Heelwork to Music weekend in Holland
landing I was informed that this airport was the largest in Europe - and
I was meeting someone there! However, this proved to be so easy - a well
signed Meeting Point in red and white chequers from which we were instantly
whisked away by a driver to the Martin Gaus Dog Training Centre, which
was to be our base for the following three days.
centre consists of boarding kennels and a cattery, a large purpose built
dog-training hall with carpeted centre and large screen for using video
footage. There is also a fully equipped lecture theatre for training those
aspiring to become Dog Trainers. Martin is an eminent TV programme personality
in Holland and this was reflected in the presentation of the facilities
a night in the hotel, we returned to the centre for the first of the two
training days to be carried out by Donelda Guy - Donelda is amongst the
top dog handlers for Heelwork To Music and I was there to assist when
necessary, since there were 24 keen handlers, I was kept very busy. Handlers
with a variety of breeds all interested in what they term as “Doggie Dancing”
were very willing and able pupils. Their impeccable knowledge of the English
language made it all so much easier for us to explain how they could improve
on their existing skills. By the end of the first day - they were all
so eager to get on to the floor individually and work with their dogs
to the music - they each showed how much they had learnt and could now
put into practice.
of Open Class - Alexia van Mensch and Raisa the Siberian Husky.
second day was “Competition Day”. I was drafted in to be a judge alongside
Donelda, Martin Gaus and Jules O’Dwyer, who has lived in Holland for several
years and is an advanced dog handler in both obedience and Heelwork To
Music. The classes were split into levels of competence only - no different
classes for styles. The Junior Class was first - and they worked very
well. Sharisse Uytterhoeven with her three - year - old Border Collie
won this group with a very fast and accurate routine.
second class was the Beginners - those who had never entered before -
this class had the largest entry of 34 and was won by a lady called Sandra
Hurkmans and her nine-year- old Maltese Terrier. The dog worked so precisely
and was extremely attentive of the handler - the content and musical interpretation
scored highly with all judges.
third class was called Open - this was for those who had entered a competition
before. The standard of some this class was a little disappointing after
the quality of the Starter class. However, those placed in the top three
were excellent - there was a well-deserved win for Alexia van Mensch with
her Siberian Husky as their interpretation of the music was so well choreographed
and suited to the partnership.
two entries in the advanced class - but, due to the intense barking of
one of the dogs - which detracted from the spectator appeal - the first
place went to Cristine Mattheus and her two-year-old collie whose routine
was very calmly executed with good moves carried out by her dog on just
Day with a variety of breeds.
was fabulous entertainment from a lady dressed as a bee and her massive
Newfoundland - although this was a singles routine, they brought four
additional people, dressed as flowers into the ring all performing to
“the birds and the bees”. The enthusiasm of the handler when the dog moved
in the correct direction was second to none. The unlimited choice of music
available gives scope to many different breeds to perform in this fabulous
sport, which is proving so popular as dog lovers in many countries discover
the benefits of Heelwork To Music
third day in Holland soon arrived - another very busy Training Day - the
handlers numbering over 25 were mostly those who had competed the day
before. However, Donelda still instructed them how to train and improve
most of the moves, which she had chosen to cover on day one. There was
a definite need to train the dogs to verbal commands and to move on from
luring the dog into position with food or toys. Amongst the moves Donelda
covered were spins, twirls, bowing, large circles, the dog walking backwards
and weaving in all directions.
to One instruction!!! I’m on the left.
from my days in Holland, I found that in the majority of routines the
handlers had not considered how to use all the available ring space -
unfortunately, they did tend to position themselves in the centre in order
to show the spectators and judges every move that their dogs could do
- without necessarily reflecting any of the music.
handlers are also very dependent on food and toys for the dogs and since
their rules allow these items to be carried during a routine in most of
the classes, there seems very little incentive to “try” without. The carrying
of bum-bags crammed with cheese and toys detracts somewhat from the spectator
appeal and hinders the smooth movement through a routine.
were able to show our “pupils” video footage of our own routines and when
they realised what a difference moving to the music can make - I’m sure
that their standard and partnership enjoyment of this fabulous sport will