Brian Aghajani Photography: Blog https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog en-us (C) Brian Aghajani Photography (Brian Aghajani Photography) Sat, 16 Oct 2021 02:38:00 GMT Sat, 16 Oct 2021 02:38:00 GMT https://www.brianaghajani.com/img/s/v-12/u223048507-o600502566-50.jpg Brian Aghajani Photography: Blog https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog 94 120 Laurie Schweizer, x3 National Champion https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/10/laurie-schweizer-x3-national-champion There was a big question mark who would be the top IGP dogs in the USA after the pause of competition in 2020 due to the pandemic. Sadly, a few of the best dogs missed a prime year and some retired for 2021.  There were new dogs to the top stage that had a lot of people excited. The top honors were up for grabs more than any year in recent memory.  It is fair to say that few could have expected such a dominant performance from one team.  Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer had a year for the record books, winning three national championships.  Argo is the only BHOT dog to have ever won all three.

2021 AWDF IGP National IGP Championship

2021 USCA Universal Sieger

2021 USCA GSD National IGP Championship

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_110420211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1104Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

The year did not star well.  It was a case of fire and ice.  The first National they entered this year was the USCA Working Dog Championship.  Through all phases they showed to be serious contenders.  But in the back-half of protection, Argo did not out (disengage) resulting in disqualification.  It was a heartbreaking moment and had a strong impact on Laurie.  It stoked her fire and made her more determined than ever.  She saw enough to know that she had something special in Argo and the experienced made her determined to show better.  She worked with Beth Bradley and together formulated a remedial plan.  What followed was a win at the AWDF Nationals.  They switched lanes and pursued the Universal Sieger title, which is a combination of highest show rating and protection scores.  Argo is a handsome and classic proportioned GSD, combined with world class working ability.  Not surprisingly they earned the Universal Sieger.  Two championships under their belt.

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_101720211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1017Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

The team headed into the USCA Nationals with well deserved confidence.  When a team time their peak perfectly and have put in the perfect practice and countless perfect repetitions, things happen naturally and with fluidity.  To add drama, during the helper selection and Colt Dickson was selected for back-half. Colt is a young and talented new comer to the National helper ranks and the only helper Argo has refused to disengage, as mentioned before, which took them out of contention at the WDC in May.  I can't help but think this played in the back on Laurie's mind. however, if it did, she didn't reveal a tell.  Laurie and Beth Bradley had done their work.   As the ending of this story has had a spoiler in the opening paragraph, but Argo redeemed his earlier WDC misstep and it could not have worked out better than for this to be with Colt on the back half. 

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_104020211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1040Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats._D61578420211009.USCA.Nats._D615784Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani 20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_0661-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_0661-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani 20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_0669-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_0669-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani 20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_110520211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1105Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani 20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_111520211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1115Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani 20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_208620211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2086Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

 

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1189-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1189-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1198-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1198-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_211620211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2116Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

Call Out after Bark & Hold

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_212820211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2128Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

The Escape with Eric Hultgren

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_213220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2132Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani Putting on the brakes during The Escape

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_214620211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2146Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

Guarding at the end of The Escape

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1276-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1276-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

Pressure phase of The Escape

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1317-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1317-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

Finishing The Escape with a power ending.

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1319-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1319-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani Eric Hultren bringing Argo from right pocket over the left knee and applying pressure to finish the drive.

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1324-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1324-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

The transition to the out at the end of The Escape.

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_217920211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2179Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani Attack out of Back Transport with Eric Hultgren

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_218320211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2183Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani Final drive of front-half

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1348-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1348-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani Laurie looking on as her boy delivers the goods.

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1352-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1352-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

Scary helper face is de rigueur helper's part of the protection act.

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1371-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1371-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani Argo is poster dog for exciting guarding. 

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_221520211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2215Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_222420211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2224Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

Start of back-half. Colt Dickson is running full stride at them.  The only helper that Argo has not outed on.  This is a moment of truth.  Laurie has ice in her veins.

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_223220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2232Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_223320211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2233Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_223520211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2235Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_223620211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2236Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_223920211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2239Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_225020211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2250Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1457-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1457-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1476-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1476-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani 20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1495-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1495-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_227120211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_2271Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani The moment we waited for. Houston we have an OUT!

20211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1552-220211009.USCA.Nats.DSC_1552-2Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

20211010.USCA.Nats.DSC_971520211010.USCA.Nats.DSC_97152021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

All female podium at the USCA Nationals.

20211010.USCA.Nats._D61705820211010.USCA.Nats._D617058Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

Laurie said none of the achievements have happened or be possible with out Beth Bradly (left).

20211009.USCA.Nats._D61583620211009.USCA.Nats._D615836Laurie Schweizer and Argo von Schweizer 2021 USCA GSD NationalChampionship, Oct 8-10. Indianapolis, Indiana. Photography Brian Aghajani

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Argo GSD Laurie Scwheizer https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/10/laurie-schweizer-x3-national-champion Sat, 16 Oct 2021 01:23:21 GMT
Jessica Vampola, photographer https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/10/jessica-vampola-photographer This post is about Jessica Aghajani and the how and why that, for the first time, we had *two* photographers at a National IGP Championship.

I normally operate as solo photographer for all events I book. Once Jessica and I started to travel to events together, she started shooting videography of the events and this served as a terrific artistic expression for her as well as a nice complement to the work I do. This year, inbetween the Working Dog Championship and the USA GSD Nationals, we talked about training her to be my second shooter. There were a number of excellent reasons to do this:

1) Jessis has already a proven photographic/videography talent.

2) This pandemic made us aware that we are not invincible and something could happen that would prevent me from being able to shoot a booked event which would be a big disappointment for competitors who look forward to photography of there important occasion. We needed a back up plan.

3) With two photographers, we have the cool opportunity to work multi-angles of key moments like the jump, escape and long bite. 4) Even with the best cameras and an experienced hand, there is the possibility of missed focus. But with two camera positions we could mitigate the chance of a missed shot.

The decisions was made and we contacted Nikon Pro Services for the additional pro bodies we would need to make this happen for the Nationals. They are great partners and lent us two top of the line D6 cameras. We would alternate between my usual selection of lenses: a 400mm f/2.8 prime, a 120-300mm f/2.8 and a 70-200 f2.8 zoom. All lenses mounted on identical Nikon D6 bodies. The two long lenses would be on monopods and both of use equipped with knee pads.

20211010.USCA.Nats.DSC_890320211010.USCA.Nats.DSC_8903

 

Jessica is a very good photographer, so she already had basics and understanding down. I’m overly analytical (OCD) so when I say she is very good, I mean like better than 99% good. We used the South Central Regionals as a warm up where I shadowed her and provided instruction. She did great and we looked good to go for the Nationals.

There is nothing you can do to prepare for what a photographing a National does to your body and head. It can be grueling. To be honest, it didn’t occur to me to explain this part to her. It looks easy. But the reality is hard to put in words. At the end of day one she had a bruised eyebrow caused by keeping a camera pressed firmly against her eye. Calluses on her hand from throwing a camera monopost around like a baton for 8 hours and sore knees & back from countless lunges required to take optimum perspective for the shots. But what bothered her most was missed shots. Nothing is more frustrating than a missed shot. Let me explain something that may not be obvious to non-photographers. Anyone can nail a shot given time. But at Nationals you don’t have time. You literally run non-stop from phase to phase with no breaks, not even for lunch or bathroom. It’s in sweltering heat and cold rain, often on the same day. Often you only have a second to get the shot. Your body is tired from moving around the field and lunges and your brain if fried from trying to focus on setting/composition/position. Things go wrong and cameras have problems, settings get messed up. You almost ever have the perfect situation. All of this throws you off your game. What carries you is muscle memory and the only way to get that is repetitions. It has to almost become subconscious activity like a default mode of operation and that mode needs to be perfect. The only way to get this is ridiculous amount repetitions. For anyone, but especially someone is like Jess who is good at everything she does, the learning process can be humbling. I know, I remember living through this as I learned, the process was painful.

Adding to the stress was my well intentioned feedback on her captures and constant instructions. Intentions don't matter when you're exhausted and frustrated. This is hard enough for a perfectionist like Jessica, but compounded when the person providing the feedback is your spouse. But true to her form, she toughed it out and got better and better with her captures. Frankly her learning curve was stunning. With a few more events under her belt the ability to work from muscle memory will be ingrained and I am sure she will have mastered yet another talent.

An unanticipated byproduct of this is we have double the photos to go through. That will be a post for another time 😃

As if I needed another reason to love her. But there it is. <3

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) jessica vampola https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/10/jessica-vampola-photographer Mon, 11 Oct 2021 19:28:10 GMT
A Tribute to Gazze von der kleinen Birke https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/3/a-tribute-to-gazze-von-der-kleinen-birke This is a tribute to Gazze von der kleinen Birke, who passed away on February 3rd 2021.

 

In ancient Chinese philosophy yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other or they interrelate to one another.    -expert from Wikipedia

 

20171004.153_5512_20171004.153_5512_Mike Diehl & Gazze vpm der kleinen Birke. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography Start of Obedience phase at the 2018 WUSV World Championship in Randers, Denmark.

 

Gazze and Mike Diehl made a formidable team.  Together they won two national championships and placed third at the WUSV world championship, achievements that easily place them in rarified company of the elite in the sport.   What really caught my attentions was the way that they performed.   

 

Mike has dogsport at the core of his life.  He trains daily, is a Police K9 handler and operates one of the best known IGP clubs in the country called OG Indy.  Mike has won seven national championships (1 AWDF, 5 WDC, 1 USCA GSD National), placed third at the WUSV and competed in a hand full of world championships. Mike is also a  two time DPO National Champion and has competed at two DPO World Championships.  In all, Mike has more than 30 years of dogsport experience. 

20171008.#BA2_1520.WUSV-220171008.#BA2_1520.WUSV-2Mike Diehl & Gazze v.d. kleinen birke. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship. Tilburg, NL. Brian Aghajani Photography

3rd Place 2017 WUSV IP World Championship in Tilburg, Netherlands with Team Captain Mike Sweeney.

 

Mike first saw Gazze in July 2015 when a friend brought him to OG Indy .  Gazze had recently been imported from Germany. He was 18-months old and had only a basic obedience BH title.  Mike was impressed with the young dog.  Less than a year later, Mike learned that the handler was not getting the results she expected from Gazze’s early audition and the dog was a handful.  Mike was interested, a deal was stuck and from that moment Mike and Gazze were a team. Gazze would spend the rest of his life with Mike. It had been close to a year since Mike had seen him.  Upon reuniting, Mike thought Gazze seemed smaller than how he had remembered. He weighed in around 80 lbs and his helper Mike Sweeney sarcastically joked “Where’s the rest of him?”  The kidding quickly turned to silence when Gazze hit the field. Gazze did everything with shocking raw power.  Like anything that is super powerful, he was not easy to handle.  He leaked and was noisy, even in the long down.  Mike’s apatite to train and intense dedication was exactly what Gazze needed to achieve this dog’s potential.  With Mike Diehl as his partner, Gazze thrived and within a year was competing at world level.

 

Mike Diehl is reserved and calm.  He has a sureness about him that is confidence inspiring.  On the field, his handling exudes an air of competence, clarity and experience.  One does not need to be trained in a discipline to recognize expertise. It usually isn’t the loud and dramatic that are the best in their field.  Instead, at the highest level of any endeavor, less is more.  When the performance is of the highest quality, there is no need for fanfare. A performance speaks for itself. The purity of efficiency, power in absolute control, and precision of execution are universally apparent.

20191102-762_107520191102-762_1075Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke. IGP3. 2019 USCA GSD National Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburg, PA.

 

Gazze was the perfect balance for Mike.  This dog is the embodiment of lightning in a jar. Like a loaded spring, cocked and ready to unleash it's massive kinetic energy.  His eyes are a little on the wild side.  Mike guided this natural phenomenon in such calm and harmonious way as to make a perfect balance. Like in yin & yang, Gazze and Mike were seemingly opposites but fit each other and in their relationship they became symbiotic.

 

I know I risk sounding overly dramatic, but I don’t believe I am. I have witnessed many fine working teams around the world.  I would place this team in the company of the very top of the sport.   

 

Mike endearingly referred to Gazze as ‘G Money’.  What attracted Mike to Gazze was his “motor” as he put it, this insatiable appetite to work.  He, like everyone that saw him, was blown away by the power, barking and grips.  Together they raised the bar in the USA.  I am grateful to have been there to see this team. They made an impression on me. One I will not forget. 

 

Rest in peace Gazze.

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.  -Rumi

20190504-153_191820190504-153_1918Mike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke IGP3. Male GSD. 5/4/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA.

20170505_#8272_WDC20170505_#8272_WDCMike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke. 4th place IPO3 at the 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

Gaurding Weston Kester in back-half protection at the 2017 USCA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, New York.

 

20170505_#8256_WDC20170505_#8256_WDCMike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke. 4th place IPO3 at the 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

Back-half work with Weston Kester, earning 4th place at the 2017 USCA Working Dog Championship, in Buffalo, New York.

 

20191102-762_234020191102-762_2340Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke. IGP3. 2019 USCA GSD National Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Long Bite with Dominic Scarberry at the 2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

20191102-762_213420191102-762_2134Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke. IGP3. 2019 USCA GSD National Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Gazze's signature stance in prep for The Escape at the 2019 USCAA GSD Nationals, in Pittsburgh, PA. 

 

20180511.BA2_0641_20180511.BA2_0641_Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke IPO3 (GSD). USCA Working Dog Championship. Grove City, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography May 11, 2018.

Long Bite with Dominic Scarberry at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.

 

20180511.BA2_0476_20180511.BA2_0476_Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke IPO3 (GSD). USCA Working Dog Championship. Grove City, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography May 11, 2018.

The Escape with Adriel Linyear at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.

 

20190505-153_374520190505-153_3745Closing ceremony. 5/5/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani 1st Place 2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA

 

20181104_BrianAghajani_0225620181104_BrianAghajani_02256Mike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Obedience phase at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

20171006.#BA2_4422.WUSV20171006.#BA2_4422.WUSVMike Diehl & Gazze v.d. kleinen birke. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship. Tilburg, NL. Brian Aghajani Photography

Obedience phase at the 2017 WUSV World Championship in Tilburg, NL

 

20181004.762_3638_20181004.762_3638_Mike Diehl & Gazze vpm der kleinen Birke. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography Completion of obedience phase with Judge Jari Kokkenen at the 2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.

 

20180511.BA2_0684_20180511.BA2_0684_Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke IPO3 (GSD). USCA Working Dog Championship. Grove City, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography May 11, 2018.

Back-half protection with Dominic Scarberry at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.

 

20190504-762_7887-Edit20190504-762_7887-EditMike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke IGP3. Male GSD. 5/4/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Retrieve over the 6ft A-Frame at 2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA.

 

20181104_BrianAghajani_0234620181104_BrianAghajani_02346Mike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Retrieve over the 1M Hurdle, obedience phase at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

20170505_#6977_WDC20170505_#6977_WDCMike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke. 4th place IPO3 at the 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

Send Out, obedience phase at the 2017 USCA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, New York.

 

20171006.153_7159_20171006.153_7159_Mike Diehl & Gazze vpm der kleinen Birke. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

Back-half side transport with Jannik Dybvad Grube to Judge Toine Jonkers at the 2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.

 

20171006.153_7091_20171006.153_7091_Mike Diehl & Gazze vpm der kleinen Birke. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

Full stride in the Long Bite, protection phase at the 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Randers, Denmark.

 

20171004.153_5723_20171004.153_5723_Mike Diehl & Gazze vpm der kleinen Birke. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

Retrieve over the 1M Hurdle at the 2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.

  20181104_BrianAghajani_0233420181104_BrianAghajani_02334Mike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Retrieve during obedience phase at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

20191102-762_209320191102-762_2093Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke. IGP3. 2019 USCA GSD National Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Search for the Helper at 2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

20181104_BrianAghajani_00197-220181104_BrianAghajani_00197-2Mike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

No pressure to great for Gazze.  Front half work with Jeff Davis at the 2018 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburg, PA.

 

20180511.BA2_0583_20180511.BA2_0583_Mike Diehl & Gazze von der Kleinen Birke IPO3 (GSD). USCA Working Dog Championship. Grove City, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography May 11, 2018.

Attack on Handler out of Back Transport with Adriel Linyear at the 2018 USCA Working Dog Championship in Grove City, Ohio.

 

20181006.762_4254_20181006.762_4254_Mike Diehl & Gazze vpm der kleinen Birke. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

2018 WUSV IGP World Championship in Randers, Denmark.

 

20190504-762_871320190504-762_8713Mike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke IGP3. Male GSD. 5/4/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Long Bite with Jeff Davis at the 2019 USCA GSD National Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

20190504-153_192520190504-153_1925Mike Diehl & Gazze von der kleinen Birke IGP3. Male GSD. 5/4/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Gazze, you gave every once of your heart. Rest in peace. You brought inspiration and grace in your time on this earth.  

We will always remember you.

 

 

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.
 

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Gazze german shepherd GSD igp ipo mike diehl schutzhund usca wusv https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/3/a-tribute-to-gazze-von-der-kleinen-birke Tue, 16 Mar 2021 02:33:55 GMT
Ajay Singh, GSD Ambassador https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/1/ajay-singh-gsd-ambassador This blog post is about Ajay Singh, a GSD breed expert and IGP competitor.  He is also someone who was instrumental in introducing me to dog sport.

20181104_BrianAghajani_01134-220181104_BrianAghajani_01134-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography


 
I met Ajay in 2000.  I had a young German Shepherd Dog named Otto that I had found in the local newspaper.  I was inexperienced as a handler having only owned house dogs before.  When Otto was a little over a year old he began to show dominance. I had my hands full with his antics which soon spiraled into outright aggression towards people.  After a three unprovoked bites on unsuspecting victims, each one becoming more serious, the situation had escalated into a genuine crisis.  After some research I found a ‘problem dog’ trainer who gave me the impression that she understood the seriousness of my predicament. 

Our training would involve using a slip line and setting up training opportunities (getting the dog to trigger to a stimulus) then apply significant correction input. Otto would respond by redirecting towards me and try to climb the leash.  The whole mess was incredibly stressful for everyone and not in any way fun. But I followed the program because I was desperate to save my dog from himself and myself from a lawsuit.  These private training sessions were held at a field also used by the Menlo Park Schutzhund Club.  This club would meet ton Saturday mornings right after my private lessons.  I remember seeing my first Schutzhund training session one morning.  I was awestruck when I saw Terry Macias with his dog Ike doing the coolest heeling I had ever seen. (As a side note, years later I would travel with Terry to compete at a few national championships with my next dog Bella, just another example of how dog sport lives intertwine.)  The delta between what I was doing in my training with a slip collar on Otto and what I saw these teams doing on the obedience field was almost incomprehensible to me.  While I was impressed with their obedience performances, it was protection training that set the hook in me. This level of advanced training seemed out of reach. It was like watching a Circ du Soliel performance, it was more of a dream than a reality from where I stood.

As I walked back to my truck after watching the club members practice, Ajay came over and started up conversation.  He had not seen me at the field before and asked if I trained.  I was embarrassed to say I trained. I don’t know what you would call what we were doing with my trainer.   Honestly, I was just trying to survive with my dog on the sidewalk without him wanting to eat someone.  He asked to see my dog.  I matter-of-factly replied, “I can’t, he’s dangerous.” I was unaware how sad this sounded because I was so exhausted with the situation. He replied with a booming laugh “It’s ok, let me see him.”  I still don’t know why, but for some reason I let Otto out of his crate for Ajay.  Understand that at this point in time, Otto had literally bit people immediately after coming out of his crate. To my surprise Ajay made friends with Otto and with wagging tail and all.  He said “let’s take him out on the field and see how he works.”  I had very little confidence handling this angry dog and particularly after watching all the flashy dogs but I reluctantly I agreed. We did some basic focus work and played with a ball. It was fun, not at all stressful and Otto seemed to enjoy it.  I wanted so much to find harmony with Otto and this moment was like a tall cool glass of water on a hot day.   In that instant everything about dogs changed for me.  

After Otto’s brief obedience session, I remember being so pleased with Otto as I put him up in the truck. I rushed back the field to thank Ajay and was just gushing with enthusiasm.  Then Ajay said “Let’s see if he bites.”  There was quiet as I was starting to think this dude is crazy.  I had already told him this dog will eat people, of course he bites, THAT’s our problem!  But Ajay used the calm reasoning he is so well known for and convinced me it would be ok.  I went back and got Otto out while my every instinct was screaming that this would not end well.  Ajay brought out a piece of leather on a rope and started to toss it from side to side.  Seeing this, and not understanding what Ajay was doing I expected Otto to go straight over the rag and bite him on the chest.  But nothing happened. Instead, Otto just sat there and sniffed the ground.  This was so confusing. I had just built this dog up as a wild beast and now he looking like a sweet pet which he was certainly not. Whilst I may have lacked confidence in my handling before, it was now compounded with embarrassment as I sheepishly said “I’m sorry, this is wasting your time.” Ajay snapped back, “I will tell you if you are wasting our time!”  And just then Otto bit the rag.  I must have looked like an inexperienced fisherman catching his first big fish because I had no idea what to do.  A small group of club members had gathered to watch and they all yelled “Run him in a big circle then take him to the truck!  Let him carry!”  And just like that, I was introduced to Schutzhund as it was called then, the sport we now call IGP.  

20180909.DSC_5340_20180909.DSC_5340_Ajay Singh & Ucon v. Patiala 2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala reporting out for obedience to SV Judge Thomas Lapp at the 2018 USCA North Western Region IGP Championship, Morgan Hill, CA 

 

Later in our training Ajay took Otto and I for our first tracking session. All three of the Schutzhund phases were first experienced with Ajay’s guidance.  Ajay and I formed a lasting friendship. That nervous first dog made it all the way to a SchH3 title. He even entered the Northwestern Regionals and passed.  Life was never easy with Otto but it was a lot easier when we developed our relationship around training.   It would have been laughable to imagine entering a Regional Schutzhund Championship with Otto only a year prior but this actually happened.  

 

20180909.535_2932_20180909.535_2932_2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Terry Macias, Dave Deleissegues and Ajay Singh at the legendary South County Schutzhund Club which has produced many world championship competitors.  There is over 100 years of Schuzhund experience between them.

 

Twenty years on I still remember that day like it was yesterday.  Dog sport is now a major part of my life, from living with working dogs, to training dogs and photography focused on dog sport.  This lifestyle has provided me the opportunity to travel almost every month to a state or country to photograph the best dogs in the world.  In a split second I went from spectator to a participant and dog sport has had a profound effect on my life and choices I would make going forward. Ajay and I have had our paths intersect many times over the last two decades and I am honored to call him my friend. I contacted Ajay and asked if he would do an interview.  This is his story.

Ajay grew up in India in a home that had multiple dogs including some GSDs that had pedigrees with Schutzhund backgrounds.  Awareness of dog sport and working dogs was part of Ajay’s family upbringing.

In 1985 he moved with his family to America.  At age twenty three earned his Masters in Civil Engineering at UC Berkley before returning to India to make look for work and start a family.  However, his return to India was short lived as he started to become aware of the corruption that is part of life there and determined it would not where he wanted to raise a family.  He and his wife Bunty decided that America provided the best environment to raise a family and they moved to Northern California.   A few years after settling in he got a show/working line GSD and joined the Contra Costa Schutzhund club.

20181104_BrianAghajani_01201-220181104_BrianAghajani_01201-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

His first IGP training influence was Mike Simmons, a WUSV competitor who Ajay felt was ahead of his time with his concepts of how to train dogs in drive.  Later Ajay started training with Ivan Balabanov who had just moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with his female Malinois female -named Lia.  Ajay recalls being amazed by Ivan’s talent and also his confidence.  Ivan's program was perfect for Ajay at this time.  Ivan’s training built Ajay’s confidence, and as training progressed, Ajay the began to think about competing himself.   

Next Dean Calderon came into the picture. He was considered to be a top trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Dean taught Ajay to focus on handling and a to develop a feel for the dog.  Mark Eric James was another mentor for Ajay.  With the help of these people Ajay was able realize his dream of competing and culminated in a showing at the WUSV World Championship with Arek vom Bodenthal.  He became the helper for Menlo Park Schutzhund Club which at the time was predominantly comprised of show dogs.  During Ajay’s time as the helper he helped influence a transition into an even split between working and show lines.  Ajay has always emphasized the importance of balancing the appearance and structure of a GSD with the stable temperament and working ability. He was the first one to introduce me to the concept of “Golden Middle.”

While Ajay had a number of working dogs before Arek, it was with this dog that his performance level of training started to receive recognition.  Arek would become the male that he used to launch his kennel named vom Patiala. Arek’s joy for work was obvious to anyone who watched them perform and he was a handsome dog with V2 at the Regional Conformation Show.  He had had good hips and elbows, a multiple National Championship competitor and a member of USA Team for the 1998 WUSV World Championship.  He was a stout and healthy dog with good pedigree (a Troll von der Bosen Nachbarschaft son).  Five of Arek’s progeny competed at the National Championships including Chief and Count vom Patiala.  

20180909.DSC_6090_20180909.DSC_6090_Ajay Singh & Ucon v. Patiala 2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala front-half transport with Willie Ortner Jr. at the 2018 USCA North Western Region IGP Championship, Morgan Hill, CA 
 

While training and competing was Ajay’s first love, it was followed by a new found love to study the GSD breed, pedigrees and the ideas behind how to not only preserve the best attributes of the breed but to improve on them. Anyone who has met Ajay will affirm his obvious intelligence, but also his rational thought and quest for truth.  These attributes when applied to anybody are a virtue but particularly to a breeder.  His vom Patiala Kennel started with a breeding of Arek to Mitzi von der Edermunde (daughter of Anker Vom Ursania owned and bred by Helmut Raiser).  So far, they have whelped 25 litters spanning 30 years.  Vom Patiala has progeny have been used for the breeding programs for many respected working line kennels that produce competition dogs including vom Mack-Zwinger, vom Burmeister and Fallamhain Working German Shepherds. These kennels have produced frequent IGP competitors at National and even International IGP competion shown and trained by their own breeder (Breeder-Owner-Handler-Trained).  Ajay's competed himself with a BHOT as recently as the 2018 USCA GSD National IGP Championship.


In Ajay own words:
“We learned a lot of things about the breed as we became breeders. Our breeding program is just me and my wife Bunty.  She has never said no when I asked her for anything related to the dogs. Without her support it would not have been possible and I have not come across a better person to take care of my pups.  I believe her care shows prominently in our pups.  Our breeding principle has always been to keep a pup and treat other people the same way you would like to be treated. As an example of what this means we have never used a stud dog or puppy contract.  We do business on a hand shake.   We always prefer a loving and committed home over a competition home.  Along the way, our circle of friends kept on getting bigger of people who have the same love for the dogs and values.  Doesn’t mean all the dogs we bred were perfect.  Sometimes, despite having done due diligence with research, watching videos and interviewing people you only really learn the truth when you see the pups on the ground, good or bad.  Unfortunately this is part of the learning process, but we learn and move on."

“I aspire to deeper understanding of the German Shepherd Dog breed because it at the end of the day it is all about the breed.  A correct structure allows the dogs to perform the functions with greater ease.  Good joint health, and good lean muscles work hand in hand and keep the animal durable over its working life.  Good desire to perform the functions is the engine that drives the body.  Training means training the natural drives of the dog, so you don’t have to manufacture anything.  The goal of competing should be to present the dog to the breed and other trainers, whether it is the local, regional, or national audience.  I train to do justice to my partner and the dogs I compete with but it is important that the dog I present on the field is a good representatives of the breed.  The goal is to give back to the breed that gives you joy everyday.    The only thing we can give back is representative specimens of the breed.  Every training session should be fun because it allows one to spend time with fellow dog lovers.”

 

20180909.DSC_5107_20180909.DSC_5107_Ajay Singh & Ucon v. Patiala 2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA North Western Region IGP Championship, Morgan Hill, CA 
 

20181104_BrianAghajani_01146-220181104_BrianAghajani_01146-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 


 

20181104_BrianAghajani_01226-220181104_BrianAghajani_01226-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 

 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01091-2_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01091-2_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01693-2_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01693-2_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala Search for the Helper at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01940-3_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01940-3_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala guarding Brady Schnowske at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01777-2-Edit_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01777-2-Edit_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ucon vom Patiala handling the highest pressure from front-half helper Jeff Davis at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01845-2_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01845-2_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ucon vom Patiala and Ajay finishing front-half protection at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 

 

In closing, there is no way I would have become an IGP competitor and later a traveling dog sport photographer had Ajay not invited me to bring out my dog that day we met.   As we travel the road of our dog sport journey, we are sometimes perceived justified or not as ‘experts’ to the 99.9% of the population that have only experienced dogs as house pets.  IGP involves protection and stick hits which can easily be misunderstood by the general population, with this the risk of being banned.  All of us that love this sport must share the understanding of the benefits and purpose of the protection phase. We share a responsibility to be ambassadors for the dog sport.  Ajay’s personal example with his actions and words made such an impact on me that 20 years later I am writing this blog. He is a model dog sport ambassador and has made countless other positive impressions in his three decades involved in the GSD community.  I aspire to ‘pay it forward’ with my photography and sharing of dog sport stories.  Each of us has this opportunity when we represent our sport and we owe this to our dogs and our sport.  I am grateful and proud to consider Ajay as a mentor and friend.
 

 

 

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Ajay Singh Dogsport German Shepherd Dog GSD IGP IPO Schutzhund USCA vom Patiala https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2021/1/ajay-singh-gsd-ambassador Fri, 01 Jan 2021 16:35:00 GMT
Frank Phillips IGP Renaissance Man https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2020/12/frank-phillips-igp-renaissance-man This blog post is about Frank Phillips. In 2021 he will be the Judge for obedience phase at the WUSV IGP World Championship and will be a competitor at the FMBB IGP World Championship with his dog Ender.

 

In my travels to photograph IGP championships, there are familiar faces that I see frequently.  The ranks of Judges and helpers selected for a Regional or National Championships are a small, distinguished group.  The same can be said for competitors, within each dog breed there a relatively small group of people that compete consistently at the top of the sport.  I would say that on average that 2/3 of all competitors in a National are the same handlers, with only a 1/3 or less first timers who often will make only one appearance.   I am one of only a few people on the field with them whey they perform, in sharing there experience it helps to form relationship.  We see each other at various places across the country, so it is only natural that I get to know them in a way that that is more than passing acquaintance.  I photograph their triumphs as well as their heartbreaks on the field and as I review the images for selection, I feel their emotions.  I have shared beers and pizzas in the parking lots of too many event host hotels to remember. It is at these candid moments that sometimes I get to know the stories of some of the personalities of the sport that often affect and compel me to share their stories. And so it is that I write this in a series of profiles of the personalities in IGP.  In this blog we meet Frank Phillips.

 

201206_#BAP_7012_Frank Phillips*201206_#BAP_7012_Frank Phillips*Frank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka. FMBB Qualification Trial. Dec 6, 2020. Springfield, TN. Brian Aghajani Photography.

 

Frank Phillips is a stand out in IGP in the United States.  There are only a few American competitors that have stood on the podium of a IGP World Championship.  While I don’t have the exact number, I would dare say less than a dozen.  Frank has done so twice.  But this achievement alone is not why he stands out for me. It is his incredible thirst for the sport that and his drive to perform at this best while branching out into areas of the sport that beyond those he has already mastered.  Following are a few of Franks achievements:

 

  • Obedience Judge for the 2021 WUSV IGP World Championship
  • 2017 & 2018 FCI Vice World Champion with his GSD name Kliff
  • USCA Judge with over 225 IGP trials judged, 5 Nationals and 1 World Championship
  • 7 World Championship appearances with 3 dogs
  • World Championship teams with two breeds (GSD & Malinois).
  • 2017 AWDF National Champion
  • Titled 8 dogs to IGP3 (IPO3, SchH3), 3 dogs to FH1 and 1 dog to FH2

 

20171005.153_1796_20171005.153_1796_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

Frank and Kliff at the 2018 WUSV World Championship. Protection phase with front half helper Martin Knudsen. Randers, Denmark.

 

Frank easily makes it on my secret list of top judges.  My criteria may be familiar and odd at the same time. Familiar in that like everyone else, I appreciate consistent scoring.   Frank is one of the most consistent I have ever witnessed. He sees everything and he never suggests an ability to see what is not visible (this happens more than I would like to say).  His recall of what happened in an exercise is uncanny. I will often refer to the play back on my camera to see what happened and it has never deviated from what Frank calls.  He is unwaveringly honest and direct which not the easiest critique to hear but often the most helpful.   He is an expert on the rules as one would expect of a Judge but is also unbiased and fair.  Now for what some might consider an odd reasons to make a Judge a favorite. Understand that this is from the photographer:  He is very precise in his location for each exercise.  He will wear down the grass with the consistency in movement on the field that that he does for each exercise.  It is always best location to see the exercise.  I know this because they are also my best angles to catch the action!  So why do I love that he does this you may ask? Because he is consistent.  I know where he is going to be and so I take an alternative position and I get great shots when he is on the field. He does not wander around like he is lost.  He is in tight on the action and consistent.  I can tell you even at world level events the judges can be at random places for exercises. As an example on long bites I have seen judges close to the center line at mid field for one dog, then back near blind 6 for another, which inevitably will lead to blocked shots because I have no idea where they will be and by the time the I see the Judge they are already in my frame (photo bombers).  Frank is always in the same position. When I see Frank listed as a judge for an event it is a very good thing for the photographer.

 

160220_#BA2_5873_* David Knopp & Ezzard160220_#BA2_5873_* David Knopp & EzzardDavid Knopp & Ezzard in route to their 2nd place overall in the 2016 USCA Southwestern Regional IPO Championship in Pahrump, Navada. Photo by BrianAghajani.com USCA Judges Vadim Plotsker and Frank Phillips watch as Ezzard strips the sleeve from helper in the back half protection at the 2016 USCA Southwestern Regional IPO Championship in Pahrump, Nevada.

 

170505_#BA2_5946_$C 76 Mark Barish170505_#BA2_5946_$C 76 Mark BarishBark Barish & Umbra vom Nordenstamm IPO1 at the 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

USCA Judge Frank Phillips fast footwork to get view of the grip Umbra vom Nordenstamm on Dominic Scarberry
during IPO1 back half pressure phase at the 2017 USCA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, New York.

 

Now let's shift to Frank as an IGP competitor.  Frank is the definition of a true sportsman. His background as a pro level racquetball player in his younger days may have something to do with this, but I tend to think it has more to do with Franks character. Despite impressive dog sport accomplishments, he is always humble. In a judged sport that involves one’s dog there is the potential for extreme emotions.  It is not unusual to hear disgruntled comments out of competitors who, in the heat of the moment, may verbalize their emotionally charged opinions or cast blame on others.  I take this with a grain of salt, we are all human.  But Frank always owns his performances.  He holds himself and his program accountable.  He understands the often unrealistic expectations placed on the helpers and judges.   A telling symbol of his sportsmanship as a handler and philosophy in general is how he will always remove his hat during the critique.  He respects the judge no matter what. It is almost a trademark of his and a great example for those new to the sport.

 

181102_#20181102_BrianAghajani_01089_$C Frank Phillips181102_#20181102_BrianAghajani_01089_$C Frank PhillipsFrank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Hat off for the critique, actions of a competitor with class. Frank & Kliff at the 2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship in  Pittsburgh, PA. They earned 2nd Place.

 

While as an IGP judge and competitor he may have earned my respect, it is his love for his dogs and his relationship that he shares with them that earns my maximum admiration.  Anyone who saw Frank compete with Kliff got to see a perfect example of the potential of a teams relationship when dog and handler are both immensely capable but also have 100% connection.  Together they won a National Championship and placed second place twice at the FCI World Championship.  This team was simply stunning and their performances would literally take your breath away.  And to cap it off, when you would see them interact off the field, their tenderness would melt your heart.

 

Kliff tragically died at the peak of his career in a freak accident.  Frank was gutted and took time off from dog sport to let his heart heal.  The loss was devastating and the news was taken hard by many in the sport. It was more than the loss of an amazing creature, it was the loss of this pairing and how they inspired so many in the sport.  I did not see Frank on the field for a time after that and I understood why. I think most would not be able to ever come back on the field after going through what he did.   

 

20181102_BrianAghajani_0089720181102_BrianAghajani_00897Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus showing the connection that was legendary at the 2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.
 

Frank told me that one of the things that helped him through the dark period after Kliff passed was his dog named Ender. Ender is Franks first Malinois, a young dog, that didn't get to go with Frank and Kliff on their adventures to far away places.  As Frank was giving his heart time to heal, Ender would come in quietly lay at his feet while Frank was working at his desk. Ender gave Frank space and gradually the companionship when Frank needed it most.  It made my heart smile to see Frank return to compete at the 2019 AWMA Championship and then the 2020 FMBB Qualifier as a competitor with Ender.   I will not lie, my eyes swelled as they took the field again and I tried to imagine the courage needed to do what he was doing. I don’t know if I would have had it. But it is exactly this type of character that heroes are made from.  Frank and Ender finished on the podium at the FMBB qualifier earlier this month and a smile had come back to Franks face.

191020_#20191020-762_2800_* Frank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka191020_#20191020-762_2800_* Frank Phillips & Endeavor OstrarykaFrank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka. 2019 AWMA Malinois National Championship. Old Orchard Beach, Maine, USA. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Frank returning to national competition after a year lay off at the 2019 AWMA National Championship in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  FCI Judge Alfons van den Bosch.  
   

191020_#20191020-153_4018_* Frank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka191020_#20191020-153_4018_* Frank Phillips & Endeavor OstrarykaFrank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka. 2019 AWMA Malinois National Championship. Old Orchard Beach, Maine, USA. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Frank and Ender at the 2019 AWMA National Championship in Old Orchard, Maine.

 

In earning the spot on the USA roster to the 2021 FMBB  World Championship in Greece Frank will be one of only a dozen or so Americans to make it to a World Championship with different breeds. An extraordinary achievement that speaks volumes about his ability to adapt his training to the dog he is working with.

 

No one achieves anything of significance in Dog Sport without the help of others. Frank credits his early mentors Dave Wood and Brian McNulty who help him understand protection drives.  He explored training ideas outside the ranks of IGP to gain insight into AKC obedience.  These training ideas influence him to this day.  Along the way, he was influenced by some big names in the sport including Deb Zappia, Mike Diehl, T. Floyd, Ivan Balabanov, Dave Kroyer, Mark Natinsky, Sean O’Kane and Jim Alloway.   Frank also gives a lot of credit to his club and his training partner and helper Vadim Plotsker who he relies on for training plans.   

 

Frank believes important changes in the last 10 years involve the emphasis for a dog looking like it’s free and enjoying the work with their handler.  This portrays a much nice picture and makes obedience a satisfying phase to watch and judge. He is also encouraged with the recent prioritizing  of a dogs power to earn V scores (Excellent categories).  

 

I asked Frank for advice for a person new to IGP.  He answered “Don’t give up! If you are not in a place where you enjoy training, then leave and find a new place to train. There are many ways to train, many people to train with, sometimes it will require more effort/work/travel from you but it is all worth it. When you find a place to train that fits you and you fit there, it’s a ton of fun…. But always remember if it’s important to you, you will find a way….if it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.”

 

Frank Phillips is a stand out character in the sport of IGP in the United States. Whether you the to see him judge or compete in an event, you will be treated to a quality performance.

 

150411_#BA2_7141_*C Frank Phillips & Hostile150411_#BA2_7141_*C Frank Phillips & HostileFrank Phillips & Hostile perform the obedience phase of the AWDF Championship in Farmingtion, MO. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography

Frank Phillips & Hostile enjoying the anticipation seconds before the obedience phase of the 2015 AWDF Championship in Farmington, MO.
 

170506_#BA2_9516_$C 24 Preston Costa170506_#BA2_9516_$C 24 Preston CostaPreston Costa & Bravo da Alianca Mineira IPO3. 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

Frank Phillips protection judge at the 2018 USCA WDC in Buffalo, New York. Smiling despite 4-days of non stop rain.

 

191020_#20191020-762_4860_* Frank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka191020_#20191020-762_4860_* Frank Phillips & Endeavor OstrarykaFrank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka. 2019 AWMA Malinois National Championship. Old Orchard Beach, Maine, USA. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Frank and Ender reporting out protection phase at the 2019 AWMA National Championship. Old Orchard Beach, Maine. 

 

201206_#BAP_9457_Podium & People201206_#BAP_9457_Podium & PeopleFMBB Qualification Trial. Dec 6, 2020. Springfield, TN. Brian Aghajani Photography. December 2020 FMBB Qualification Trial in Nashville, TN.  Frank and Ender on podium and a place on the USA FMBB Team in 2021.

 

201205_#BAP_3296_Frank Phillips*201205_#BAP_3296_Frank Phillips*Frank Phillips & Endeavor Ostraryka. FMBB Qualification Trial. Dec 5, 2020. Springfield, TN. Brian Aghajani Photography. Frank & Ender obedience phase at the 2020 FMBB Qualification Trial in Nashville, TN.

 

20171005.#BA2_8508.WUSV-220171005.#BA2_8508.WUSV-2Frank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Photo: www.brianaghajani.com

Frank Phillips with hat off for the critique at he 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, NL.

 

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Brian Aghajani FMBB Frank Phillips German Shepherd IGP IPO Malinois Schutzhund USCA WUSV https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2020/12/frank-phillips-igp-renaissance-man Sun, 27 Dec 2020 23:51:33 GMT
Don't give up. Don't ever give up. Lee Hendricks & Kula. https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2020/11/dont-give-up-don-t-ever-give-up-lee-hendrick-kula It's hard to tell if Lee Hendricks or his dog 'Kula' love DogSport more. They are both passionate and thourougly love the process. Despite 5 failed attempts at earning their IGP3 title, they continued undeterred, doing what they love. But time is not in their favor and this year Kula will be 9 years of age, well past the age most IGP dogs compete. With a year lost due to Covid-19 causing cancellation of most DogSport trials, Lee and Kula had one last chance at their goal at the Greater Houston Schutzhund club trial. No matter the result of today's trial, Lee had decided to retire Kula after this weekend.

First came tracking, despite a somewhat fast pace, Kula successfully completed the phase. I think everyone watching held their breath the entire track. Next in obedience, Kula had enthusiasm of a young dog and was excited to be on the field and mustered enough to pass obedience. Then came the protection phase. This has previously been their sticking point. Kula has always shown the power, but not always the secondary obedience needed to get through. Most those attending the trial today know Lee well and how hard they have worked to earn IGP3. It was almost too much to bear to watch them leave disappointed again. But then today was different. Kula seemingly knew this was his last chance. Where previously he gave in to the temptation to hang onto the sleeve and not release, today he kept disciplined with crisp outs. He showed his usual power but paired it with surprising obedience. Lee was visibly stunned, as they reached the end of the routine to report out to the judge Jacob Pope, he forgot what he was supposed to do. In a moment that would strum the heart strings of everyone at the event he said, "I don't know what I should do next, I have never made it this far." Tears could be seen streaming from under his sunglasses. As I looked around I could see he was not alone, there was hardly a dry eye in the place.

Bravo Lee and Kula. You inspired us today with your determination, belief in your dream and your commitment to each other.

 

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About the author:

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

 

 

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) German Shepherd GSD IGP Lee Hendricks Shultzhund https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2020/11/dont-give-up-don-t-ever-give-up-lee-hendrick-kula Wed, 25 Nov 2020 01:02:03 GMT
Ronny Burmer, National IPO Competitor https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/8/ronnie-burmer Ronny Burmer is a frequent top competitor on the national IPO championship scene. His smooth handling and calm disposition on the field are nice balance for his fiery and powerful choice in dogs. When Ronny walks on the field, one can be assured of solid performance.  I first noticed Ronny on the sidelines at a national in 2015 after he had just finished a terrific protection performance where his dog Kim nearly knocked the hat off the helper, Don Yelle. It was awesome display of power and controlled guarding.  The performance starkly contrasted Ronny's quiet nature off the field.  I noticed he stood alone quietly watched almost every dog on the field intently and I could feel his passion and enjoyment in seeing quality dogs.  I have photographed him perform at a number of championships. Ronny is a legitimate competitor.   

2015_BA2_26472015_BA2_2647Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister, IPO3. 2017 USCA New England Regional IPO Championship in Merrimack, NH. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister at the 2017 USCA New England Regional IPO Championship in Merrimack, NH.

 

2015_20150508_#1117_WDC__brianaghajani.com2015_20150508_#1117_WDC__brianaghajani.comRonny Burmer & Kim de la Vega, IPO2 performance in the 2015 UScA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, NY. May 8-10. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography

Ronny Burmer's Kim de la Vega doing her best to knock Don Yelle's trademark Orange hat off his head at 2015 USCA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, NY.   

 

Ronny is the son of German Immigrants.  He grew up Queens, New York with German Shepherds in the house and the family has folklore of German Shepherds going back to before World War II. Dogs were a way of life that stuck.  Their dogs were family pets, they didn’t train but still had a devotion to the breed.

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Archive photog: Ronny's Grandfather Walter Burmeister in Germany, with the family German Shepherd. 1940.

 

Ronny became aware of Schutzhund from seeing the dog magazines in eighties (there was no internet).  However, his start in the sport would take almost a decade because the clubs he reached out to were not welcoming to a newcomer. The clubs would not return calls and gaining access to training seemingly had barriers.  He said he almost gave up on the sport before he even started, but stuck it out and feels lucky he did because the dog sport is now such a important part of his life.  Eventually in the nineties he started to go to Long Island Schutzhund Club. At the beginning, he was not allowed to speak at the club, only the helper an training director could speak.  He got his first working dog to train with at this club, it was a female GSD that was on the softer side.  He eventually came to the realization that he would need a different dog if wanted to be serious about Schutzhund, one that was better suited to work.  IPO is intended to reveal character and sometimes discovering your dog's potential can be an painful learning experience. The next dog was a very powerful male but lacked nerves which made the training sessions unpredictable and scary.  His early results were a little disappointing but he took it in stride. Meanwhile he started doing more and more helper work at the club.  He quickly developed skills which kept him keenly interested in the sport providing him with ample motivation for each training night. Moreover, it helped him understand and acquire a feel for dogs.  Chris Banke was a big influence and mentor in helper work and got Ronnie on the right track.  Mentors are critical in the early stages of the sport. That feeling for the dogs would prove instrumental when he got his third dog. This time he found a quality working-line dog, well suited to his training style, they bonded and quickly advanced to their first SchH3 title.

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Archive photo: The  journey begins.  Left Bob Demaio, Richard Quinn, Ronny on right.

 

As his development of training started to plateau, Ronny felt need to expand his training horizon.  Every competitive handler gets this nomadic feeling it at some point, it's a sort of training-wanderlust.  The training trips took to him to increasingly distant clubs that offered better skilled helpers and more advanced training to fuel his fire. The exposure to these other clubs inspired Ronny and his friend Bob Demaio, to create their own club. They called it the Mid-Island Schutzhund Club in New York and the concept for it would be to bring these training ideas they had seen on their travels home to like-minded working dog people in his home community.

 

A fairly major life event came when Ronny and his wife Michele decided to move out of the city for a more rural lifestyle. They sold their home in Queens, New York and moved the countryside in Berkshires, Massachusetts.  Once there, Ronny joined the Ocean State Schutzund Club where he trained with two of his influencers, Dave Wood and John Soquino. The scope of his training during this period was to simply train.  He had no other goal than to title his dog at the time.   

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Archive photo: Ronny Burmer with Helmut Raiser. 2009  Master's Tournament New Jersey.  On the field with a legend.

 

Then in the early 2000 two things happened that changed everything:  He began working with a very promising young dog named Issa vom Haus Sofko (Tasha) and he attended his first big IPO championship.  The championship was the New England Regional Schutzhund Championship and Ronny was blown away with the high caliber of the performances.  It left an impression that would last to this day. He made it his mission to show at championship level.   

 

Over the next five years he not only competed at championship level IPO, he began to make a mark for himself.  In 2006 Issa and Ronny tied Claudia Hoffman for vice-Champion at the 2006 GSD National Championship, finishing behind winner Mike Diehl.  They qualified for the 2007 WUSV World Championship as an alternate.  The following year they finished 8th at the GSD Nationals and qualified for the USA Team to the 2008 FCI World Championship in Belgium.

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13-year reunion of the 2006 GSD National Championship podium. Ronny Burmer, Claudia Hoffman and Mike Diehl. 
 

Ronny is still on the path of his dog sport journey. To date, he has titled 8 dogs to SchH3/IPO3, competed in more than 20 national working championships, placed on podium for FH National Championship and competed on the USA Team at the FCI World Championship.   More recently he began competing with dogs from his own breeding program, vom Burmeister.  The culmination of his dog experience is the ‘A’ litter.  Aldo vom Burmeister is a proven national competition dog that has taken down helpers twice in championships.   Allie vom Burmeister, trained by Frans Slaman, earned 3rd at the 2019 GSDCA National IPO Championship and qualified for the Universal Sieger in England.

 

I asked Ronny to provide advice for a newbie: “A lot of people get discouraged, the sport is a difficult one to get into. There will be a lot of setbacks, the sport will humble you. Until you have some successes, the setbacks will make a beginner want to quit.  It is important to choose a known blood-line that is suited to the sport.  Equally important is that the dog be suited to your handling style.  Above all you must have a bond with the animal. Find and immerse yourself in a club where you feel support. Once you have these foundation blocks in place you will be in a good position to be successful and the sport will bring a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment. You need to train like you're in a trial, and trial like you're training. Always give your best to the dog. The rest, stuff like titles and podiums, are a byproduct of these foundational parts and commitment.”  

 

“The sport used to be sort of underground and grass roots.  But the training has advanced so much that it’s much harder to podium at championship.  It can be discouraging to compete because the highest levels may seem out of reach.  Just keep it in perspective, enjoy the experience with your dog.”

20171103.#7917.Nationals-220171103.#7917.Nationals-2Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister at the 2017 USCA GSD IPO National Championship, Indianapolis, IN. Photo brianaghajani.com Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister at the 2017 USCA GSD IPO National Championship, Indianapolis, IN. 
 

The tracking phase is Ronny’s favorite and it is also his weakest. He enjoys the calm time spent with his dogs and is fascinated with the process.  He relishes getting up early to hit the road with his dog while the roads are clear, and having coffee at the tracking field. “The dog is independent and free. It can be nerve wracking but thrilling at the same time.  When you get a good score, it’s the best feeling in the world!”

 

Ronny is a student of the sport. He has kept every dog sport magazine and article clipping from the beginning of his involvement in the sport.  “I’m kind of a pack rat with anything having to do about dog sport.”  He is a good example of a person living his life in alignment with his heart's calling.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed spending my evening interviewing Ronny.  He and his wife Michele were gracious, funny and interesting. I look forward to seeing both of them at a championship somewhere around the country. I know I will, they love dog sport with their whole heart and leave nothing in reserve.  There is something compelling about being around people with this level of commitment.  They are a great role models for a newcomer to the sport, to stay your course and not get discouraged. The good things in life will not come easy. That’s what makes it so satisfying when it does.

 

20181103_BrianAghajani_01059-220181103_BrianAghajani_01059-2Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister, IPO3. 11/3/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister at the 2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. 


20171103.#7842.Nationals-220171103.#7842.Nationals-2Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister at the 2017 USCA GSD IPO National Championship, Indianapolis, IN. Photo brianaghajani.com

Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister at the 2017 USCA GSD IPO National Championship, Indianapolis, IN.  
 

20180511.BA2_0072_20180511.BA2_0072_Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister IPO3 (GSD). USCA Working Dog Championship. Grove City, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography May 11, 2018.

Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister at the 2018 WDC, Grove, OH. 

 

20181103_BrianAghajani_0266420181103_BrianAghajani_02664Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister, IPO3. 11/3/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

20181103_BrianAghajani_0268020181103_BrianAghajani_02680Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister, IPO3. 11/3/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography
This is not the first time Aldo vom Burmeister has taken a helper down. He did it at the 2018 New England Regionals and again at the 2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA.  


20180511.BA2_8348_-2-Edit20180511.BA2_8348_-2-EditRonny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister IPO3 (GSD). USCA Working Dog Championship. Grove City, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography May 11, 2018.

Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister at the  2018 USCA Working Dog Championship. Grove City, OH. 
 

BA2_2764BA2_2764Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister, IPO3. 2017 USCA New England Regional IPO Championship in Merrimack, NH. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister at the 2017 USCA New England Regional IPO Championship in Merrimack, NH. 
 

20181103_BrianAghajani_00389-320181103_BrianAghajani_00389-3Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister, IPO3. 11/3/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Things are never boring when you compete with animals.  Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister checking out with Judge Ann Marie Chafin at the 2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. 


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20181103_BrianAghajani_01130-220181103_BrianAghajani_01130-2Ronny Burmer & Aldo vom Burmeister, IPO3. 11/3/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Aldo vom Burmeister at the 2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA.
 

BA2_4316BA2_4316Ronny Burmer & Aldo v. Burmeister, IPO3. 2017 USCA New England Regional IPO Championship in Merrimack, NH. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Ronny Burmer, Aldo v. Burmeister & helper Adriel Linyear, at the 2017 USCA New England Regional IPO Championship in Merrimack, NH.  


20190330-535_959620190330-535_9596Ronny Burmer. 2019 National IGP Championship in Littlerock, AR. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Ronny on the night of our interview 2019

 

About the author:

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.
 


 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Dogsport German Shepherd IGP IPO Ronny Burmer Schutzhund USCA vom Burmeister https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/8/ronnie-burmer Sat, 17 Aug 2019 03:35:33 GMT
Ivan Balabanov, The Road Less Travelled https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/8/balabanov Ivan Balabanov is a x7 AWDF National Champion, x5 AWMA National Champion, USCA National Champion, FCI World Champion and FMBB World Champion.  He achieved these championships with dogs of his own breeding, Ot Vitosha working Malinois.  He is a trainer to competitive dog handlers and an author. He is a self-described ‘dreamer’ who above all is a student of animal behavior and an animal lover.

 

My intention for this article is not to write about his accomplishments which are easily found on the internet, but instead, explore his life experiences that shaped his journey in dogs and his life.  To my surprise and delight, he accepted my invitation for an interview.   

 

Disclosure: this is not a short article.  Ivan's story is full of so many fascinating events that shortening it could not have done it justice.  I suggest you grab your favorite beverage, settle into a comfy chair and take a few moments to soak in his amazing story. Trust me, it's worth it.

BA1_0353BA1_0353Ivan Balabanov & Ebor Ot Vitosha were 1st Place overall. This was Ivans 6th AWDF Championship with three different dogs. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography

20150412_AWDF-11101_b.aghajani20150412_AWDF-11101_b.aghajaniIvan Balabanov & Ebor Ot Vitosha were 1st Place overall. This was Ivans 6th AWDF Championship with three different dogs. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography

2016 AWDF Championship podium with Ebor Ot Vitoaha

 

I met Ivan in early 2001 in Northern California at one of his seminars.  It would be the first of many that I would attend.  Mainstream training methods nearly two decades ago were crude by today’s standards.  Ivan was a counter culture personality to the mainstream methods and perhaps a peak into future methods that have since been adopted into the training systems of many of today’s top IGP competitors.  Ivan is soft spoken and cerebral. His concepts are based on decades studying a variety of animal behavior as well as practical training. He is sophisticated, nuanced and very precise in his language and concepts regarding training.  Perhaps what stands out most is his unwavering belief in ensuring the dignity of the dog when training.  The second thing you will surely notice is his mischievous sense for fun.

 

The way I came about attending the seminar was through my early Schutzhund mentor Ajay Singh.  That one seminar tilted my understanding of dog training on its axis.  When I walked on the field for a turn with my dog, Ivan saw my stiff handling and stopped me. I was so serious and focused.  He instructed me to relax and play with the dog.  I didn't really understand but complied.  He suggested ideas to play in better harmony, to remove conflict and build the dogs desire to offer behaviors.  It was a break through moment for me and had a profound effect on my training philosophy going forward.  At this point, my experience was limited to having titled a single dog to SchH3. We hung out after the seminar chatting. I was admiring his female Malinois named Cindy when he asked “Do you want to work her?” I immediately replied “Yes!” I was thinking he meant in obedience but then he handed me a Gappay sleeve, a stick and said “Run as fast as you can, I’m going to send her.”  I had never caught a dog and was certain I was going to get bit on the ass but i did it anyway mostly out of morbid curiosity. I caught her doing a sort of escape thingy and in the background I could hear Ivan laughing and yelling “Good, Good!” .  I slipped the sleeve and jogged back with a huge smile.  It was a hell of a first impression.

 

Ivan was born in communist era Bulgaria.  He lived in a small border town called Sofia on a large property that had a number of homes that his extended family lived in. This arrangement was customary in old world Bulgaria where Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and extended family would all casually flow from house to house. There was always activity and kids playing in the yard.  From the youngest of age, Ivan had an affinity and connection with animals.  There were stray dogs in the village and Ivan would continually try to adopt them only to find that they had disappeared in the morning.  His parents would pretend to look puzzled and it was always a mystery to young Ivan. The stray dogs he came in contact with were street wise and would generally avoid people, yet Ivan had a way of finding a connection.  He would study the pack behaviors, hierarchy and routines.  He would try to anticipate the behaviors.  His dad worked with border control and at dinner would tell stories of border patrol dogs that filled his imagination.  Ivan was not allowed to own a dog and the combination of the stories, his love of animals and being prohibited from owning them set deep roots of desire.  A fascination for working dogs started to emerge.  At that time there was no internet or and his remoteness meant they rarely had access to dog sport magazines.  His world view of working dogs came from folklore and seeing border patrol and police dogs. However, somewhere inside he knew this was his future.

 

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Archive photo of Ivan. He had a toy dog, because he was not permitted to have a real dog.

 

In the late seventies his family relocated to Libya where is Dad had an assignment as an engineer.  When they settled in their new home, he found a shepherd mix guard dog at a military airport that had puppies.  Ivan would visit the dog daily and try to talk through the fence.  But mostly the dog would try to eat him.  Eventually, he built a relationship with the dog and dared to lift the fence and take a puppy. Ivan was now a dog owner, his name his new puppy Leon and now Ivan could be a dog trainer!

 

As the puppy matured Ivan began protection training. His dad had limited experience with dogs from having watched border patrol dogs being protection trained and tried to share what he had seen.  In the early sessions Ivan would wrap a rag around his arm and create movement to get the dog to bite.   He would work the dog off leash in the woods, progressing to wrapping his body in towels and sheets for leg and arm bites on command.

 

67838362_2293132447605627_3736707318016901120_n67838362_2293132447605627_3736707318016901120_n Archive photo, Ivan getting his start in Ring in Belgium.

 

One day while walking off leash on a trail in the woods, Leon alerted to something ahead. His hackles went up and he switched into protection mode.  Ivan was thrilled to see his training being put to test, got caught up in the moment and sent the dog to get the ‘bad guy.’  He instantly realized his huge mistake and almost soiled his pants. He ran home as fast as he could and hid in his room.  Later that night his father came home with the Big Boss from work.  They were looking for Ivan’s dog.  Ivan was shaking in his shoes when he came out of his room when they called his name.  The Big Boss told him his dog had bit one of the workers in the butt.  He checked out the dog and said that Ivan could keep the dog on condition that he would keep it on a leash.

 

In 1980 his family returned to Bulgaria.  Ivan learned a trade as an electrician and could now support himself.  He got a Collie/Shepherd mix and began training with a working dog club. He passed the military trial test which would become Ivan’s first dog title.   At the club he would hear stories of amazing Malinois working dogs from Belgium and big Schutzhund trials in Europe.  People would visit the club and describe the dogs and training. He never actually saw one but from tales he would hear if fromed a mental image of something really cool.  One day while leafing  through a Dog Fancy magazine in a store, he finally saw a Malinois dog in an advertisement in the back pages.  It was love at first sight.  He voraciously researched the four types of Belgian Shepherds and decided he needed a Tervuren because they looked like his Collie/Shepherd mix.  He also set his goal to move on to Belgium because that seemed to be the center for the highest levels of dog sport training.

 

Relocating to a country where you don’t know anyone, let alone speak the language is daunting for anybody.  But in the context of leaving the communist block, well, it takes on another level of difficulty.  He would have to sneak out, jumping trains and crossing borders, risking getting caught by the border patrol.  He never knew what would happen if he got caught, but knew it was not good.  

 

Pause here and reflect: Ivan was going to escape the communist block because he learned of a breed of dog in the back of a magazine while standing in a store, and decided that training them was his calling. He would risk all to make that happen. And do so he did! In reality, he made a point that this was not even a choice, he could not see an alternative.

 

He knew that for him to train at the levels that he knew he could, he would have to go where the training was the best.  He jumped a train with a sack containing some cloths and his electrician trade tools and crossed over the border.  But then the train took a path back to the communist side.  He realized the train was taking a zig-zag path, crossing the border repeatedly.  Each time stopping for border agents to look in the trains.  It was a terrifying experience but he finally made it to Germany.  He had some money from his electrician trade work to help him pay his way and made his way up to Belgium where he was accepted as a political refuge.  He was offered assistance by the Belgian government but he respectfully turned it down. His pride would not let him accept assistance and he soon found work as an electrician.  In the beginning there were some shady people that tried to take advantage of his vulnerability in his unfamiliar new surroundings.   He was not surprise to have to deal with the street element, having dealt with what he did to get there, he felt he could handle the challenge.  But things would not come easily for a young man, without a support network and unable speak native Flemish or even English. This was a period of part adventure and part life’s hard lessons.   Eventually his trade work enabled Ivan to  get an apartment set up a new life.   Learning about life in Western Europe, for someone from a small village in Bulgaria, was like drinking from a fire hose. 

 

Despite the excitement and craziness of this period, Ivan stayed steadfast determined to be a dog trainer.  He rode a bicycle to watch the working dog club training and knew everything he had done to get there was worth the price.  The concept of dog trainer in Europe at the time was not considered a livelihood providing occupation.  It was generally considered a hobby. Taking this path would mean having humble means. Ivan had no possessions, no car, not even a bed. But he had an abundance of drive in his quest and saved enough money to buy a Malinois from most famous kennel in Belgium called Des Deux Pottois which is owned by Luc Vastenrugge. 

 

Luc spoke to Ivan through an interpreter and the entire process seemed painfully slow.  Ivan saw a dark pigment Malinois with black mask and fell in love.  Luc had other thoughts. Having listened to Ivan’s enthusiasm, he decided he should have one particular high drive female with white socks that he felt would make a better competition dog. Ivan was disappointed. Seeing Ivan’s reaction, Luc suggested that Ivan take both dogs for two-weeks, and then decide which one he would keep.  Ivan took both dogs and two weeks later returned the dark pigment dog.  He named his new dog Nakita and together they would later compete at the 1994 FCI World Championship. But wait...that came later.

20190812-68805464_386871458679384_4967461464047616000_n20190812-68805464_386871458679384_4967461464047616000_n

Ivan shares the moment with the person that he got his first Malinois from: Luc Vastenrugge

2017 FMBB World Champions Ivan with Qenny Ot Vitosha.  Le Toquet, France.

 

Nakita was a super dog.  Because Ivan didn't have a car, he would ride his bicycle with the Nakita running alongside from his apartment to the training ground.  They would both be winded by the time they got to the field.  She exceeded his expectations in the work and they both thrived with the exposure to advanced training and access to quality helpers.  It was a dream experience to compete and also to be able to work on his craft as a decoy in Ring and Schutzhund. Two years after his arrival in Belgium his political refugee status expired and he was he was asked if he wanted to stay and become a Belgian citizen or would have to leave.  He wanted to see more of the world and chose to leave.

67920075_421634315120198_7797975345973428224_n67920075_421634315120198_7797975345973428224_n Archive photo: Riding his only transportation, his bike, to club training in Belgium.

This was his first Malinois. Nakita Des deux Pottois.

 

For reasons that he didn’t fully understand, Ivan decided on the United States as his next adventure. He applied for immigration and was accepted.  He chose San Francisco because of what he had seen in movies. (Seriously, he said that). The immigration department offered Ivan some programs intended to assist him get to his feet. But Ivan declined the government assistance.  As he explained why, it was clear that he took pride in never having accepted help from host countries.  Things were not so smooth at the beginning.  Housing in San Francisco is very difficult to find and finding an apartment that allowed dogs and for someone with no job or credit was next to impossible.  But somehow, he found a German woman who had a soft spot in her heart. She initially said no, twice. Then on the third ask, she consented to renting.

 

Ivan was looking for electrical trade work when one day he saw a van with a guide dog business sign on it's sides.  Curious, he followed the van back to their office, walked in and looked around and just knew that this was what he wanted to do.  He asked to speak to the manager, whereon he proclaimed “I need to work here!”  They were shocked by his forwardness and not fully understanding his motiviation, they politely explained that “This is not how it works, thank you, good bye.” Ivan was persistent and continued to return repeatedly asking for work, offering to do whatever it took to work there. A few weeks of this and he was hired but limited to cleaning kennels and doing chores.   Management eventually recognized Ivan’s training skills and feel for dogs, and then quickly advanced to become one of the trainers.

 

The work was extensive and left little time for his own dogs.  But he had his feelers out and learned from DogSport Magazine of a roaming Schutzhund club that featured Dean Calderon. He went to Contra Costa Schutzhund Club for one of the sessions and this was his first taste of Schutzhund in the U.S. His dog was cross trained in Ring and kept biting Dean on the leg and crotch.  Dean was getting twitchy, not knowing where on his body he would be bit next. It was fun and he started to build his network in the sport.

 

The guide dog training was a blessing because of the steady income provided the ability to build credit allowed him to get on his feet.  But the rigid structure and time needed for training guide dogs was holding back his sport dog training.  He found work as an animal behavioralist at the San Francisco SPCA that allowed more flexibility. The work involved evaluation and rehabilitation of problem dogs and offered a good balance that enabled him to put time into his increasing involvement in Schutzhund.   He had begun traveling and doing seminars. 

20180520.BA2_5047_20180520.BA2_5047_Ivan Balabanov & J.Ice ot Vitosha IPO3 (male Malinois). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 20, 2018

2018 AWDF in Galt, CA.  Ivan with J.Ice Ot Vitosha at the end of back-half protection with helper Markus Hampton.

 

Some of the struggles he encountered had to do with the mindset within the sport.  Having come from Belgium where there was a maximum commitment to training and competing, he had a hard time accepting that some people wanted to just train as a hobby and were not that serious.  He also became aware that ‘Alternate Breeds’ did not have the support of some judges in the U.S. at championship level compared to what he had experienced in Belgium.  He would usually earn one or two V scores but just couldn't string it together in all three phases.   He kept his belief in this program told himself he would just raise his level.

1994 was a good year for Ivan. He went to the FCI World championship in Finland with Nakita and placed 12th which was the best ever USCA placing at the time. But it was not until that 2000 he had his break-out year and won the AWDF National Championship and earned FCI Vice World Champion. But it would prove to be just the beginning. 

 

  • 2000 WDF National Champion
  • 2000 FMBB Vice-World Champion
  • 2001 AWDF National Champion
  • 2001 USCA National IPO Champion
  • 2002 AWDF National Champion
  • 2003 AWMA National Champion
  • 2005 AWDF National Champion
  • 2006 AWDF National Champion
  • 2007 AWDF National Champion
  • 2007 FCI World Champion  
  • 2007 FMBB World Champion  
  • 2009 AWMA National Champion
  • 2014 AWMA National Champion
  • 2015 AWMA National Champion
  • 2015 AWDF National Champion
  • 2016 AWMA National Champion
  • 2016 AWDF National Champion

 

While achieving 17 national/world level championships has been satisfying, more important for Ivan was the validation of his life work.  His work has been guided by a philosophy whose core attributes is harmony with the dog, letting it learn without conflict and respecting the dignity of the dog.    

BA2_9071BA2_9071Ivan Balabanov & Ebor on their way to wining second consecutive IPO3 National Championship in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

2016 AWDF Championship, Chicago, IL.  1st Place with Ebor Ot Vitosha,  Working back half with Weston Kester.

 

Along the way Ivan developed a deep feeling for the importance of improving the Malinois breed in the way that Luc Vastenrugge had done so before him.  Luc helped him understand the breed and blood lines.  Luc had books and notes like an old scientist and this was the correct way in Ivan’s opinion.  He founded Ot Vitosha and went about with the same conviction he did with his training.  At one DVG National Championship, Ot Vitosha dogs swept the podium and many dogs have gone on to not only podium at Nationals, but win championships.  Ot Vitosha is the name of a Mountain near his childhood city.  He strives for focus, sound genetic temperament, and happy disposition while trying to maintain the proven blood-line that he grew up with.  He knows the dogs and has worked the dogs in the blood lines going back 12-generations. He finds both breeding and training equally interesting. 

 

In the early 2000’s while traveling for seminars, Ivan found a property in Florida that would be perfect for a kennel.  A number of fortunate events happened at the right time that enabled him to  purchased it.  It was his ultimate dream.  He loaded his dogs in a van and moved. An experience he had become familiar with.  But this time he knew the days of living in an apartment with a ton of dogs was over.  This was to be a new and exciting beginning and is where he lives today.

 

I asked Ivan for advice to a newbie in the sport:

“The starting point is to have to have goal and desire,  without it you will be doomed to will fail. The sport is not easy and nothing will be handed to you. If you have the dream and are willing to chase it, then nothing can stop you. When it comes to training, if you don’t like something, stop and ask the training director- don’t just go along.  If you don’t like what is happening to your dog, then it’s not the right thing. It doesn’t take a dog trainer to tell if the dog is treated with dignity or not. The problem with the sport in some corners, is that for some pursuit of scores makes it ok to mis-treat of the dog.  Always place the well being and dignity of the dog first.”

 

Ivan’s life has been led from the very beginning by a love of dogs.  His journey has at times seemed to have little certainty. He stood alone on the cliff and took a leap of faith and landed safely living life he had dreamed.  Imagine his life if he had listened to those around him and not taken risk.  We have only scratched the surface, his journey also included training government dogs, police dogs, dogs for the Air Force and Ring Sport.  Today his influence on IPO, whether it be training, philosophy or blood lines is profound.  He currently travels world-wide performing seminars and sharing his concepts. 

20180520.BA2_1038_20180520.BA2_1038_Ivan Balabanov & J.Ice ot Vitosha IPO3 (male Malinois). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 20, 2018

J.Ice Ot Vitosha in back-half protection with Marcus Hampton at the 2018 AWDF National Championship in Galt, CA. 


BA2_6890-EditBA2_6890-EditIvan Balabanov & Ebor on their way to wining second consecutive IPO3 National Championship in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

Ivan & Ibor Ot Vitosha on their way to winning the 2016 AWDF Championship.

 

BA1_9887BA1_9887Ivan Balabanov & Ebor on their way to wining second consecutive IPO3 National Championship in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

Ivan and Ebor Ot Vitosha were the last dogs on the field for protection at the 2016 AWDF Championship. Ivan needed 97 points to win. 

The moment Ivan hears the 97 score and realized he has won.   Protection judge Randall Hoadley.

 

BA1_9938BA1_9938Ivan Balabanov & Ebor on their way to wining second consecutive IPO3 National Championship in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani    Immediately after Ivan's protection critique, he rushed  to hug his friend and fellow competitor, Mario Sergio Gomes.

A single point separated the two. The friendship was bigger than their rivalry.

 

20150411_AWDF-8941_b.aghajani20150411_AWDF-8941_b.aghajaniIvan Balabanov & Ebor Ot Vitosha perform the protection routine in the AWDF IPO3 Championship where they earned 95 points. The event was held in Farmtington, MO. Ivan & Ebor were 1st Place overall. This was Ivans 6th AWDF Championship with three different dogs. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography

Ebor Ot Vitosha winning the 2015 AWDF Championship in Farmington, OH. Back-half helper Waine Singleton.

 

20190331-762_710820190331-762_7108Ivan Balabanov at the 2019 AWDF National IGP Championship in Littlerock, AR. Brian Aghajani Photography.

Ivan and national level helper Marcus Hampton discussing helper work while observing the competition

at the 2019 AWDF Championship in Little Rock, AR.

 

IMG_4923IMG_4923

Author with Ivan. 2018 AWDF Championship Galt, CA.

 

 

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.
 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Dog Trainer Dogsport IGP IPO Ivan Balabanov Malinois Ot Vitosha Schutzhund https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/8/balabanov Mon, 12 Aug 2019 17:17:53 GMT
After a long break, I have a puppy: Desmo https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/7/Desmo Before I took up photography as my main pastime,  training IGP dogs was how I enjoyed spending my most my free time.  Between the years of 2000-2008 I titled three dogs to IPO3 and one to an FH2.  I loved the process, the competition/community and the time outside working with dogs.  Eventually my dogs passed their prime and I reluctantly had to accept that it was time for them to retire so they could enjoy their senior years.  In the following years we enjoyed long walks and hikes but I still had the hunger for IPO.   I was living in a small apartment in Los Angeles at the time, and this made it impractical to get another dog.  Having two dogs already made my apartment choices limited, three would be impossible.  So I stepped away from the sport and spent time doing portrait photography and enjoying my two sweet senior GSDs.  Inside I still had a flame for IPO but I have a difficult time being a spectator in any activity so attending to watch training or events was more frustrating than satisfying.  This hunger for IPO was on one side, and occupying my spare time with photography of people on the other.  The two didn't mix until one day I got a crazy notion of photographing an IPO trial instead of people.  In 2014 I shot my first club trial in Los Angeles and later that year the USCA Northwestern Regional Championship. I had to rent the equipment since sports photography uses different instruments than that used for portraits.  I had a blast and immediately went out and bought the full kit of equipment and jumped in with both feet. I loved being on the field close to the action and telling the story through the perspective of the lens.  The  journey has taken me to countless cities around the world and more memories and amazing photos than I ever imagined. A puppy was just not in my plan.

Fast forward to October 2018 WUSV in Denmark.  I am having breakfast with Frank Phillips who was competing on the USA team before heading to the stadium to shoot the event and he is excitedly telling me about an upcoming breeding of Kliff vom Floyd Haus to Demi Malabig who is an Extreme Orex Aykmar daughter.  This catches my full attention as Kliff was one of my all time favorite working dogs. I'm not sure if it is because of the Kliff factor or the way that Frank is talking about it.  Either way, there are moments when plans change in an instant and this is one such moment.  Before breakfast I did not have owning working dog in my future, and just like that I had to have a working dog in my future.  I spoke with T. Floyd (who happened to also be competing on the USA team) night back at the hotel and got on the list for a puppy from this litter.  For a long time after the passing of my last to dogs I felt my heart was just not ready for another dog.  I always told myself I would know when it was the right time.  That morning I decided it was time. 

The puppies were born on February 23, 2019.  Heartbreakingly, Kliff died shortly after. We were stunned. It was a devastating loss for Frank and the working dog community.  This is a link to a tribute to Kliff, be forewarned you will need a box of Kleenex. I cried that day and my heart broke for Frank’s loss.  I already felt a Kliff puppy was my inspiration to resume IPO training, but Kliff’s passing made it made it feel like this was meant to be.  I took delivery of Rosso vom Floyd Haus, aka “Desmo” on May 2 at the USCA Working Dog Championship.  I was nervous and excited as I put him on my lap.   Who knows what the future will hold, but I trust the journey will be wonderful.

Desmo_20190503-153_0227Desmo_20190503-153_02275/3/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

I started browsing my catalogue for photos Desmo’s pedigree.  While most people will look to the internet, I get to look up my catalogue of 500,000 photos.  So happens I have his Sir, Dam, and two of his grandparents, captured in all their glory competing in championships.  Please allow me to pay homage to the wonderful bloodlines. 

  • Sire:  Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3.  2018 2nd Place FCI World Championship.  2017 2nd Place FCI World IPO Championship.  2018 AWDF National IGP Champion. 2016 Canadian National Champion.
  • Kliffs Dam: Hilda vom Floyd Haus IPO3 x2 National IPO competitor
  • Dam: Demi Malabig IPO3.  x2 National IPO competitor.  2019 2nd Place USCA GSD Nationals.
  • Demi's Sire: Extreme Orex Aykmar IPO3 .   2017 2nd Place WUSV World IPO Championship, 2016 3rd Place WUSV IPO World Champion.  

 

Sire: KLIFF VON FLOYD HAUS, IPO3

Kliff2017WUSV_20171005.#BA2_0173.WUSVKliff2017WUSV_20171005.#BA2_0173.WUSVFrank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Photo: www.brianaghajani.com

Desmo's Sire: Kliff von Floyd Haus, front-half at the 2017 WUSV IGP World Championship in Tilbrug, NL. Helper Jan van Maren.

 

Kliff2018WUSV_20171005.153_1796_Kliff2018WUSV_20171005.153_1796_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography Kliff vom Floyd Haus with Frank Phillips, front-half at the 2019 WUSV World IPO Championship in Randers, DK.  Helper Martin Knudsen.

 

Kliff2018AWDF_20180519.BA2_4895_-Edit-EditKliff2018AWDF_20180519.BA2_4895_-Edit-EditFrank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 Kliff von Floyd Haus winning the 2018 AWDF National IPO Championship. Helper Marcus Hampton.

 

Kliff2018USCANationals_20181102_BrianAghajani_00897Kliff2018USCANationals_20181102_BrianAghajani_00897Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus 2018 USCA National IPO Championship

 

Dam: DEMI MALABIG, IPO3
Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_01980-2Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_01980-2T Floyd & Demi Malabig, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Demi Malabig at the 2018 USCA National IPO Championship. Helper Jeff Davis.

 

Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_02093-2Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_02093-2T Floyd & Demi Malabig, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Demi Malabig in the attack on handler out of back transport. T. Floyd on left. Helper Jeff Davis. 2018 USCA Natioanal IPO Championship in Pittsburgh, PA

 

Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_01444-2Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_01444-2T Floyd & Demi Malabig, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography Demi von Malabig stand out of running at the 2019 USCA National IPO Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_01320-2Demi_20181104_BrianAghajani_01320-2T Floyd & Demi Malabig, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

T. Floyd & Demi Malabig heeling in obedience at the 2018 USCA National IPO Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

Desmo's grandfather, mothers side: Extreme Orex Aykmar, IPO3
Exreme2017_20171007.#BA2_6737.WUSVExreme2017_20171007.#BA2_6737.WUSV Desmo's grandfather on bottom side of pedigree: Extreme Orex Aykmar vice World Champion at the 2017 WUSV World IGP Championship in Tilburg, NL.

 

Exreme2017_20171007.#BA2_6740.WUSVExreme2017_20171007.#BA2_6740.WUSV Extreme Orex Aykmar at the 2017 WUSV World IGP Championship in Tilburg, NL.
 

Exreme2018_20171006.153_3258_Exreme2018_20171006.153_3258_Cerny Marek & Extreme Orex Aykmar. CZE-04 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

Extreme Orex Aykmar twisting front half helper Martin Knudsen at the 2018 WUSV World IGP Championship in Randers, DK.

 

Exreme2017_20171004.#BA2_7964.WUSV-2Exreme2017_20171004.#BA2_7964.WUSV-2 Extreme Orex Aykmar at the 2017 WUSV World IGP Championship in Tilburg, NL.

 

Desmo's grandmother, fathers side: HILDA VOM FLOYD HAUS, IPO3

Hilda 2016_BA1_6213Hilda 2016_BA1_6213Kelly Horgan & HIlda vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani.

Hilda vom Floyd Haus bark & hold of Ryan White at the 2016 USCA National IPO Championship in Merced, CA.

 

Hilda 2016_BA1_6308Hilda 2016_BA1_6308Kelly Horgan & HIlda vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. Hilda vom Floyd Haus defends attack on handler out of back transport at the 2016 USCA National IPO Championship in Merced, CA.

 

Hilda 2017_20170506_#18557_WDCHilda 2017_20170506_#18557_WDCKelly Horgan & Hilda vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography. Hilda vom Floyd Haus during the escape of the helper Adriel Linyear at the 2017 USCA National IPO Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.

Hilda 2017_20170506_#17410_WDCHilda 2017_20170506_#17410_WDCKelly Horgan & Hilda vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography. Kelly Horgan & Hilda vom Floyd Haus fast heeling in obedience at the 2017 USCA National IPO Championship in Buffalo, NY.

 

Little Desmo- your time will come. We will be patient and  enjoy your puppy years.  Your forefathers have left their mark. Your little paws have some big footprints to fill.  This will fun....anyone know a photographer that can capture our journey??
 

 

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.
 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Brian Aghajani Demso Dogsport IGP IPO Schutzhund USCA Vom Floyd Haus https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/7/Desmo Fri, 05 Jul 2019 00:10:58 GMT
Waine Singleton, Making IGP a better place https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/6/waine-singleton Waine Singleton, National level IGP Decoy, IGP Judge, IGP Competitor and Founder of IPO Live!  He is best known for his national level IGP helper work over the last 20 years. He is also known for his support of IGP with recent live-stream broadcasts of IGP championships via the 'IPO Live!' channel.  I first met Waine at the 2015 AWDF Championship in Chicago where he was the back-half helper and I the event photographer. I have lost count of the number states and stadiums at which we have seen each other since then but the photos in the blog give some clue.  I have been curious about his concept for IPO Live! and have been looking forward to interviewing him.   I finally got the chance to do so and this is the product of that time spent. 

Waine grew up in South side Chicago.  His first dog was a Rottweiler when he was 19 years old.  At the time his main passion was motorcycles. Not just any motorcycles but stunt riding in particular.  One day while walking his dog, a stranger saw him with his dog and asked if he was involved in training, and invited him to train with his group of clients of Gerald Rogers.  Waine accepted the offer and Gerald Rogers would eventually become Waine’s first dog sport mentor. With his first taste of personal protection dog training and he was hooked immediately.  A little later Waine started personal protection helper work with the club and doing some helper work in protection tournaments.  Then one day Gerald invited him for a visit to Chi-Town Schutzhund Club where Gerald was to do Schutzhund helper work. This experience observing Schutzhund dogs left a profound impression on Waine that would forever change his future, as the sport would become a huge part of his life and the next 25+ years. 

One day when Waine was at Chi-Town Schutzhund Club no helpers were able to make it out for training and they were unable to train. Waine had protection dog decoy experience but no IGP helper experience. He offered to catch the dogs anyway.  They scoffed at first, but without an alternative, they reluctantly agreed to give him a try.  To everyone’s surprise he was not only good, he was safe with his catches.  Waine never looked back.  He has since done helper work in 32 championships and 14 consecutive years of at least one championship:

  • 2019 GSDCA National Championship
  • 2018 GSDCA National Sieger Championship 
  • 2017 UScA SE Regional Championship; UScA Mid Central Regional Championship  
  • 2016 AWMA National Championship
  • 2015 AWDF National Championship; USRC Nationals; DVG Nationals; USCA Mid East Regionals
  • 2014 WDSAA Nationals: USRC Nationals; AWDF National Championship; UScA Mid Central Regionals
  • 2013 AWMA National Championship; UDC National Championship; UScA Mid Central Regional
  • 2012 UDC (Doberman) National Championship 
  • 2011 AWMA National Championship 
  • 2010 USA-Box National Championship  
  • 2009 DVG National Championship
  • 2008 UDC (Doberman) National Championship; DVG National Championship; DVG Midwest Regional
  • 2007 DVG Midwest Regional Championship 
  • 2006 WRS (Giant Schnauzer) National Championship; DVG Midwest Regional Championship
  • 2005 DVG Midwest Regional Championship; UScA North Central Regional Championship

A trademark of Waine is his taste for stylish helper attire.  He has made a point to be a style trend setter and no one comes close to to having as many helper outfits.  He is satorially to helper work as T. Floyd is to competitors.

2015 AWDF backhalf_20150410_AWDF__seq#1428_BrianAghajani2015 AWDF backhalf_20150410_AWDF__seq#1428_BrianAghajani

2015 AWDF in Chicago. Everything airborne, catching a David Knopp's blistering fast A'Essard.

 

2015 AWDF group_20150410_AWDF__seq#1_BrianAghajani2015 AWDF group_20150410_AWDF__seq#1_BrianAghajani

2015 AWDF in Chicago.  Waine helped organize the event, was picked as back half helper and served in the heeling group during obedience phase.

 

2015 AWDF backhalf_20150410_AWDF__seq#1676_BrianAghajani2015 AWDF backhalf_20150410_AWDF__seq#1676_BrianAghajani

2015 AWDF Championship in Chicago.  Waine consults with AJ Pepper and Marcus Hampton before taking the field for protection phase.

 

2017 SE Reginoals_BA1_07742017 SE Reginoals_BA1_0774Maggie Shook & Gunslinger's The Padre. 2017 Southeastern Regional IPO Championship. Dawsonville, GA. Brian Aghajani Photography

2017 USCA South East Regional IGP Championship in Dawsonville, NC. Maggie Shook's Gunslinger.

 

Along the way he also made time to become the Training Director at Midwest Working Dog Association and titled four HOT dogs to IPO3, one dog to an FH and compete in two National Championships as a handler.  Another one of his early mentors was Dean Bundley who is the original founder of Midwest Working Dog Association.  Dean opened Waine to the amazing abilities of the Malinois breed in IGP.

There have also been setbacks along the way. There was a point where their club lost the use of their training field. They did what they had to in order to continue their training by finding parking lots and abandoned fields and using their car headlights to train at night. It was a bleak period, but looking back it was a test of resolve to continue their training program.

Twenty years of decoy work will takes its toll on one's body and Waine started to look ahead at how he would continue in the sport when the day came for him to hang up his scratch pants. He knew that handling a dog as a competitor by itself would not satisfy his appetite for dog sport.  He set to work to became an IGP judge and earned his judges license in 2017 with the AWMA. This proved to be a natural fit for his fascination with the technical side of the sport.

His critiques as a judge made him aware how much he enjoyed this aspect of the sport which in turn led to the idea of live-streaming the 2017 WDC and doing commentary just for fun. It was spontaneous and unplanned.  The live-stream went viral and had thousands of viewers.   People encouraged him to do it again and the next thing he knew he and his girlfriend Angie had created a YouTube channel called ‘IPO Live!’  From that point on I would see Waine at all the big championships where I was the photographer.  It started modestly with a iPhone and a dime store camera tripod (not even a video tripod) and later evolved into a sophisticated broadcast rig with shotgun mic, a high-end 4k camera and fancy fluid-head video tripod.  During a broadcast of an IGP championship one competitor came up and wanted to thank him. The competitor said his mother was not well and was in hospice, and that his family was there with her to comfort her. He went on to say that because of IPO Live that they were all able to watch him perform and went on to say how much they appreciated it.   Waine was deeply moved and realized that what started as something fun had grown into something bigger than himself and was now affecting many in the working dog community. It came with a new understanding of the responsibility.  He made the decision to clean up the salty language and jokes and make the program more family friendly.  He also started to consider his mission for the channel going forward with aspirations of extending the reach of the IGP.  Long term, he would love to see IPO Live! help elevate the sport to reach new people outside its current participants and make it a mainstream dog sport.  

2019 GSDCA_20190331-153_31242019 GSDCA_20190331-153_3124Wain Singleton at the 2019 AWDF National IGP Championship in Littlerock, AR. Brian Aghajani Photography.

2019 AWDF Championship in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Waine live steaming to more than 100,000 viewers on IPO Live!

 

2015 AWDF backhalf_20180309.#BA2_2909.SE Regional IPO2015 AWDF backhalf_20180309.#BA2_2909.SE Regional IPOChris Tompson & Abrisco Vamoz Bohemia IPO1/ 2018 USCA Southeastern Region IPO Championship in Fayetteville, NC. Brian Aghajani Photography.

2018 USCA Southeastern Region IPO Championship in Fayetteville, NC. Hold & Bark with Abrisco Vamoz Bohemia.


2015 AWDF backhalf_BA1_87772015 AWDF backhalf_BA1_8777Helper College 2017 Southeastern Regional IPO Championship. Dawsonville, GA. Brian Aghajani Photography.

2017 USCA Southeastern Helper College Dawsonville, NC.  Showing the new helpers how it's done with a spunky Fala.


2015 AWDF backhalf_BA2_71372015 AWDF backhalf_BA2_7137Joe Stuetelberg& Trossack's Fortune Amok, IPO3. 2017 USCA Mid Central Region IPO Championship. Lawrence, KS. Brian Aghajani Photography

2017 USCA Mid-Central Region IGP Championship in Lawrence, KS. Back half gaurding by Joe Stuetelberg's Trossacks's Fortune Amok in IPO3.

 

I asked Waine what recent developments in the sport that he found interesting.  Without hesitation he said the most important event is the recent separation of the AWDF and USCA which he felt is dividing the sport and changing the dynamics of the sport. He spoke of the damage this split was having with clubs that have a mix of breeds that can’t, or won’t trial because of the confusion it has caused with scorebooks and trials counting towards their goals.  He felt that lack of flexibility and common ground at the high levels of the two organizations was likely at core of the rift and that perhaps those in charge had become too entrenched to find middle ground.  He wondered if this might not be a good time for some fresh blood, to bring a new perspective, as the current state of affairs is hurting the sport and driving people away.  He felt strongly that people new to the sport will not know the history, so the politics will not make sense and that in the end they will be poisoned with the toxicity.   

Looking to switch to something more uplifting, I asked Waine on his advice for a newbie to IGP.  He said without hesitation “It’s about the dog.  People will lose their way and make it about trainers ego. But always remember it is about the dog.”  He resists talking about great handlers and would much rather talk in depth about specific dogs as the heroes.  He suggests a new handler visit a number of clubs before choosing one and to make sure the club’s culture is a fit. He said this cannot be overstated because you will spend a lot of time with these people. It is important that they are a group that you can have fun with and that you believe and agree with the training methods. They should have similar interests as you and a good indication is if the club spends time together after training.  If they come to train and then they all go their own ways then keep looking a better fit.  Then along the way, when you have found your tribe, make sure look outside the circle for fresh ideas and keep an open mind.

Looking back, Waine’s fondest achievements was taking the field at championship with his first mentor Gerald Rogers and beating him.  It was Waine’s way to sincerely thank Gerald for the guidance, showing he had put the lessons to good use, and at the same time a way of saying that Waine had evolved to take his own path to the next level. 

2015 AWDF backhalf_BA2_7826-Edit-Edit2015 AWDF backhalf_BA2_7826-Edit-EditRonnie Weiss& Radic z Gemera, IPO3. 2017 USCA Mid Central Region IPO Championship. Lawrence, KS. Brian Aghajani Photography

2017 USCA Mid-Central Region IGP Championship in Lawrence, KS. Pressuring Ronnie Weiss' Radic z Gemera in IPO3.


2015 AWDF backhalf_BA2_76912015 AWDF backhalf_BA2_7691Betim Polisi & Eros von Haus Fien Conti, IPO3. USCA Mid Central Region IPO Championship. Lawrence, KS. Brian Aghajani Photography

2017 USCA Mid-Central Region IGP Championship in Lawrence, KS. Waine finds fun everywhere.  Sharing a laugh at the end of IGP protection with USCA Judge Athur Collins and Betim Polisi in IPO3. 


2019 GSDCA_20190427-762_32052019 GSDCA_20190427-762_3205Jackie Camp & Yankee von Kaltwasser, V IPO/IGP3. 2019 GSDCA IGP National Championship. Wilmington, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography.

2019 GSDCA National Championship in Wilmintton, OH. Turning up the heat on Jackie Camp's Yankee v. Kaltwasser.

 

2019 GSDCA_20190427-762_34272019 GSDCA_20190427-762_34272019 GSDCA IGP National Championship. Wilmington, OH. Brian Aghajani Photography.

2019 GSDCA National IGP Championship helpers Markus Hampton and Waine Singleton.

 

Waine Singleton is a bigger than life personality.  Fun and laughter and a passion for dogs follow him wherever he goes.  His life long love of dogs has lead him down a unique path and he heart has inspired him to improve IGP. I believe the sport is better for it.  Tune into IPO Live! And enjoy the show.

 

If you enjoyed this post and would like to be notified of future posts, click the subscribe button in the upper right corner. Thank you for visiting.

See you out on the field!

Brain Aghajani
 

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.
 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Dogsport IGP IPO Schutzhund USCA Waine Singleton https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/6/waine-singleton Sun, 30 Jun 2019 21:37:25 GMT
Jake Scott, International Certified Mondioring Decoy https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/6/jake-scott Jake Scott, International Certified Mondioring Decoy

This is a story about a brilliant spirit, about a man who found himself in a very dark place without hope and was saved by his dog.

This is a profile on Jake Scott, a Mondioring Level 3 competitor, International Level 3 Mondioring Certified Decoy, Level 1 French Ring Decoy, professional dog trainer and member of the US Mondioring Association Board of Directors.  He is one of a small group of dedicated dog sport enthusiasts working to expand awareness of Mondioring in the US.  But this story begins well before there was a dog in Jake’s life.

The first time I met Jake was through an email, with him asking if I would like to photograph the 2018 USMRA Mondioring National Championship in Ohio.  I explained that I do not have Mondioring experience and might not be the best choice.  Jake insisted, saying that he was a fan and that he wanted to show Mondioring in a similar light to how I show IGP to the general public.  I liked his energy and sense of purpose and agreed to the shoot, yet quietly wondered what I was getting myself into. I would soon learn that this was a glimpse into how Jake thinks. He doesn't care how things are, he wants to get things to how they should be. My first interaction with him was at a point when he was looking to create a well-planed promotion for Mondioring. 

Jake’s early life was miles away from dogs. His first love was actually music. He plays guitar, bass and drums. He played lead guitar in a death metal rock band called Salt the Wound.  They released  three full-length albums and toured North America and Europe. The link is to actual footage of one of their shows.  The death metal music culture piqued his interest for tattoos, which would later evolve to become a full-time occupation as a tattoo artist when he left the band.

Portrait_20190413-762_5489Portrait_20190413-762_54892019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography
Portrait_20190413-762_5543Portrait_20190413-762_55432019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

As a boy, Jake’s earliest dog influence was his grandfather, Larry Small.  Larry served in the US Army during WWII and was an avid German Shepherd enthusiast.  Larry was a positive influence and a guiding light for Jake. After Jake satisfied his taste for death metal gigs and tattoos, he became aware that time was passing. He began to feel there might be other things he wanted to experience in life.  Larry's influence started to take a more prominent role in Jake's life choices, prompting him to make a huge change in direction and follow in his grandfather’s footsteps by enlisting in the military.  Being of Jewish ancestry, Jake felt his calling should be the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  Never one to take the easy road, his choice would involve moving halfway around the globe and learning a new language. Although he was raised Jewish, he did not speak Hebrew. In preparation, he hired a tutor in Ohio and set to work. After his enlistment in the IDF, he was sent to his basic training and intensive language course at MIchve Alon, where he was recognized for the highest achievements in his company.

IMG_7816IMG_7816Screenshot

Archive photo of Grandpa Larry Small and his dog Yankee which he enlisted though the Dogs for Defense program and became a military working dog. Circa 1944.

 

Jake Scott IDFJake Scott IDF

Archive photo of Jake with his unit during the swearing in of the Golani Infantry Brigade of the IDF.

 

Upon returning home in 2013, he began to have bouts of severe anxiety and depression.  It spiraled to a point where he struggled to leave the house or have any form of social contact.  He was treated by a team of doctors, only to have the condition worsen as he became increasingly reclusive.  One of his doctors suggested alternative treatment, and retraced Jake’s childhood passions and interests.  He tapped into Jake’s admiration for his grandfather Larry and for his dog that he put into military service.  This doctor suggested Jake try training a dog as part of the healing process.  Enter Tye the Malinois dog.  Jake devoted every day to training Tye. Jake would not leave the house during the day, but once night fell, they would go for long walks until sunrise. Tye literally led Jake from this darkest hour back to the light.    

Time with Tye felt good, and it helped Jake find his way back to himself and gave him an ability to deal with social situations.  He was driven to find more ways to spend time together with Tye, which led him to discover Mondioring protection dog sport.  Mondioring is a mix of French Ring, Belgian Ring and KNPV.  It is particularly suited to the athletic Malinois breed. The sport is immensely difficult, and few teams ever achieve the highest title of Level 3. 

Jake joined West Penn Mondioring Club and devoted the majority of his time to training under Todd Dunlap, who is a major influence for many high-level US Mondioring competitors.  Jake & Tye earned a Level 1 title within one year and earned a 4th place Level 1 at the 2017 USMRA National Championship in St. Louis.  As anyone who has been smitten by dog sports knows, once you’re involved it is hard to only have one dog!  This, of course, was true for Jake, so he researched and located an untitled working bloodline Malinois with proven pedigree named Pajr. Training two dogs occupied Jake’s time, and this in turn accelerated his healing.  The culmination of this time will enable him to compete in Level 3 with both his dogs Tye and Pajr in the coming year.  His newfound love of dogs also led Jake to open a full-service dog boarding, daycare, grooming and training business called Heights Canine in South Euclid, Ohio.  www.heightscanine.com

Tye_20180414.#BA2_6188.USMRA_NationalTye_20180414.#BA2_6188.USMRA_NationalJake Scott & Tye. Level 2 2018 USMRA Mondioring National Championship. Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Aghajani Photography

Apr 2018 Tye and Jake, High Jump Level 2 USMRA National Mondioring Championship.

 

Sylvan_20180414.#BA2_3802.USMRA_NationalSylvan_20180414.#BA2_3802.USMRA_NationalJake Scott & Sylvan Eidolon Atlas. Level 1 2018 USMRA Mondioring National Championship. Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Aghajani Photography

Apr 2018 Atlas (Pajr) & Jake, Palisade, Level 1 USMRA National Mondioring Championship. 

 

Not satisfied with training two dogs and running a dog care business, he embarked on becoming a Mondioring Decoy.  He earned his Level 3 Certified Decoy status under the mentorship of Todd Dunlap in 2018.  He also had fulfilled the requirements to earn International Level 3 Certified Decoy.  To understand the magnitude of this achievement, one needs to know that there are only five Level 3 Certified Decoys in the United States!  His next goal was to earn a spot as a decoy for the USMRA National Championship.  Jake traveled to Belgium to train under Tommy Verschueren who is a world level Mondioring Decoy and Philip van den Abeele who is the training director at H.C Wetteren dog sport club. This was done to get critical bite suit time, training scores of dogs every day in preparation for the USMRA Nationals.  The work paid off and Jake was selected as the Decoy for the 2019 National Championship alongside International Certified Mondioring Decoy Morgan Blanchard of Spain.  

Because of the good fortune of crossing paths over the internet with Jake a few years back, I had the honor to be the photographer for both the 2018 and 2019 USMRA Mondioring Championships, and in turn came to know this very special person in the working dog community.  Jake is intelligent, articulate, and has a passion to extend the reach and awareness of Mondioring to others.  Six years ago things may have been very dark for Jake, but today things could not be brighter. The sport of Mondioring is a better place because of Jake Scott.

Decoys lrg_20190414-762_8623Decoys lrg_20190414-762_86232019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

The work is done, it's ok to be playful now.  Decoys at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship. From left Jake Faas (USA), Jake Scott (USA), Morgan Blanchard (SPAIN). 

 

cover_20190413-762_1515-2cover_20190413-762_1515-2Brad Hardin & Lanzo van Arne's Hoeve. Level 1. 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. brianaghajani.com Face Attack with Brad Hardin's Lanzo van Arne's Hoeve at the 2019 USMRA National Championship. One of the few GSDs in Mondioring Arne is also IPO3 and had competed on both IGP and Mondioring National Championships.
 

Humberto Bobadilla & Leonardo DaViinci_20151231-153_9241Humberto Bobadilla & Leonardo DaViinci_20151231-153_9241Humberto Bobadilla & Leonardo DaViinci. Level 3 at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Attack Stop (Flee) with Humberto Bobadilla's Leonardo DaViinci. Level 3 at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA.
 

J.Valentine & Khaleesi _20190414-762_7059J.Valentine & Khaleesi _20190414-762_7059Jessica Valentine & Khaleesi Enfer avec de Deluje. Level 3 at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Jake trying to be sneaky during Gaurd of Object with Jessica Valentine's Khaleesi Enfer avec de Deluje in Level 3 Action at the 2019 USMRA National Championship.
 

judges_20190414-762_8555judges_20190414-762_85552019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

From novice to Level 3 National Mondioring Championship Decoy in less than six years.  Photo with Morgan Blanchard (SPAIN) International Certified Decoy, Celso Alves FCI Judge (PORTUGAL), Emma Svensson FCI Judge (SWEDEN).  Good company.

 

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.
 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Dogsport Jake Scott Malinois Mondioring Mondioring Decoy USMRA https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/6/jake-scott Sat, 22 Jun 2019 21:44:05 GMT
Karen MacIntyre, vom Mack-Zwinger https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/5/vommackzwinger The USCA holds two national IGP championships each year: In May, the Working Dog Championship (WDC) which is an all-breed IGP championship and in November, the Nationals which is a GSD specific championship. If measured by participant count and spectatorship, these are by far the biggest IGP championships in the Unites States.  These two events attract the highest level of competition. 

At the 2019 WDC in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, there were a whopping 79 entries (73 IGP and 6 FH).  Remarkably, six of the entries came from one kennel: Mack-Zwinger.  Four offspring competed with their parents Elsa & Eiko.  How this came about is the subject of this blog:   Karen MacIntyre, of vom Mack-Zwinger kennel.


E_20190504-153_2644E_20190504-153_2644vom Mack-Zwinger 5/4/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

From Left: 21 Richard DeCoste & Harley IGP3; #78 Ashley Rebee Foersch & Basha von Ballamhain IGP3; #; #68 Joli vom Mack-Zwinger IGP2; #18 Claudia Hoffman & Jaecar vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3;  #1 Mike Harrington & Hanyo vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3; #24Jen Sutrick & Hannelore vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3; 
#76 Karen MacIntyre & Eiko vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3, FH, RH2

 

Karen is an USCA IGP Judge, USCA Conformation Judge, USCA Breed Warden, National level IGP competitor and Breeder. Following is the roster of vom Mack-Zwinger dogs entered in the WDC with one additional dog that although is not vom Mack-Zwinger, but was sired by one of her dogs.

  • #76 Eiko vom Mack-Zwinger 2019 USCA WDC FH National Champion & Sire
  • #1 Hanyo vom Mack-Zwinger HOT IGP3 by Mike Harrington
  • #24 Hannelore vom Mack-Zwinger HOT IGP3 by Jennifer Sutrick
  • #21 Harley vom Mack-Zwinger HOT by Richard DeCoste
  • #68 Joli vom Mack-Zwinger HOT by Karen DeCoste
  • #18 Jaecar vom Mack-Zwinger BHOT IGP3 by Karen MacIntyre
  • #78 Basha von Fallamhain  HOT by Ashley Rebe Foersch is included in this group because her Sire is Eiko vom Mack-Zwinger

 

E_20190505-153_3852E_20190505-153_3852Closing ceremony. 5/5/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

2019 USCA WDC FH Champions Karen MacIntyre & Eiko vom Mack-Zwinger IPO3, FH, RH2

 

Karen grew up in a family that loved and raised German Shepherd Dogs.  After graduating from school she was able to get her own dog in the 70s and quickly took to obedience training. She started with AKC obedience at first.  Then one day during a veterinarian visit, the vet suggested Karen check out Schutzhund as it was called then (now called IGP).  She started with the North American Schutzhund Assoc. in 1981 and then moved to USCA in 1983.  She competed in 15 national championships, all with Handler/Owned/Trained (H.O.T.) dogs.  Meanwhile, she also trained many of her dogs for search work which included cadaver, water and rubble searches.  She found that many within the working search dog community had negative association with Schutzhund dogs for that type of work due to temperament needed.  Overcoming this stigma was a big motivator in her selection and philosophy for her breeding program. 

Vom Mack-Zwinger breeding philosophy was heavily influenced by a frustration in finding working dogs with good environmental temperament.  Karen above all wanted a balance of drives, environmental stability and structure. She found this combination and balance to be a rare combination.  She was also disappointed in the direction many of the show and working lines were headed.  She set out on her quest and whelped her first litter in 1981. 


Hanyo_20190504-762_5974Hanyo_20190504-762_5974Mike Harrington & Hanyo vom Mack-Zwinger IPG3. 5/4/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Mike Harrington & Hanyo vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3 (male) 'Send Out' during obedience

Her breeding program was proven in IGP competition as well as search & rescue.  There was a key decision that ultimately resulted in the large representation in this years WDC.  It was about ten years ago, having followed the offspring of Sid vom Haus Pixner (particularly with search dogs in Austria) as well as working-confirmation balance in the J-litter Talka Marda, Karen learned that Ajay Singh was planning a litter from of these dogs in 2007.  She took the risk on a puppy from this breeding named Nessie vom Patiala.   Next, she found a diamond in the rough, Uno vom Siegener Krochnen, a very strong dog that had been through multiple handlers before he found his home with Karen.  Uno and Nessie were Karen’s idea of the dream match. They produced the EE liter (Eiko and Elsa) which is the foundation of what is shown in these photos today.  EIko has won the FH Championship at this event and is a x4 IGP National competitor. Elsa is a multiple-time national IGP competitor. Four of the offspring competed in this event with their parent Eiko and Elsa.  Eiko is also certified cadaver dog (IPWDA Cadaver & Water), water search dog and rubble disaster dog (RH2).

Jen_20190503-762_3272Jen_20190503-762_3272Jen Sutrick & Hannelore vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3. Female GSD. 5/3/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Jen Sutrick's Hannelore vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3 (female) defending the 'Attack on handler out of back-transport' by Ryan White


Joli_20190503-153_9573Joli_20190503-153_9573Karen DeCoste & Joli vom Mack-Zwinger IGP2. Female GSD. 5/3/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Karen DeCoste's Joli vom Mack-Zwinger IGP2 (female) Bark & Hold on helper Colt Dickson

 

Basha_20190503-762_2406Basha_20190503-762_2406Ashley Foersch & Basha von Ballamhain IGP3. Female GSD. 5/3/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Ashley Rebe Foersch's Basha von Ballamhain IGP3 (female) during 'Attack on handler out of back transport' by Ryan White

Karen’s primary source of motivation is her training group. Her friend and fellow competitor Claudia Hoffman keeps her encouraged to put in the work.   Her dog sport club, Southern New Hampshire Working Dog Club, is a serious club focused on high level competition. She also trains with, and finds inspiration from, with multi-time national champions and world competitors Mike Diehl and Frank Phillips.

Her advice for a person new to the sport is to “hang in there!”  It takes a lot of work before you start to see the results and be prepared to put a 100,000 miles on your car before you get anywhere.   She subscribes to the Philosophy “do something to get something.” It works in training, it works in life…it just works. 


Harley_20190503-762_9662Harley_20190503-762_9662Richard DeCoste & Harley vom Mack-Zwinger II, IGP3. Male GSD. 5/3/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Richard DeCoste's Harley vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3 (male) during pressure phase of the Long Bite with Jeffery Davis

 

E_20190503-762_4574E_20190503-762_4574Karen MacIntyre & Eiko vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3 FH. Male GSD. 5/3/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Karen MacIntyre & Eiko vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3, FH, RH2
 

Jaecar_20190503-762_9304Jaecar_20190503-762_9304Karen MacIntyre & Jaecar vom Mack-Zwinger IGP3. Male GSD. 5/3/2019 USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA. © 2019 Brian Aghajani

Karen MacIntyre checking out with judge during obedience with Jaecar vom Mack-Zwinger (male) BHOT IGP3

I don’t know if we will ever see this incredible achievement of a six dog from single kennel competing in a national championship again. I was glad to have been there and photographed this remarkable event.

 

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

 

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) GSD IGP Karen MacIntyre Mack-Zwinger Shutzhund USCA Working Dog https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/5/vommackzwinger Sun, 26 May 2019 18:37:26 GMT
Pierre Wahlström, WUSV & FCI Judge, 2007 WUSV World Champion https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/5/pierrewahlsrom In my travels, photographing most of the American IGP/Mondioring National championships and the WUSV, I have photographed more than 50 working championships.  I lead with this because it has provided me the privilege of being on field with a lot of judges.   I have observed how difficult a judge’s job is and am convinced working dog judges are exceptional people who give back more to the sport than they take.  They are held to the highest standard and are given no room for error.  It's a rough job, inevitably there will be someone at every event that disagrees with the judge and has no problem telling them so.  They take time away from their own training and family, for the benefit of the sport.  I respect and admire them for their commitment and generosity. 

Of the judges I have observed, all special in their own right, Pierre Wahlström stands out.  He earned my immediate respect with his keen eye and knowledge of the rules, but soon had me looking forward to each critique as the trial evolved.  I learned, laughed and enjoyed his commentaries after each performance.  Competitors would hear their critiques and leave with better understanding of what to work on, even when the scores were not what they hoped for.  I was fascinated to know more about this judge.


Pierre W_20171004.153_5411_Pierre W_20171004.153_5411_2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

October 2017 Obedience

WUSV World Championship in Tilburg, NL.

 

For anyone not familiar with Pierre Wahlström, a brief summary of his working dog accomplishments is in order:

  • 2007 WUSV World Champion
  • 2006 WUSV Vice-World Champion
  • 7x Swedish World IGP Team Member
  • 4x Judge of FCI World IGP Championship
  • 2x Judge of WUSV World IGP Championship
  • 2x Judge of FMBB World IGP Championship
  • 4x Breeder of GSDs competing at World Championship
  • 10 years as Chief K9 Temperament and Evaluation for Service in Swedish Military
  • SV & FCI licensed Judge

I first met Pierre in 2017 at the USCA New England IGP Regionals in Merrimack, NH. He was judging the obedience and protection phases. I had the chance to chat with him during the Judge’s Dinner and while sharing a ride to the airport.  A month later we met again at the 2017 WUSV World Championship in Tilburg, NL, where he was Assistant Obedience Judge and I was a photographer.

Pierre was raised in a working dog family, but his first passion was wrestling.  He was a competitive wrestler in school, and competed on the Swedish National Team.  His working dog exposure overlapped his school wrestling career but it would not be long before the dog passion would eclipse everything.  His main influence came from his father, Jan Walström.  Jan was passionate about GSDs and trained scent detection, bomb and service dogs. In Sweden, most service dogs live in the house with their handler, as a pet would.  He had his first working dog in his mid-teens and at the age of 19 he earned his first top level Schutzhund title (equivalent to what is now IGP3). The fire was lit and in an amazing journey, he had become a WUSV World Champion within 7 years!


Pierre W_BA2_3009Pierre W_BA2_3009

Pierre W_BA2_3145Pierre W_BA2_3145

September 2017 Pierre Wahlström

USCA New England Region IPO Championship

 

In the nineties, IGP in Sweden was going through somewhat of a training awakening. Sweden had never fielded a national IGP team.  In 1999 they fielded their first ever world team, of which Pierre was a member, and the next year they earned top scoring team.  This team had aspirations to shape and modernize training in Sweden.  The teams vision was a primary motivator too, for four of the national team members to strive to become FCI Judges. Pierre went on to be selected for world championships for the FCI, WUSV and FMBB - seven times in all.

Pierre has been in the Swedish Military for 30 years. He spent two years with the Air Force before becoming a K9 handler, followed by K9 trainer in the Military.  He is now head of K9 testing and evaluation for the Swedish military.  Their testing program is the only one of its kind and has put more than 3,000 dogs through the program.

Pierre also has a personal breeding program with his kennel called Imzsedrifts in Sjöbo, southern Sweden.  Imzsedrifts has produced twelve world championship level competition GSDs.


Pierre W_BA1_3424Pierre W_BA1_3424

IPG is an all season activity. Pierre Wahlström with Jennifer Marschausen braving the elements during protection phase

2017 USCA New England Region IPO Championship in Merrimack, MA.

 

Rosso VM jan reder 097Rosso VM jan reder 097

2006 WUSV 96 points obedience under Judge Doug Deacon in Bratsislava, Slovakia.  

 Photo: Jan Redder www.sport-dogs.nl
 

I asked Pierre to tell me what his thought process was that made his critiques so riveting.  I already knew that he is exceptionally articulate and intelligent, in addition to being a subject expert.  While impressive, these attributes are common with many top judges.  He explained that it is not a judge’s purpose to explain what the team did during the exercise, everyone already observed that.  He prefers adjectives, rather than nouns, and likes to think of the critique as feedback.  On the sensitive topic of points, he had a remarkably clear perspective that points do not matter, rather it’s the ranking that counts, and that it’s natural for championships to be scored more discriminately because the difference between top level dogs is very close.   I recalled how he explained that one dog in particular cleared the 1M hurdle with hind legs extended, and how this was revealing of genetic balance between drives as well as good technique.  It was at this moment I noticed his critiques were not the normal variety.  He had my attention.   In another instance, he joked that the subtle cueing which one competitor used were very good, but that the judge also knows these tricks. These commentaries, delivered with a kind and respectful tone, made it one of the most enjoyable championships I have seen.

When answering a question to what advice he would give a novice handler, Pierre paused for a moment and gave thoughtful response.  He said dog sport participants are passionate by nature.  It’s a key ingredient in the sport.  This passion can sometimes bring out some of the unfavorable traits in people with comments and energy which may detract from the sport, or worse, dishearten a young handler.  His advice would be not to let people discourage you from your goals.  It takes courage, commitment and belief in your dog and yourself to step into the ring, and not to let comments of others pull you back from your dream.


Pierre W_20190504-153_2580-EditPierre W_20190504-153_2580-Edit

Pierre Wahlström, May 2019

USCA Working Dog Championship in Sturbridge, MA.

 

Meeting Pierre was like making an unexpected discovery.   Once one experiences his passion, understanding of dogs and his overall vibrations, you are left smiling.  He is an exceptional character in the dog world.  Pierre will judge the obedience phase at the 2019 WUSV World Championship this year in Modena, Italy. I will be shooting this event and am very much looking forward to Pierre Wahlstrom’s judging critiques.

 

About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championships. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 
20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.
 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) IGP IPO Pierre Wahlström Schutzhund SV WUSV https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/5/pierrewahlsrom Sat, 25 May 2019 19:19:19 GMT
Francois Massart, x4 World Mondioring Decoy https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/4/francoismassart This is an interview with Francois Massart, a Ring Sport competitor with an exceptional journey and equally impressive achievements collected along the way.

20160101-153_051720160101-153_05172019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

 

In the last 5-years I have photographed more than a thousand competitors at national or world level Dog Sport championships. Once in a while, a handler will catch my attention.  It can be for a variety of reasons:  brilliance of handling skills, a special energy of the team, handler/dog bond, and so on.  Sometimes I may not notice it at all at the event and only later, in the quiet of the editing studio, will I notice something special.  All the above applies to Francois Massart, who I have seen at two national Mondio Ring championships and it led to this interview.

Francois won the Level 2 class at the 2019 USMRA Mondio Ring National Championship with Layton Waltham Forest, a couple of weeks before I penned this piece.  I often say that earning a podium at a national Dog Sport championship represents skill, determination, time and money commitment on a scale that few can imagine. It will count as one of the biggest achievements in most people’s life.  However, Francois’ podium was only the latest addition to a string of impressive Dog Sport accomplishments.  He is also an accomplished Ring Sport decoy.  This last sentence is an understatement.

 

  •       X4 Decoy at French National Mondio Ring Championship (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015)
  •       X4 Decoy at World Mondio Ring Championship (2007, 2010, 2014, 2017)
  •       Decoy USA Mondio Ring National Championship in 2016
  •       X100+ combined trials as Decoy in French and Mondio Ring

 

Francois was Raised in Grande-synthe near Dunkirk, France. His father Patrick Massart was an avid French Ring participant, competing and doing decoy duties with their local Ring Sport club.  His father was a big influence on Francois’ understanding of dogs and at age six he got his first try as a decoy. He wore a jacket and presented a sleeve for an experienced dog.  The impression it made would shape his life. 

Patrick Massart advised his son against getting his own dog until he was able to handle the responsibilities.  This meant the age of 14 before he would be able to train his own dog.  François, fueled his fire working dogs, training with many of the clubs in France and then across borders.  He traveled all around Europe and gained experience and expanded his breadth of training concepts.  He would be influenced by the thinking approach and philosophy of a trainer named Olivier Roussel.  And then his mind opened to modern training in Finland with marking behaviors and operant conditioning.

20190413-153_707920190413-153_7079Francois Massart & Leyton Waltham Forest. Level 2 Champions at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

2019 USMRA Mondioring National Championship.  Level 2 Champion. Heeling.

 

20190413-153_725320190413-153_7253Francois Massart & Leyton Waltham Forest. Level 2 Champions at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography 2019 USMRA National Championship. Defense of Handler, Level 2.

 

At 16 he got his first working line dog, a Malinois named Demos du banc des Hermelles. This was a quality working dog and Francois was eager to have his chance with his own dog. With this first dog he went all the way to the French Ring Cup ‘Quimperle’ in 2013 and they earned 10th place. 

Between 2007 and 2015, he filled three helper score books with more than 100 Mondio and French Ring trials. Life was good.  Then in 2015 he visited Southern California for a training seminar and met his wife-to-be, Erene, who was also a Dog Sport competitor.  She was studying law in Florida and had come out for the seminar.  The friendship blossomed into romance and within a few months, they realized a long distance set up was building drive so-to-speak.    

Francois made the decision to move to America, so he and Erene could be together. It meant leaving the life he knew in France, the training network, his livelihood and his family, for love.  But ahead was a life with his love and the possibility of a life uncharted.

20180414.#BA2_5592.USMRA_National_Francois Massart20180414.#BA2_5592.USMRA_National_Francois MassartFrancois Massart & Leyton Waltham Forest. Level 1 2018 USMRA Mondioring National Championship. Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Aghajani Photography

2018 USMRA Mondioring National Championship. Second Place Level 1.  Defense of Handler.

20180414.#BA2_5446.USMRA_National_Francois Massart20180414.#BA2_5446.USMRA_National_Francois MassartFrancois Massart & Leyton Waltham Forest. Level 1 2018 USMRA Mondioring National Championship. Cleveland, Ohio. Brian Aghajani Photography

2018 USMRA National Championship.  Face Attack with John Lugo.

 

Francois’ father loved Dog Sport, but he felt it should be a pastime, not a livelihood, as it is very difficult to earn a living through dogs.  Despite the abundant respect Francois felt for his father, he believed it is possible. Erene felt the same, and shortly after she finished law school they settled in Temecula, California and opened Marvel K9, a boarding and training facility, and the couples’ full-time business. 

They also founded Marvel K9 Ring Sport Club. This club earned 1st place Level 3 with Gene Baillif, 1st Place Level 2 with Francois, and 2nd Place Level 2 with Leanne Shinton at this event - a testament to the impact a quality training club and talented decoy can have on top level competition.  There was a common thread in the handlers’ style. A measured, poised calm that the three radiated. The dog/handler relationship was balanced and harmonious. The dogs delivered their potential. It was not just one, but all three that excelled. Marvel K9 Ring Sport Club won Top Club award.

20160101-153_067820160101-153_06782019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Top Club Award for Marvel K9 at the 2019 USMRA Mondioring National Championship.

20190413-153_833220190413-153_8332Francois Massart & Leyton Waltham Forest. Level 2 Champions at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

From putting on a decoy jacket at 6 years of age to meeting the love of his life and living out his dream doing what he loves. Dog Sport is not for everyone, but for those it touches, it can take you where you belong.

 

About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championship. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 


20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Decoy Francois Massart Marvel K9 Mondioring https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/4/francoismassart Tue, 23 Apr 2019 11:57:21 GMT
Gene Baillif, 2019 USMRA Mondioring National champion https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/4/genebaillif “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.”    -Maya Angelou

20160101-153_053520160101-153_05352019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Gene Baillif & Crank Ot Vitosha won their first national on their first try at the 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA.  To say this feat is unfathomable does not do the achievement justice. Impossible is more like it. Level 3 Mondioring is one of the most difficult working dog titles.  You can sooner earn a black belt than a Level 3 title in Mondioring.  Needless to say, National Championships are scored with a brutal judges pencil.  Adding to the impossibility,  he was competing against two multiple time world-level competitors in Paul Anthony & Patti Phillips and one of the best USA competitors, Todd Dunlap.  The performance seemed to come out of nowhere, a stunning upset. Or was it...

20190414-762_793020190414-762_7930Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Like any overnight success, the back story years in the making and this true of Gene’s journey.  Even so, this rise to the pinnacle was definitely faster than anyone would expect. No matter how you look at it, winning the Level 3 Mondioring National Championship ones first attempt is nothing short of outrageous.

20190414-762_843820190414-762_8438Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Morgan Blanchard working Crank in the Face Attack with Accessories

 

Gene’s dog sport fascination started more recently than most top-level competitors.  One day after work while completing his BS in Political Science at North Carolina State he began a pre-med program he found some working dog videos on the internet and started to research dog sports. This led to his first dog, a mixed breed that that he began to explore the training he had seen.  His first Mondioring influence would be the articulate Michael Ellisa. Gene drank in every bit of information, seminar and training concept he could find.  About this time he began working with Juan Galvis as a pet dogs trainer.  This gained importance in Gene's life to the tipping point where he quite his work clinical research and premed work.  The pet training and Juan provided Gene the the foundation  that would be instrumental in his training system.  However to train to competition level in dog sport requires solid and experienced dog club support and this meant that Gene had to travel more than 10 hours for each training session.  During this time he also trained with Jack Schneider in Minnesota.   This long distance travel for training was one of the first tests of determination, but this test would pale in comparison to what he would have to do in the years that followed to pursuit his dreams of competing.

A later influence was Ivan Balabanov.  Gene’s academic background and Ivan’s cerebral approach to training and psychology were a good fit and proved motivational for Gene.  Gene would got a puppy from Ivan's kennel and named it Crank Ot Vitosha.  As Crank neared being ready for his Level 1, He was in need of more protection training and Gene began traveling cross country to train traning with Francois Massart of Marvel K9 Ringsport Club in San Diego.  They would continue make this trip from east coast to west coast to train as time and money would allow.  Francois is a x3 world level helper and has more than 100 Mondio and Frenchring trials under his belt.

As Crank advance, Gene had to face that to get to his goal of high level competition he had to have more frequent access to training with a club.  This turned out to be a definitive point. The balance of travel for training and working in his home town would not get hime where he wanted to be.  He made the leap of faith to quit his pre-med studies and his dog training business in North Carolina and move to San Diego to commit to the program and live near his preferred club.  His girlfriend believed in Gene and his dream and together they set out in follow their destiny to a life focused on dog sport. Gene found new dog training work opportunity in their new home and found their tribe with their training club Marvel K9 Ringsport Club.  This would prove to be a very good combination indeed.

It took four years to take Crank from to Level 3.  On the way they racked up some impressive scores:  They were the 4th to ever score a perfect 200 score at Level 1;    285 of 300 possible in Level 2 ; and to top that 365 points of 400 possible points to win their first try at the 2019 USMRA Mondioring Nationals.  As if that was not enough, they won with 35 points in hand.  Equally cool was that his training decoy Francois won Level 2.  Making it wins in Level 1 & 2 for Marvel K9 Ringsport Club.

20190414-762_794720190414-762_7947Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

High Jump at 1.2M

20190414-762_796520190414-762_7965Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Long Jump at 4.0M

20190414-762_815720190414-762_8157Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Escort with Morgan Blanchard

20190414-762_817920190414-762_8179Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

 

20190414-762_819220190414-762_8192Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Object Guard with Morgan Blanchard

20190414-762_828520190414-762_8285Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

 

20190414-762_831220190414-762_8312Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Fleeing Attack with Jake Scott

20190414-762_850320190414-762_8503Gene Ballif & Crank Ot Vitosha. Level 3. 1st Place at 2019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

As Gene and Crank walked off the field having turned in a National Championship winning performance on their first try, it hadn't sunk in.  They worked so hard,  they were use to the effort. It had become who they are.  It took a while to realize they had achieved a life's goal.   

 

20160101-153_067820160101-153_06782019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Marvel K9 Ringsport Club had a good week end with 1st Level 3 and 1st + 2nd Level 2.  From left: Francois Massart, Gene Baillif and Lianne Shinton.

 

 

This may be Gene & Crank’s first showing at national level, but it certainly won’t be the last.  They let go of pursuit of material possessions and opinions of peers to follow the dream do what he loves most.  This win is a celebration for all of us that wonder what would happen if we only just follow our heart.

20160101-153_055620160101-153_05562019 USMRA National Mondioring Championship in San Diego, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Comments welcome below :)

 

About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championship. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 


20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Crank Ot Vitosha Gene Baillif Mondioring https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/4/genebaillif Thu, 18 Apr 2019 03:59:03 GMT
Tribute to a legend, Kliff vom Floyd Haus https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/3/kliffvomfloydhaus Yesterday I learned of the tragic passing of Kliff vom Floyd Haus. My heart skipped a beat, then fell to the floor.  He was one of the top IPO/IGP competitors in the world.  x2 vice-world IPO champion and a national champion. He was only 6 years of age. 

20171005.153_1947_-Edit20171005.153_1947_-EditFrank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

Anyone who follows IPO/IGP competition knows this may be one of the best working line GSDs of our generation.  Those that had the good fortune to see him on the trial field with Frank Phillips got to see tracking, grip, power, precision and a relationship that set a world standard.  Best of all, off the field this dog would steal your heart with his friendly nature.

Kliff was perfect for Frank and vise versa.  Frank loved this dog beyond words.  It was the type of love that we all hope to find.  Witnessing it filled your heart with joy.  They were nothing short of an inspiration. 

With tears in my eyes, I went through the photos I had made over the last 3 years since Kliff made his national competition debut. I picked out some of my favorites captured at national and world championships around the world. From the first time I saw them as a team I was struck their bond.  I am honored to have been there to witness their harmony and to see this magical creature doing what he loved most.

 

April 2016 Frank Phillips & a 3 year old Kliff make their national competition debut at the AWDF Championship in Chicago, IL.
BA1_8503BA1_8503Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

BA1_8506BA1_8506Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

BA1_8543BA1_8543Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

BA1_9570BA1_9570Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani BA1_9581BA1_9581Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

BA1_9587BA1_9587Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani BA1_9618BA1_9618Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

BA1_9653BA1_9653Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani BA1_9760BA1_9760Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

 

May 2016 at the Working Dog Championship in Chelsea, MI.
DSC_8857DSC_8857Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 Working Dog Championship. Chelsea Michigan. Photo Brian Aghajani DSC_0092DSC_0092Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 Working Dog Championship. Chelsea Michigan. Photo Brian Aghajani DSC_0139DSC_0139Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 Working Dog Championship. Chelsea Michigan. Photo Brian Aghajani DSC_0236DSC_0236Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 Working Dog Championship. Chelsea Michigan. Photo Brian Aghajani

 

November 2016 at the USCA National IPO3 Championship in Merced, CA.  BA1_1211BA1_1211Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani.

BA2_5299BA2_5299Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. BA2_6330BA2_6330Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. BA2_6358BA2_6358Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. BA2_6379BA2_6379Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. BA2_6435BA2_6435Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. BA2_6519BA2_6519Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. BA2_6596BA2_6596Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani. BA1_1833BA1_1833Frank Phillips & Kliff vom FLoyd Haus. 2016 USCA German Shepherd Dog National Championship. Merced, CA. Photo by Brian Aghajani.

 

October 2017 at the WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, NL.
20171005.#BA2_0173.WUSV20171005.#BA2_0173.WUSVFrank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Photo: www.brianaghajani.com 20171005.#BA2_8508.WUSV-220171005.#BA2_8508.WUSV-2Frank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Photo: www.brianaghajani.com 20171005.#BA2_0253.WUSV20171005.#BA2_0253.WUSVFrank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Photo: www.brianaghajani.com 20171005.#BA2_0239.WUSV20171005.#BA2_0239.WUSVFrank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Photo: www.brianaghajani.com

 

November 2017 USCA GSD National Championship in Indianapolis, IN. 
20171105.#7490.Nationals20171105.#7490.NationalsFrank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus 2017 USCA GSD National Championship, Indianapolis, IN. November 5th, 2017. Photo: BrianAghajani.com

20171105.#2597.Nationals20171105.#2597.NationalsFrank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus 2017 USCA GSD National Championship, Indianapolis, IN. November 5th, 2017. Photo: BrianAghajani.com

 

April 2018 at the AWDF IPO National Championship in Galt, CA.   
20180519.BA2_3219_-220180519.BA2_3219_-2Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 20180519.BA2_3344_-220180519.BA2_3344_-2Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 20180519.BA2_3393_-220180519.BA2_3393_-2Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018

20180519.BA2_3421_-220180519.BA2_3421_-2Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 20180519.BA2_3447_-220180519.BA2_3447_-2Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 20180519.BA2_4895_-Edit-Edit20180519.BA2_4895_-Edit-EditFrank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 20180519.BA2_4777_20180519.BA2_4777_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 20180519.BA2_4931_20180519.BA2_4931_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018 20180519.BA2_3749_20180519.BA2_3749_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus IPO3 (GSD). 2018 AWDF IPO National Championship, Galt, CA. Brian Aghajani Photography. May 19, 2018

 

October 2018 at the WUSV IPO World Championship in Randers, DK.  
20171004.153_2698_20171004.153_2698_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography 20171004.153_2758_20171004.153_2758_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography 20171005.153_1607_20171005.153_1607_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography 20171005.153_1796_20171005.153_1796_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography 20171005.153_1842_20171005.153_1842_Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus. 2018 WUSV IPO World Championship. Randers, DK. Brian Aghajani Photography

 

November 2018 at theUSCA GSD National IPO Championship in Pittsburgh, PA.  20181102_BrianAghajani_0083520181102_BrianAghajani_00835Frank Phillips & Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography 20181102_BrianAghajani_0089720181102_BrianAghajani_00897Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography 20181102_BrianAghajani_0097920181102_BrianAghajani_00979Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography 20181102_BrianAghajani_0342520181102_BrianAghajani_03425Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography 20181102_BrianAghajani_0348220181102_BrianAghajani_03482Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography 20181102_BrianAghajani_0354620181102_BrianAghajani_03546Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography 20181102_BrianAghajani_0358320181102_BrianAghajani_03583Frank Phillips &Kliff vom Floyd Haus, IPO3. 11/2/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

 

Kliff vom Floyd Haus, you will be missed. More than words can say.
20171006.#BA2_8943.WUSV-220171006.#BA2_8943.WUSV-2Frank Phillips & Kliff v. Floyd Haus. 2017 WUSV IPO World Championship in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Photo: www.brianaghajani.com

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Frank Phillips Kliff vom Floyd Haus https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2019/3/kliffvomfloydhaus Fri, 22 Mar 2019 03:42:25 GMT
My personal journey back to the place where I fell in love with dog sport. https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2018/12/a-journey-sometimes-brings-you-back-around-to-where-you-began I have been a professional dog action sports photographer for 5 years. In this time I have photographed 50 or so championships of all types, from IPO to Mondioring to Sieger Shows.   It has been an incredible experience and a gift.  As fate would have it, my schedule had me return to the San Jose  California for the 2018 USCA Northwest Region IPO Championship in September held by the San Jose GSD Club.  I say “return” because this is where my dog sport introduction occurred in 2001.

What made this even more special was the attendance of four individuals that had immeasurable influence on how I see and understand dog sports. This post is a tribute to a few people who had such a profound affect on where my life would lead in the years ahead.  

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Otto & I after our first SchH3 trial at the San Jose GSD Club in 2002

 

Ajay Singh

In 2001 I had an unknown lineage GSD named Otto.  Otto wanted to kill the world. I was desperate for training before this dog fulfilled his wish.  I found a behavioral trainer who gave lessons at a police K9 training field.  We started our work on controlling a scary dog (scary for an inexperienced handler). A Schutzhund training club also trained there and that is where Ajay came up and introduce himself.  I remember it like it was yesterday. He had a huge smile and asked to see my GSD.  I warned him I could not let him out of his crate because he was 'dangerous.'  Ajay laughed and said "bring him out on the field!"  We did our first training session right there and I was hooked. Ajay introduced me to all three phases and guided me through my first BH.  This nerve bag dog would go on to earn x2 SchH3. Ajay was the spark.

 

20050521.Protection 349_20050521.Protection 349_ Dave Deleissegues working Dasti von Stoffelblick in front-half of 2005 USCA NW Regionals where she earned high protection with 97pts.

Dave Deleissegues

I'll never forget the first words Dave said "does this dog have a quiet command?" in response to Otto's obnoxious ear piercing scream while walking on the field. Dave provided the sure and steady guidance for Otto to go all the way to x2 IPO3.  In one trial Otto grabbed Dave's hand during guarding.  My heart stopped for a moment but Dave didn't flinch and the judge didn't see it.  I hugged Dave after.  IPO3 for Otto was a feat few thought would be possible.   When I got Dasti vom Stoffelblick is when I come to fully appreciate Dave's amazing talent.  Dave was *is* why Dasti earned Top Female placement in the 2005 USCA IPO3 Nationals with 280 points and also a big part of her FH2.  I could not have done any of these achievements without him. Dave is the master trainer.  

 

Randy Witmer-Tyson

Randy has been involved in my journey at some level from fist days on the field with Ajay. She imported two young dogs for me.   I would take both Dasti von Stoffelblick, and later Balko vom Florinsburnnen, to HOT in national IPO competition. She gave me solid advice on training and included me in the opportunity to train in Germany and Austria.  Randy was my encyclopedia and gave me the hard, direct advice that most won't for fear of offending.  I learned so much from her on dog care, training and sport dogs.  For a person like me who was easily caught up in the excitement and competition, Randy calmed me down and emphasized the importance of the whole picture: structure, grip, temperament and bloodlines.  Randy was an early supporter of my photography, saying the photos are important for the breed.  When the time came for Bella and later Balko to pass, it was Randy that I called to help me find the strength to handle the loss. Randy is wisdom and a guiding light. 

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Randy Witmer-Tyson with Michael Ruckman spectating at the 2018 USCA NW Regionals

 

Terry Macias

Terry was a high level Ivy League wrestler and is competitive to the extreme.  He is also a life long GSD/IPO enthusiast and totally committed to the GSD.  Terry heads up the San Jose GSD Club. When I first visited the club I was smitten with the seriousness of the mission and support of the club. They trained to compete and got the best out of every dog and handler.  He made an inclusive environment that encouraged commitment and we had a blast.   Terry’s high standards and love of the working dog was contagious.  He made this club like family.  Terry was coach.

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Terry, Dave and Ajay at the 2018 USCA NW Regional IPO Championship.

Two decades have passed since that beginning in 2001.  I have photographed literally hundreds of dog/hander teams around the world and made many friends along way. I have learned so much but also that there is so much more that I don't know about dogs.  This trip brought it full circle.  None of my dog journey experiences would have happened had these special people not taken an interest in a novice handler, with a scrappy dog, who had nothing to offer but a desire to be a better handler (and maybe find a way to make his dog safer).  I hope in some small way, my photography is a way for me to return the love.

 

See you out on the training field or stadium!

 

 

About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championship. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 

20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Dave Deleissegues friends Jose life long Macias Randy San Terry Tribute Witmer-Tyson https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2018/12/a-journey-sometimes-brings-you-back-around-to-where-you-began Wed, 05 Dec 2018 01:56:19 GMT
Jessica Vampola, USCA Certified Helper https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2017/7/ipo-profile-jessica-vampola Women have been well represented at all levels of IPO competition.  Unfortunately, it is uncommon to see female IPO helpers.  This is starting to change and we are recently seeing quality women helpers emerge across the country.  One such talent is Jessica Vampola of Ramona, California.  I caught up with Jessica while she was visiting the Greater Houston Schutzhund Club in Bayton, Texas and had the chance to photograph her performing helper work.

Jessica got her first GSD when she was only six and has had one as a companion ever since.  While she loved doing obedience and activities with her dogs, she knew that there was more they could do together. 

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Jessica Vampola working Hold & Bark with Akula Zemli von der Kreisen, IPO1.

While working as a paramedic she would often be around K9 teams. In 2010, a K9 officer invited her to watch training and there she saw her first IPO team.  She was awestruck and things would never be the same.  IPO was her new passion.

She joined Aztec Schutzhund Club in the Southwestern Region and began her IPO journey that led to her earning IPO3 titles on two of her GSDs.  She qualified for and will participate in this years GSD Nationals in Indianapolis, IN come November. 

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The escape with Akula. Fantastic grip and power.

While IPO training and competing is her passion, it wasn’t long before she developed curiosity about wearing the sleeve as a helper.  Mostly motivated by a desire to better understand the dogs, but partly too because she enjoys the adrenaline.  In her thirst to learn she attended helper seminars and helper colleges, and eventually earned USCA helper certification in 2015.  She has served as helper in a number of trials.  I was fortunate to be able to capture those skills in this collection of images.

BA1_7132BA1_7132 Long bite with Akula.

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Solid temperment and handsome:  Akula von Kreisen, IPO1 enjoying work in the pressure phase.

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Game face

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Escape with Jason Meadows' Albus van Meerhout.

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Building confidence in a promising young Albus. 

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Working grips with Albus.

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Archive image: a 6 year old Jessica with her first love, a baby GSD named Heidi.

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Jessica works out 6 days week so she can bring her best level of physical fitness to the trial field.

 

I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the club members of The Greater Houston Schutzhund Club for allowing us to work Lee Hendrick's Akula and Jason Meadows' Albus for this photo session and for making us feel so welcome.  Their graciousness can not be overstated.

This article is part of a series of biographies called IPO Profiles which is my hope of celebrating vibrant, unique and passionate dog sport enthusiasts that I have enjoyed meeting during my travels to photograph IPO and Conformation championships.  If you enjoyed this blog, please feel free to leave a comment or like on the Facebook button at the top.  Thank you for following.  I hope to see you on the training field!

 

 

About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championship. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 

20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) awdf dog dog sport german shepherd ipo jessica vampola schutzhund usca working dog https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2017/7/ipo-profile-jessica-vampola Thu, 27 Jul 2017 00:27:59 GMT
Weston Kester, National Level Helper https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2016/10/ipo-profiles-weston-kester One of the most enjoyable parts of travelling countrywide to photograph IPO Championships is the people I meet.   Many of the stories are truly inspiring.   I have this silly idea to share these stories in a series of blogs.  This is the second such blog of what I hope will be many.

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In 2014 I photographed the Northwestern Regional Championship in Lincoln, CA.  It was my first time photographing a Championship IPO event after having been a competitor for more than 10 years.  There I met a relatively new helper named Weston Kester.  I was impressed with his solid and safe technique, intensity and power.  I learned that he had only been doing helper work for a couple of years, which made his performance all the more noteworthy.  However, what really struck me about Weston was his soft spoken and sincere character. This, and the positive, supportive dynamics he has with his charming wife Elise. Now and again one meets folks that replenish your faith in humanity. Weston and Elise are two of these people.

IPO Profiles Episode 1

One year earlier Weston and Elise had taken a leap of faith to follow their dream of becoming professional dog trainers.  Doing so would mean uprooting from their home state and semblance of familiarity to seek out the best dog training mentors.  I don’t know too many people that have the courage to leave job, home and security to pursuit their dream, particularly when holding the responsibilities of raising two toddlers.  Yet they did so, and Weston found his mentor in John Riboni of Placer County Schutzhund Club in Lincoln, CA. Elise & Weston moved their entire family to California to train with John, and to open a dog training and boarding business in Loomis called Canine Purpose.

Back-half side transport at 2016 AWDF in Chicago, IL with Frank Philips & Kliff.

Weston Blog BA1_9750Weston Blog BA1_9750Frank Phillips & Kliff performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

The following year at the 2015 GSD Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, I saw Weston listed as one of the helpers.  I was shocked any helper could develop so fast.  I figured at best Weston could earn a spot as alternate and gain some big event experience.   Not because Weston is not talented, but because the IPO3 helper selections are almost universally awarded to helpers with extensive championship experience.  This is for good reason.  The differences between top dogs is often less than a handful of points, so helpers must be powerful enough to really test the top dogs in the country, and must do so with exceptional technique on dogs they have never seen.  They also must deliver the stamina to repeat consistent performance for up to 80 dogs.  This is not the place to test an unknown helper, and for a very long time now, proven helpers with big trial experience have been the rule.

Courage test at 2016 AWDF in Chicago IL with Kristi Hudak's Jay.

Weston Blog BA1_8068Weston Blog BA1_8068Kristi Hudak & Jay performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

It seems no one told Weston any of this. With his wife and children watching from the side of the field, he gave 100% during his helper tryout.   He impressed all the judges and earned the front-half IPO3 spot! It was an unbelievable achievement and an incredible redemption for having taken that leap of faith to move from Utah to California a few years earlier.  The first thing he did was call John Riboni to share the good news.  There were more surprises to follow as John took the red eye flight to Kentucky to see his protégé in his maiden National appearance.

Attack Out of Back Transport at the 2015 USCA GSD Nationals with WUSV World Champion Debbie Zappia & Iron.

Weston Blog 20151114_#15040_USCA.NationalsWeston Blog 20151114_#15040_USCA.Nationals2015 USCA GSD National & WUSV World Champions Debbie Zappia & Iron von den Wolfen in the 2015 USCA GSD National IPO3 Championship in Lucas, Kentucky. Photo by Brian Aghajani.                                                                                                         

Since that first national event last November, Weston has been selected for the following tho consecutive national IPO events: back-half IPO3 helper for both the 2016 AWDF Championship in Chicago, IL and the 2016 WDC Championship in Chelsea, MI.  Next on the to-do list will be the 2016 USCA Nationals in Merced, CA in November.  No doubt we will see Weston in many National events in the future!

Putting real pressure on Frank Horner's Phalko under watchful eye of USCA Judge Randall Hoadley at the 2016 AWDF IPO Championship. 

Weston Blog BA1_5570Weston Blog BA1_5570Frank Horner & Phalko performing IPO3 routine in the 2016 AWDF Championship. Chicago, IL. Photo Brian Aghajani

Unflinching in the face of a Ron Wattana's formidable Kash at Weston's first National Championship during the 2016 USCA GSD Nationals.

Kester Raboni Nationals CHAMPIONSHIPS 20151114_#9641_USCA.NationalsKester Raboni Nationals CHAMPIONSHIPS 20151114_#9641_USCA.NationalsRon Mattana & Kash Du Triangle Magique during the 2015 USCA GSD National IPO3 Championship in Lucas, Kentucky. Photo by Brian Aghajani.

Kester family at the 2015 GSD Nationals in Bowling Green, KY.

Kester family  20151115_#22372_USCA.NationalsKester family 20151115_#22372_USCA.Nationals2015 USCA GSD National IPO3 Championship in Lucas, Kentucky. Photo by Brian Aghajani.

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About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championship. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 

20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) 2015 America Carissa Club Clubs County helper IPO John Kester Kuehn Nationals of Placer Riboni Schutzhund United USCA Weston https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2016/10/ipo-profiles-weston-kester Sun, 16 Oct 2016 19:30:17 GMT
When you love dog sport, you are never alone https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2016/10/3-ladies-and-1-trophy Colleen Gorgas is one of the more supportive and positive people I have met in dog sport.  This wonderful woman, who originates from East Germany, has been active in Schutzhund for more than 40 years.  She lives in Ripon, California and trains with the Way out West (WOW) Schutzhund Club.

Diane Vegsund, Zari and Colleen Gorgas at the 2016 Northwestern Regional IPO Championship.

Colleen Gorgas 2016.NW.Regionals #BA13969Colleen Gorgas 2016.NW.Regionals #BA13969Diane Vegsund with Zari vom Osterfeld. Northwestern Regional IPO Championship. Lincoln, CA

Last Thanksgiving holiday Colleen had the misfortune of an accident in her home that resulted in a broken hip.  It left her struggling to manage normal household activities, let alone train her young IPO dog Zari. Friends and members of her club came out to help. Friend and club member Sherri Balcioni took on Zari's training and handled in her IPO1 while also caring for Colleen while she was in the hospital.  This was truly a village effort and I apologize to others whose contributions I missed as there were many.

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Enter Diane Vegsund, a California Highway Patrol Officer with a direct, no nonsense way about her. She lives near Colleen and the two had become friends at their training club.   When Diane heard through the grapevine of Colleen's misfortune, and knowing that she did not have family in the area, she took it upon herself to check in on her.  When she did, she found Colleen to be feisty even though extremely limited in mobility.  What she quickly found was that to Colleen, her most important want was to see Zari trained to IPO3.  Diane had an idea.

Coleen's dreams for Zari was to get the IPO3 at the Northwestern Regional IPO Championship, which was only 10 months after she broke her hip.  As impossible as it seemed, Sherrie, Diane and others went about training Zari in all three phases with determination. They tracked her as often as they could and trained obedience and protection at WOW with Joel Monroe.  This would lead to Diane doing the prep for the IPO2 & IPO3, and Colleen could then handle her in the trial once she had recovered.  The plan was in place and it would be a true team effort to make it happen.

Diane and Zari discussing what to do next with the big bad guy (Westen Kester) in the front half of protection phase.

Colleen Gorgas 2016.NW.Regionals #BA13397Colleen Gorgas 2016.NW.Regionals #BA13397Diane Vegsund with Zari vom Osterfeld. Northwestern Regional IPO Championship. Lincoln, CA

In the weeks before the NW Regionals, Zari had developed nicely and looked ready.  But then there would be unexpected challenges. Colleen’s recovery had a setback, making her unable to manage the physical demands of handling Zari in the trial.  The solution was for Diane to step in as handler.  Then just before the trial Zari came in season!  Was this the obstacle that would stop them in their goal?  That detail would mean she could not practice at the set practice times on the field like the other dogs, and must trial after all the other dogs on Sunday.  This is a serious disadvantage.  This is done in fairness to other dogs so they will not be distracted.  Diane, Colleen and Zari would have to hope for the best; they had come too far to stop now!

On trial day, Obedience went well with a respectable 81 score, considering limited practice on the field. In protection Zari looked powerful but had a moment with a mistimed long bite in the back-half of Protection, sailing past helper Tim Cutter. To her credit, Zari came back in hard and full, and earned the approval of Judge Frank Phillips and a solid 84 points.  After the last critique was announced and the dust had settled, Zari not only passed, she earned 5th place overall!

Things happen fast at 30mph and a 1/10 of a second difference can mean the difference between full grip and a fly-by.

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Immediately after the miss Zari came back in hard and full to make sure the helper paid the price.

Colleen Gorgas 2016.NW.Regionals #BA13434Colleen Gorgas 2016.NW.Regionals #BA13434Diane Vegsund with Zari vom Osterfeld. Northwestern Regional IPO Championship. Lincoln, CA

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Despite all the adversity, nothing was going to stop Colleen from her goal of showing Zari at the Regionals, thanks to a little GSD with big courage, and few friends with huge hearts.  Looking back the adversity probably made it all the more special.

Zara vom Osterfeld, looking pleased with her new IPO3 title 

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Sherrie Balcioni worked with Zari to get her IPO1 title.  Here shown with her own dog Obi

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If you enjoyed this blog, please give my page a like or review.  Thank you for following.

 

About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championship. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 

20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) America Championship Clubs Coleen friendship Gorgas IPO Northwestern of Regionals Schutzhund United https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2016/10/3-ladies-and-1-trophy Sun, 09 Oct 2016 05:02:41 GMT
A magical visit to South County Schutzhund Club https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2016/9/southcountysc On my recent trip to San Jose, I hoped by arriving at 8:30pm on Friday night might make it possible to drive to my first training club, South County Schutzhund Club (SCSC), in time to maybe catch the last handful of dogs doing protection. Dave Deleissegues is the Training Director at SCSC and an all-round awesome individual. Dave was instrumental in titling all three of my dogs and any chance to visit is is a treat. 

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To an outsider, SCSC is little more than a fenced dirt lot along side HW101 with a tiny storage shed and six floodlights.  In fact, I remember as a youth I rode past on a bicycle and wondered what the heck it was for!  However to members of the club it holds mystical qualities.  This is where our second family meets twice a week. It is hallowed ground where magical transformations happen. It is where we stay late into the night practicing and working the tiniest training details, in hope of bringing out the best in our dogs.  It is where Dave Deleissegues works his mad skills and where so many legendary IPO trainers and competitors have worked their dogs.  Respected names like the Igon Vollrath & his sons Martin and Thomas, Dean Calderon & Ivan Balabanov worked their dogs here. This my friends, is the place!

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On this night the club members were preparing for the Northwestern Regional IPO Championship which will be held near Sacramento in two weeks.  The raw energy and nerves of being at pre-trial in the training cycle came rushing back to me.   The weather was a seasonal Northern California summer evening clear and comfortable 70F.  One of the members brought home made egg rolls.  There is something about eating at training fields that makes the food taste better than anything you find at a restaurant.  

IPO Select  -23IPO Select -23brianaghajani.com; baghajani8@gmail.com

And so begins another evening of training.  More than a decade later.

Photographing fast moving dark objects in extreme low light does not make for a happy photographer. The low light reduces contrast and makes focus difficult.  Slow shutter speeds are needed to get reasonable exposures which means inevitable blur. These conditions are opposite of whats needed for sharp images.  But I was happy to just be part of the energy of this evening and would I would make do as best as I could.   Although I could freeze the action with flash, I opted for minimal flash so I could bring in some of the environment for context.  I have the new Nikon D5 which is the best low light sport camera available as of this writing and earned its keep in these conditions.

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Mario Fernandez working the back line.
 

Mario Fernandez has been Dave's primary assistant helper for years.  While an outstanding and safe training helper in his own right, Mario is exceptional in his obsession with pedigrees and IPO history. The obscure dog sport facts, trainer achievements, trial scores and pedigree details he can recite from memory is nothing short of amazing. 

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Like a high school reunion, coming home to my first club was full of seemingly conflicting emotions, a cocktail of happiness and melincoly.  I stayed until the last flood light was turned off.  Something inside me wished the night would never end.  I love this field and the people that gather here with a their deep love of dogs.  As I drove away from the field, not knowing when I will be back again, I found myself smiling and so grateful that this place is part of who I am.   

BAP_7967BAP_7967brianaghajani.com; baghajani8@gmail.com Jamie Ryan and Dante setting up to begin their protection session  

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Thank you for following me on this journey. If you would like to be notified of further posts subscribe to my blog.  Feel free to leave comments if you too have a connection with a training club from your past.

 

 

About the author

Brian Aghajani is a freelance photographer based in Houston. He began his fascination with dog sport in 2000, has titled three dogs to IPO3 and competed in a handful of national IPO championship. He is an official photographer for most National IGP/Mondioring competition including the USCA, GSDCA, AWDF, AWMA and USMRA as well as the WUSV World Championship.  Follow him on facebook 

20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-Edit20170507_#22164_WDC-Edit-2-EditBrian Aghanai @ 2017 WDC in Buffalo, NY. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography.

 

 

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) Brian Aghajani Dave Deleissegues IPO Jamie Ryan Mario Fernandez Schutzhund South County Schutzhund Club https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2016/9/southcountysc Sat, 03 Sep 2016 18:01:00 GMT
My First Schutzhund USA Magazine Cover https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2015/7/getting-the-cover-for-usca-schutzhund-magazine I've been a reader of Schutzhund USA magazine for more than a decade.  However I looked forward to the July/August with particular interest.  You see, this issue was to feature my images from the United Schutzhund Clubs of America Working Dog Championship (WDC).  This is the story of how this came to be.

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While I have been an avid portrait photographer for about 3 years, it wasn’t until August of last year that I got the idea to mix my love for photography with my other love of Dog Sport. This is a list of the key points I learned along the way:

September 19-21, 2014:    Northwestern Regional Working Championship, near Sacramento, CA.

  • Assuming one has the technical photography skills and understands the subtleties of the sport, one needs the right gear.  Fact is, pro-grade sports camera gear is expensive.  Renting a 400mm prime lens will cost you $500 for 5 days!  You need to be either well off (which I’m not) or be  good enough at our craft to produce images people will actually buy if you want to do this without costing you a fortune.  We shall see if I have what it takes...At this point, this is a leap of faith. 
  • Tracking a subject while filling the frame through a 400mm lens is bloody hard!  I have far more misses than hits in my first try.
  • My Nikon D810’s camera's 36MP files are enormous and make for ridiculously long post processing tim.  Only 5MP is required for a good print and HD computer monitors are only 2MP.  80% of image sales are for the web.  36MP turns out to be overkill.
  • D810 can do 4 frames/second which is fine for portraiture but too slow for IPO protection strikes if you want the capture the precise moment before or during a strike or jump.  I will need to rent a pro sports camera body like the Nikon D4s for future events.
  • The weekend involved 9,000 frames.  I quickly learn that when shooting sports one will spend 2-3 hours in post processing for every hour spent shooting. It took 60 hours to process the images from this event.  (note: My day job involves 55-60 hours per week, so image processing must happen at nights and weekends.  That means 60 hours of processing stretches to about a month).  In short- will have to get much faster at post processing!
  • I shot more frames in one weekend than I do in a normal year doing portrait work.
  • SSD hard drive can save you a lot of time not waiting for the image to render! This was next on my gear shopping list.

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December 13, 2014:   Menlo Park IPO Club Trial,  San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

  • I rent a D4s, a pro level sport camera.  Until this time I believed more mega pixels made better images (My D810 has the most at 36MP),  I was misinformed, its better for controlled light studio portraits, not sports.  The D4s only has 16MP but the images are stunning with a higher percentage of in focus shots.  The battery lasts 3000 frames and it is almost 3 times faster than the D810 with 11 frames/second. Oh, and it has better low light performance to boot!
  • I do the math and decide buying the 400mm lens is cheaper than renting if I plan on doing this long term, which I do.  I am fully aware that this represents a point of no return.
  • I'm learning to find the best viewing angles (shooting lanes) and clean backgrounds that have no distracting elements. This is not something I used to notice and is my biggest "ah ha" moment.  A sports images is planned? WOW, who would have thought?  It's not so different than portraiture in this respect.
  • Improving tracking technique with monster 400mm lens.  I still miss more than hit but there is progress.

20141214_v.apanovich_99_brianaghajani-ME-4928 x 3280blog.jpg20141214_v.apanovich_99_brianaghajani-ME-4928 x 3280blog.jpgVictoria Apanovich with LNicholai vom Kistha Maus (Nika). IPO1 Trial. Menlo Park Schutzhund Club, December 13-14, 2014. Newark, CA. Photo: Brian Aghajani

February 21-22, 2015:    South Central Regional Working Championship, Austin, TX

  • My first event that involved air travel.  I make a list of what to take and leave half my gear behind.
  • Found out quick I did not pack what I need when I land and find it the temperature 32F with rain. Coming from LA I did not have warm cloths or rain protection for the gear.  My hands froze and I struggled with numb hands fumbling with the wet cameras. I am sure this cost me some shots.
  • Rain and overcast conditions are fantastic shooting conditions for dramatic action.
  • With only 9 entries and the cost of travel and the gear considered, I realize that some events will be very expensive (they will cost much more than revenue from image sales).  This is a reality check.
  • My image hit rate (nailing it) rate is improving significantly.  I have streamlined processing down to about 1.5 hours per competitor (about x2 as fast compared to the first event).

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March 7-8, 2015:    Southeastern Regional Working Championship, Longs, SC

  • 2nd event that involved air travel.  I now have a system with two carry-on camera bags and one large suite case that I check in for tripods, support gear, cloths and toiletries.   
  • Added a second D4s camera body: 1 for the 400mm f/2.8 lens and 1 for a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This combo is perfect for Schutzhund.
  • Image hit rate is now mostly ‘hit’ which allows me to be more disciplined in my shooting bursts because I am confident I have the shot which makes for less work in post processing. 
  • Big turn out for this event which is a fantastic event.  I process all images from the event in 40 hours.  Not sure if I can get any faster than this.  I set this as my benchmark to beat.
  • At this point is is clear that the best shooting angles are also the best angle for the judge to stand resulting in a judge photo bomb.  Of course you cannot watch the judge and the dog at the same time through the camera's viewfinder.  Often at the last minute the judge will step right into your view.  Solution: study the judge and learn their preferred viewing pattern, the judge will be consistent, then pick the next best angle.

2015Mar7-SERegionals-18203-ME-4928 x 3280-Editblog.jpg2015Mar7-SERegionals-18203-ME-4928 x 3280-Editblog.jpgTodd Slepakoff's Niki in the back half of their IPO2 protection routine in the UScA S.Eastern Regional IPO Championship in Longs, SC on March 7, 2015. Helper: Richard Shook. Photo by Brian Aghajani.

March 28-29, 2015:    Southwestern Regional Working Championship, Temecula, CA

  • First time dealing with early morning hard light and limited angles due to the field having baseball diamond backstop.  Difficult choice: clean background but limited angles limited by shooting through backstop or run to other side and shoot with noisy background of a backstop but with better angles. No good answer, I choose the clean backgrounds with less than optimal angles.
  • Fast learning curve on how to shoot with hard morning light.  This can be make for super dramatic images!
  • Hard lesson- there were only 8 competitors which makes ROI impossible.   Even more concerning was a local photographer posts gallery of images of all competitors on web for free.  It's hard to compete with free.  I have a huge commitment in cameras, lens and travel expenses.  I must up my game to produce images that are ‘different’ which people will value enough to buy even when they have access to free.  So it’s pretty simple really- I need to get my game to a higher level.  This is a huge motivator and probably the biggest lesson for the year. 

20150328_637_SWRegionals-BrianAghajaniblog.jpg20150328_637_SWRegionals-BrianAghajaniblog.jpgAnna McKovn & Aleph in the obedience phase of their IPO1 trial during the Southwestern IPO Championship in Ramona, CA on March 28th, 2015. Photo: Brian Aghajani

April 10-13, 2015:    American Working Dog Federation IPO Championship (AWDF), Farmington, MO.

  • My first national level event.  Take everything involved in a Regional Championship and double it for scale.  
  • National level events attract the most serious competitors who are willing to travel from across the country (like me) to show.  This provides for some intense performances and emotions and I am in heaven with the quality of subjects to shoot.  However, the flip side is that competitors have worked their butts off preparing for this event and this is their moment of competing with their dog at the highest level, there will be no retakes so you had better get the shot. You get one chance.  No pressure right?
  • I have learned to manage shooting bursts and energy to make it through long shooting days.  In all I shoot about 17K images which I process in about 60 hours.
  • I try posting select images on Facebook, which in turn gets more than 1000 clicks per day.  My website traffic is increasing two fold per month.  Hadn't given that much thought to this point but now realize that this is an important part of generating awareness of your work. 

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May 22-23, 2015:    USCA Working Dog Championship (WDC), Buffalo, NY

  • Third event involving air travel. Got my system down now and this might make a good topic for a for future blog post.
  • This event is huge with 80 entries.  Take the AWDF and times two. We’re talking 12 hour shooting days with no lunch break. Having the energy to run around the field with a two heavy cameras in 90F tempurature takes its toll.  In the future I will plan better nutrition to improve stamina.  Each night when I get back to hotel room I am completely spent.
  • The level of competition is awe-inspiring, simply fantastic.  I get some of my all time favorite captures.
  • Lessons learned at the Regionals and AWDF on tracking and focus, clean backgrounds, timing of shooting bursts and shooting lanes all come together for this event.
  • Low light conditions for the competitors that showed in early evening between 6-7pm was a challenge.  I was lucky to have the Nikon D4s for low light ability.  Maximizing available light over shooting angles was a quick lesson.
  • Post processing takes 90 hours, which equates to about a month when doing my post processing at night and on weekends.
  • I needed to get images to the Schutzhund magazine editor with 5 days of event to make deadline.  Images for the July/Aug issue were selected by the editor.

20150508_4745_WDC__brianaghajani.comblog.jpg20150508_4745_WDC__brianaghajani.comblog.jpgFrank Horner & Phalka Aritar Bastet, IPO1 Champions in the 2015 UScA Working Dog Championship in Buffalo, NY. May 8-10. Photo by Brian Aghajani Photography

And that brings us full circle to the top of this blog post with the arrival of the magazine...

I learned a some cool stuff on this journey sports photography techniques, processing efficiency, how to organize and work out of suitcases and creating a viable photography business plan.  Just as cool was being able to reconnect with Dog Sport in a whole new way and the many warm and interesting people I met on the way.  

When the Schutzhund magazine arrived, what really hit home was the notion that life takes us in an wonderful and interesting directions when we lead with our heart.  At least that is what the image represents to me.  Than you for following along...

 

BRIAN AGHAJANI

 

 

 

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(Brian Aghajani Photography) IPO Schutzhund Schutzhund USA magazine photography https://www.brianaghajani.com/blog/2015/7/getting-the-cover-for-usca-schutzhund-magazine Sun, 19 Jul 2015 23:42:39 GMT