Nine year old junior handler Ann Crawford and her mum Fiona love to play agility with their American Cocker Spaniel, Stella. Young Ann took over Stella’s training in March 2019 with the help of her instructor, Irene Hull from K9ARC. Stella is deaf, so Irene knew that Stella and Ann would benefit from the OneMind Dogs method.
Photos and video: Jonny Jaffa
As a long-time premium member of OneMind Dogs, Irene shared her knowledge of using body language to train agility from the dog’s perspective. Ann and Stella excelled with this style of training and were soon flying around agility courses in training and competition!
Fiona is very proud of Ann and Stella, “They are an amazing pair and have just run clear and first to win their place in the Crufts Agility Dog Of The Year and the Crufts Under 18 Jumping events!”
We wanted to learn more about the youngest agility competitor in Northern Ireland so we did an interview with Ann. We found out that she loves the sweet and funny Stella, as well as a little friendly competition with her mum!
How did you get involved in Agility?
A : I started training in March 2019, when I was 9. Before this, mum competed with Minty a Bichon Frise, and Stella. I love our dogs and practice tricks with Stella. We do some dance moves together in and around my legs, she is fantastic. I loved the thought of going to a dog show for the whole day and meeting lots of other dogs. So, I started going to class with mum.
When I started training Stella, she was going deaf and we weren’t sure how things would go. The only problem I have had is that she used to run off to mum if she missed a weave and I couldn’t call her back. Apart from that she doesn’t need to hear me as I guide her with my hand, feet and most importantly my chest laser point.
How did Stella come into your lives?
A: Stella came into our lives though our close-knit Irish agility community. She was owned by our friend Michelle who had her trained beautifully. She was the perfect companion dog for our other dog Minty, as he needed a calm canine friend.
What is your favourite thing about Stella?
A: She LOVES snacks and when the fridge door opens, she goes wild, spinning in circles of joy!
Also, the nights that she gets a bath she can sleep on my bed. That’s what mum and dad think anyway, because as soon as they turn off my light, she sneaks under the blanket for a proper snuggle. She snores rather loudly though!
She loves learning new tricks, but I must be careful what I teach her. She is very enthusiastic. In the summer I had her doing lots of dropping to the ground and rolling. We went to a big show and she got carried away and did this after nearly every jump. It was very embarrassing, but she will do anything that may deserve a treat!
What is the most fun thing you do together?
A: We go camping every summer to the beach. She adores this but we must watch for people with picnics though as she would steal a sausage very quickly.
How did you hear about OneMind Dogs and what made you decide to give it a go?
A: My instructor Irene from K9Arc is a premium member of OneMind Dogs and as Stella is deaf, she thought your techniques would be perfect for us. Your videos help us understand her natural behavior, the way she turns and how my body language affects this.
I am now also training Minty’s brother Turfy and I have added verbal skills into his training on top of using my body language.
If you had to describe OneMind Dogs in one word, what would it be and why?
A: It would be 3 words, connect, commit, cue.
Connection is the most important one for us at the moment. As Stella is deaf, I have to keep her looking at me and focusing on me when she is running.
We heard that you and Stella have qualified for 2 days at Crufts! Huge congratulations from the team! How did that achievement make you feel?
A: I was delighted with my agility round as it was fast, clear and we did fantastic weaving. As soon as I ran a clear round I knew I had qualified for Crufts. It was a 2 day show and I won the u12 Jumping Class the next day. Everyone was delighted for me.
My school Principal said I can bring Stella in for the day and give my friends a demonstration.
My P5 class are going to watch the live Youtube stream.
What are your agility goals for the future?
A: I want to beat mum and Minty in as many competitions as possible! After that, just have fun.
Mum had her eye on training Turfy as he is fast and very keen, but he loves me more and runs way better for me. I have been training him and we should be ready for competitions this summer.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
A: When I started training I would only handle dry treats. Now I don’t mind handling raw meat and I don’t mind if I find old bits of sausage or cheese in my pockets!
Mum would like to thank all the judges from our local clubs who awarded me with Special rosettes this year and especially Judge Doc Docherty who took the time to post me a beautiful trophy, tug toy and lovely letter of encouragement.
Fiona and Ann are very thankful to OneMind Dogs and especially to their instructor Irene who has been immensely supportive during their whole agility journey.
We wish Ann and Stella the best of luck at Crufts this year!