Dan Shaw and Dave Munnings are at the top of their agility game. Widely considered as two of the best agility trainers and handlers in the UK, they have a pack of 12 talented dogs between them.
When they’re not taking agility trials by storm, Dan and Dave spend their time working with pet parents around the world, coaching and training both in-person and online, to help people build the best partnerships with their dogs and have a lot of fun with it.
We caught up with them after an event where they have been judging and competing to learn more about their journey and how they keep their dogs in peak competitive condition.
Q: Tell us about your current dogs
Dan: Between us, we have 12 dogs, ranging from 1 to 14 years old. My current main competing dog is Boffin. She is five years old. I also own her dad, Geek. He was probably my most successful dog. He's won Crufts twice. He has a bronze medal at the World Championships, and a silver medal at the European Open, and he's just amazing!
Dave: My main competition dogs at the moment are Legacy, Boost, and Commotion. Legacy is just two years old. She's doing really well and has some international competitions this year. Boost is a Collie X Corgi. He's won Crufts and Olympia. he’s doing really well despite his strange shape. And finally, Commotion is my 5-year-old Border Collie. He's just coming up. He missed a lot of years because of the pandemic, but he's doing really well.
Q: What got you into agility?
Dave: Well, I've been doing it for nearly 30 years now, but I was into horses first—showjumping. Then my Mum suggested we try agility with our spaniel, and I was hooked straight away. Then I qualified as a human and animal osteopath and started training agility dogs to make some money while I was at uni. It went from there, really, and I ended up becoming a full-time agility trainer.
Dan: I think I was always destined to do something with dogs. My first word was dog! My only genuine knowledge in life is about dogs. I know nothing else. So it had to be that. I think I would enjoy doing anything with dogs, but agility was exciting because it's fast and competitive.
Q: Healthy mobility is the cornerstone of success for agility dogs. Is your dog’s mobility something you are aware of all of the time?
Dave: I think that agility puts so much more strain on their bodies than a normal pet dog, so it's super important that we keep them as fit, healthy, agile, and mobile as possible. Especially for what we are asking of them. We want them to compete until they’re 9 or 10 years old, so they have to be in the absolute best condition to help their bodies cope with the pressure. We do anything we can to keep them as healthy and fit as possible and will try anything that will help us to do that.
Dan: The fastest dogs in the world are going somewhere between five and eight metres per second. So at that speed, they’re going to sometimes slip slightly or not land perfectly. So we spend a lot of our time and energy doing as much as we can to help prevent problems. We give them Antinol, we do hydrotherapy and fitness exercises at home. It’s a big part of our life—keeping them fit and trying to prevent problems as much as we can.
Q: What is their routine? How do you support your dog’s mobility health?
Dan: They have quite a busy calendar of pampering! They go to a hydrotherapist once a month where they have massage treatments but within a pool setting. They see a physiotherapist for a massage once a month, and then Dave is an osteopath, so he’ll also treat them once a month. On top of that, we aim for two or three fitness sessions a week where we're doing core strength exercises and balance work to keep them as fit as possible.
Q: Have you ever been in a situation where your dog’s mobility has been compromised, and it’s stopped you from achieving your goals?
Dave: He’s no longer with us now, sadly, but yes. I had a dog who got a silver medal at the World Championships, and then at six and a half years old, he had to retire. He had a bulging disc, so had to have a massive back operation.
Injuries are so easily picked up. That's why we're so careful, trying to prevent anything from happening. We go crazy about course design and not running on slippy ground—we're quite paranoid about these things because one injury can take them out for a whole season.
Q: Talk to us about your joint supplementation journey. We know you give Antinol now, but how did you find it?
Dan: I’ve always given my dogs some sort of joint support. We work closely with Holly Barker, who is a sports dog nutritionist. I go off of her recommendations. I saw Antinol on social media and sent it to her. She said, “In my opinion, this stuff is brilliant!” So that was us sold.
Dave: Yes, we want to do the best we can for our dogs!
Q: Did you do any research into Antinol before you started using it?
Dave: Dan sent me the link, and I had a good old look-through. I looked at the ingredients and thought, “Yeah, this is really good stuff”. Holly told us how good it was too, and we really trust her judgement. I knew about the ingredients, and I thought, “this is a fantastic one.” Plus, it’s in liquid capsules, so it's easy to feed them as well.
Q: What were your expectations before you started feeding them Antinol?
Dan: Our expectations were different for each dog, really. With our competing dogs, we weren't expecting to see a change because they’re as fit as a dog can be—they’re just lean muscle. We weren't expecting them to be going 10 seconds quicker around a course or to suddenly do backflips or anything like that. We just wanted Antinol to support their healthy mobility.
The results were a bit of a shock with our two oldest dogs, though, Cody and Boss. They’re coming up to 13 and 14. Boss has been lazy since the day he was born—he’s just a couch potato and just trots behind you on walks. About 3 weeks into feeding him Antinol, he seemed active on walks, bright and happy. So I'd say it definitely exceeded our expectations for the oldies for sure.
Q: Pet parents often worry that it will be hard to get their pet to eat Antinol. How do you find it, and do you have any tips?
Dan: So 11 out of our 12 dogs just eat them from our hand. They really like them! We have one picky one, so we just squish it in his food, and he eats it with no issues.
If we ever did have a problem, we would just shove it in a little cocktail sausage. It’s really easy to use!
Q: Besides their mobility health, have you noticed any other differences in your dogs with Antinol?
Dave: Like we said, Boss is definitely more lively. He is the laziest Collie, and we think he believes he is some slow breed of dog trapped in a Collie body. But he’s definitely lively now. Running around the garden.
And actually Fame, she did really well when she was younger but had some issues. Since she has been having Antinol, she's been really good too. She's looking really cool, really great!
Dan: I think Antinol makes us feel better—the more we can do to support our dogs, make them feel happy, the better. We ask them to do these runs over and over, and its physically tough on them. So by giving them a supplement that supports their joint health, along with their other routines, we’re doing as much as we can for them.
Dave: Oh, and I forgot to mention Rooster! He’s my nearly 10-year-old Collie X Corgi. He's still the fastest dog in the country. He's winning everything, but I thought he was starting slow down. I was saying I'm going to retire him next year at Crufts, but suddenly he's gone up a gear. He’s winning everything again. I'm pushing his retirement back all the time, thinking, “oh, well, if he's still this fast, there's no point retiring him at Crufts.” And he's totally the wrong shape for agility. He's got tiny little Corgi legs and a really long body, so he's not at all the right shape. I didn't think his body would last. But it’s like he’s got a new lease of life, so he can keep going for as long as possible!
Q: Would you recommend Antinol to other pet parents and competitors?
Dave: We would want to 100% be recommending it to everybody—and I have done. I am doing all the time!
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their competitive journey?
Dan: Firstly, don't overtrain your dog. It's like anything, if you do too much of anything, it's not going to be good for you. So our competing dogs get trained once a week, young dogs get trained a little bit more, maybe three times a week. But the sessions are really short. So we look after their body in that way.
Then secondly, we seek professional help to keep them mobile. Massages, regular physiotherapy, and putting them on a supplement that comes highly recommended. Anything you can do to support their long-term mobility.
Dave: Yeah, don't just go for any old supplement. You need to actually look into it. Look into results. Ask people you know. If you want to do agility seriously, we find ourselves sacrificing stuff for us to make sure our dogs get the best. We ask them to do this for us; they love it, but it’s not their choice, so we feel we need to put as much into their health, happiness, and longevity as we can.
Q: And finally, is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known when you started dog training and agility?
Dave: Agility has changed so much since I started doing it hundreds of years ago, but there are things I did with my dogs back in the day that I would never do now. And I’ll probably say the same in another 20 years. But we're always learning. We always try and learn and better ourselves. We always want to learn, try new things, and improve everything we're doing. It’s a commitment to always learning.
See Dan and Dave in action at www.d-force-dogtraining.co.uk and www.qme-agility.co.uk
Dan: What would be mine? I think it would be just to make sure I was always having fun. So sometimes, when you start out, it's really hard. You’ve been trying to learn so much, and you want to be amazing. You want to be as good as you can, so you push yourself. But really, when you just sit back and have fun, the results happen so much easier.
Dave: Yes, and we’ve all done it in our career—put too much pressure on. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to enjoy it. And of course, we need to keep our business running, but we have such a nice client base and really good students. So it’s more relaxed these days, and the results still come because we put so much into the dogs. They’re what's important.