Interview with Mark Saccoccio and Hector

What kind of different breeds have you had before? 

I have trained nearly every breed over the last 20 years but personally I have competed at championship level with German Shepherds, Malinois and Rottweilers. I have shown Malinois and Shepherds at the FCI, FMBB, WUSV and I qualified for the IFR with my Rottweiler two times but the first was cancelled for COVID and the second was the same time as the Malinois championship here in America so unfortunately we never got to start at the IFR. 

How was the FMBB in Romania for you? 

The FMBB this year was a very challenging trip for both Hector and myself. We flew to europe nearly a month before the competition and on the second day there Hector tore a muscle in his shoulder and I got COVID pretty bad so we spent weeks in a hotel recovering together. We were not sure we would be able to start and there were days I thought I would just fly home, but thankfully my good friends Kelly Horgan and Christian Mieck never let me give up hope and both travelled to Romania with us even though we all knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t be able to start. Having a good team by your side that believes in you is absolutely necessary in this game of ours. We got to Romania and only started training the Friday before the competition and luckily the Hector man held up physically, stayed in good spirits and got better everyday we worked together. 

How is the German shepherd world different from the Malinois world? 

For me the Shepherd World and the Malinois World are very similar and quite different at the same time. First of all, generally speaking, they are very different animals. While some training can work for both, for me they need very different things to reach their true potential. This is a topic we can speak about for hours so I will leave it at that. 

As far as the culture and people involved in each breed, I think the judging and what we should be expected from the two should be tailored to those breeds specifically. I think the WUSV knows how to judge a high quality German Shepherd and FMBB knows how to judge a high quality Mali. This is a good thing in my opinion. As far as the people…..I once heard that dogs take on the personality of their owners to a certain point. What I see is that maybe the owners take on the personalities of their dogs also. For me I love all dogs. They are all my children and I love them all the same. I have been extremely lucky to have great mentors and great dogs to work with that have allowed me to take part in this great sport of ours at the highest levels and I have met so many great people along the way. I’m looking to many more years of the same!

How did you prepare for the AWDF after FMBB? 

We returned from Europe on Monday evening after FMBB. We slept 5 hours, woke up, packed the van and washed clothes and hit the road again. 10 hours driving and the following weekend I was in Ohio at the GSDCA nationals helping a good friend of mine. This week I gave Hector off from training. We just went for long walks and relaxed in the hotel. On Sunday we drove to Indiana to Mike and Carina Sweeney’s house to hang out and do some training for 3 days with Christian Mieck. Tuesday we started the 10 hour drive to Arkansas, stopping at the airport in Indianapolis to pick up my training partner Kelly Horgan, who has been with us from the beginning and is always in our corner. We got to Arkansas and focused on tracking and obedience. In practice I was lucky to have one of my very good friends Ivan Balabanov stand in the blind for me. Another friend that has always been there when we needed help with something, even though I know his shoulder was hurting he still jumped up with excitement to help us out. I could tell that Hector was feeling better and better every day and to top it off we got a good draw being the last pair in the stadium on Sunday for obedience. That is always my favorite draw. Tracking was difficult in my flight but he is a fighter and worked it out in a track flooded with water. He followed that up by putting up 98 in obedience and 97 in protection. This boy never ceases to amaze me. My son, my brother, my family. We are so very proud of him. This summer he will spend a lot of time swimming in the pool and preparing for the FCI World Championship in Slovenia. With a little luck we will both see you there strong and healthy! Happy training to all of my dog friends, we hope to see all of you soon!

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