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

Dark nights, muddy Moog – oh and Christmas too!

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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,

Mark

Team Manager of Agility Team GB

Helping Moog to understand

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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.

WAIT…

Willing

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.

Interested

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’.