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From The Minute You Get Them Home: Tips For Training Your Dog From A Royal Dog Show Agility Trainer

18-month-old Border Collie, Strike, has just competed in his first ever Sydney Royal Dog Show. “He’s had one run in novice jumping. For a baby dog he did really well. He lined up, he kind of went for a little an explore and a sniff before he started, but then he came back and he ran really well,” says Strike’s trainer Rachael Fullerton. With the event over, Strike seemed to have firmly shifted his focus to an intense game of tug of war with Show Radio producer, Anny.

Show Radio’s Anny Russell plays tug of war with Strike.
Photo: Tristan Black

Rachael is an experienced dog trainer, and has brought four dogs with her to this year’s Sydney Royal Dog Show. To train dogs as young as Strike to become champion agility dogs, it’s about starting with the basics early on.

“With agility, we tend to start with foundation work when they’re little. So we start with the focus, the play, relationship building and that sort of thing, and they don’t start actual equipment work until they’re much older because we’ve got to give their joints the time to develop,” said Rachael.

With thousands of people cheering, laughing and clapping from the stands at the Dog Pavilion, competing at the Sydney Royal Dog Show comes with a unique set of challenges. “The biggest thing with The Royal is obviously the environment. It’s a really difficult environment for dogs, so we’ve got to work a lot on keeping the connection with the dog, and the dog being able to focus with so much going on around them.”

Photo: Tristan Black

In this afternoon’s novice event, numerous dogs were distracted from the course when small children ran up to the gate from the stands to watch them, with dogs veering off course in the hopes of getting pats from the small humans.

Dogs compete against similar heights to them, running a course made of jumps, ramps, tunnels and weaves, set out by a judge, and adjusted for the dog based on their size.

Rachael Fullerton has some foundational thoughts for dog owners wishing to boost the obedience of their own hounds. “The biggest thing is training. Work with your dog from the minute you get them home. They’re never too young, they’re never too old. Just keep that relationship going. Keep your training up. Local dog clubs are usually a really good option because they’re generally community run so they’re fairly inexpensive, but you’re getting your dog out there and active and involved with you and the community,” she said.

The agility and jumping will be happening in the Dog Pavilion from 9am-5pm on the last day of the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Tristan chats with trainer, Rachael Fullerton.
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