An interview with Christine Faltner: In search of the golden puppy

Christine Faltner is an Austrian agility handler living in Norway and having her own agility center with Jan Egil Eide. She has a tervueren Jamjam, a mudi Pipi and a young papillon HalliGalli. She’s very modest about her accomplishments, such as competing in many championships all over Europe with Jamjam, and describes herself as a normal competitor with average goals:

“I don’t dream about winning World Championships but I always want to do my best in each run in each competition. I believe my dogs always deserve the best from me as they always give their best.”

Christine started agility at the age of 12, inspired by her mother: “I admired the connection she had with our dog and the community and friendships she built through this hobby. So when I was 13, I got a border collie boy named Jackie aka Bubu. Together we learned so much about agility but also what it means to have that special relationship with your dog.”

No pup is born World Champion

Christine is worried about the trend of trying to find the golden puppy. “I love agility, but I love dogs even more. We aren't perfect, neither are dogs. I think every puppy deserves a chance. They aren’t machines or sport equipment, they are living beings.”

“I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make in choosing a puppy, is setting wrong expectations”, Christine says. “We all have dreams but we have to ask ourselves - is it about the dream and not about the dog or is it about building dreams together? No dog is born World Champion, it’s the team that makes the titles. It’s the time, the energy and love we put into what we do together. And some dogs need more time or different motivations than others.”

No dog is born World Champion, it’s the team that makes the titles. It’s the time, the energy and love we put into what we do together. And some dogs need more time or different motivations than others.
— Christine Faltner

Christine emphasises that every dog is different, every puppy you get is a new challenge and a new friend at the same time. “Of course, also I have expectations; I want to do agility with my dogs. However, there needs to be a plan B, just in case.”

Social media affects expectations

Christine thinks social media plays a major role in how people set expectations for their pups: “All you see is perfection. Perfect running contacts, perfect turns and perfect handlers. But it rarely shows the other side of the coin; the work and time that was put into it. Or maybe the 20 out of 22 contacts that were not so good. We need to remember that reality is often totally different, and sometimes those who praise their dogs the most are the unhappiest. What we see on Facebook or Instagram is just a picture others want us to see. Stop comparing yourself with others.”

All you see is perfection. Perfect running contacts, perfect turns and perfect handlers. But it rarely shows the other side of the coin; the work and time that was put into it.
— Christine Faltner

Agility is a team sport - also the handler matters

“I think in the last few years the sport has reached a very high level. As you could see in AWC this year, the times were even tighter than before. It’s not just about being the fastest dog to get to the podium, it’s as important to be the best trained dog. And it is also about the handler; about handling the dog and handling the pressure. Handlers need to be in good shape too. But we tempt to leave it more to dog skills and at the same time also blame it on the dogs. Remember, Agility is a team sport.”

Success is also about the handler; about handling the dog and handling the pressure. Handlers need to be in good shape too. But we tempt to leave it more to dog skills and at the same time also blame it on the dogs. Remember, Agility is a team sport.
— Christine Faltner

The most important things to consider when choosing a puppy for agility

Christine thinks the most important thing in choosing a puppy, even when aiming to do agility, is to see what fits your daily life: “We love agility - so I wouldn't go for a basset hound or any kind of breed that isn’t physically suited for agility. Otherwise, the main focus should be on what kind of dog fits your lifestyle. I like "normal" dogs with no physical exaggerations combined with cleverness, character and will to work in a team.”

The main focus should be on what kind of dog fits your lifestyle. I like “normal” dogs with no physical exaggerations combined with cleverness, character and will to work in a team.
— Christine Faltner

Christine isn’t really into puppy testing, but instead likes to let her heart decide. “If both parents and puppies are mentally and physically stable, you have everything you need. Most of the dog’s potential is created through shaping as well as the surroundings, so, in other words, you get what you make out of it.”

Building a relationship and motivation are key factors during puppy period

As there seems to be an increasing number of requirements for dog skills in agility, some start training earlier and earlier: “I see that the trend of training very young dogs is coming back, which scares me a little.”

Instead of training obstacles and such at an early age, Christine believes in relationship building: “I believe in the relationship I build with my dog. As a team you can achieve so much! I want the fun we have together to be a priority for my puppy also.”

Agility is a team sport.

Christine says that, together with a good relationship between dog and handler, motivation is key: “Some dogs are born with a high motivation for play and / or food, others are not. With some dogs you need to work on the motivation. I believe you need to find what makes it fun for the dog. As long as it’s fun for them, they will love to do things with you.”

“Just enjoy your new friend. And a new challenge. Remember why you started agility with your first dog, remember how much fun and possible frustration it involved. And enjoy this process with each new dog. It totally pays off, because the feeling when you’ve worked for something together and then become a team is totally priceless.”

Invest thought and time to your dog

Just training because of training isn’t the best way to build up an agility dog. Every dog is an individual and also needs individual training, Invest thought and time to your dog. It’s easier with AgiNotes and the data you get from there.

Did you know that you can add your foundation training to AgiNotes and use it from the day the puppy has arrived? Record all your training sessions from the day one, concentrate on the quality!