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Open Obedience UK with Helen Ryan

Updated: May 11, 2020

Open Obedience is a sport where the dog's obedience training is tested at competitions. Helen competes in Open Obedience across the UK and Ireland and has provided us with an insight into the sport...

Q. What is the best way to start a day?

Although I compete in open obedience across the UK and Ireland, I work full time so most of my focused training is in the evenings and weekends- if I am not competing. In the summer months I train outside and in the winter months I hire a hall or attend training clubs.

When I have a pup I start my day doing small pieces of reward based motivational training in the morning before I head to work.

Q. What is your main career?

I am Head of Marketing for The Malcolm Group, a UK wide logistics and construction company.

Q. What are the biggest issues you face as a dog owner?

A big issue is finding somewhere big enough and secure enough to train in. I am particularly fortunate that I have indoor venues that allow dogs but that is becoming increasingly difficult as more places do not want dogs in.

Irresponsible dog owners not being able to read their own dogs behaviour and allowing them to come into your dogs space – for example roaming off a lead with no recall therefore the owner has no control over the dog. My biggest concern is my dog’s safety. My dogs are unreactive to other dogs but not all dogs are the same and I understand that. Not all dogs like other dogs but It’s important that if you have a reactive dog that you are responsible, rather than take it to a park and let it off the lead with no control.

Q. How long have you been competing in Open Obedience?

I have always taken my dogs to training classes but decided to take it further around 16 years ago and started competing in Open Obedience with my Border Collie Novo.

Q. What clubs have you been a part of?

Kirkintilloch and District Dog training Club and currently I am the secretary of Kilmarnock Dog Training Club which has pet classes and competitive obedience classes.

Q. What are your biggest achievements in Open Obedience UK.

My biggest achievement was my Border Collie Diva achieving Obedience Champion Status, which she gained after winning 3 tickets. The ticket class is the highest class in Obedience and you must progress through a number of classes and winning out of each in order to qualify for ticket. Winning a ticket qualifies you to work in the Obedience Championships at Crufts that year. Diva has won 5 tickets in her career and worked in the Obedience Championships at Crufts 3 times where her highest placing was 3rd. She has also represented Scotland 3 times in the World Cup at Crufts winning an individual 3rd and 4th as a team.

Q. How many dogs do you have now and what is it about Collies you love so much?

I currently have 2 Border Collies, Diva and Phury and my latest addition is 12 week old Oti, a Working Sheepdog. As a breed Collies are not for the faint hearted, they have endless energy and they need a job as they are very smart. Training in Obedience, therefore, is an ideal focus for them.

Each of my 3 are entirely different Diva is 10 years old, well named, she is standoffish and a bit of a princess! She has always needed a lot of reward based motivational training. Phury is 5 in July and the opposite, she is really cuddly and would work until she dropped. What is important with Phury is not allowing her to get too hyped and keeping her focused. Oti so far seems to be a mix of the 2 – she is feisty but also cuddly! I am looking forward to training her over the coming months and seeing her personality develop.

Q. What does your typical training schedule look like?

The show season starts around Easter through to end of September, with a few sporadic winter shows in indoor venues.

Typically over the summer months I train outside and combine this with long walks. I also compete most weekends. Shows are a chance for the dogs and I to compete, socialise, do a bit of training and offer lovely walks at the end of a competition day. Throughout the year the dogs go to Jayne Faulkner Vet Physio for a mix of physio and Canine Conditioning exercises as it's important to keep them fit and healthy.

Winter training is a bit different and for the last few years has been our preparation for Crufts in March. Winter training is indoors for the most part, getting out at the weekends during the day. Our Crufts training schedule includes indoor training 5 times a week, weekly swimming sessions in the Hydropool at Aiket Kennels in Dunlop, Ayrshire and regular visits to our Physio.

Its important the dogs are always happy and confident when working. Some of my training sessions are focused on set exercises, others on motivation and fun. Its also important that the training is varied and stays fun and that the dogs and I enjoy it.

Q. How early do you start training your dogs for Open Obedience?

As soon as I get them I start working on my bond and relationship with the dog. A good bond and relationship is the foundation of a good team and vital when competing in Obedience. The pup are I are currently working on fun exercises to build her confidence and focus while building our relationship. We do this everyday.

Q. What would be your advice for someone who wants to get into Competitive Obedience?

Find a good club that competes in Open Obedience. Any breed can do it – not just collies.

Q. Is Open Obedience a highly competitive industry?

Yes, it is competitive but is also sociable and fun.

Q. What would your advice to someone looking to adopt a puppy?

Do your research and look for a reputable breeder.

Q. What diet would you recommend for your dog?

I provide a good quality dry food diet, supplemented by high quality natural air-dried treats and snacks.

Q. Can you describe a typical show day?

Its an early start as ideally you need to be at the venue for at least an hour before judging starts.

Q. Lastly, would you encourage others into Open Obedience?

Yes, not everyone strives to reach Crufts. Obedience is a social sport and it’s a good way for you and your dog to spend time together.

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