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Surprising Success Stories


     Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover

Looking back at 2019...

It was a year of ups and downs, changes and challenges, wins and some disappointments. When we asked for your surprising success stories, we were inundated with the most wonderful examples of your achievements - and not necessarily the ones you'd expect. Not everyone won into Grade 7 or qualified for Crufts but their personal achievements were nonetheless awesome.

 

Our Lucky Strike
Clare Arundale Turner

I am feeling very proud of my mum Wendy Arundale, a woman who, up until October 2018, had never run a dog let alone competed. She had just come with me to shows for something social to do. Then she decided she wanted to try Agility, booked some 1-2-1 lessons and joined a class with my dog Lucky Strike (6) with Jacqui Tarn in Barnard Castle.

In less than 12 months, she was in the ring winning Grade 1 Jumping, the day before her 62nd birthday. Strike has not been the easiest of dogs to train as she feels she knows best and likes to tell you that as she often barks back at you. Now they have a nice collection of rosettes for their first year competing together.

A SHAK Success
Serena Ternent

Rio was picked up as a stray and taken to SHAK, a local rescue for abused, mistreated and neglected dogs that are considered not suitable for rehoming where I was a volunteer. He then spent the next three years in rescue, constantly being overlooked due to his issues and bad manners. We built up a rather special bond. In the end, I was probably his only chance of a home so it was decided I to give him a try and take him home.

At first I kept him a way from other dogs and people, but after seven months, I decided to give him ago at Agility as my other dog wasn't really enjoying it. In the beginning we sat away from other class members and I kept a tight hold of him at all times.

Two and a half years of training later, we entered our first Kennel Club show at Easter. I was feeling very stressed and Rio wearing his 'give me space lead' but he went on to win his two first rosettes.

Fast forward to the end of the 2019 season, and Rio has done 128 runs. He hasn't been the easiest as he has a very stubborn streak, loves a treat tent and can easily be distracted, but he has managed to win up to Grade 4 and gained his Agility Warrant (B) as well as winning the Agility Shield at our local club.

Benji the Border Terrier
Gemma Jeffery

2019 has been a surprising year for us. I had one goal which was to reach Grade 4. What we achieved last year is astounding, and I'm bursting with pride seeing all our rosettes and trophies laid out!

Benji's been hard work shall we say. He's my first dog and first attempt at Agility. He's a classic independent Border Terrier with selective hearing!

I spent the first four years trying to get him to focus and get his nose off the floor so I never thought I'd be able to compete with him. Then I did some independent, fenced shows which got our confidence up to try fenced KC shows. This year I was persuaded to try some unfenced rings and we did our first full year at Kennel Club shows. He's still easily distracted but I never thought we'd be at G5 after a year and a half.

What we actually achieved last year is going from Grade 3 -5, our Agility Warrant Bronze and Silver, a clear round in an Olympia qualifier, competing in unfenced rings at big busy shows, winning the Border Terrier Agility League, qualifying for The Agility Club Novice Final and finishing in the top 10 for The Agility Club Medium Grade 3! He may not be the fastest or the most focused but he tries so hard and he loves it.

But the biggest thing I think we've achieved this year was to start to have fun running courses and getting control over those pesky nerves!

Romanian Rescue Exceeds Expectations
Clarissa Brown

Minnie is a rescue dog who came into our lives three years ago through Yvonne Goode who brought her to the UK from Romania. When she first arrived Minnie was very timid. While she still has her nervous, star struck moments, she is increasing in confidence every time we run together!

2019 really has been her year. She is loving her agility and has exceeded all expectations. She has climbed from Grade 4 to Grade 7 and finished 2nd in her DARL League category, qualifying her for next year's Final. Of course, she is a little diva on the course. It is definitely always on her terms! 

I didn’t appreciate that YKC included the 18-24 category but, once I found out, I decided to submit Minnie’s points, never thinking that she might have gained enough points to qualify for both the ABC Agility and the 18-24 Jumping, so are over the moon to be attending Crufts in a few weeks time and are looking forward to enjoying the experience!

We could not be more proud of her! 

If You Feel Your Dog Isn’t 100%, Follow Your Gut
Jess Wealleans

Alfie, my large powerful Border Collie, had two full years with without any agility clear rounds at all. Me, with eight comorbid chronic conditions, and him, with severe dietary and environmental allergies causing regular and extended time outs and overall poor condition - we were well and truly stuck in G2. Over the winter of 2018-19, however, we sorted his diet and allergens and retrained carefully.

He got his first agility clear in March of 2019 and, by the end of August, we had collected over 40 wins and he was comfortably G5 with two Agility Warrants and a strong 2nd in an Olympia Novice heat. He's now on the Junior GB Squad with a 12 year old handler!

We may be unorthodox to watch - me with my uncoordinated body and him with his semi-uncontrollable speed - but there's a whole iceberg more that you will never know. He gives me 110% all the time and is proof that you can come back from ground zero and achieve your own version of success.

My Boy Pixel
Rosie R.

In 2019 we basically overhauled our lives. We moved house, added two new rescue dogs - both entire males - and I started a new job, changing from every weekend off to 1 on /4 off which does not work well for the agility calendar!

At the beginning of last year, I really felt that we wouldn't get anywhere. but Pixel proved me wrong.

He is a complex chap with reactivity issues. He can be hard work and stubborn, but he took it all in his stride. He welcomed the new boys and excelled in Agility. Not only did he win out at UKA but be topped the leader board at the British Agility Championships all weekend and went on to win the Novice Final. He also qualified for The Agility Club Finals, Agria Agility Finals, got his Agility Warrant Bronze, had his name in The Voice and went clear in an Olympia qualifier.

He has not been easy, but he loves agility. And I love that he loves it. I love how our bond has grown thanks to it. I love the friends I've made and the dogs I've met because of it.

Merlin the Magician
Helen Jones

I fell in love with Merlin's gorgeous little face on the spot when I saw him on the Agilitynet Rescue & Rehoming page. I sent an email to Dogs Trust Bridgend not holding out much hope as he had been on there a couple of weeks. They had people coming to look at him that weekend, but they said I could come down and bring Bonnie and Mae. Then catastrophe struck. My car broke down and couldn't be fixed until after the weekend. I posted a frantic plea on FB for a lift and Sarah Williams, an agility friend, saved the day so we could go. I'm not sure why I was the lucky one to get Merlin, but I count my blessings every day.

For most of 2019, we entered Anysize at Kennel Club shows although we did a few SC at UKA. He has gained so much confidence around the rings despite his nervousness with all these bonkers collies near him. He has such fun and brings so much joy - mainly for the judges and spectators as they watch a goofball flying around the ring, not necessarily taking the jumps in the right order.

Our highlight of the year was a Judge's Special. I thought these were usually reserved for handlers 45 years younger than me but the Judge Elizabeth Saggers obviously recognised that Merlin is a very 'special' dog. Another classic moment was when judge Paula Zupkus was caught on camera trying to stop laughing as we attempted her course.

By the end of the season, however, a ray of hope appeared. I would rather have my boy continue to have fun and just be the dog he is meant to be than reach the higher grades but who knows. We shall see!

Agility is what it should be with Merlin - just me and my dog having a whale of a time. 

Never Too Small
Megan Smyth

Envy surprised a lot of people in 2019 by reaching Grade 7 at just three years old. We were constantly told she was too small, wouldn't be good enough, wouldn't be able to keep up and that she'd never get anywhere. She proved a lot of people wrong. It doesn't matter how big you are, what matters is the fire to do it!

She is the most fun to train and compete with, She isn't always perfect, sometimes she chooses to freestyle but she makes me laugh so much. I absolutely love running together and can't wait to see what happens in 2020.


The Bradley Bunch
Jane Bradley

Both Bradley children - Arlo (13) and Elsie (9) - have done all of the training themselves. Their mother says that at times it’s all a bit shambolic, but they have great fun!

Arlo and Winter have had a long, hard slog in their agility career. As an inexperienced, first-time handler who started training his dog when he was just six years old running an insecure, sniffy young Spaniel, it meant lots and lots of Es, frustration and tears. Winter also had a year out for major cruciate repair.

We were all overjoyed when he and Arlo finally won into Grade 2 at the Longfield Easter show in 2019. They've had a great season and Winter is loving his agility now.

We never thought Daisy, a quirky little rescue, would tolerate agility training. Asking for a sit was sometimes considered an imposition, but it turns out she would do absolutely anything for her small human companion, Elsie.

They’re had a really successful first season, winning into Grade 3 and qualifying for Crufts 2020. It can still be a bit hit 'n miss as Daisy definitely has a mind of her own, but when she’s feeling cooperative, they’re unstoppable!

A huge thanks to everyone who has helped them on their journey especially their friends at Cleveland Agility Training.

The Shortest Legs on the Circuit?
Hayley Jane

Miniature Dachshund Herbie Sausage only has tiny legs - all 227mm of him!

Dachshunds are not known for their trainability and I've never seen any other dachshunds at KC or UKA shows so I was delighted when he qualified for the UKA Grand Finals and came 3rd in the Dogeria Performance Challenge! He was one of the tiniest dogs there and he still got on the podium!

Herbie also won The Agility Club Starters Qualifier and came 4th in the Agility Starters Challenge Final.

He has gone from Grade 1 to Grade 4 this year and gained his Agility Warrant Bronze as well!

Merry Mutts Make Good
Karen Howell

My dogs Labrador Tilly and Lab X Cocker Summer can both be very challenging to run at times.

Summer (6 1/2 years) has only just settled down when competing. Up until this year, almost every run we did ended as an E because it was always more exciting for her to do her own thing. Tunnels are her favourite, and it was impossible to pull her back from the lure of them. This year we achieved that.

Tilly (9 3/4 years) is a different kettle of fish. Either she starts an agility run full of enthusiasm or can't be bothered. This year I put her on a diet where she lost 3kg and that has made a huge difference to her enthusiasm and speed. So much so that for the first time we are getting Es because she goes too fast for me.

This year at the annual Merry Mutts DTC Christmas do, I was delighted that Tilly won best Grade 4 dog in the club and Summer won best Grade 3 dog. They both got a lovely rosette and a diamond trophy. I couldn't be happier.

A Complex Collie Makes Good
Shellie Smith

A little while ago I wrote a piece for Agilitynet about my Collie Kodi who has a big issue with confidence. Basically she has an overdeveloped 'flight' instinct which means that, if she losses her confidence, she will run away. Last year I couldn't even get her into our training venue without her freaking out, tail between her legs and wanting to escape.

In the later part of 2018, I decided I had to do something. I made some big changes in her training. Over the winter I took her to shows without running her to try and desensitise her. She seemed to improve so I decided to enter her into competition in 2019.

My first 2019 show was at Easter. To tell you the truth my heart was in my mouth. She only went and got a clear round. I literally couldn't believe it. Not only did she go clear, she ended up with a place. I then entered more shows. We did 14 shows and got 13 places and a few unplaced clears and she even qualified for Dog Vegas Final. When she knew I was confident, she was confident.

I have been so pleased that we've had such an amazing season. Anyone who knows her says that she is a different dog now, full of confidence, all In the space of a year. That's all come down to time, love and dedication.

Will's Special Spaniels
Michele Bacchus

Our surprising success this year was when our 13 year old son Will won the Medium Reserve Ticket at the Bretford Champ Show with his first agility dog, Aston.

Being a show Cocker Spaniel, Aston is not the fastest, but he is a talented and spirited boy. He also achieved overall 2nd place in the Team GB international Tour at Prestbury Park, only being beaten by Rudi, Will's other Spaniel.

Very proud of Will and his special spaniels.

Tetley's Tunnel Terrors
Mary Ann Nester

My dog Tetley hates the tunnel. I've been training dogs for nearly 40 years and tunnel avoidance was the last thing I expected to find in my Miniature Poodle pup. It is the one obstacle that everyone assumes a dog will love. Tetley does not.

There are some agility handlers who believe that the tunnel is gifted with unearthly powers so that it can draw a dog into its maw no matter where it is on the course. Usually, the tunnel is synonymous with fun so it's no surprise that many instructors rely on the its magnetism to reward a dog in an exercise and to help build confidence and speed. The problem is generally keeping the dog out of the tunnel.

Not so with Tetley. She would rather visit the vet than go into a tunnel and has had a number of strategies to avoid it by either stopping dead at the entrance, diverting to the side to miss it or, her all-time favourite, leaping on top of it and running across its length. A rewarding obstacle? Only if you do it her way. I don't know why the tunnel repels rather than attracts her, but I do know that her training would be a great deal easier if she could be sucked in rather than spewed out!

It has taken a full year to convince Tetley that the tunnel is her friend. I'm amazed at how she can now handle a variety of entries and exits. It may not be winning a class or qualifying for a Final, but it's a big, big step for her and I couldn't be more proud!

Busy Lizzie
Antonia De Bearn

Lizzie and I started our Agility story in 2014 when we joined Watford AC. Lizzie, a very energetic JRT, immediately loved the running and mental stimulation. At the time, I very involved with horses and organising dressage competitions so did not think I would ever compete. How wrong was I!

When the equestrian centre I was working for closed in 2015, it was time to concentrate on competing with Lizzie. Agility was good but she had no interest in the weaves at the time so we turned our paws to Flyball and had a successful and very enjoyable season with the Hotshot Flyball Team.

Bad luck then struck and Lizzie was injured. It was nearly a year before the specialist ruled her fit to start Agility again! When we did, the agility bug really caught up with us ! In 2019, we progressed from Grade 1 to Grade 4 ! We got our Agility Warrant Silver and were runners up in the Small Grade 1 division of the The Agility Club League and 3rd in the 2019 Senior Agility Small Ruby League as well as 2019 Novice Champion for our club.

Others may not have been surprised about our progression but 2019 was very special to me as a novice handler. I did not want to let Lizzie down especially after she recovered from her injuries. I feel we have achieved a lot. Credit to our trainer who has kept up pushing us. I am so so proud of Lizzie and our journey!

Shy Girl Makes Good
Sarah Goolding

Milly was bred by a gamekeeper. She was meant to be a gundog but, right from the start, everyone could see she was so different from the other puppies in the litter, so he decided to keep her so he could find her a special home.

When I went to see the puppy I had picked from the litter, my Mum and Dad came with me. They saw Milly, sitting on her own, and instantly fell in love with her. Despite the fact that they were in their 80s and a Sprocker was not an ideal dog for them, somehow they persuaded the breeder that they were the right home for her. They took her home where she grew in confidence but still would not talk to strangers or other dogs.

After a year, I started Agility with my puppy Dot. I don't know why but I just felt that Milly might just like to have a go as well. She loved it, but she was still painfully shy and wouldn't go near anyone. No one could touch her training ball apart from me or help her with her contacts. I spent months walking her around at shows to get her used to the atmosphere. It took her four months to go into an indoor barn.

After a while, I entered her into her first class where I asked the nice judge if she could just walk into the ring, sit at the first jump and then walk out which the judge allowed. Then the magic began. Milly jumped the first jump. The Judge said to let her go and enjoy it. She ran like mad and came through the finish line with just 5 faults.

Last year was amazing. I took every show slowly and never rushed her. In the queue, I ask people to give her space. Milly is now talking to ring party and even a judge. She is getting braver at every show and, while she will never win on speed, she nearly always goes clear. She has won three 1st this year and is nearly always placed. Bit by Bit, she is showing everyone what nervy, shy little dog can do.

My Two Surprises
Lucy Wheelwright

Brown dog Rub a Dub Tub is a four year old stray from Spain. 2019 was Tub's first full year competing in Grade 7 and he was still very competitive. Not bad for a poor stray due to be PTS as no one wanted him.

Black dog Basileas Super Mini Cooper and I had our first year competing. Together we won 63 x 1st places! At only two years old, Cooper has qualified for lots of finals including Crufts and he won the Lincoln Agility Enthusiasts Novice Cup. He was one of 13 puppies!

What a Gem!
Kate Lamacraft

Gem is my 2 1/2 year old Collie X from Many Tears. At her six month vet check up, she was diagnosed with a grade 1 luxtating patella. We didn't think she would ever be able to compete in Agility.

Lots of physio work and muscle building exercises enabled her to start competing in January 2019 and wow, what a year it was. We've had 39 x 1st places , 12 x 2nds, 12 x 3rds, 3 x 4th, 1 x 7th and four clears. In addition, she also made three finals - DINS Final Runner up, SWAG Finals and Team Tournament Finals and she got a podium place (3rd) in British Agility Championships. She's gone from Grade 2 to one win away from Grade 5.

So proud of her and can't wait to see what 2020 has in store for us.

LHO Success
Samantha Hadingham

Five years ago I decided to retire Benji, my 12 year old Battersea rescue from competition as he was clearly unhappy jumping full height Small jumps. Thanks to the introduction of LHO and a long break from competition, however, he's has had his best ever season.

Due to my work commitments, we were only able to attend a limited number of shows in 2019. In six shows, he had eight KC wins, taking him from Grade 5 to Grade 7. I never in a million years thought he'd reach Grade 7 - and certainly not at 12 years old!

Benji will be doing Anysize classes next year so that he can continue to enjoy agility at the smaller height until he retires. I just wanted to thank those who campaigned for the LHO. We are sad to see it go! 

Jet (formerly aka Bad Black Dog)
Mandy Dumont

When Jet started training it was a real rollercoaster, but I am finally enjoying the ride. It's been very hard to get her to focus on me and Agility. She simply adores other dogs. One of our clubs has two classes at the same time so there were frequent cries of 'Incoming!' from the trainer at the other end.

Shows came next. Fenced rings probably helped but she could ping over the fence and back again. She could do a 180 degree turn from the start line to visit the queue, a trade stand or back to the van if it was raining. I often felt like giving up, but there was lots of laughter among the swearing.

It was lovely to be able to compete in Grade 2 and gradually the clear rounds and places started to come. She even won into Grade 3 early in August. She worked very well at Dogs in Need but still bogged off at times. She actually qualified for the Grade 2 Final. Her commentary card said Jet aka bad black dog.

Since then she has had amazing results including four places on her first Grade 3 show. She has even speeded up and is mostly reliable. She is such a character and makes me and others laugh, especially when she lies upside down in the queue. I am very glad that I have my scruffy black, rescue mutt and that I didn't give up with her.

So Chuffed with My Little Girl
Jenny Fish

Since we started Agility nearly eight years ago, Millie was always one of those dogs that would spin and bite. But, with perseverance, she did me proud this year. We did three Jumping Jack competitions and came away with clear rounds in two out of four events each competition. Then we did a friendly event in November and got our first ever 2nd place.

What Can I Say about My Obi?
Lynn Harrison

Obi is my first agility dog and we have been competing for two years now. Although he is amazing and can hold his own with some of the higher grade dogs at training, you just wouldn't think it is the same dog at competitions. He's too nosey, too busy showing off his good looks and making sure everyone is watching him. I blame the fact he is from show stock. And he's a weave worrier. We also struggled with the easier Grade 1 courses as I battled to keep his concentration on straight lines. He obviously thought he could do it in his sleep!

We had clear Jumping wins and loads of Agility wins with faults but that clear Agility round win eluded us. So many times I thought about packing competing in. Thankfully, due to my amazing trainers and agility family, we continued until finally, at a Hare 'n' Hound show, we struck gold - a clear Agility run. It was a long wait for the results but yes, eventually we had that win to take us to Grade 2. Happy days.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, Obi went clear at his first Grade 2 show and won both Agility classes - graded & combined- to go Grade 3. I never thought my little handsome, headstrong but sometimes infuriating boy would get there, but we did.

So so proud of him and thank you everyone who boosted our confidence when I was on a down. Fingers crossed for 2020.

 First published 29th January 2020

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