Jane Dalton wins Crufts 2020 Team Agility Championships first time!
How many people can claim to win Crufts on their first outing? Well that is exactly what Jane Dalton, McTimoney Animal Practitioner and her rescue dog Roxy did, qualifying with DAGDAG East Just a Smidge and winning the Crufts Medium Teams Agility Final in March 2020.
“Just qualifying at the Scottish Kennel Club (SKC) Agility Show in August 2019 was absolutely amazing. Qualifying for Crufts is one of the goals that agility handlers aspire to and being able to compete on the green carpet is an achievement and experience in itself. It was such a privilege to even be there with my fantastic little dog Roxy, (registered name Whisky on the Roxy), and being in the team event was fantastic. We were all so proud to have qualified at our first attempt as a team and having the support of your teammates and being able to share the experience made it a much less nerve-wracking experience.”
Jane goes on to say, “My teammates were just great, and our main aim was to go out there and enjoy it and do the best we could. To not only get four clears (and be the only team to do that over all height categories) and then ultimately win was unbelievable. We are all still in shock that we actually did it! The experience will take some beating!!! We had amazing support from so many friends, fellow competitors, club mates and family. Roxy coped so well with the atmosphere and ran the most perfect run of her life. Winning was the icing on the cake, and it was extra special in the final year that the Crufts Medium Teams Agility Final will be held at Crufts – nobody can ever take that achievement away from us!”
Roxy is a seven-year-old crossbreed of unknown origins, that Jane adopted from the RSPCA at 10 months old (she had lived with a family who had struggled to cope with her energy). Who knew back then what an amazing partnership was going to be formed?
Jane was already working as a human sports and equine massage therapist when she qualified in McTimoney Animal Manipulation in December 2015, following three years of dedicated study. Not only did this give Jane a valuable skill set, it also gave her the higher-level Masters qualification to add to her knowledge and skills base which is so important in ensuring standards of care in complementary therapy.
McTimoney is a form of chiropractic manipulation used to treat pain and dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system. It predominantly focuses on optimising alignment of the spine and pelvis in order to restore correct function of the skeletal system, nervous system and surrounding soft tissue. The technique is non-invasive and gentle and is readily accepted by animals. The treatment aims to resolve dysfunction and balance the animal’s musculoskeletal system, restoring health and movement, soundness and performance.
Combining the McTimoney treatment with sports and remedial massage and utilising canine fitness training, has benefited her superstar dog Roxy, by providing regular maintenance treatments, a comprehensive cross-training and conditioning programme, and a lot of investment in injury prevention. For example, Jane always carries out a warm-up and cool-down routine before and after each and every run and tries to avoid the dangers of over-training and repetitive strain injuries. Jane explains further, “Regular maintenance treatments allow me to pick up small areas of tightness or minor issues before they become more significant, and the conditioning work allows me to see any signs of asymmetrical movement and/or compensation patterns and address these before they lead to longer-term problems.”
Unlike many Crufts winners, Roxy is Jane’s first dog and Jane had wanted to give agility a go after watching it at Olympia for many years and seeing an annual display by a local club at country fair. “I have always been passionate about horses, having ridden since I was a child and working with them as a behaviourist and then physica
l therapist since 2009. Agility looked like a safer version of show jumping but much faster and more furious and I thought it would be a great thing to try when I eventually got a dog. When I got Roxy, she was full of energy and enthusiasm for anything active, I started training her when she was 16 months old; she took to agility with gusto right from her first lesson and we were competing 7 months later! She won a class at her very first show and went on to be amazing at it, reaching the highest grade 7 two years ago – she is just hampered by her inexperienced handler!” Clearly Jane’s skills from her equestrian days training horses were of great benefit, and despite her inexperience and modesty, Jane was able to develop Roxy’s natural abilities to her full potential.
However, things haven’t always been plain sailing. Jane has had a few injuries over the years and her ability to run fast and turn tightly is compromised by slightly dodgy knees and a previously broken ankle. Jane explained, “I’ve learnt to manage my own injuries through regular McTimoney chiropractic treatment and sports massages for myself, as well as doing yoga.”
Roxy also suffered an injury last Christmas when she ran at high speed into a glass door that she didn’t realise wasn’t open. For a time it was touch and go whether Roxy’s debut at Crufts might even happen, but through her rest period Jane focused on carrying out daily rehabilitation exercises, agility-specific conditioning, and maintenance of her core fitness, before reintroducing her to agility with a graduated programme of increasing height and intensity over a 6 week period in preparation for Crufts. “It wasn’t what I had planned as the lead-up for our first experience on the green carpet, and fortunately we were lucky enough to have team reserves in place in case we had to pull out, but with the support of my fantastic trainer Steven Richardson – himself a Crufts veteran – we were able to get her back up to full fitness and performance in time for her Crufts debut”.
There is little that can beat achieving the status of Crufts Champion, but Jane’s main aim has always been modest, to just enjoy living life to the full with Roxy and allow her to do what she loves. She is a dog of many talents; in addition to agility, she is also a Mantrailer, scentwork and parkour dog. Jane says, “I would love to continue competing in agility for as long as we are able, and although we will continue to compete in Crufts and Olympia qualifiers, we will also get as much enjoyment out of running at fun shows and blasting round steeplechase courses. My main goal is to keep her fit, healthy and active, and to be able to continue exploring the Lake District fells, beaches, lakes and woodlands with my best buddy for many more years to come.”
Jane works in Cumbria and the surrounding areas, using the McTimoney chiropractic manipulation treatment for agility dogs, both for maintenance, injury prevention and conditioning/rehab, but she also treats a lot of active pet dogs, older dogs and retired sporting dogs and of course she also treats horses and other animals too.
Jane also has a lot of clients and fellow competitors who have been keen to find suitable activities for their retired agility dogs, and she has also trained as a dog parkour and Mantrailing instructor, which are both fantastic low-impact activities for dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes. Dog Parkour, sometimes known as urban
dog agility, is a non-competitive activity that works on ways to conquer obstacles, such as climbing, balancing, and jumping. Mantrailing is the search for a specific person with a dog and is increasingly being used in the UK by search and rescue teams to track down missing people.
Jane’s advice for anyone considering becoming a McTimoney Animal Practitioner is simple. She says, “Think about the kinds of dogs, horses and clients that you would like to work with, learn as much as you can about different activities (and breeds), and immerse yourself in the world of dogs and horses – your clients will want to know that you understand the demands that their sports or activities place on them and their four-legged companions. Be prepared for the learning to be intensive – achieving a Level 7 qualification takes a huge amount of work, time and emotional investment, but will be worth its weight in gold when you are out practising in the real world.”
For those wishing to enter the world of agility, there are some great online resources, but the best way is to find a good local club/trainer who can help you introduce the sport to you and your dog in a safe and positive way. Many people, just like Jane, set out to do agility for fun, but soon become hooked. There is a great community of like-minded people of all ages who take part in competitions throughout the year. Be warned – it is addictive!