Life with an Agility Standard Poodle...
When you have poodles in your home, you have fun loving dogs that are too intelligent for your own good. As everyone knows these days, the Poodle are a non-allergenic dog breed and because Chris Stamp is allergic to dog hair, he was brought up with them, which means he is well placed to write something about them.
When I was very little about three or four, we went to get our first dog a black Standard puppy. I thought my dad was going to get a new car which was going to be a Citroen, so that's how Citroen got his name.
I have been competing now for over 22 years. In the beginning it was only ever with Standard Poodles but now we also have medium-sized Poodles. We only used to have had one Standard at a time but now thanks to agility we now have four - two Standard Poodles and two Mediums. You might say we must be mad but agility does that to you.
Back in the late 90s when I started agility, things were different from today. Training was not everywhere like it is now. There were no purpose-built venues, just a field with equipment in it. You didn't have the choice of shows. In fact, you were lucky if there was a show every weekend. In the main, shows were only from April to October.
My first agility dog, a brown Standard called Barnaby, was very easy to train but we never mastered the contacts and this is why he did not progress beyond Starters / G3. He ran in full clip which looked good but not very helpful when he was weaving.
Anyone who knew Barnaby will remember him at Dogs in Need. It was the only time I have ever been there. He didn't like being left in the car and would let you know by barking non-stop, so much so that someone lent me a spray collar which went off when the dog barks. It didn't work. He just emptied it and carried on barking.
Barnaby had many rosettes but unfortunately never a 1st place.
Yogi was my next dog who made it to G4. I'm not sure how this happened because he had two left feet, struggled to master the weaves and just couldn't get the bounce when jumping. He was just the loveliest boy you could ever have - you know the one dog who makes a difference to your life just by being there and that was him. Even in the last months of his life, when things were harder for him, he was still a happy go lucky boy, making sure he was the last up to bed so we could lift him onto the bed where he stayed till the morning. Even now after five years, there isn't a day that I don't think of him.
Rupert always showed loads of potential but never quite made it. Standing on the Start, I would walk away leaving him focused and ready to go but, as soon as you said the word okay, his eyes would go like saucers and that was that. Any semblance of concentration would go entirely out of the window and jumps would fly everywhere. I remember at Wellingborough show once when doing the dog walk I was behind him while the judge ran down the other side. Rupert thought it was me and took off and didn't hit the down plank. We would then finish the course with Rupert looking at me with that familiar look in his eye. I am sure that if he could talk, it would have been to say 'I'm sorry.'
Rupert is now nearly 13 years, a little bit wobbly, afraid of the dark and wind and creaking doors but still nutty and always happy to see you. It makes you sad that they get old.
In my experience, Poodles are very much homebodies. They never really settle away from home. You can tell this when you come back from a holiday with them running around the house to check nothing has changed and then crashing in their beds and falling asleep.
Training her hasn't been all plain sailing - far from it as she is very stubborn. We started out on our agility journey when she was a seven month old puppy, using motivation work and forward focus training which I had never done before. Having only run one dog at a time previously, I had forgotten what I did before and training techniques had changed quite a lot in the 12 previous years.
It seemed to take a long time training Scrappy compared to my other dogs as she had to work things out in her own mind before she was ready to move on to the next obstacle. We spent many hours doing weaves, moving them in 1mm at a time. Just when I thought we had cracked it, I'd realise that she wasn't yet ready so I had to move them back out 4 or 5 mm and start again. Like some dogs she wasn't keen on the seesaw. She'd go to the middle and wait for the tip before going to the end. I remember all the fun games she had doing a sequence then throwing a ball at the end as a reward. she'd retrieve it and then I would spend 10 minutes trying to gt it back off her. Sometimes when the fancy takes her she likes to play this game still even now.
Scrappy and I started competing in G3 agility in May 2017 by going to many shows, but it was at the Southam show that she went G4, winning an Agility run. I was over the moon. She was my first Standard Poodle out of G3. 2018 was a year to remember. We won the Adams Derby G1-4 Final and made the Final of Agility Secrets, eventually coming 6th.
The preparation for the big day started about a week before with her first bath and drying and clipping her coat. A Poodle's coat has to be dried by using a dryer. You bush the coat and dry at the same time, just like going to a hairdresser. You need the coat to be straight and not curly. This will give you the best chance of getting the right shape with the scissors and clippers. This normally takes me about four hours from start to finish. Then it's time for a beer for me and food for her. She would have two more baths before the big day.
The big day arrived. I was so nervous, It was the first time I had been to the biggest dog show in the world on my own, the last and only ever time being in an agility team which didn't go quite to plan.
She ran in the Jumping first and came 5th, getting a roar from the crowd when she went clear. Unbeknown to me, YouTube recorded her run and ran it with the title 'Fleet-Footed poodle Takes On the Agility Run, featuring Scrappy her own clip. At the time of writing this, she'd had over 18,643 views, most of which were probably mine. The Daily Express also picked up on her run putting it on The Express Online. Some would say that it just goes to show how one dog can make such an impact in one day but me, I would say it's a Poodle thing!
Then came the Agility but, after a six-hour gap between runs, she was tired. She started off a bit slowly but soon got into her stride. Unfortunately she missed the long jump, so we had 5 faults, but it didn't matter because she got there and we ended up 5th overall after both runs.
I am so very proud of Scrappy. Her personal achievement over the last year and a half has been exceptional for a Standard Poodle in a sport that is dominated by collies.
Living with a Poodle is the best, Yes, they can be very frustrating because they are headstrong. When they want your attention you know all about it, but the love and loyalty they give you in return is second to none. Most of all they fill your life with fun.
After doing many different hobbies, he came to Agility by accident. He was doing puppy obedience when someone suggested agility and, as they say, the rest is history.
First published 4th July 2019