A local woman and her dog have qualified to go to the world IPO Championships from September 11-16 in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy. IPO is like a triathlon for dogs. The dogs must demonstrate their abilities in three areas: tracking, obedience and protection. It is a very intense sport that demands a high level of skill from both the dog and the handler.
Ann Hazlett has always loved dogs and ran a boarding kennel and dog training school in Russel for fifteen years. A friend introduced her to IPO ten years ago and she was instantly hooked. “It’s very energetic, precise and powerful,” she says. “I like the interaction with the dogs and working out the puzzle of how to train them to love the work.”
The dogs she trains for the IPO competition are Belgian Shepherds, or Malinois, which are often used as police dogs. They are high-energy working dogs and are well suited for the intense training needed to compete in IPO. Ann says there are other breeds as well that compete in IPO but the vast majority are either Belgian or German Shepherds. The training for IPO is very intense and starts right when the dogs are puppies. Ann goes twice a week to an IPO club in Woodstock, and also trains her dogs both before and after work.
This is not the first time Ann has qualified for the international competition. Four years ago, she went to Sweden with the first dog she ever trained in IPO, named Quake. Since then, Ann has retired Quake, who is now a demo dog for policing in Kentucky. For this year’s competition, Ann is taking four-year-old Dukati, who came fourth in the national competition this year. “The dogs love it,” Ann says. “It’s all a game to them.”
Ann is really looking forward to this year’s international competition in Italy. “I love seeing all the dogs and people from around the world,” she says. Ann will be leaving on Friday and meeting her three other teammates from Canada in Italy.
For Ann IPO is a more than just a competition: it’s a lifestyle. “It’s my life,” Ann says. “It’s challenging, but very gratifying.”