SEA, RUM AND AGILITY!
necessarily in that order!)
by Kathrin Tasker
an exciting week judging the Olympia Finals, I did not have
long to prepare for my next assignment: A trip to Barbados
to further the sport of agility on this Caribbean island.
Although I did not know what to expect at all, it proved to
be one of the nicest jobs in agility I have ever taken on!
We were housed in superb accommodation in a large house on
the Platinum coast, which we shared with 4 dogs and their
owner. Most properties on this part of the island are open
plan, with video and television and computer permanently situated
on the veranda and the doors to houses are rarely locked.
The properties are usually fenced and have two or more “guard
dogs” patrolling the estate. This is the main purpose
for most people on the island to keep dogs. Until very recently
the concept of dog training has been very alien to the Bajans.
The dogs have no close relationship with their owners and
their job is to guard the property. They are rarely taken
for walks and they often exhibit
Boredom behaviour. At night it feels like being amongst wolves,
as all the dogs start howling and barking and communicating
with each other across the various gardens, mingled with the
very loud chirping of island frogs, this made for an interesting
of the breeds are on the larger side in order to scare off
intruders and my group of pupils consisted of German Shepherds,
Golden Retrievers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Labradors, Akitas,
Bouviers, Rottweilers, Corgies and Crossbreeds (not a Border
Collie in sight!)
enthusiasm of the pupils and dogs made up for the very basic
agility equipment. Although the equipment was fairly basic,the
islanders had been very inventive:- The cloth tunnel consisted
of an oil drum with a piece of cloth attached to it!
impressed me a lot was the way in which black and white people
live and work together in Barbados in total harmony. Being
faced with young, big, black athletes and their Rottweilers,
German Shepherds etc. was a somewhat daunting prospect! However
they were extremely keen to learn and were incredibly nice
to their dogs and had a great ability to just have “fun”
with their dogs. I was somewhat surprised to see them all
take part in an “egg and spoon” race and other
fun events with their dogs and put all their heart and effort
into doing well. I tried to imagine a similar scenario in
England – some of our top fit young senior handlers
racing across a field with an egg on a spoon, trailing their
the handlers had learnt the equipment after a fashion, they
had no idea of how to change direction with their dogs and
we had some hilarious nights trying to teach switching in
front or behind the dogs with the various methods available
in this country. Teaching the “twiddle” certainly
cumulated in some entertaining Bajan dances!
it was only February, training could only be done in the evenings,
as it was too hot during the day. The floodlit venue was great
and the clubhouse had a good supply of rum and coke! Did you
know that it takes 10-12 tonnes of sugar cane to make just
half a bottle of rum?
Naturally during the day we had to do something for our culture
and visit amongst other things a rum factory!
Barbados most things happen early in the morning or in the
evening, as it is very hot during the day. Somehow the Bajan
press had come to know that a “famous” dog trainer
was on the island and at 5a.m. one day, I was doing my bit
for agility on “Good Morning Barbados”, trying
to explain the fun and benefits of agility for dogs and handlers.
Needless to say Pedigree Masterfoods had also found me and
wanted me to do a little advertising at the same time!
teaching and appearing on television programs we also had
time for lazing on the beach, submarine and sailing trips,
and taking part in the Bajan carnival which lasts for a week,
with lots and lots of rum consumption and a tremendous atmosphere.
We had a really great time and yes – I am going back,
for another two glorious weeks next February.