Ever wondered what it takes to be the best of the best? Harringtons talks to Norway’s national dog agility trainer Andrea Huseby to find out what makes a champion, how to find the right puppy, why owner interaction is important and what food your dog needs to perform at the top.
What qualities do you look for in an agility dog?
When searching for an agility dog I pay close attention to the movement of the dog, particularly how agile it is when it turns. I also look at whether it has light or heavy bone structure.
Mental health is as important as physical health. I like to get a feel of how they cope under pressure by seeing how they perform a working task. I also look at the behaviour of the dog’s parentage, going as far back as grandparents, as a puppy inherits family traits in the same way that we do. However this is not always a deciding factor as I can usually shape the dog’s behaviour myself.
What are promising signs to look for in puppies?
I am keen to see puppies as soon as they have been born. I check how tough they are within the group; if they are daring and explore their surroundings this is a good sign. I also observe how they play with toys and the movement of their body. My dogs get continuous back massages to keep their bodies supple so it is also essential to see if the puppy can relax on command. When dogs compete in major championships they must have a calm body and mind to perform at their best.
Is human interaction important?
Yes, very. Once I have chosen a puppy I try to visit them often and make sure that the breeder is communicating with them verbally, playing with them and taking them for regular walks. The mother and puppy must be kept together until it reaches 8 weeks of age then, when the puppy is moved into my home, it is my job to take over the mother role and keep it safe. I provide support but allow them to experience the challenges of life so that they are able to tackle obstacles they come across.
What do you feed a prospective agility dog?
I think it is important that the puppy has tasted different foods, including both wet and dry options. Harringtons has a great selection of flavours in both wet and dry, so I feed my dogs both regularly. I use Harringtons training treats as they can be given to dogs as young as 8 weeks old so I can start using them as soon as the puppy is brought home with me.
What are your best training tips? Let us know over on the Harringtons Facebook page.