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IFCS 2016 Team Member Profile: Andy Mueller

A profile of IFCS 2016 Team Member Andy Mueller and his dog Crackers.

We are featuring regular profiles of all of the IFCS 2016 Team Members. Today we feature Andy Mueller and his dog Crackers.

Crackers is my first agility dog and we have been competing as a team for six years now.  My wife, Loretta from Full Tilt Agility and I trained Crackers at our facility at our home, but I have to credit her for teaching him all the hard technical stuff, like his running dog walk and for instilling in him his over the top drive to run agility.  Crackers is almost eight-years-old now and is coming back from a torn iliopsoas tendon and muscle injury that has kept him out of competition since October. This will be our fourth time competing on the USA IFCS Team and the seventh time representing the USA at an international event. Crackers has earned 22 international team and individual medals in his career with 13 of them being gold. He also won the Grand Prix at Cynosports in 2012 and the Steeplechase event in 2014. Crackers loves to do agility and thinks it is just one big game chasing dad around the field.  Outside of agility he loves to play ball, swim (only if there is a toy involved), take naps while nestled up under a blanket, and chase our Border Collies (Zip, Klink, Gator, Even, Lynn and Gig) around.

In my real live I have Ph.D. in Dairy Nutrition/Ruminant Nutrition and do Dairy Nutrition and Technical Support for Purina Animal Nutrition, a division of Land O'Lakes & not the cat and dog chow people. I drive a lot around Minnesota, Northern Iowa, and the eastern side of North and South Dakota covering my territory and since Crackers has been injured he has been traveling with me all the time so that I can perform his rehab. He used to only travel with me periodically because staying at home with all the Border Collies was more fun than a road trip, but I enjoy having him with me on the long trips. Crackers injury is all healed and we are looking forward to having some great runs in the Netherlands at the World Agility Championship with our teammates in April.


Where do you live? Buckman, MN.

How did you first get involved with agility? I got involved in agility when I got Crackers. I drive a lot for work and Loretta, my wife, thought I needed a companion to ride along with me to keep me company. Since she is an agility instructor at Full Tilt Agility, we started training him and at first he was timid at doing agility, but he quickly turned on to it. So, I really got involved in agility by accident and through Loretta.

What made you decide to compete? Since Loretta and I were training Crackers and he enjoyed it, with her already going to trials with our Border Collies, we just started trialing too.

Do you (or did you) participate in any other dog sports or training with your dogs? No.

Tell us more about the dog you will be competing with as an IFCS Team Member? Crackers is a seven-and-a-half-year old Jack Russell Terrier.

Does your dog have any quirks or unique habits that you loved to share? Crackers is a very friendly Jack. He tries to befriend everybody and every animal he meets. His other quirk is he loves to be warm if not hot, so he will sit in front of a space heater until he is pink and panting. He will also bury himself under a blanket or covers until he overheats too.

Do you have other dogs/pets aside from your IFCS dog? Tell us more about them: We have six other Border Collies: Zip, Klink, Gator, Lynn, Even and Gig. Zip is retired from agility, while Klink, Gator and Lynn are still competing and Gig is in training. Even herds along with the others. We also have a farm cat, Vittles, that thinks she is a dog and is very much the eighth member of the pack.

How does it feel to be on the IFCS Team this year? It feels great for Crackers and I to be on this year's IFCS team. It is our fourth time being on the team representing the USA. Every year it is a challenge to make the team and an honor to compete.

What are you looking forward to the most at the World Agility Championship event in The Netherlands this April? What I look forward to at the WAC is the team aspect and the camaraderie. I love being on and competing as a team. You build fast friendships with your teammates when you are in a foreign country competing. I also look forward to seeing the friends I have made on the other teams over the years again.

Do you do anything special to prepare yourself for a big competition? In preparation for a big event I always try to get in a little better shape, as Crackers is always in good shape. He runs all out and if I don't keep up with him or get too winded then I am not holding up my end of team. I try to get in more practices with Crackers to make sure our skills are sharp and that my timing is down. I travel a lot for work and usually only get in one practice a week, but I try to get in three to four practices a week before the WAC. I will pack some agility equipment into the van when I travel so that Crackers and I can get some extra practices in when we are not at home too. If I can I will also try to set courses that the judges have used at other competitions to get a feel for what I might see at the WAC. 

People who enjoy agility with their dogs are often intimidated by the idea of competition - what advice would you give them to encourage them to take the plunge? My only advice is to just do it and to not take it too seriously. The agility community is really pretty small and as a result is very supportive. It is never really you versus a fellow competitor, but you and your dog versus the coarse.  Have fun with your dog and don't worry about the Q. After all, to your dog it is just a game they are playing with the one they love to spend time with. Make sure you are doing the same thing.


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