Veteran handler Amber McCune sat down with me to talk about her second Westminster win with her border collie Kaboom. Five-year-old Kaboom blew away the competition in the 24-inch division on February, 10. A competitor since he was two years old, Kaboom has won multiple regional and national titles. Handler Amber McCune is excited to continue working with Kaboom to compete for “as many years as he enjoys and stays injury free.” Amber erupted with pride as she answered some of our questions about her preparation, competition, and methods for keeping Kaboom happy and healthy.
Question: Was this your first time winning the Westminster?
Amber’s answer: This is the third year competing and second time winning—back-to-back wins with Kaboom!
Question: What was the journey like getting ready to compete at Westminster?
Amber’s answer: Both winning years I trained Kaboom on the circuit, with similar turf. I researched the judges past course design and the type of trends they used. This helped me know what to expect in terms of course design.
Question: Were the courses more difficult compared to other competitive events?
Amber’s answer: The jumpers course was definitely very challenging. I needed to run faster than I have ever run on a course. It had different challenges compared to a regular AKC course. I was nervous because I was a returning champion and wanted to make our coach (Anthony Clark) proud.
Question: What was it like to show up to the event and get ready to compete?
Amber’s answer: Driving through New York City was the toughest part. Once we got there, the focus was on Kaboom—being connected with him and being in the moment. Since I got there at 4:30 am and left at 11:30 pm, I had hours between my three runs.
Question: What is the environment like with the other competitors?
Amber’s answer: It was a very friendly environment. We were a bunch of crazy dog people just having fun. We were very supportive of each other and wanted everyone to do well.
Question: Did you have a place to warm up with your dog in advance? Amber’s answer: There was a small warm-up jump area. We both kept moving around to stay warm. I spent about 20 minutes warming him up. I had him trot, jump, and stretch to keep the muscles loose. There are tons of people that wanted to pet him during the warm-up.
Question: Did you give your dog any 1TDC™ before the event?
Amber’s answer: Yes, he has been on 1TDC™ for two years as part of his daily regimen. Kaboom takes it for his oral health and muscle, tendon, and joint support. 1TDC™ is super great for oral health—his breath doesn’t smell at all. I’ve seen him recover faster and never seems to be sore after an event.
Questions: Do you believe 1TDC™ is helping your dog have a longer agility career?
Amber’s answer: Yes, very much so. It has helped his recovery time and relieves muscle soreness. I recommend 1TDC™ and distribute it to other agility competitors all the time.
Question: Do you give your dog a pep talk before you hit the course?
Amber’s answer: I sat with him and we both stared at the course. I kept him relaxed and hugged him, I kept us in the moment.
Question: How did you feel your run went?
Amber’s answer: It went well, but there’s always room for improvement. I’ve already analyzed what could’ve gone better.
Question: Did you know you were likely going to win?
Amber’s answer: Since we were the last run, when we were done I saw “#1 Kaboom.” I knew we had won! We were so excited after that!
Question: What was the most difficult part and easiest part of the course?
Amber’s answer: The most difficult was the weave entry for Kaboom—I had to manage that and allow him to see the entry. The easiest was the ending line, running Kaboom through a straight line. I like running fast without a turn.
Question: Was there something about the course that tripped you up unexpectedly and you would have trained your dog differently had you known?
Amber’s answer: He turned the wrong way off one turn. I did not properly indicate the turn.
Question: How do you reward your dog after a run?
Amber’s answer: I rewarded with a game of tug-of-war and let him play with his biting toy. When we got back to the hotel he also got a cheeseburger.