The little black flying machine...

Usually when you say agility dogs, most people think 'Border Collies or Poodles' but when you say Pugs, you should see their faces! Pugs have a reputation for being fat lazy dogs who can only jump onto the sofa. So when we met Laure Metairie and her all black pug Pancho at the Axstane show we were pleasantly surprised. So charmed were we that we asked Laure to write a few lines about their agility goals and experience thus far.

My love affair with pugs started in 2003 in England with Eastonite Gordon. Back then, I was the sporty one, racing long distance triathlons for Team GB, Ironman and many longs distance running events. The only physical activities Gordon was doing was to watch me on my home trainer in the winter!

Then in 2008 when I was living in Majorca, Spain, I got two eight week old pugs, Pancho and Pepito. It was like having evil twins. They never stopped running around, playing and jumping. I had to find an activity to burn their energy so I went to an agility club when they were seven months old to see if they liked it. Pepito enjoyed it but Pancho couldn't get enough. On his first try, he jumped everything he saw and did all the contacts on his own including the A-frame! I knew then that my Pancho was a little agility genius.

Is she joking?
On our first day of competition, you should have seen the looks and the finger pointing we received when I turned up with my four pugs. My babies did all the talking that day when Pepito won and Pancho came 2nd. On our second competition, Pancho won and Pepito came 2nd. And so forth and so on. It was the same thing over and over again wherever we competed but, by that time, people saw my pugs as real agility dogs. They even gave Pancho the nickname 'The Black Machine!'

When we started agility in 2009, I was new to the sport and I only had an equestrian background in 3-Day Eventing. At the time, there was a definite lack of good agility coaching in Spain, so I had to learn the basics on my own.

Can you compare a horse to a dog? I guess you can in a way. In both Agility and Eventing you need to be 100% in tune with your team mate. As many of you can relate, dogs learn quicker than we do so I decided to get some help from a top British trainer and handler. With the help of Dawn Weaver, we have shaded five seconds of our times since December 2011. My handling is much smoother and the understanding between Pancho and me on a course or at training is magic... at least 98% of the time!

Over the last two years Pancho has been my super star, winning the Balearic Championships in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Spanish National Championships in 2011, the Balearic League in 2011 and, fingers crossed, again in 2012. On the international stage, both Pancho and Pepito represented Spain at WAO in 2011 and 2012. Pancho made the finals of the Pentathlon both years - and that is an achievement in itself!

In June 2012, Pancho and I went to the UK and tried to qualify for Crufts or Olympia. I knew it was a tall order, but if you don't try you don't get. I went there without any expectations, just to run to the best of our abilities and to try and learn from the best handlers there. We jumped in at Grade 6 level and, to my surprise, we didn't do too badly. We were missing around three to four seconds to be amongst the winners, but I was so proud of my black baby. Pancho was my champion. We even got comments from the judges like 'He is a cracking little dog.' and 'He is so fast for a pug!' or 'So pleased to see a pug in the ring.'

After three weekends of competing, Pancho had won a total of four rosettes:-  4th, 6th and 11th. The best prize of them all, however, was a 17th place out of 226 dogs at the Small KC Olympia qualifier. I loved the organisation of those events. The courses and the people were brilliant - such a change from what we have in Spain. There is so much more diversification of courses and style and much more fun and relaxation at British shows. I can't wait to return next year, maybe with my five pugs.

So what’s for the future?
First, on a purely practical basis, I need to get an FCI licence for Pancho because our options for doing international are limited as long as we only have an Open Licence.

My own goal is to run faster (smarter) because Pancho is still waiting for me. I would really like to qualify for Crufts and / or Olympia because I know in my heart that's where Pancho belongs.

Pancho is a great ambassador for all the pugs in the world. By winning more agility competitions, hopefully we will change people's attitude toward the breed and prove to everyone - including agility judges and coaches - that any dog can be the perfect agility dog as long as it enjoys jumping. As long as you keep your pug at a healthy weight (less than 20 pounds) and give him or her plenty of exercise, pugs are active dogs provided you want them to be. We hope to see many more pugs on the agility world in the future. That's all that I ask.

I'm starting to train Pancho's little brother Wilson, also a black pug who is now about 18 months old. He didn't have a very good start in life as he had two eye operations due to the lack of tear glands in both his eyes and mild dysplacia of both hips, After many months of physio-therapy and eye surgery, he is as strong as a rock and ready to go so you may see two black 'flying pugs' in agility trials soon.

You can follow our progress and have a few laughs by going to our blog Enjoy.

About the author...
Laure Metairie was born in France in 1974. Her sporting career started at the age of seven with pony riding. Then she got her own horse and did 3-day eventing until the age of 19. She moved to the UK at the age of 20 and started Triathlon in 2000. She entered the GB Triathlon team in 2002 where she competed in three World Long Distance championships, one Ironman in Austria and many long distance runs.

In 2005 Laure moved to Majorca and started agility in 2009. She hasn't looked back since. She is very competitive and always wants to do the best she can which is probably why she is often picked to represent her nation at the time.

Laure'sdogs always give her 100%, and she gives them the same out of respect for their hard work.

First published 16 August 2012


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