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Crufts Agility Judge Interviews

01 June 2016    10:00
 

One of the highlights of the year for any Agility competitor is to compete at Crufts. Hundreds of dogs and handlers took part in this year’s event which Roger Griffin, Gary Murphy and Cathy Keith judged. Here we talked to this year’s judges about how they found judging at the biggest Dog Show in the world.  

Interview with Crufts Agility Judge - Roger Griffin

How long have you been competing in agility?

I have been competing in agility for about 30 years.

When did you start judging and why did you decide to start?

I started judging 25 years ago. I decided to start because I wanted agility to thrive and knew that it would need people to help.

How do you prepare for an event like Crufts?

I planned the courses and had my ideas of what I would be happy to judge months in advance. I could then look at them nearer the time from a new perspective in the knowledge that they were exactly what I wanted.

What is the most challenging aspect of judging an event like Crufts?

Having judged in this arena before I was aware of the ring size and therefore designed my courses accordingly.  The biggest challenge for me was to design courses that would test both handlers and dogs in their overall abilities and allow handlers to choose their lines of direction. I also wanted to have an exciting final and therefore designed courses at a correct level that enough handlers would go through to the final in each category. Most of all I wanted to get it right!

What would be your top 5 tips for someone starting in agility?

My five top tips for someone starting in agility.

1) This is a time to have a one to one with your dog so have fun.

2) Enjoy your highlights.

3) Build on your mistakes.

4) Whatever methods of training you decide on, be consistent and patient, dogs understand repetition.

5) Agility is a window to make friends so try to participate in all aspects. I have made lifelong friends.

Interview with Crufts Agility Judge - Cathy Keith

How long have you been competing in agility?

I have been competing in agility since 1990.

When did you start judging and why did you decide to start?

I started my judging career in 1994.  In those days being asked to judge was a real honour, initially I said no as I didn’t think I was up to being a good judge.  However ‘friends’ talked me into it, I loved it and have loved it ever since.

What dogs do you own and handle?

I currently own four Border Collies.  The first one being called Maze who is almost 15 years old and is now retired from Agility. The second one Vhari who is 10 years old is nowhere near ready to retire and can still give the youngsters a run for their money.  The third one Leena who is 3 years old, has just come out this season and is a joy to train. I love to compete with her! Then the fourth and last one is Wicca who is 18 months old who is currently in training for Agility. 

How do you prepare for an event like Crufts?

Firstly I designed and then redesigned my courses.  I was very aware of how the surface and the tension can affect dogs’ and handlers’ performances so I didn’t want to add to this by making my courses too challenging.  I took advice from trusted friends who also judge and adjusted where necessary.

What is the most challenging aspect of judging an event like Crufts?

I wanted to showcase the dogs and handlers, it’s a big responsibility.  I wanted everyone to enjoy the experience, handlers and the crowd.  Designing courses that allowed dogs and handlers to work safely as a team was a big priority for me.

Did anyone in particular stand out in your judging?

I can truthfully say that everyone that ran under me at Crufts were just outstanding.  They worked their dogs beautifully and with total consideration to their needs.  I was delighted to be a big part of their experience at Crufts.

What would be your top 5 tips for someone starting in agility?

  1. Find a good positive reward based trainer.
  2. Make sure your dog is as fit as it can be and old enough to train.
  3. Try not to think that the mistakes made either by yourself or the dog are the end of the world, everything is fixable.
  4. Take time to teach your dog in a kind and positive way.  Never let anyone tell you that your dog should do things ‘because you said so’ pay them for a good job done by using treats, toys, hugs and verbal praise.
  5. Have fun with your dog, at the end of the day the best dog goes home with you.

What did you watch when you were not judging?

I watched all the agility obviously, I love the Heelwork to Music and the gundog displays.  I tried to get up to hall 3 to watch the Young Kennel Club as I know a lot of the juniors. However sometimes I didn’t always make it in time.

Anything else you think will be of interest to agility enthusiasts and competitors?

I think that anything that involves having fun with your dogs would be of interest to agility people.  I have people who train with me who either compete or know a lot of people who compete in Showing, Cani-cross, Heelwork to Music, Rally and Obedience.

Interview with Crufts Agility Judge - Gary Murphy

How long have you been competing in agility?

Since 1999.

When did you start judging and why did you decide to start?

I started in July 2010, I had assisted in many tasks around the ring and liked the thought of designing courses that tested handler and dog. I also found this very interesting.

What dogs do you own and handle?

My wife and I own five dogs at present, with two competing, one retired and one due to start this year.

How do you prepare for an event like Crufts?

By watching previous year’s courses via YouTube and setting courses out on a board at home. 

What is the most challenging aspect of judging an event like Crufts?

The designing of the courses that are applicable to the occasion. Also having to make allowances for dog and handler nerves, running on carpet and making the competition exciting to the public.

Did anyone in particular stand out in your judging?

Not anyone in particular. The Lincoln Small team though finishing 2ndwere amazing. Their time beating all others by over 30 seconds.

What would be your top 5 tips for someone starting in agility?

Start when your dog is young, go to puppy socialising and obedience classes.

Also go to a couple of shows to see what is involved –speak to people/socialise your dog. You can also do repetitive training little and often. Just remember to be consistent with commands and reward your dog via play or food. 

What did you watch when you were not judging?

Flyball, Heelwork to Music and the Police Dog Handler demonstration.

Anything else you think will be of interest to agility enthusiasts and competitors?

Do not take the sport too seriously – enjoy your dog all the time (They are your pets and your family).

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