In 2016 Fenzi Dog Sports Academy started an online dog obedience titling scheme called TEAM titles. It stands for Training Excellence Assessment Modules. You teach your dog various exercises at home, video them and submit the video for judging. After a week or so, you get the result (pass or not yet) along with helpful comments from the judge. This set-up suits me perfectly. I don’t need to travel anywhere to participate and it only costs around £15 to register and £22 to submit a video ($20 and $29 November 2021).
Indie already had some of the skills needed to start the necessary exercises as we had been working on Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels. Happily a course was offered at FDSA for TEAM levels 1 and 2 – this was later divided into separate courses as there were enough students to fill them. I wasn’t familiar with the use of platforms and perches in training, so I got my power tools out and used leftover wood from my campervan refit to make a small platform for sitting and a larger one that Indie could lie on. I needed a very heavy, solid perch for him to pivot round, so I wrapped my copy of Larousse Gastronomique securely in brown paper and packing tape and hoped for the best.
Looking back, I’m not sure how we managed to learn all of the exercises – including jump over a hurdle, in my tiny sitting room. The maximum space in there is 3.3m by 3.9m (11 x 13ft). Once Indie was fluent in all the behaviours and I felt we were close to submitting an attempt, I tried to video the sequence of 10 exercises and found that even if I placed the camera and tripod outside the back door and used a fish-eye lens, I wasn’t able to get all of the action into the frame. The only option was to find a new space and retrain everything. The good news: we have an enclosed sports area on the estate. The bad news: no dogs allowed.
There was a lot of equipment to ferry backwards and forwards: two platforms, perch, cone, jump, vertical target and scent articles. Although no-one challenged our presence in the space, Indie had a lot of distractions to work around. We are near a major rail terminus and the tracks run over the other side of the road. Commuters and school children walk past, chatting; there are businesses in the railway arches that make pizza and other food for delivery; lorries come to empty the communal bins and there are the ever-present background noises of planes and emergency vehicles.
All 10 exercises have to completed in a single video with a time limit of seven minutes. This has since changed so that you can split the exercises into two sets of five, videoed a maximum of 7 days apart.
Our first submission earned a “Not yet” due to handler error, but two weeks later our we earned a pass and the exhilaration of achieving it kept me buoyed up for weeks.