Interview with Silvia Trkman
World renowned Dog Agility Champion and Coach, Silvia Trkman shares some of her thoughts on how she’s achieved success in competition with her dogs. As a young girl, training dogs was something she explored in a time that positive reinforcement was not commonly understood. She continues to find new ways to train while having fun and moving fast. Silvia offers online classes and training dvd’s that enable others to learn how to train for competition with speed and efficiency and still have fun with their dogs.
Interview Questions & Answers
Ms. Trkman, when did you begin training and competing in agility ?
I started training in 1992 and competing in 1994.
How did you come to developing www.lolabuland.com?
The first format of the website was mostly just to be able to publish photos of my dogs and some stories. But as people had questions, I started adding articles, then training DVDs and finally on line classes, on request of my friends from USA who were very sad when I decided to not do seminars abroad anymore. I was teaching seminars all around the world for 10 years prior to that, but got too tired of constant travelling at one point.
What challenges have you faced along the way that may surprise people?
Oh, the biggest challenge was getting my parents allow me a dog. Training my first dog, a Samoyed, was not easy either, given I was 11, had no help from my parents (NOT dog people) or dog trainers as at that time, training with punishment was all that was known and taught in dog schools. And obviously, this was before an era of internet, so I was really completely on my own. Go out, observe and try was how I learned everything. – And what made everything that followed a piece of cake.
When did you start teaching and how did that come about?
I was just 14 years old, but since agility was just starting in my country and there weren’t many people who knew more as I did, I was a kind of pushed into it.
As a coach, what do you find most rewarding about teaching? alternately, most challenging?
I find it super rewarding when people start to see how easy and fun agility really is when following my methods. You can see so many lights go on and so many happy dog faces. The downside was standing in sun, snow, rain and mud – but ever since I teach on line only, that part is a past. <grin>
When you achieved certain accomplishments (All your dogs qualify for World Championship, winning European Open with four, winning World Champ with two) were these specific goal you set for yourself?
No. I never set goals. I’ve seen way too many people stressed and under pressure to achieve their fancy goals. I don’t want to be under pressure, it’s just a stupid dog sport, so nothing to be stressing about. We do it just for fun, so we go out and have fun and play and we sometimes win and sometimes we learn, but we ALWAYS have fun.
What do you think was the primary influencing factor for those achievements?
Right before I won my first World Championships, one of the spectators said to me: “All those people here are really good, because they want to win and worked hard for it. But I think you will win, just because you don’t care and just play.” I think winning is much easier without winning in mind.
What do you typically think about when you are at a big event? both during walk-through and when you and your dog run the course?
During walk through, I think about how to give my dog best possible line and when we run, I’m trying to focus on just the course and my cues. If the course is too easy, I do sometimes start analyzing that or another turn or contact or whatever while I run… – but that’s never good for my focus!
Do you have a routine you practice for yourself to maintain mental focus?
No, not really, I just repeat the course in my head many times.
Do you still get nervous at competitions and how do you handle those feelings?
No, not really. I do try to make myself somewhat nervous though, it helps me keep focused. On less important trials or on too easy courses, I’m sometimes not that focused and don’t support the dog enough on the course. That’s why I love big trials and difficult courses.
How do you feel the sport of dog agility has changed through the years?
It keeps getting faster, smoother, more precise and detailed. In short: it keeps getting more interesting. All changes I see are positive.
What do you think is the difference between European and American agility?
European agility is way more fun <grin>- it lets the skills shine so much more! If I see a pinwheel in a course, that judge gets a big minus in my book – doesn’t get any more boring as standing there waiting for the dog to do that stupid pinwheel. I LOVE challenges and always prefer to go off course on a challenging course over going clean on a boring one. Also, I prefer to have fastest run with one bar down as a clean run and 10th place. – Because best time with one bar down means that I can win next time. And 10th time means I probably can’t if there wasn’t a big loop where I lost all that time of course. I think that’s very different in USA where the system promotes running clean even at expense of speed.
What do you feel differentiates your training from most others?
I love speed, so I put lots of emphasis on fun, fast and efficient.
What do you wish your students would take away most importantly from their lessons?
That making it all super fun for the dog is the most important part of it all.
What advice would you give people just starting to compete at agility trials?
Don’t try to impress, don’t try to be trendy or fancy. The only one you have to impress is your dog. So make sure you’re super fun teammate to your dog in every trial, from first one on.
What else do you hope to achieve in competition, short range and long range?
I hope I can keep running for many more years to come. I used to be one of the youngest participants in World Championships back in 1997. I hope that one day, I’m the oldest one.
Who inspires you and why?
I don’t really follow anybody… I guess I’m still “go out, try and learn” type of a person. The reason I love agility so much is because there is still so much room for improvement, so I’m always on the hunt for ideas on how to make it even faster, more efficient, smoother. I guess my inspiration are failures – things that could still be better always inspire me to come up with new ideas.
What lessons have you learned from different dog you’ve owned/trained through the years?
I learned the most from my first dog, a Samoyed that I got when I was 11. I learned to never give up, I learned to think with my own head, I learned that dogs (and people) work best when they love what they do. I’m very grateful my job is my hobby, my passion, that I can do what I love most. And I make sure my dogs get to do what they love most.
What has been the biggest help to you in your competition journey?
The fact that when I started, nobody expected anything from me, given my age and small unknown country I come from. That gave me the freedom to just run and have fun. – That made winning much easier. And now that everybody expects me to win, I know I’ve won enough that I don’t need to win anything anymore – so it’s easy to keep winning. No pressure, just pure fun!
What can we expect to see next from Silvia Trkman next?
You can expect to keep seeing me having fun with my dogs!
Enjoy some some of my favorite Silvia Trkman videos!
Find out more about Sylvia Trkman at
If you have an idea for an interview, let me know.