Never underestimate the little dogs….
No one starts out a winner, everyone starts somewhere – success doesn’t come overnight.
When we first brought Willow home as a little puppy, we could have never guessed the journey she was about to take us on. From naughty little nippy spaniel to winning the titles of Medium, Gold Rush 2019, Crufts ABC 2020 and Crufts 2020 Agility CHAMPION in just 4 years.
Although we’ve spent the last week on cloud nine, still trying to let our achievements sink in – life has gone back to normal, our little agility champion is back in her usual “Pet dog” routine, no more steak dinner for sure!
The build up to Crufts this year was far from perfect: the poor weather meant we didn’t get the chance to train the usual 3-4 times a week up at our fields, as they were continually boggy and too slippery to train on. James did, however, make extra effort to book and attend as many “guest trainer sessions” as possible. These are sessions in which an international high-profile agility trainer travels to the UK to run workshops for UK based trainers and their students. If anyone is interested, we can point you in the direction of UK trainers who have up and coming guest-trainer dates.
In essence, Willow’s training plan during the build up to Crufts wasn’t ideal. However, it has taught us that training Willow less, but ensuring the sessions that are completed are specific and seamless really works – less is more for her. As I’m sure we’ve mentioned before, Willow is a very honest and intelligent dog, in that she wants to learn, and will genuinely try her best to execute cues given perfectly. It’s important to realise that very few dogs have this integrity, especially not spaniels! An example of this, one of our Border Collies, Floyd, gets so excited to see a tunnel that his brain can go into overdrive with excitement mid run, he stops listening to what is being asked of him and he bolts through everything in his path to get to it – this can often include attempting to run through human legs, ouch!
This is definitely one of the reasons Willow has an edge on others, but we do believe this is due to her genetics and early stages of life rather than the breed norm. She’s not your typical wild spaniel, she needs revving up before any competition and in all honesty, we don’t think she’d mind if she never did agility again – she’s just happy to go with the flow … again, a very unusual spaniel trait.
There’s often a lot of pressure for young agility dogs to be wild, pushy and fast. But those who met Willow pre-2019 would tell you how she was in fact rather placid, averagely sped and un-toy focused – all of which in many people’s minds, are negative traits for an agility pup.
So if there’s anything to take from our success in the last 6 months, please let it be that no matter what stage you are at in your agility career, no matter what the traits of your dogs are, this doesn’t limit your ability to become successful in the sport. Agility is about enjoying a sport with your fury best friend, train and treat them in a way that excites them and that they enjoy. No two dogs are the same and so their training plans and rewards need to be different. In our agility household we have dogs that are polar opposites, but we believe all have huge potential each in their own individual way, in their own time. Willow has hit the titles at a very young age of 4, others will take many more years before they’re event-ready to compete.
Please don’t pin your own beliefs and dreams on what the norm is; never doubt your own ability or your dogs – because 2 years ago Willow was your smaller-than-usual spaniel, being beaten by dogs twice her size – but just look at her now!
James & Lizzie Adams and Willow!
Stand Out Agility