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From HTM to Agility Dog

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And all that Jazz...

In 2009 with retirement and a major house move looming, Fran Cobb decided to get a Border Collie to train for Heelwork to Music. She'd previously only done 'pet dog training' which she had really enjoyed, eventually becoming a KC Good Citizen Scheme instructor at the Derwent Valley DTC in Derby which was really good fun. She didn't know what she was looking for in a Collie but ended up with a little grey merle ball of  fluff.

I knew I that the Stillmoor line was doing well in HTM so, with two wonderful friends Carole and Chris Briggs, I went to Worksop to see some grey merle puppies. I was really excited when, a  few weeks later, I brought Jazz home and started his training. He was perfectly behaved from day one!

At 16 weeks Jazz started his GCDS training and quickly got his Puppy Foundation Certificate, followed rapidly by his Bronze and Silver award before he was six months of age, and at the same time began his basic HTM training.

When he was nine months of age, we completed our house move from Derby to near Trowbridge (Wilts) and so all the training had to change. The nearest HTM class we could find was Cotswold HTM in Slimbridge which was 50 miles from where we live, but I was totally committed to get Jazz trained so we joined the Club and went to both the Obedience and the HTM classes each Thursday.

Jazz seemed to enjoy his training but wasn't over excited by it and wouldn't play tuggy. His reward for doing well always had to be food treats. Nevertheless, we started to compete in 2010 and usually ended up doing training rounds to get him motivated in the ring. In September 2010 we went on a Mary Ray HTM training camp for a week on Anglesey. This was to be our turning point!

Discovering agility
The first morning Jazz plodded around the training floor with no one able to understand what was wrong with him. When the fun afternoon activity came round, the activity was Agility - something that Jazz hadn't done before. I was in awe of the experienced handlers and thought that we would never be able to get round a course very quickly! Because we didn't have any experience, Mary left us with Rex Seddon on the first afternoon to get us started on the basics of jumping. And what wonderful training it was! By the end of the afternoon we had learnt the 'go on' command and Jazz was racing down a line of jumps. When Mary saw how we were doing later on, her comment was 'Wow, he's an Agility dog!'

Since that day I can truly say we haven't looked back. We came back home and immediately signed up for agility classes but still continued with our 'doggy dancing,', competing during 2011 in both the Freestyle and Heelwork sections with Jazz getting some good results including a first place which gave him his Ex.HTM.St. after his name.

We started competing in agility at UKA shows and Jazz showed once again that Agility was what HE wanted to do, and at the end of 2011, I told everyone we were giving up dancing for a year to concentrate on Agility competitions so it came as a huge surprise when, in January of 2012, Jazz was awarded the Heelwork to Music Starter Dog of the Year trophy by the Paws & Music Association as well as HTM Dog of the Year by the West of England Border Collie Club.

No looking back...
That all seems a long time ago now as competing and training in agility has become our focus. Jazz won out of Grades 1 and 2 in 2012, at the same time qualifying for the finals of both the Pro-plan and the Arden Grange Starter Dog competitions. By August, he had gained his Agility Warrant Bronze but struggled to get that and elusive first place in Grade 3 Agility so in July 2013, I moved him up on points to be rewarded two months later by him winning Grade 4 and gaining his Agility Warrant Silver!

We really enjoy our training with Nicky Harrell and look forward to competing during 2014 in Grade 5 and hopefully winning some points for Chippenham Agility Club where we also train.

I've got a 10 month old puppy Divo who is distantly related to Jazz and comes from the LeeBearDream kennel. I wonder whether he will follow in his Uncle's footsteps? Everyone says what a special bond Jazz and I have and that he seems to just know where I want him to go on an agility course. He really is very special and I believe my once in a lifetime dog!

Author credit...
Fran Cobb's
first dog was bought for the children in 1976. It was a Collie/Labrador X followed a few years later by a Chocolate Labrador who ended up with hip dysplasia. Two more Labradors with hip problems later, she would have a Springer Spaniel. In 2003 she got Tilly and it was when her interest in serious training began due to the fact that Tilly had nervous aggression problems which unfortunately still continue.

Fran had a wonderful Obedience instructor Chris Briggs in Derby who helped and encouraged her. She enjoyed it so much that she became a KC GCDS Instructor at the Derwent Valley Dog Club. She also trained Tilly to do Heelwork to Music and managed to do a few competitions but found it very stressful because she was worried about her problems with the other dogs around.

After Fran's husband passed away in 2006 and with retirement fast approaching she decided to buy Jazz in 2009. She is now 65 but thinks that doing Agility keeps her young and fit and has made her many new friends. Her only wish is that  she had started doing it when she was younger.

First published 23 February 2014