Heelwork to Music in the UK

CLASS 1 , Advanced Heelwork, Rugby Dog Training Club, head judge Lesley Brocklehurst

Thank you to R.D.T.C.for inviting me to judge two classes today, and for the excellent catering and organisation of this annual and popular Semi-finals for Crufts.

1st - Joannne Mayston and WSD Mists of Tawny, scoring 25.55. A good range and balance of positions, directions of movement and speeds, together with some freestyle moves which helped to interpret the music, its timing and phrasing. I have seen Joanna develop throughout this year and must congratulate her on the progress made. Now a more confident and expressive handler, who has managed to ditch the twiddly fingers and patting of the leg!!! This is a team to watch out for. Just two suggestions – work on the dog’s erratic backing and get yourself a jazzy costume to complete the picture!

2nd -Emily Crookes and B.C. Borderpride Love Actually, scoring 24.25. A wide range of moves including backing at 2 speeds and side stepping away from the handler whilst keeping a close heel position. Mostly very accurate work with excellent timing and phrasing and a range of neat handler footsteps to add interest. The positions behind [7 and 8] need a little work. This is not a team with which I am familiar but again, one to watch out for – great potential and both dog and handler have youth on their side!! Thoroughly enjoyable. Who said Heelwork was boring?!

3rd -Jill Davis and B.C. Rosmarinus Cinnabar at Glidersway, scoring 23.9. The business like, controlled entry and quick start gave Matisse no time to be distracted. This was essentially a heelwork routine with no freestyle apart from the neat quick transitions and a bow at the end. This team flowed around the ring, transcribing interesting patterns and demonstrating movements in all directions in several of the positions used. Mostly very accurate heelwork and had Matisse not discovered and interesting aroma on the carpet this would have been my winner. A simple colour matching costume was effective. Another rising star I predict.

4h - Ann De Rizzio and B.C. Stillmoor Show Stopper, scoring 23.50. Ann always works in a relaxed manner, making neat and simple links which enable her routines to flow. Her dogs similarly enjoy their time in the ring, working in a happy natural way , demonstrating true partnership. Today was no exception, and despite having 3 dogs in the same class Ann had an impressive costume and props for each one - something I feel is lacking in so many routines. Musical interpretation was good with the build up effectively used. Not perhaps as “polished” as usual but still a good varied and interesting routine.

5th - Anne Shuker and crossbreed Freckle Frenzy, Scoring 22.95. Short in stature but not in length or brain?! This dog is always fun to watch because of her keenness and exuberance. Able to work in all positions and I think in all directions too, Freckle does not work as closely as some dogs in Heelwork but is learning to maintain more consistent positions apart from a tendency to forge ahead when working across the front. Such attitude!

Well done to all the other competitors who performed well with interesting and varied performances.

Crufts advanced HTM semi final - head judge Richard Curtis

Thank you to Rugby dtc for asking me to be head judge this year. As would be expected with this club, the judges were looked after very well.

I was looking forward to judging the semi finals this year as I had not seen many of the teams that would be working for a while. I do like to see nice heelwork performed well with an attentive and motivated dog close to the handler. Above all a good heelwork routine should “sell” that dog and make it sparkle. There were some dogs which demonstrated this but also some which I felt were being held back. Some handlers need to be a little more precise and picky with the positions which the dog holds and analyse if they can improve their dogs drive, head position, attentiveness etc. I’m sure some of these dogs perform in both HTM and freestyle but I wonder if a few would be better specialising in one division such as HTM, as freestyle can blow a well motivated dogs mind.

1st -Caroline Garrett with Wildsea Phoenix of Fire

This team presented a lovely flowing routine with precise quality heelwork throughout. The handler’s calm smooth manner suited the piece of music well. Caroline did hold her hands in positions to help the dog but this was done discreetly and her hands matched each other so looked less obvious than someone with a hand on a hip and the other swinging along. Some people think a HTM routine is about who can work the dog without there hands in position but for me I would rather see quality heelwork with hands subtly helping, than a dog wide, head bobbing all over the place and the dog looking dull. A super performance if you appreciate a well trained heelwork dog and it was easily the winning routine for me.

2nd - Lucy Creek and Harriot Skiffle King

Performing a pirate themed routine to a Treasure Island medley this was one of a few HTM routines with a story. Skiffle held some nice positions but at times I felt it got a little manic and some of the precision in his positions was lost. Saying that this team can do heelwork to trouble the best and Skiffles speed of reaction to commands is lovely to watch. A dog should always look like it is enjoying itself out there in the ring and Skiffle always does.

3rd - Heather Smith and Moonlight Magic Dancer

Heather and Maddie were another team that produced a very strong themed routine which centred around going to the moon. Heather dressed as an astronaut really set the scene and there was no mistaking what this routine was going to be about. Maddie as usual held some good heelwork positions but I felt the routine could have benefited from seeing her stride out more. The music held a strong theme but I don’t know if there was too many pieces put together which meant sometimes I felt the routine lacked flow. Saying that, the end of the music produced a great ending, which allowed Heather to use a creative pose which really suited the routine.

4th - Pamela Sullivan Norden Lights Hawk

This Golden retriever is a very well motivated dog which I think at times has a tendency to boil over. It would have been nice to see him move out more but Pamela used the music well to show off her dogs positions. Pamela’s musicality really does help her in performing the routines and this time I felt her movements matched the dog’s performance well.

5th - Michelle Dodson and Kinaway Doctor Kildare

Performing a Chinese inspired routine I really liked the start of this routine. At times I would have liked a bit more drive in his heelwork when moving but he remained attentive throughout the routine. The music edit allowed for fast and slow paces to be demonstrated.

6th - Julia Folland and Jones Girl

Julia had a long wait to see if she was in a place as she kicked off the class with a performance to Bleeding love by Leona Lewis. This was a precise routine which perhaps could have used the ring a little more. Again a change of pace in the heelwork might have helped to give the routine a bit of a boost and as at times I felt the dog was held back. A good solid performance though, with some nice tight heelwork.

Freestyle semi final - head judge Richard Curtis

It was a nice experience this year to get up in the morning of a Crufts freestyle semi final and not be nervous! Freestyle is a favourite of mine as there can be so many innovative and creative ideas demonstrated. Watching the competition from a judge’s perspective this year I felt that some routines didn’t show me what I expect in advance. Basic moves done well do look great but for an advanced routine I want to see a higher degree of training. To stand out in this class you need to choose your music/theme wisely and sequences need to be well thought out so that it doesn’t just look like trick show. Marking on the whole was pretty low, I would have loved to give some marks into the nines.

One bug bear for me this year was the amount of time handlers took to put their props out and remove them. It was always an unwritten rule you have the time that the judges were marking to put your props out then you should be ready to go. I’m afraid if there is ever a rule brought in about the amount of time you have to put props in the ring, its only because of the handlers who have used too much time putting props out.

1st - Lucy Creek with Harriot Skiffle King

An interesting and difficult piece of music to use I felt, I liked the start and end but perhaps the story got a little lost in the middle. There were some nice moves and the two lampposts were used well during the routine. Accuracy of some of the links was not as sharp as it could be but overall a good performance.

2nd - Heather Smith and Moonlight Magic Dancer

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the props and the music for this routine but I started to realise it was something to do with hair which of course suited Maddie. The second half of the routine allowed Maddie to get going and she does seem to love her big circles. I was slightly confused about the tunnel prop and what I thought was a doorway entrance with silver tinsel but I think I deduced it was a mirror ( im sure most people knew it was a mirror!) A story was evident but perhaps could have been stronger at times.

3rd - Kim Lyddon and Canen You Said What

A light hearted golf routine was evident from the start with Kim having a large learner sign on the back of her. I loved the distance move where the dog ran off and put his paw around the flag. At times I felt there were sequences which had not gone completely right and moves which were not as clean as they could be. A good routine though, with a theme which could be developed further.

5th - Sue Betteridge and Glenalpine Katie

Sue and Katie always seem to put in a good solid performance and today was no different. To the theme run rabbit it started off well and I also liked the ending. I felt part way through that I was confused as to whether Katie was still the rabbit or not by the choice of moves that were being performed. Props were plentiful but perhaps could have been used multiple times.

5th - Jackie Roberts and Rosmack Marmite Solider

I liked the start of this routine with Jackie laid on a chair and thought the dogs head moving from one side of her head to the other from behind very effective. The start really screamed their theme of busy doing nothing but as the routine went on I felt the theme was a little lost although I could see the thinking behind the middle of the routine. A flowing and accurate performance which put Jackie into fifth place.

6th - Christina Oxtoby and Legacys Eze Ezekiel

This was probably the best routine I have seen this team put together. Sequences were evident and good ring use was seen. One niggle was the use of a lounge foot stall, what was it meant to be? as the theme seemed to be a waiter I’m guessing it was a table but I just felt that although this is a very minor point, your props should look as professional as the routine you want to present.
Class: Intermediate Freestyle

Judges: Head judge Carole Dodson and co judge Ann DeRizzio

1st Pamela Ruscoe with Cheeky Keeva of Kilkenny a Crossbreed 
It was a shame that the dog was not able to hold the starting position, but overall this team worked well together throughout the routine and made good use of props which suited the chosen theme. I would have liked to see the routine flow a bit better and there could have been a bit more variety in moves for a winning routine. Having said that it was really lovely to see the dog being enthusiastic and remaining attentive throughout.

2nd. Iris Maxfield with Just Call me Rolo
I liked the interpretation Iris took of this well used piece of freestyle music – Eye of the Tiger. This team made very good use of the props and available the ring space. The dog lacked some enthusiasm at times but overall the routine flowed and they worked well as a team.

3rd. Nicci Maskell Nikki Maskell with Jumping Paws Skys the limit
Using the classic Lion King music, Can’t Wait to be King, the theme was unmistakable from Nicci’s very apt costume. Sky did some lovely cute factor moves during this performance, at one stage she had to tug at Nicci’s trouser leg, which she did happily. Sadly there were times that the dog got a bit distracted, but Nicci managed to regain her attention and complete the routine. This routine, with a bit more development and some attention work, could do very well. 

4th.Karen Braden with Maisie Mae Blue Moon
I liked the very creative use of moves and props by this team to interpret the Car Wash music. The dog seems to be a little distracted today so marks were lost on accuracy, flow and team work. On a good day I could see this team scoring much higher.
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