Crufts winner Border Collie Zest from Preston getting ready for next challenge

After claiming the Championship Agility title at Crufts, Preston woman Nicola Wildman and her six year old female Border Collie Zest are getting ready for round two at the World Agility Open in Holland in May.

By Emma Downey
Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 10:40 am

Keeping it in the family after coming second in the singles category, Nicola's father Alan will also be in attendance with his six year old Border Collie Zyng.

Nicola, 30, from Fulwood used to be an architect before braving the decision to leave and venture into teaching dog agility during the first lockdown.

"I wasn't helping as many people as I wanted in architecture and I have been practising agility since I was six so decided why not try it as a career.”

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Nicola Wildman with her Crufts award winning dog Zest. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

She now works for Wild Paws, teaching in Leyland and Garstang.

She is also an Agility First Approved Instructor - a qualification recognised by the Kennel Club and has experience as a Kennel Club judge, seminar presenter, training camp organiser and coach.

Based in Lancashire, it offers weekly classes for all levels of dog and handler from beginners to International competitors and also teaches in equestrian centres near Preston and Chorley.

"We teach agility to over 100 people on a weekly basis and we bring safe and fun agility to more of the North West.

Crufts award winning Border Collie Zest runs around his trophy. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

"Training the dogs with their owners also helps with people's mental health."

Nicola began agility encouraged by her parents who were beginners in dog agility themselves. Whilst growing up she enjoyed teaching tricks to the dogs in the house and running dogs trained by her parents.

As a junior handler she trained and handled a wide range of dog sizes, breeds and personalities and gained invaluable experience at different training problems from a range of dogs.

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Nicola Wildman with her Crufts award winning dog Zest. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

At the age of 14 she was a Kennel Club judge and teaching adults and juniors at Wyre (Lancs) Agility Club on a volunteer basis. As a regular at Crufts in the Young Kennel Club ring Nicola’s first Crufts win was in the Young Kennel Club team alongside her fellow North West junior handlers.

Both her and Zest have gone on to appear on the GB squad as well as representing GB at the European Open and the England team as well as being selected as a Wild Card at the World Agility Open in 2019.

They also appeared at Crufts in the team event in 2019 before representing England in the international event in 2020 as well as placing second overall in the British Open. All of which was achieved in their first three seasons of competition.

Nicola is passionate about a creative approach to dog training following positive reinforcement based techniques.

Nicola Wildman with her Crufts award winning dog Zest. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Her weekly students have also appeared at Crufts, Olympia, England and GB Team as well as many who are just as happy to go home with a happy content dog after a fun class and taking advantage of an improved level of communication between dog and owner.

Nicola, who has also competed with other dogs at Crufts, added: "Zest is sweet, nuts and challenging - a panache dog who is up and coming."