I knew immediately that I wanted to train with Ann Braue when I attended one of her first agility seminars in early 2004. I had been to several Clean Run "Camps" where I had trained with many of the country's best agility instructors. It seemed clear to me that Ann was going to be good as the best of these. The opportunity to train on a regular basis with someone this good seemed extraordinary.
I began regularly scheduled private lessons with Ann in the summer of 2004. My goals were clear. In 2002 my Lab, "Punkin", had been AKC's Number One Agility Labrador and became the first Lab to reach the finals of AKC's National Agility Championships. (She remains the only 20in Lab ever to reach the finals.) While still running Punkin, I was just beginning training of Punkin's daughter, "Little Bit", who would become Punkin's successor. My goal was not for Bit to be better than Punkin, nor for me to learn lots of new handling skills. No, my goal was simply to be able to handle Bit as well as I handled Punkin and to see how close we could come to duplicating her mother's achievements. Clearly Ann could help with that!
She could indeed. And with extraordinary skill, insight, and patience Ann has taught me much more.
Ann quickly realized that Bit was going to have much faster speed than Punkin, be much faster in her responses, and much less forgiving of handler lag. All of this was exacerbated by my own progressing age and Parkinson's disease. Always maintaining faith, Ann never gave up.
The move into Ann's magnificent new training facilities in Eau Claire in 2006 allowed Ann to make things crystal clear: The spacious building with it's superior carpeting enabled Bit to run very big, very fast and to still turn tight. Week after week we saw big courses which still required tight, difficult, handling. We had to learn new handling. We had to learn to handle at a distance.
Bit and I haven't achieved all of our goals, but under Ann's instruction we have made enormous progress and are still progressing. Bit is now widely recognized as one of the country's fastest Agility Labs, capable of as much distance handling as any Lab in the country. She was AKC's number 1 Labrador pick for the AKC Invitational Agility Championships in both 2007 and 2008 and was AKC's top Agility Labrador in calendar 2007. I am very proud of Bit. While we don't run with the top Border Collies, we're often right on their heels. None of this would have happened without Ann.
I have seen Ann working with a variety of dogs and a variety of handlers with widely different skills, potential, and ambitions. Ann is not dogmatic in her approach, but adepts well to the level and abilities of the team she is working with. She has enormous patience and persistence. (I often say that her experience as a third grade teacher serves her well in understanding and working with both dogs and their handlers!)
Consistency and thoughtfulness of handling and a love of agility may be the most important things Ann demands of her students. Anyone who has the opportunity to train with her is very fortunate indeed.
My black cocker spaniel, Rider, and I were still in the agility foundations classes when my husband and I decided to move from Raleigh, North Carolina, to the western Wisconsin area. I was skeptical about my chances of finding a good school nearby to continue our training. Fortunately, Clean Run ran a profile on Ann Braue, noting that she had a training facility in Eau Claire. On our househunting expedition to Wisconsin, I made sure to contact Ann and express my interest in training at ABCTC. Soon after our move to Wisconsin was completed, we began to attend agility classes there.
ABCTC is all I could have hoped for. To start with, the agility training center merits rave reviews. The indoor arena is big enough for full courses and offers cushy carpeting and all kinds of equipment, and--no small thing--heat and air conditioning. There’s also an outdoor field, which is great practice for outdoor trials, as well as Rider’s favorite: a grass potty area.
More importantly, the training available at this facility is outstanding. One thing that was essential to me was finding a school that embraced positive training methods. This is true at ABCTC, for both the canines and their handlers. I’ve had the opportunity over the past two years to work with a number of ABCTC’s instructors, and it is immediately clear that they know what they’re doing and that they love dogs and the sport of agility. Even better, they teach in a way that reinforces the students and encourages them to push themselves and their canine teammates; I’ve received a lot of constructive criticism at ABCTC, but I’ve never felt criticized. The instructors also have a seemingly innate ability to read dogs, spot problems, and provide solutions, and the training provided advances along with the sport. Ann’s seminars are a fantastic learning experience, and my lessons with Debbie Erb, with whom I’ve trained the most at ABCTC, in classes and in private sessions, are likewise challenging but fun, and have built my handling and course-walking skills in innumerable ways. Although I’ve had fewer formal lessons with Anna Gurtner, Jill Jones, and Michelle Persian, I’ve enjoyed those that I’ve had, and have benefited greatly just from knowing and trialing with these wonderful ladies.
No description of ABCTC would be complete without touching on the sense of community. The instructors and students are so supportive of one another, whether in classes, at practices, at agility competitions, or beyond. The camaraderie is amazing, and can make a good run feel great and a bad run not such a terrible thing. As for those great runs...that’s an experience everyone should have. The ABCTC family makes participating in agility a highly rewarding experience, and I’m thankful that Rider and I have been able to share in it. Run fast, run clean, run fun!
Eau Galle, WI
I have been on such a journey with Ann and my dog Epic. I met her in 2006 at the World Agility Championships (Basel, Switzerland), she was so welcoming and down to earth. The one thing that stood out for me, was the strength she showed and the support she gave her team mates while being unable to compete herself, due to an injury.
Early in 2007 I broke my leg and struggled with whether my competitive agility career was over. Ann's inspirational words and best wishes lit the spark that gave me the determination to get back on track.
After not being able to, and relearning to walk over a 3 month period, my young dog's dogwalk went by the wayside. Pre-injury she had averaged 2.2 - 2.3sec, post injury it was now 3sec.
Very disheartened I turned to Ann for some much needed hope and advice, and I couldn't be happier with the result. After months of "homework" and having to try different things, Ann never gave up on us, she knew Epic and I could do it. And she was right. Epic's fastest dogwalk to date is 1.9sec!!
Ann's ability as a trainer is even more outstanding as I live in Australia and all her help has been via email.
Thank you so much Ann, we couldn't have done it without you.
Megan and Epic
Perth, Western Australia
Photo Credit: Tim Abidin
I live in southcentral Alaska and I train exclusively with ABCTC. I initially asked for help developing a set of cues for my Malinois, Ginger, and discovered an entire world of play, speed, accuracy, and spirit. I travel to Wisconsin for private lessons and seminars, both as an auditor and as a participant. All these methods of learning have provided invaluable sources for learning theory, training skills, and practicing consistent handling.
Ann Braue is unique in her patience with novice students. She is able to inspire confidence without sparing her student an honest assessment of their abilities. As a teacher she saw my situation as a challenge and she believes in me---even with significant vision problems and visual-spatial skills that rank in the 5th percentile range.
In 1997 I suffered a brain stem stroke while undergoing emergency open heart surgery for an ascending aortic aneurysm. My stroke destroyed the portion of my brain responsible for visual-spatial organization as well as the ability of my eyes to move, the sight in my right eye, and the ability to switch from central to peripheral vision. For years I struggled to compensate for the blindness I have when making turning maneuvers.
Ann has shown me that her motion-based system of handling is naturally read by my dogs even when I cannot see them. And yes, because I must trust my course knowledge, she has me sprinting even when I temporarily cannot see!
The most important benefit of my time at ABCTC is the improved relationship I have built with my dogs. I learned the critical importance of proper foundation training. To improve my visual-spatial abilities I’ve adapted techniques used to teach orientation and mobility skills to the blind and now use tactile mapping to memorize sequences.
I was able to bring my border collie, Jackson, to summer camp taught by Ann, Carrie Jones and Karen Holik. Jack and I participated in the Novice group alongside all the other teams. Now we are entering our first trials. Thanks to Ann, and all the staff at ABCTC, we are just another team loving the game of agility. (photo credit Traci Knutson)
The training programs for dogs and handlers at ABCTC, as well as the seminars, are excellent. While programs elsewhere may also sponsor seminars and have excellent trainers, ABCTC has a special resource that distinguishes it from most other programs of a similar nature. This resource is embedded in the ability and skill of their instructors. They know how to best teach each individual student (i.e., handler) to train their dog. For example, the instructor that I have at ABCTC (Deborah Erb) not only knows that there are differences in how handlers best learn something (e.g., when to utilize a front cross), but how to apply this knowledge. As the sport of dog agility changes, so too do the techniques in handling and training dogs. Fortunately, as students we are kept abreast and introduced to these techniques, due in large measure to the involvement of our instructors at both the national and international levels of the sport. Finally, taking lessons at ABCTC is enjoyable, fostered, at least in part by the rapport established between the student and the instructor.