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Agility Adventures in Switzerland 1992


It was with mixed feelings and twice the amount of luggage allowed, that I waited at Heathrow airport for the plane
to take off. I was to go to the mountain resort of Falera in Switzerland to be in charge of running two one' week agility courses for over 100 French, German, Italian and Swiss students and their dogs, from beginners to the top people, who having just qualified for the European Champion- ships eagerly expected to brush up On their techniques.

It did not help to improve my confidence when I was called off the plane to the security section and my luggage was taken apart piece by piece. It was not easy explaining to
some stern looking customs official that the wire in one of the suitcases was for wrapping round weaving poles and the six blue hoops were indeed hollow inside and used at the
end of contact obstacles and o£ course the nails were needed for fixing the hoops to the ground. The dried meat and liver was for tempting the Swiss dogs. It was lucky I had a copy of Peter Lewis' book also in my luggage which made explaining what agility was a little bit easier. I re-boarded the plane eventually bright red and crept to my seat and it took off 10 minutes late but with me and luggage on board (except for the dried meat and liver which they confiscated!)
If a bad start was anything to go by what sort of two weeks were lying ahead of me?

I had previously been sent a list of all the participants and their dogs and in looking through the list, in desperate search of a Border Collie or a few Shepherds found breeds like, Great Dane, Malamute, Bouvier, Bullterrier, Samoyede, Whippet, Norfolk Terrier, Cao de Agua etc. My assistant instructor for the first week was to be a retired Frenchman who did not speak a word of English or German and I begun to wonder what I had let myself in for.


In fact the two weeks turned out to be the most enjoyable and exciting weeks I have ever spent in teaching agility. Agility in Switzerland is still very much in the beginning stages with about 40 competitors at a major show (often borrowed from neighbouring countries). However all the participants were extremely enthusiastic and very keen to learn the English way of teaching agility. It took me some while to get used to the fact that after each lecture I gave, despite my rusty German, all the people clapped furiously. It was also a novel experience to work in the only flat field, surrounded by mountains to the sound of permanent cowbells. The field had been rented from a local farmer for a generous supply of wine. The course organization was extremely efficient and the hotel accommodation and 5 course dinners appreciated by everyone. I had two sets of beautiful equipment available; one set which was brand new. It was very interesting to work with so many different breeds and to my great relief and surprise, the Great Dane took a real, fancy to the cloth tunnel straight away. What impressed me very much, was that without fail, the advanced dogs got their contact points every time. The handlers worked their dogs very carefully and paid particular attention to the dogs working' their way down the contact areas. They would sacrifice speed for careful handling any time. Competing against 40-50 dogs, they can still afford to do so.

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