Posted Date: March 30, 2017
A profile of Team USA member Alice Reinkenmeyer and her dog Tess.
Where do you live?
I live in central Missouri
How did you first get involved with agility?
I was attempting to help a neglected dog become confident in itself again when I saw a flyer for agility classes in a riding barn. I immediately suggested to my parents that this could help the dog and we signed up, little had we realized the weekly classes were a nearly three-hour, one-way drive from where we lived! After that set of classes I was hooked and eventually found a training center about an hour closer that I signed up for classes at with my own dog.
What made you decide to compete?
I've always been competitive by nature but I'm also a perfectionist so I never felt we were "ready." After a year or two of training with my dog, my instructor and parents "teased" that if I didn't choose a trial to enter they would enter one for me!
Do you participate in any other dog sports or training with your dogs?
I've trained dogs since I was fairly young as my mother also has a love for them. Over the years I have trained dogs in tricks, local therapy work, and police k9 (narcotics detection and tracking) to name a few things.
Tell us more about the dog you will be competing with as an IFCS Team Member?
Tess is my six-year-old Border Collie, 20" and 35 lbs. Tess was the first Border Collie I've owned and was quite the change from the happy-go-lucky retriever types I was used to! When we got her at six months old she had no clue about toys, treats and didn't really have any desire for people but boy did she love her stock. It took a long while to win her interest for the game. As a perfectionist when she was younger we really had to work hard through some stress issues when it came to agility. She didn't stress about the environment so much as she would about making mistakes so she has really taught me how to take the pressure off the dog and to become a much better handler!
Does your dog have any quirks or unique habits that you loved to share?
Tess is pretty much a "by the book" girl when it comes to running a course however in training and at home she is such a little diva, but being a sensitive dog she has also been raised to get away with just about anything to help build her self-confidence! Tess is quiet as a mouse on course but when watching other dogs run agility (especially if they're noisy and kitty-sized) she has a habit of making this high-pitched squealing on the sidelines. It was comical to me when Robin's dog Rabbit and Tess and I were standing side by side on a podium after Title Mania as they were eyeing one another quite heavily since Rabbit didn't like Tess and Tess was just sure Rabbit was a kitty she needed to taste, lol. But when Tess isn't on the sidelines and it's her turn to train, Tess loves to run victory laps around the field after winning a reward, slowly bringing the laps in until she's just prancing little circles around me. She has no "drop-it" cue so it's our routine to then pry the toy from her jaws before we can continue training. She loves it and while it takes a little extra time between runs it makes her feel like the biggest, baddest dog in the building which is why I've never attempted to train her otherwise.
Do you have other dogs/pets aside from your IFCS dog? Tell us more about them:
My family jokes that we own Noah's Ark as we live on a small farm and love our animals, both large and small. To keep this short I'll just tell you about my personal ones: I have a 13-year-old Lab who used to mess around in agility but was more involved in scent-work when he was younger. My mother has kind of "adopted" him after I got my next dog as he was having a hard time "sharing" me with another. I have an almost nine-year-old Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever mixed with Standard Poodle), Sophie-doodle, who was actually my first agility dog. She is a fun-loving, party-having girl who really helped teach Tess to come out of her shell when we first got Tess. Soph was such a perfect dog to begin agility with, always having a big goofy smile pasted on her face and occasionally leaving me in the ring on her way to go get her fried chicken reward. She taught me that in order to keep up and try to beat the Border Collies we really needed to lay everything down on course and develop a love for speed which has involved much KFC, a few happy bites to my arm on the start line, changing my handling and learning about running contacts. Then came Tess and now I also have a 15-month-old Border Collie girl, Mystery, who is learning the game. She is such a clown and I swear she could be a retriever in a Border Collie's body when you're off the field but put a toy in my hand and she is all business. She is teaching me what running an intense dog is like and we are having a blast! She has a big mouth and is a little smaller than Tess sitting at 28 lbs and 19 5/8" but I hope one day I might be running her on the IFCS team as well!
Describe for us what you do in your "other" non-agility life, work life?
I work at my family's bulk food store as well as on our small farm and in the greenhouses.
How does it feel to be on the IFCS Team this year?
It has been amazing thus far and we haven't even made it to Spain yet! I always hoped, but never really understood, that Tess and I could be competitive at this level. She has surpassed all my hopes for us as a team and is bringing a dream to life. I can't believe how lucky I am to have my Miss Amazing always ready and willing to play this game with me!
What are you looking forward to the most at the World Agility Championship event in Spain this April?
Running alongside some of the most talented and skilled competitors in the world. Cheering on my teammates and being there for the chance to so deeply share in the feeling of both the successes and the challenges we'll face on course. I'm looking forward to agility and sleep but I'm told I will share in the sight-seeing at least a little while we're in Spain.
Do you do anything special to prepare yourself for a big competition?
I really work on my connection with my dog. It's one of those ever-lasting skills I continue to strive to improve. I also try to balance testing my own skills/timing on challenging courses with keeping things simple and running shorter sequences to help Tess remain confident and feeling as successful as ever. Basically cleaning up my handling while making sure Tess knows she can tackle anything we might see out on course because in the long-run she truly does everything to her best ability so long as she has the information early enough to plan for it. Tess is always right... unless Tess thinks she deserves to share my chocolate ;)
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?
I would attend a "home" trial first that your local club might put on. Trials can be extremely fun times to see how your training is coming along and mostly just have fun with your friends and dog! The "home-trial" atmosphere is typically more relaxed and feels more like at class, especially since your surroundings are all already familiar to you. Then maybe venture out with some friends by entering a trial they're already going to. You can have a relaxed time hanging together between your runs and they will likely be more than willing to show you the ropes.
But also, for those who already compete but still battle some anxiety, it might not be the advice most would offer but honestly I can get intimidated by competitions too. What helped me the most is when I realized that most people don't know who I am and they have no expectations about me or my dog. I can go run a course and there's no pressure to have to do well, instead just go have fun with your dog and lay your best out on the course! I love plugging some headphones in and listening to Jessie J's song "Masterpiece." I use this thought-process even at big events and it helps take the pressure off me which allows me to just concentrate on the course and my dog.
Do you have a favorite dog from a book, movie, TV-show or video game?
When I was a child I used to love the story of Balto, nowadays I do good just to get through a book!
Photo credits: Black and white photo by Tamara Fanter, Photo #3 by Carly Treinen, Photo #6 by 1-TDC.com; remaining photos by Alice Reinkenmeyer