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Alan Bray Training Day - October 2008

It was Sunday, 12 October 2008 and Paula Zupkus found herself standing in a sports field, feeling slightly apprehensive about the next couple of hours. It was the Agility Team GB Supporters Club Training Day with Alan Bray. What was she doing there? Would she make an idiot of herself? Read her account of the day and find out how it went.

I had rather foolishly decided that I would sign up for the Small/Medium training with Alan Bray and had convinced my long suffering husband that he really wanted to spend a Sunday afternoon watching me run around with Jack Dog. We arrived as the Large dogs were just finishing off. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and it all seemed rather light hearted. Maybe I would be all right after all?

Now it was our turn. A collection Small and Medium dogs assembled in front of Alan. We were quite a mixed bunch - assorted terriers, crossbreeds, a poodle and a sheltie. What would he make of this class?  A little different from the collies in the previous session!

After a brief chat, the class began.
I started to relax, realising that I was able to cope with the exercises and would not let Jack Dog down. The main focus was improving drive and motivation, and we started off with a couple of easy exercises. 

One of the first exercises involved a line of jumps either end of a curved tunnel. This was run as a relay with each handler running down the line of jumps, sending the dog into the tunnel and running back up the other line of jumps before the next pair set off. This was great for getting the dogs excited and ready to work. Judging by the noise, all the dogs seemed to enjoy this exercise and were ready for some more. Special mention must go to the lovely Border terrier who after every exercise had to complete his lap of honour, squeaking his Wubba!

We then looked at how we could save time on a course by improving the dogs' technique on turns. This was of particular interest to me as Jack Dog is fast, but tends to lose time when he runs wide. What was I doing wrong and, more importantly, how could I improve? 

Again Alan introduced the exercise which consisted of jumps and a tunnel and with the help of his lovely Border Collie demonstrated the correct positioning and body language. We all attempted the sequence and, after a few runs, we all seemed to be getting the hang of it.

Next... contacts
Well, how wrong could I have been trying to get my contacts? I had spent a year trying to slow Jack Dog in order to get the down contact. We were informed that we should be driving our dogs along the dogwalk onto the contact and get them to wait at the bottom. Now, Jack Dog will always beat me to the end of the dogwalk. How was I going to get there before him? Alan set up jumps either end of the dogwalk, sent the dogs over the jump and as they are turning round the jump towards the dogwalk, the handler starts running  to the end. Again body language was important and we were taught to turn our shoulders to face the dog. After a few sessions on the lead, Jack Dog was starting to get the hang of it, but it's going to need a lot more work.

Time was starting to run out and we just had time to have a go at weaving. Luckily for me they were left handed and not right. The group managed that without too many problems. We ended by having a blast around a complete course and showing off our new technique.

To sum it all up, it was an excellent afternoons training, pitched at the right level. I believe that everyone in the group came away with some new ideas and plenty of homework!  I would like to thank Kate Howard for organising the event and Alan Bray for giving up his time to help raise funds.

P.S. The contact training certainly worked. Jack Dog won into Grade 3 the following weekend. Thanks, Alan!