Chief is the top dog in national agility contest
THERE were bright lights, TV cameras and a crowd of 10,000 cheering him on – but Chief took it all in his stride.
The border collie, who trains with his owner Mark Douglas in Iron Acton, was the only competitor to achieve a clear run at the Kennel Club Olympia Novice Dog Agility final in London.
Mark has had Chief, who is five years old, since he was a puppy.
He said: “I’m amazed to be honest, truly amazed – I thought there were a lot of very, very good dogs. There were some that are quicker but he was the most accurate on the day – it’s about who goes clear and who’s the fastest going clear.
“My goal for the year was to get him to go to Olympia, it’s the main goal for any dog in the UK. Getting him there was a huge bonus: it’s a long arduous road to the qualifiers and then on to the final, and of the thousands of dogs that take part in the qualifiers, it’s down to just eight in the final.”
It was Mark’s 11th time competing at Olympia but the first time for Chief, whose kennel name is Cories Chief Paleface at Starsofmars.
The atmosphere is more challenging compared to smaller competitions because of the huge, noisy venue.
Chief has had a difficult journey to the top, because Mark had a two-year break following an operation when he couldn’t run, making it extremely difficult to compete. He then went through a divorce, which had an impact as the 12 dogs he and his ex-wife had owned together were registered jointly with the Kennel Club. Mark and Chief couldn’t compete at Kennel Club events until this was resolved last year.
Mark with Chief and his trophy and rosette.
Mark started agility training with his first dog in 1996 because it was "something fun to do".
He now hires an equestrian centre in Winterbourne for training sessions a couple of times a week. He said: “It’s rewarding – it is keeping them active, it keeps the handler active, the bond between the dog and the handler develops, it’s a proper team.
“It’s the fastest growing dog sport in the world. It’s open to all. A 3 or 4 year old can run with a dog and there’s pensioners and beyond who compete at agility. People with physical disabilities and mental health issues can do it too.”
Mark last won the ABC event at Crufts in 2011, and he’s competed there seven times, with three overall wins and a 3rd place. He’s participated at Olympia 11 times with 3 wins, a 2nd and 3rd, has represented Team GB at the European Open and World Championships, and has competed at the World Agility Open, winning a Gold, Silver and a Bronze Medal.