Circles of life and agility with Mark and Karen Laker in 2021

Circles of life and agility with Mark and Karen Laker in 2021

By Mark and Karen Laker

We are off on holiday for two weeks from Friday.

Then sadly Mark’s Dad passed away. Having seen how old age had transformed him so he was no longer able to feed himself, sit up etc. it takes away the edge of grief in that you feel his life was not what he had wanted. With our dogs it is our responsibility to make the decision over quality of life and Mark’s Mum felt it strongly that it seemed unfair for him to continue to deteriorate past the point that a decision would have been made.

A funeral is not great at the best of times but Covid rules made it all more confusing and exhausting. Overall though Mark’s Mum felt his Dad would have felt he’d had a good send off with enough family and friends able to attend, a choir singing his favourite hymns while a CD clip of a brass band he’d enjoyed played.

On the way back from the funeral our van started making strange noises.

One of my customers, Adele had mentioned a few months ago that she’d like to do mixi pairs but needed a small dog partner so I volunteered Pikachu. This gave me the motivation to get her back into agility and enter a show.

With the van not being safe to use and being tired from the funeral the show didn’t look a good prospect.

Adele offered me a lift so at 5:45am we fixed a crate in the back of her car and loaded up with Lucy, Oscar, Pikachu and Chic we set off.

This was my first real show back

It was great to see so many friends, the weather held up, the organisation was good and the courses were fun.

The pairs course worked well for Pikachu but not so well for Lucy. But for our first time competing together it wasn’t a bad performance.

Meanwhile I had felt out of sorts about being in grade two with my young BC. Partly because having had successive dogs winning up to champ for many years now it seems unfair on the grade two dogs to have to compete against experienced handlers and partly because I had not paid attention to this rule when it came out which meant staying in it longer than necessary. I had not appreciated that dogs needed an agility win and for her first season I only competed in jumping classes.

I totally understand that the sport is called agility and so potentially if a dog can not do all the equipment it should not progress but over the years I had enjoyed allowing my dogs to get used to the competition environment without the extra pressure that contact criteria inevitably brings. Chic was no exception. She gained confidence in 2019 resulting in two jumping wins and was going to be ready for agility courses in 2020!

Personally I did not feel joy in going to any ‘covid’ shows so here we were in 2021 still in grade two.

People talk about their old, experienced dogs as being their comfy slippers. Chic is that already or maybe the best fitting running shoes you can get. Either way as soon as I left her on the start line and turned to look at her I felt ready to attack the super course that had been set. It didn’t matter what day it was yet alone what grade – we were there to accomplish our best run. Old habits kicked in, the on/off training didn’t seem problematic and we trusted to what we had done rather than worried about what hadn’t and we went clear.

As it’s a while until our next show it means next time we compete she’ll be in grade three. I can take a few shows to find our feet, work out what we need to get better at and have fun perfecting those skills ready for next year.

I’ve recently reread Write it Down Make it Happen and some strange things have happened that I forgot I’d written down e.g. Chic winning into grade three and getting a red van – but that’s a whole other blog.


Thank you

Mark and Karen Laker

www.agility1st.co.uk/

Mark and Karen Laker pack CSJ at the top of their suitcase

Mark and Karen Laker pack CSJ at the top of their suitcase

By Mark Laker

We’re going to The Orkney Islands and Scotland for our holiday this year for hiking, sightseeing and to catch up with Karen’s family. We’ve also booked a day’s sea kayaking exploring caves and wrecks around Orkney’s coast on what is labelled a ‘novice trip’.

Just before Covid we had joined our local canoe club

I did a lot of slalom canoeing in my youth and am still comfortable in a kayak. Karen on the other hand had a lot of enthusiasm and needed to work on her technique – in fact that is the problem, she only seems to be strong in one arm – going in a straight line alluded her for a while. Then she decided to apply her sports psychology skills, which look like this:

• Think of the dream – paddling in sea caves
• Consider what is needed to achieve that dream
• Break it down into a long term goal – written in current tense with emotions and senses: ‘The rugged beauty of the cliffs covered in nesting birds is mingled with their cries, the smell of the sea and the taste of salt water as we confidently paddle along the coastline.’

Then turn that dream into Short Term Goals written using SCCAMP criteria:

• Specific – By the middle of July I will be able to do a day’s sea kayaking in Orkney.
• Challenging – The trip I’ve booked is for novice paddlers – am I at novice level yet?
• Controllable – I can book sessions and the trip…not to be confused with controlling a sea kayak!
• Achievable – We are now regularly paddling for a couple of an hours at a time
• Measurable – The more I practise the stronger I will be so I will measure how many hours practice we get in.
• Personal – I spent many a happy holiday in Orkney on my uncle’s farm and would love to experience some of the islands from the sea.

Now I consider the skills required to reach those goals

One of the skills I need is to know how to deal with a capsize situation, which we practised last week. I felt my body strength needed to pull myself back into the kayak in water was lacking and so I find myself on a similar fitness regime to agility. Weight loss, planking and running for aerobic strength as well as time on water.

The rest of the holiday we plan to be sightseeing and walking the dogs.

CSJ products are going to be well used:

• Kibble – easy to feed – dry or wet if they need more fluid
• Billy No Mates keeping the fleas and ticks at bay
• Skinny Spray for protection before they go running in moorlands
• Skinny Cream in case of any irritations
• Skinny Dip Shampoo – Chic will surely find something to roll in and I must remember to order,
• DemBones – ideal if they get ‘deli belly’

I hope you have fun planning for your own holiday whether you use it to push yourself to achieve something or are just relaxing.

Press release: No Ake! from CSJ

Press release: No Ake! from CSJ

25.5.21

No Ake! Is a highly potent herb that is aimed at the nutritional maintenance of the dog’s musculo-skeletal system and in particular the inflammatory response.

Composed of Devil’s Claw Root it is extremely effective and can provide that extra bit of help for dogs experiencing acute stiffness of the joints or are perhaps getting over an injury – without the need for steroids or pricey alternatives AND it won’t upset the dog’s tummy.

Here’s what one dog owner posted: “Amazing supplement!!”

“I used No Ake for my elderly golden retriever, Ellie, to ease her aching joints for several years. She only needed vet meds as well from about the age of 15, and lasted past 16 years and 4 months. Thank you CSJ!”

The tiny daily dose can be added to the dog’s dinner on a continuous or ad-hoc basis and is provided in a 100g foil pouch of the dry herbs or in the 250ml liquid form of ‘No Ake! Tincture’.

Find out more about No Ake!

For more on CSJ products visit www.csjk9.com or call 01745710470

… and follow CSJ winners on

Facebook: https://facebook.com/specialistcaninefeeds/

Twitter:  @CSJDogFood

Instagram: @CSJDog_Food

YouTube:  CSJ Specialist Canine Feeds

www.awaywithdogs.co.uk

LYNDA WARD

pet trade SOLUTIONS

lyndaward@pettradesolutions.com    

tel: 07946 743784

Despite March winds and a lack of April showers, May brings dog powers…

Despite March winds and a lack of April showers, May brings dog powers…

By Mark Laker

The light at the end of the lockdown tunnel is gradually getting brighter. As lockdown measures ease around the country next week there are signs of a different and yet recognisable normality emerging.

Agility competitions and other dog activities are gradually returning around the country, albeit under new rules and conditions. I notice that governing bodies of other recreational sports and hobbies are giving guidance on how to resume under new measures allowing friends, families and other competitors to meet up and enjoy their activities again. Many sports are already trialling ways to resume competitions without masks and social distancing – an advantage of being part of a recognised sport body.

It’s a welcome return and I believe people are just pleased to get out and do what humans have done throughout our evolution – socialise.

Despite April’s unseasonal weather, frost and not a lot of rain… someone will need to rewrite the April Showers rhyme. Our dogs have continued with their daily exercise, agility fitness (for those who will be competing) and learning other activities. Lockdown hasn’t seemed to affect them, although I’m sure they’ll welcome a change of scenery to run in when we start venturing out further.

Let’s hope the country stays on this road to recovery and we can all enjoy whatever activities we find pleasurable again.

Mark Laker was the Kennel Club’s Agility Team GB Manager from 2013 – 2020 where he used his experience in sports psychology and business skills to enable high performance to deliver medals at the European Open for Juniors, The European Open and FCI Agility World Championships.

Mark has built a reputation for effectively transferring these techniques and skills to dog agility and coaches handlers to help them to develop their skills. Mark has used his knowledge, enthusiasm and experience to develop Agility1st’s high quality training and coaching programmes. Mark lives Nottinghamshire with his wife Karen their four Border Collies and a Jack Russell X: https://agility1st.co.uk/

CSJ’s new bags pay tribute to dog sports

CSJ’s new bags pay tribute to dog sports

The innovative new bag design for CSJ Specialist Canine Feeds illustrates the masses of dog sports whose competitors use their products.

Ranging from sled dogs to working gundogs CSJ feeds the most Champions in the most fields and designed their new bags to pay tribute to the countless dogs and owners who have benefitted from CSJ products over the last 20+ years.

Kath Hardman, Team Manager of Heelwork to Music Team GB, emailed to say, “Just to say I love the Heelwork To Music logo on the bags of food! The other disciplines are good but WOW!  The HTM is perfect!”

Formulated by dog people for dog people and chosen by Champions in every field – CSJ never forgets its roots …

When founder Ceri Rundle and her father H. Glyn Jones couldn’t find great food at a sensible price for their own working and competing Border Collies they enlisted the help of leading nutritionists and herbal experts to devise their own winning recipes.

Made in the UK with an ongoing commitment to develop natural feeds, supplements and treats together with sustainability plus support for canine activities, CSJ is rightly renowned for being ‘the whole package’.

For more on CSJ products visit www.csjk9.com or call 01745710470

… and follow CSJ winners on

Facebook: https://facebook.com/specialistcaninefeeds/

Twitter:  @CSJDogFood

Instagram: @CSJDog_Food

YouTube:  CSJ Specialist Canine Feeds

www.awaywithdogs.co.uk

LYNDA WARD

pet trade SOLUTIONS

lyndaward@pettradesolutions.com     tel: 07946 743784
“One step at a time…” says Mark Laker

“One step at a time…” says Mark Laker

By Mark Laker

It’s been a year.

‘One step at a time’ a message which will forever remind me of Captain Sir Tom Moore motivating the nation with his incredible fund raising and life story – what an amazing man.

Taking one step at a time in my pre-lockdown world wasn’t easy

For the last 10 years I’ve had to be very flexible in my career as a Project Manager. I’d have a few days working from home, then I’d be away on business trips for 3-4 days, then a couple of days spent on-site locally. No day was ever the same. That all changed in March 2020 when we went into the first National Lockdown.

Since then, I’ve definitely been taking life one step at a time

That doesn’t mean I’m not planning ahead (I love planning), but for the first time in many years I’m now time-rich (sounds like consultant talk). I’ve had time to plan ahead, consider what I want/need to do, do it properly i.e. not rushing because I may not have time again, finish it, check it’s finished and then really make sure it’s finished. This may sound like common sense, but it’s surprising how many times we think we’ve completed a task/activity and then discover there were still some loose-ends. I suppose in dog training terms, it’s like proofing what you believe you’ve trained is the desired behaviour you’re getting.

And what about our dogs, how have their lives changed over the last year?

They’ve had even more exercise. Over the last year I’ve challenged myself to walk at least 5K every day. Karen has had time to brush up their existing skills and train new ones and of course they have our company at home all the time. Dogs are incredibly adaptable though, I’m sure they will soon adapt to the next routine as life changes again as lockdown restrictions lift.

I’m not sure what our next routine will be

I’m beginning to dislike the over-used term ‘new-normal’ because, I don’t want normal. It sounds boring, repetitive and non-eventful. I’m hopeful it will not be a new-normal, but life will be interesting, exciting and present different opportunities. I also hope there’ll be more appreciation for how fragile the planet and our lives are, and we’ll start seeing more proactive steps being taken to look after what we already have.

One step at a time.
———————-
Best regards,

Mark.

Dog sports…Agility handlers…? How did you get on with last months questions on motivation?

Dog sports…Agility handlers…? How did you get on with last months questions on motivation?

By Mark Laker

These are two questions I ask my new coaching students – it gets them thinking… and not just ‘what a daft question’!

Motivation is a complex subject, it fuels our interest to do things, it generates our intrigue to learn and develop skills. The motivation cycle is fascinating too. Motivation builds and plateaus to a point where the topic (in our case dog sports) becomes a habit. Then the habit becomes a way of life and before you know it, we have multiple dogs, a caravan or a motorhome, a dog vehicle, all our holidays are at competitions and we’re on the dog sport hamster wheel. Now ask the question ‘why do you do dog sports?’….and the answer you’ll get is: 

‘Because I do, I’ve always done it’. 

That’s the answer I often got – until I probed more (asking five why’s) until I uncovered the real reasons. 

The Five Why’s

Asking five why’s takes the emotion out of the subject and gets to the deep rooted reasons often forgotten over time. Of course there are no right or wrong answers with this exercise, what’s important, particularly at times like now when external pressures have stopped the hamster wheel, is that we remember why we got involved in the first place. 

From my experience these reasons include: 
               * I’ve always been around dogs
               * I’ve always been involved with competitive sports;
               * I like the social side of the sport;
               * I enjoy teaching my dogs new skills;
               * All of the above !

It’s important to understand what form of motivation drives each one of these root causes. When you know that, you can channel that motivation in other directions if you need too. 

For example, if you enjoy teaching dogs new skills but you can’t do your sport at the moment, you may get that ‘motivation’ feel from virtually teaching new skills to help people. If you’ve always been involved with competitive sports but you can’t do your sport at the moment, then is there another sport you can find out about, do you have a transferable skill you can offer to another sport or person.

We often get so caught up on the hamster wheel that until something like COVID, a recession, or a change in personal circumstances comes along, we don’t stop and look at other options.

Maybe it’s time to ask what motivates us and how can we use them to keep going in these unprecedented times and expand our interests.

I hope you are keeping well.

Best regards,

Mark.

Mark Laker

Happy New Lockdown

By Mark Laker

Hello 2021, goodbye 2020 (some say good riddance too). We’ve heard that a lot since New Years Day haven’t we? 

2020 was an unprecedented year for everyone. For many, it was a challenging year losing loved ones, being furloughed, losing jobs, home schooling, uncertainty about the future and no dog sport competitions or trials. 

For others it was a quiet year. A year with time to reflect on priorities, an opportunity to explore new ventures, time to develop skills or revisit past interests – a year to reset and take stock.

What lies ahead for dog sports in 2021? 

We don’t know when competitions and trials will restart, we don’t know what format they will take, we don’t know who will want to continue under a different format and possibly tight restrictions. There are a lot of unknowns and it’s too early to begin answering these questions (IMO). 

2021 continues the unprecedented theme

‘I can’t get any motivation to train with all this going on’ – I’m sure you’ve heard that recently too…or thought it yourself. It’s understandable and I sympathise. There’s a lot going on that’s simply, out of our control. 

Motivation is one of the subjects at the core of sports psychology. I’ll elaborate more next month, but for now, have a think about the two questions below which may help you determine what motivation means in your world of dog sports, and how it may help you look forward to 2021 through a different lens.

What motivates you to participate in dog sports? 

For example: the social side of the sport; competing against others; training your dog new skills,; ‘my instructor motivated me’; ‘I’m motivated by watching other performers’; etc. 

Are you motivated by: winning; not losing; by just taking part; by the environment (training in a group with your dog or at a competition/trial).

There are no right or wrong answers, it’s very individual and starts us thinking more deeply about why love our sports and what we can control irrespective of what’s going on around us.

Stay safe and well.

Mark Laker

A merry Christmas wish from Mark Laker

A merry Christmas wish from Mark Laker

By Mark and Karen Laker

Firstly, we would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas, it will be a different one in many ways. We hope whatever your circumstance that you find a way to still celebrate with your loved ones.

Loads of thanks to those people who are working in any of the essential services

For us, this includes the people at CSJ keeping our dog’s food supply going. Ceri and her team have always been hard working and we hope that any of the challenges thrown at the working practices at CSJ haven’t been that step too far. Please take care and hope the Christmas break is a good opportunity to relax.

Having dogs to walk has always been one of our favourite activities

Now it has become a way of seeing people too. We know more people now in our tiny hamlet than before these lockdowns. The family visits have been on hold though and other than a small Christmas bubble, we will keep using the great mediums of Skype, Zoom, WhatApp or even old-fashioned telephone calls to keep our parents safe this Christmas time. They will never replace a hug, but it is surprising how comfortable everyone is now at expressing themselves via different media.

2020 certainly has pushed us out of our comfort zones and created new ones

For me agility was going to be taking a back seat anyway this year and without competitions for my customers to focus on, I decided to look into some new dog hobbies. Dog Sports UK is similar to working trials and have created a system to help new people move forward in their dog training. It is still show related for progress though, so I looked at another new dog activity – Dog Parkour UK.

Wow where did that come from – it is so much fun, non-competitive and very well organised


If like me you’ve enjoyed watching Parkour in films like ‘6 Underground’ you’d be right to be a bit hesitant about teaching stunts to your dogs. However, safety is at the forefront of the rules and in some respects the earlier levels may seem a bit tame in comparison.

There are various levels and at each you learn foundation skills before doing the challenges, earning titles and progressing.

It offers titles in different environments too, so you can do it in your own home, on a walk or even in the town. It is still a case of don’t try this at home until you’ve learned the basics and really taken on board the safety considerations.

I could tell you more and have just done a two-week online instructor course – I recommend you check out their Facebook page Dog Parkour UK.

If you already enjoy doing activities with your dog’s, you’ll find out about the skills you need to earn titles without an instructor; something to aim for in 2021 until life gets back to more normal. If you prefer personal instruction, then they have a list of instructors or pm me if you want to ask me about my experience.

A Covid safe environment for training

Meanwhile like other dog trainers, I’ve spent a good deal of time reading rules and regulations to be able to provide a Covid safe environment to restart my lessons. There is no measure of how important social interaction is between people, and dog training also embodies the joy of physical activity with your best friends of the four-legged variety in the great outdoors.

Best wishes for a happy Christmas and here’s hoping 2021 brings more settled times.

Best regards,

Mark Laker

‘Oh no here we go again’ or Oh yes, here we go again’!

‘Oh no here we go again’ or Oh yes, here we go again’!

By Mark Laker

‘Oh no here we go again’ I read recently about lockdown 2. It was followed up by various views about the coronavirus pandemic, Britain’s attempt to bring it under control and the response from different people. 

Photo from Mark Laker’s blog

‘Here we go again’ – an opportunity to try again, build on the past? Or, ‘Oh no, not that again’, more bad things. It reminds me of that well known quote by unknown – who by the way has written some great quotes:

‘Whether a glass is half full or half empty depends on the attitude of the person looking at it.’

So where’s this blog going? We can look upon lockdown 2 as a miserable, boring and negative time that’s making me feel like my glass is definitely half empty and I could selfishly ignore all the experts advice and think of my short-term social life. Or, I could see this as an opportunity to try something new, benefit from the precious time given back to do something for the long-term and possibly save lives and help society get back on its feet.

I’m going to be using this time to increase my  writing, something I really enjoy and something I’ll have time for now my other commitments and energy-sapping activities through the summer have levelled off (a bit).  

I plan to make the most of the increased evening and weekend time available by writing my blog more regularly, setting myself a lockdown challenge (more of that later) and topping up my coaching skills.

Another lockdown 2 comment I recently heard was, ‘it’s not what you could do, it’s what you should do’. Particularly important as the country tries to control this devastating pandemic. 

Stay safe everyone and continue looking for positive opportunities

Best regards, 

Mark.

Mark Laker

Follow Mark Laker’s blog on: https://inneragility.co.uk/blog/