Rhyme when he was younger too.


Sometimes an ‘obedience’ style wait can flatten a dog. Although Moog has high drive he is also very sensitive so a strict command could knock his confidence.

Using toys, treats & ground markers I aim to keep him interested and understand that inactivity can be a fun challenge.

Trusted or Trained

For long lasting performance I want a clear and concise routine that he totally gets and will work under pressure. At the moment this looks a long way off. I don’t want to have negative association for him or me on the ultimate routine so I am breaking it down into smaller elements and doing more away from the start.

This includes:

  • Waiting until he’s told to get his food;
  • Waiting at every gateway/barrier;
  • Positional change away from me towards a toy;
  • Being rewarded for staying in a crate/bed while other dogs get attention and do tricks;
  • Looking at learning other skills e.g. tracking to gain more understanding and therefore more trust in each other.

With every job that he learns in different way and a different environment his confidence will grow and then we will have all elements in place for that (currently) elusive startline wait.

If you’re interested in seeing some of the games/challenges we’ve used, follow him on #moogstartline or if music appeals to you join his Spotify playlist #moogstay which features amongst others: ‘should I stay or should I go’  and  ‘stop in the name of love’.


That winning feeling…


By Mark Laker,

Coming away from a big competition with great results provides a lot of satisfaction and gives the whole team a feeling of achievement. Coming away with a medal, class wins and top five places provides that winning feeling and causes huge excitement amongst the team.


The FCI Agility World Championships in Finland was another huge success for Agility Team GB. The large team won a bronze medal in the team event. Euan Paterson won the individual large agility class and Lauren Langman finished overall 4th in the small individual class.


When we take the results from the Junior European Open and the European Open (adults) into consideration, these results from the FCI World Championships make 2019 one of the teams most successful years with medals, class wins and high places across the three championships.


There are other good news stories below these highlights too

We’ve worked hard at our performance in all areas this year, not just podium places. We’ve seen significant improvement across the board. Our clear objectives and the strategy to achieve them is showing though in our overall performance figures.


We’ve had a few weeks to recover from our trip to Finland before we start planning for the 2020 season. The Coaching Team have just held their planning day at Hartpury College / University which will provide fantastic facilities for the team to prepare for next years competitions. This new partnership opens up opportunities for more research, use of facilities and access to experts in the canine and sports fields.


So we have lots of good news stories to share with next years squad and of course high expectations to build on.

Tactics and strategy are playing a much bigger part at the top level of the sport

Image (1)By Mark Laker

Where has the summer gone? I recall a few really hot days with the dogs either competing, out for walks or just lounging about in the garden, but July at the European Open with the juniors and then with the adult team seems ages ago.

In a weeks time we’ll be in Finland getting ready for the FCI Agility World Championships, the highlight of the year in the international dog agility calendar. With over 40 countries attending it promises to be an amazing competition. I’ll report back on this next month.

Talking about amazing competitions, earlier in the year we had a dog-swap at home (only for competition and training). I’m currently running Karen’s agility dog Rhyme and Karen is training and running Moog.  Rhyme’s a great all-round dog to train and compete with – we’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve also had some successes noticeable winning the championship class at Weardale show which qualified us for Crufts 2020. Karen and I are both really pleased with this result and I’m quite proud that Rhyme will the fourth agility dog that I’ve competed with on the famous green carpet.

I’ve also found it really interesting watching how the game is changing at the top level this year; especially in the championship classes. Tactics and strategy are playing a much bigger part at the top level of the sport. So much so that those handlers who are able to change their game plans to deal with pressure, course design and competition definitely have the competitive edge. This has always  been the case to some extent, however I’m seeing a noticeable change this year and a need for handlers to learn these skills.

So I had better get my game face sorted for Crufts 2020.

Best regards,


GB Team Captain

2019 will likely go down in international agility history


By Mark Laker

2019 will likely go down in international agility history as the year the European Open was run at night. With day time temperatures in the high 30’s a decision was made to start the competition at 7pm and run until to midnight. Then start at 5am the following day and run until 10:30am. After that it was too hot for dogs and humans to be doing agility.

Team GB rose to the challenge of the disrupted time table and ended up having one of our most successful EO’s ever.

Our focus this year has been on improving consistency. Our results demonstrated we’ve done exactly that. 


5th places in all three individual events (S,M & L). The highest place’s we’ve ever achieved in the small and medium height categories.

All three large teams made the team relay final – we’ve never achieved that before either, with one team finishing 5th overall.

Ex-juniors and handlers from the development programme in the placed teams and individual placing. 

All these results show we’re improving across all three height categories and our various programmes are bringing competitive dogs and handlers through to the adult teams. Of course when we’re looking at elite performance against the best in the world, there are always improvement opportunities. However, I’m encouraged that despite the challenges of this year’s championships, the team performed exceptionally well, supported each other, remained upbeat and were well prepared for the courses the judges set.

Another highlight was the handing over of the EO flag to the UK. We host the championships in 2020 which is a really exciting prospect.


Best regards,


Mark Laker

UK Team Manager


Sven and Blitz won a 2nd place on the agility course at the European Open Agility


By Adelaine.Bastiaansen

Sven and Blitz had a 2nd place at the agility course on the European Open Agility Kreuzlingen, Switserland.

They started on Friday 12th of July with the jumping, but there was thunder, so Blitz was afraid and run away. Sunday the 14th, they had the agility course and went 2nd.


There where 25 dogs in his class and total there were 450 competitors.


This was already the 3rd time that Sven and Blitz were on the stage. Also in 2017, in Luxembourg and in 2018 in The Netherlands.