Chico in action . . . the flying Rottweiler (Roseland Show August 2011)

We have been training with Chico, our Rottweiler, at BaDDogz for four years now.  Sometimes it seems like only yesterday that we were driving, slightly nervously, through the windy wilds of Carnmenellis towards our first ever agility lesson . . . . . . . . . . .
                            Chico and Sam . . . enjoying one of their lovely walks together in the Cornish countryside
.......anyway, back to that first lesson.  We didn't know what to expect.  We had only found out about BaDDogz through a chance e-mail that had come through at Lisa's workplace.  In fact, back then it wasn't even called BaDDogz - no Facebook page or websites in those days!  We thought it sounded an ideal activity for Chico - he was a very physically active dog, and Rottweiler, like any working dog benefit hugely from any type of training and mental stimulation.  But, we were thinking, wasn't agility just for Collies?  Were we going to get lots of warily suspicious stares from Collie owners as we stumbled into their domain?  Would the lessons be really formal and make you feel like you were back at school?  Was Trudy going to be one of those old strict 'Headmistress' style trainers?  Well, we needn't have worried…….we arrived at a field full of agility equipment, there were lots of different breeds of dogs and Trudy was friendliness personified.
                              Chico's early agility lessons out at the training field in all weathers!
The lessons were really well-structured and organised, with Trudy's kind and encouraging approach to a sport that is deceptively technical was a revelation.  No short-cuts, lots of patience and praise (when appropriate!), with your dog's welfare always of prime concern.  Best of all Chico had a whale of a time, and as those first few weeks went by, Chico's manic excitement in the car as we neared the field for another lesson was all the proof we needed that dog agility was going to be a regular fixture in our lives!
Lisa did all the handling in those first few months. Lisa has always loved dogs, and had several when she was younger, but unfortunately for her she married the most dog-phobic man you could probably have ever met!  So whilst I was still coming to terms with going from never wanting dogs to somehow becoming the owner of 2 Rottweilers, I thought it best if Lisa did all the handling to begin with, to give Chico the best chance.

 Chico learning to weave . . . ready . . .steady . . . GO!!!

As the weeks went by, it was fascinating to watch how Chico and the other dogs in his group steadily progressed their skills on all the various jumps, contacts, tunnels and weaves, especially to me as someone who had not owned a dog previously, with no interest in dogs at all.  Their intelligence really astounded me - and still does.  So much so, that I decided to get in on the act, and took over from Lisa for one or two of the lessons - which went okay.  Then Trudy mentioned about maybe coming to an extra lesson on Friday afternoons which I gratefully signed up to, leaving Lisa to do Saturday mornings (yep, we trained outdoors ALL year in those pre sand school days!) 
Being completely new to dogs, I feel I was very lucky to come across BaDDogz so early in my dog-owning life.  I wasn't just learning about agility, but also getting a crash course in the world of dogs in general.  There is so much dubious advice that is out there, but we were lucky to find a trainer whose advice and methods seemed right for us and our dog right from the start.  So that's really how Chico has become pretty much the only dog we know who is handled regularly by two different handlers!  Chico will work equally well for either of us now - proof that consistency in your training pays off.  Lisa still accuses me of 'stealing' her dog, but I prefer to think of it as us both gaining and sharing a new and enjoyable hobby!
        Before . . . and after . . . the incredible transformation of Chico after losing nearly quarter of his body weight!!!
One other aspect of Chico's welfare that we needed to address in that first year or so was his weight.  Rottweilers really like their grub, and can carry a lot of extra weight without it being especially noticeable.  Trudy very tactfully pointed out that it would benefit Chico's agility if he could lose a few pounds as otherwise he would never be able to do more than "small" height.  We took Trudy's advice to heart and we gradually reduced his food intake.  He has gone from a peak of 45kg to a currently normal weight of 33kg!  As Trudy pointed out once, that 12 kg difference is actually slightly more than her Merlin weighed when she got him ...and needed a diet too!! initially Chico was doing agility whilst virtually carrying a Merlin around with him!  This really illustrates how doing agility helps to improve the all round welfare of dogs, and being overweight can cause no end of health problems for your dog.
                        Chico gradually jumping higher . . . we never believed he would ever jump full height
After about a year of enjoyable lessons, Chico had developed to the point where he could pretty much do a full agility course in training.  One day Trudy asked - very innocently I'm quite sure(!?) - about whether we'd like to try a show with Chico.  We knew Trudy well enough by now to know that she had a very good sense of humour - surely she was joking?  ...but she wasn't!!! 
We'd never even thought of competing when we started doing agility.  Cue more visions of horrified Collie owners as a big, slobbering Rottweiler crashed around their serious show ring.  However, curiosity piqued, we went to watch a local show, and thought that actually there was nothing there that Chico couldn't really do and in fact it all looked excellent fun, not particularly serious at all - there was even a burger van!  There were definitely a lot of Collies though, but we decided we'd be very proud to compete with a Rottweiler, so we got the boy measured - he was classified as a 'large' dog strangely enough - and took the plunge. 
                                                        Chico negotiating the A-frame in competition
With a heady mixture of nerves and pride, we went our first show, and Chico was an absolute pleasure to run with, managing to complete his first Agility course with just 10 faults.  We gradually started competing in more and more shows, with confidence and enjoyment growing all the time, and due to the lack of Rotties competing in shows Chico started to become quite a well-known dog! To our great joy, after about a year of competing, Chico earned his first 'Clear' in a full agility class. We were very proud of this achievement - even at grade 1, to complete a course without fault, in time is no mean achievement, and we never forget that.
    Chico showing no fear on the seesaw . . . its now his favourite obstacle and hard to stop him from running up it!!!
One obstacle that was holding Chico back was the seesaw.  That's not uncommon, its quite a technical task for dogs to accomplish correctly.  But, strangely, his A-frame and dog walk contacts were excellent - why the problem with seesaw?  It was quite strange to see our otherwise completely fearless Rottweiler jump nervously off barely halfway along the plank.  He didn't understand the movement of the seesaw - why does it move when the other contacts are solid?  So what was the solution?  With nothing more complicated than a lot of time and patience, Chico slowly learned that the end of the seesaw contact was a magical place where vast quantities of high quality chicken, liver and sausage could be found!  The seesaw is now his favourite piece of equipment, and he now bashes over it with such power that I'm pretty sure we're going to owe Trudy a new seesaw soon!
                   Our boy with his 4th place rosette - the first time he had been placed at an agility show!
With this last piece of the jigsaw in place, and his speed increasing all the time, we started to get more and more clear rounds, and he started to get near and near to the 'places' in his class.  We were really proud of Chico when he managed to finish 4th in Agility at the Roseland DT show in June 2011 - which took place in monsoon conditions which suited a strong dog like Chico down to the ground!  We are now the only agility handlers that hope for wet and windy conditions at shows!
Although 'The Chicster' is now 7, he still getting faster, so we hope to compete at a lot of shows during 2012.  In large dog grade 1 & 2 classes it is not easy to progress up the grades due to the large volume of dogs in each class, but if mine and Lisa's handling continues to improve who knows?!  All that matters to us is that Chico enjoys himself at both the shows and training and his beaming smile when he is doing agility means the world to us.
     Chico powering over a jump at Stithians Show in July 2011 . . . to think we never thought he would do full height!!!
Now, almost 4 years on I cannot imagine what our life with Chico would have been like without Lisa noticing that random e-mail about agility lessons.  Chico has gained such an immense amount from agility training I almost wouldn't know where to start.  His physical fitness, mental stimulation, obedience, temperament, doggie-manners, people-manners, personality, confidence…………..its really been the absolute making of him. And 'Auntie' Trudy has definitely become a very special lady in Chico's world!
We have also seen BaDDogz grow over the years.  Trudy has not stood still as a trainer and is constantly refining the training she offers, especially for beginners.  Last but not least, we (and Chico) have made so very many good friends at BaDDogz that we would not have otherwise made. Its a real eclectic crowd, with one (and probably only!) thing that we all have in common is that we love and want the best for our dogs.
By Andrew Prynn - February 2012
"Andy and Lisa are two of the most dedicated dog owners you could meet.  Their love and devotion for their dogs is limitless and its been a pleasure to see Chico develop from being a total beginner to competitive dog.  Chico and I have a special little relationship as we have known each other so long now and I often have to start running when he sees me, to avoid his kisses - they'd be fine if they weren't quite so slobbery!  To see Chico lose his excess weight over the years and jump full height in competition is amazing.  He is so fit and healthy now and looks great powering over his jumps - a perfect example that agility is for ALL breeds of dog.  I'm so pleased for Andy and Lisa to see the rosettes start coming in to reward their hard work and I'm sure a trophy will be on the cards for 'The Chicster' this year.  Keep an eye on Chico's page here for news of his progress throughout the 2012 season"
Trudy Swann
Chico was 3 and a half back then - where does all that time go?  We had only been his owners for about a year, having 'inherited' him from Lisa's Mum, who due to declining health was no longer able to give him the exercise or home that he really needed.  In fact, we had bought Chico as a 'present' for Lisa's Mum when Chico was 12 months old.  Chico's first 12 months? . . . . . well, the less said the better really - we dread to think where he might be now if it wasn't for Lisa getting him for her Mum.  Nonetheless, Chico settled into his new home very quickly - he had often stayed with us for weekends before - and in the meantime, Lisa had 'persuaded' me to take on Chico's half brother Sam as well!