Alan Gardner’s Blog – October 2nd 2013

Welcome to our first blog by Alan Gardner – our dog agility expert. Alan understands the importance of canine nutrition and supplements his dogs’ diets with VetSpec Active to help keep them performing at their best.

A few facts about me

I have been doing agility competitions since 1982. In that time I have seen many changes as agility moved from a fun event for obedience / working trial dogs to the fastest growing dog sport in the UK, to a fully international sport.

Today,Jude (Ag. Ch. Touchango Again Girl) and Jaidi (Indiestorm Virtuoso Boy), are my competition dogs. Jude has taken us on a fantastic journey which includes seven consecutive years at Crufts, five times at Olympia, Champion status and five time member of the GB team.

A few facts about dog agility

·         Agility, like most sports, is quite straightforward to learn but challenging to master, but two factors remain constant – the dogs love doing it and humans love the social side!

·         It started in the UK in 1977 and is now a truly global canine sport.

·         In the UK alone there are over 6,000 dogs actively competing, with more than 300 agility training clubs to support them.

·         The Border Collie is the most popular breed, but any breed of dog can do agility.

·         There are 3 height categories for competition, up to 35cm (Small), 35 to 45 cm (Medium) and above 45cm (Large).

·         There are seven levels of competition in the UK. Handlers start at Level 1 and work their way through to Grade 7, also known as Championship Level.

·         In the UK, the two most prestigious competitions are held at the London International Horse Show At Olympia in December and Crufts in March

·         Internationally, there are World and European Championships held each year in September and July respectively.  The current Medium World  and European Champions are British.

What’s been going on?

The ‘end’ of another long season

“Competitive dog agility takes place pretty much all year round these days. However the ‘main’ season runs from April to September, with most of the Championship and qualifying shows taking place in the late spring and summer months. This is the time of year when most dog and handler partnerships will be focused on executing the skills perfected in their winter and spring training sessions.

The competitive dog agility scene is well established in the UK. Operating for more than 35 years, one gets a sense of this at some of the shows which take place in August. For example, the Kennel club International Festival of Agility (or KCI) attracts competitors from around the world. It takes place over 3 days and features some 16 different rings, each running from early morning to late afternoon!

Another well established, and arguably the largest agility show in the world, takes place the following week at Suffolk Show Ground. Dog in Need (DIN), a charity show in its 23rd year, features more than 2000 dogs of all types of breeds and sizes.

From a personal perspective I will be having a competitive break after September. This gives the dogs an opportunity to rest from the demands that agility places on them. However, like any athlete (and agility dogs are canine athletes) they still need to maintain their fitness and muscle tone.  So we will spend our ‘off season’ time hiking, road running, working with our fitness ball and proprioception (doggy yoga to you and me).

We will also monitor their diet to ensure that the reduction in work load does not lead to weight gain. As a rule of thumb our dogs receive around 12g (~55 Kcal’s) of performance dried food per kg of bodyweight + 2 proprietary dog biscuits per day (78 Kcal’s per biscuit). This is an average and can be up to 20% higher in summer months and 20% lower in winter months due to activity differences!

Additionally they receive Vetspec Active each day which helps maintain good joints, absolutely critical for performance dogs.”Alan Gardner Jude+June+2009

For more information contact Alan at www.smartpawsdogagility.com

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