Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Forget the Handlers, What About the Dogs at the International Level?

Yes, another Dog Agility Blog Action Day post  :)  The topic this time? Internationalization.

I think there are at least two ways to look at internationalization: Bringing international type skills & handling to the US, or competing at an international level.

I think most blogs are covering the first (which is a hot topic right now!), so I'll give some thoughts on the second  :)  I always try to avoid conflict...

Agility at the international level is akin to the Olympics: very few are going to reach that pinnacle of competition. I think it takes a lifetime of dedication & talent & training to compete at that level. And not just for the handler. There is a second component that is often overlooked: the dog!

The dogs that compete internationally have to have innate athletic talent, a desire to repeat training skills again & again, & a biddability to continue on through failure. These dogs must possess a temperament that can not only tolerate, but thrive from the limelight. I'm talking about the crowds, the lights, the cheering, the loudspeakers...

Then there is the stress of long flights, altitude & time changes, health checks, hotel stays, climate changes... And don't forget to add in the handler's stress at these big events...

These international level dogs are truly remarkable canine specimens.

Top international handlers don't only need to "handle well" to achieve that level, they also have to be great dog trainers to produce these dogs. Even if you take away all the agility training, you still have to do an immense amount of "basic" training & socialization to create dogs that roll with these kinds of punches.

A well-trained eye is also needed to identify dogs that can thrive in these circumstances. They have to recognize temperament & drive, along with a structure that will withstand the type of training & trialling needed at the international level. You don't solely "create" these dogs, you have to start with the right basic model.

So just like not all handlers can compete at the international level, neither can all dogs. Let's not forget that this is a team sport!  :)

One of my favorite "international handlers." Not all are thin, waifish young women!  :)

Some of my favorite blogs about this topic:

The Global Warmers "...And Hitler Was A Tweaker"
Agility Nerd "What's International? International Two Jump Drills"
Daisy Peel "International Agility - Haute Couture For Handlers"
Just Another Dog Blog "Internationalwho?"      (Hilarious!!)

For all the bloggers participating, click here.


  1. I enjoyed your post. And he is one of my favorites to watch. And so true about how it takes amazing dogs to compete at that level!

  2. I am a "nice dog pity about the handler" handler so I even more so need the right dog. Good breeding, great training, sound mind all go into the elite canine athlete. Good post!

  3. Nicely stated! Living in the land of International Teams (Peel/Davis) we see a lot of those types of moves in our seminars. They are fun, but you do need to make sure they are right for you and your dog. I for one LOVE blind crosses (as do my knees). We've dabbled with the other types of moves but my girls are not speedy or flashy so we rarely need to use the fancy stuff.

  4. This is a great post!

    I think asking more of our canine athletes has lead to a huge increase in our awareness of what we're asking, and how we can keep our dogs in the kind of physical and mental condition they need to be in to compete at an international level. Even our non-international dogs benefit; I am definitely not international material, but I'm aware now that my dogs need to see a chiropractor or physiotherapist at times, and that I can work on proprioception and core body strength, as well as all the training/competing! That sure wasn't around when I started with my first dog.

  5. I am not familiar with the handler in that video. His style is quite interesting. I see him doing a lot of turns my instructor (Paulena(Hope) Simpson)wants us to try. Jimmy does NOT like them! I must move at all times to make him happy. I think the most important thing a handler must have is mental management. That (to me) is what sets the "greats" apart from the rest of us. Yes, their handling is usually above and beyond, but being able to deal with the mental aspect is (once again, to me) the key.

  6. Great thoughts, and so true. Also amazing is how a good trainer can also manage issues so that no one watching knows. Silvia Trkman says that her Bu is very autistic and also anxious about a lot of things!

  7. What an interesting take on the subject, and what great handling in the video you shared. I LOVE the the 'Brews Brothers'! It made me smile!

  8. Great insight, Merinda - not every athlete is Olympic material, but there is a place for every athlete to find some success. Most of us are happy in our attainable little worlds, but it is fun to watch the Olympics and dream.

  9. Thanks for your post! I enjoyed watching the!

  10. Great post! In my experience it requires a lot of talent also from the dog to be able to compete at the highest level of agility year after year! At least Zen really is a truly amazing dog. The dog of my life! Nice choice of video :) -jaakko

    1. Thank you! I am honored that you would comment on my blog!
      That was a great run! :)