A Strictly Canine dance off

By: Richard Curtis


Comebyanaway Pure Love with Helen Dennis won both intermediate classes at the show

A regular show in the competition calendar is the Strictly Canine HTM show held at Newark. The weather was good which makes things a lot easier when you are in and out of the hall throughout the day. For me this event is my local one so I always try to get the date in the diary before something else gets booked in on that date. Many of my pupils tend to enter as it is close to the various classes that I teach so it’s nice to watch how they get on at a competition. 

  The day kicked off with Novice heelwork to music which had 13 entries. The first team to set the pace was Lesley Neville with her young Bearded Collie Brambledale Brown Tedi scoring 20.35. A few dogs later and it was the turn of Jackie Clarke with her working sheepdog Nice Tri Ted to try an impress the judges. Performing to Dancing A Catchy Rhythm the team showed off their HTM skills which resulted in them just piping Lesley as they scored 20.55 thus winning the class. Obviously in this class it was lucky to have a dog called Ted!

  Next was the starters HTM class where Susan Steele and her working sheepdog Ollie Folly Fidget were the clear winners. Performing to the Olly Murs song Dance With Me Tonight the team showed off various heelwork positions with Ollie happily moving around the ring. 

  The intermediate classes at shows don’t seem to be as full as many of the other classes at present. I’m not sure why that is as the intermediate classes should in theory be quite full as everyone in the class is trying to get the win as you require this in order to progress to advanced. It wasn’t a high scoring class with all the top six scoring under the 20 points mark. It wasn’t until the end of the class that the first and second placed teams emerge. Lorraine Rohland and her Australian Shepherd bitch Moortime Moonbeam performed to Get Stupid and went into the lead with only one team to go. The last team in the class have been doing very well at competitions this year so they were bound to give Lorraine trouble. Helen Dennis is an experienced handler who has taken dogs through the classes before. The way she handled her young Border Collie bitch Comebyanaway Pure Love was testament to her experience. This little bitch performed happily to Hey There Delilah by the Baseballs and walked away with the win in this class. 

  It was then time for me to make my way to the judges table as I was one of the judges of the advanced HTM class. On paper it looked a good class as there were 14 entries but as is usual in this class by the time you took out those not turned up on the day and those that wanted to do a training round there were actually only six teams scoring points. The first team into the ring was Cathy Bates with her working sheepdog bitch Ruskath Lyrical Image. I seem to always be mentioning this team in show reports as Cathy and Sybil are one of the few teams who attend nearly all the shows in the year. Sybil put in one of her consistent rounds guided by Cathy who was dressed in a floaty top which complemented the flowing music. The score of 23.60 was going to be tough for others to beat.

  Lesley Neville with another of her Bearded Collies was next to score well. This well polished routine to The Hallelujah Trail suits this team well and Lesley is good at interpreting the music. A few times Dewy got a little out of position which cost them a few points but they got close to Cathy and Sybil with a score of 22.55. 


Obedience work

It’s good to see many HTM handlers returning to obedience competitions as this is the basis of the sport. To watch a dog performing good motivated heelwork is a joy to watch especially to those of us who know how hard it is to teach. Precision in the heelwork performed in HTM has not always been that high in some classes as perhaps nowadays not all handlers have come into the sport having trained their dog in obedience first. I think it does take a certain type of person to like to train heelwork as it is not as exciting as the twists and jumps that you find in freestyle. Heelwork really needs the handler to be consistent in where they are rewarding and to get the dog to enjoy it the handler has to convey this to the dog. The monotony of heelwork does tend to favour the collie types as they are willing to perform something again and again but this doesn’t mean the non collies cannot compete against them. 

Lesley and Tedi jumping for joy when they won novice freestyle

  Getting back to the show it was next the turn of the starters freestyle teams to take to the floor. This class was the largest of the day with 23 teams entered. This class can often throw up some surprises as it is of course the class that new handlers compete in. Caragh McGrath and her Papillion dog Heruman Mountain Moon were obviously a team which impressed the judges as they scored them 24.55. This was going to be tough to beat and it wasn’t until the last dog in the class was performing that it looked like they were possibly going to be beaten. Andrea McHugh with her crossbreed dog Mister Coco Pops performed to It Takes Two by Marvin Gaye. This team produced a nice performance but just couldn’t quite score as highly as Caragh so their score of 22.40 took Andrea and Coco into second place. 

  Novice freestyle followed on quickly and I had entered my young Herbie in this class as he had never worked in a HTM ring before. Getting young dogs used to the ring environment is so important and we are lucky at HTM shows that you can take the dog into the ring and perform a training round if you prefer. With my other dogs I have not needed to as they have been around the shows more but Herbie is a bit different and I could tell he needs to get used to the HTM ring before we entertain actually competing. I was very pleased with his attitude and he enjoyed playing with his favourite toy in the world which is a plastic bottle! Lesley Neville was having a good day at the show as her Brambledale Brown Tedi was the last dog to perform and they scooped the win. Not content with the win in this class Lesley did a quick change and took to the ring with her older Beardie Dewy in the next class which was advanced freestyle and won that was well. 

  The last class of the day was intermediate freestyle where Helen Dennis and her Border Collie Comebyanaway Pure Love matched their win in the HTM class earlier with a win in this class as well. I don’t think it will be too long before we see this team in the Crufts semi-final classes. 

So that was the end of another well run event by Nicci and her team of helpers who seemed to have everything running like clockwork.