Q. Jenny, tell us a bit more about yourself, how did you get into Agility?
A. I think this answer and the next are interlinked. Our first dog was a rescue who had German Shepherd ears so when she was older we added a German Shepherd to the household. I did obedience training with the GSD. Subsequently, we had two more German Shepherds. One of these died suddenly and when the original matriarch died the young one was all alone and did not enjoy being the dog in charge so I looked for something more than obedience for her to do in an attempt to allay her anxiety.
Q. How did you get involved with Vineyard Agility?
A. Continuing from above. Vineyard Agility was recommended and I contacted Maryna and so began a lovely journey.
Q. You are currently competing with your 2 German Shepherds, have you always trained German Shepherds or have you had other breeds as well?
A. I grew up with Great Danes and x-breeds who were nothing like German Shepherds. My next dog was the rescue and since her we have had German Shepherds. The current ones are numbers 5 and 6.
Q. German Shepherds are not a breed that you often see on the Agility course, why is that?
A. German Shepherds train easily and are quite agile. I suspect that most people who have working German Shepherds do other aspects of dog training with them. GSD are large dogs and not very long-lived so the agility career may be fairly short.
Q. Have you ever been, or are you currently involved in any other dog training?
A. All our previous German Shepherds went to obedience training and obtained their BH qualification. I have done some fun tracking too. The current two have done only basic obedience in formal classes.
Q. Your 2 German Shepherds differ day and night, what challenges do you have training them?
A. My challenge with Honey who has high drive and toys have high value has been to find a system where she will work away from the toy without being distracted and looking to the sky hoping for a toy to plummet into her mouth. Also, she is faster than my previous dogs and works further away from me so I have to give her space and try to move at some speed.
Zach, as you say, is not like this. He does not value toys at all and food only slightly. I found that praise and ruffling was the best motivator for him. I have spent time during lockdown building value for jumps. There is a critical distance that I can move away before the connection with Zach is broken and he is all alone and sniffing for comfort.
Q. Is there any advice you can give someone that wants to start Agility?
A. Yes, just give it a try! Agility training is really the best fun you can have with your dog. There is nothing quite like a round when all goes well. The dogs enjoy it too and it is a good way to socialise dogs.
Q. Apart from attending class once a week, how important is home training and what advice can you give?
A. Without training at home, it is difficult to consolidate what is learned in class, and progress will be slow.
Home practice does not have to be an entire agility lesson you can hone aspects of the skills like weave entries or the 2o2o position in short positive sessions.