Marion and Mario Druml: We Found Everything in Dog Sport
Marion Druml was born on 5th April 1981 in Villach, Carinthia, she studied Communication & Media and now works in the office of Government of Carinthia/District Authority.
Mario Druml was born on 30th January 1978 in Reutte, Tyrol and he works as a Police dog handler and instructor, specialist in drug searching.
Marion and Mario Druml are successfully participating in the World Championships, and believe us, one letter in first name really makes a difference in the starting list! 🙂
Our interview will be mostly about dog sport. However, my first question will be unusually quite personal and I hope you will answer it. 🙂 Marion and Mario – did you look for a life partner by name? It is perhaps impossible, such a coincidence that you both have actually almost the same name!
Well, sure it was fortune that we have almost the same names. It was easier before we got married, because we had different surnames. There has been some confusion about our names after marriage.
I dare to say that if the spectators do not watch you on the stadium live and know names of competitors just passively, maybe they do not even notice that once it is Marion on the field, and then Mario. And definitely not the same handler with different dogs. Have you ever met with a situation that your names were mistaken by the organizers? 🙂
MARION: At my first competition as Marion “Druml” I really took care at the registration that the organizer got it right that it’s me and not Mario. But even then there was Mario with my Kulta in the catalogue of the competition. The organizers knew Mario and so they were thinking I made a mistake.
MARIO: It’s also always very funny at the draws – last year at the competition in October we really got it that we had to do the obedience together!
When we started with a personal question, I also have to ask you about one thing that many readers will be definitely interested in. How did you actually meet?
MARION: We met at the dog-school in Villach. At that time – 10 years ago – I was a dog trainer there in my free time and Mario sometimes came with the Police to train their dogs there.
You have been husband and wife since 2015. Mario, you were competing with your Malinois Bagdad vom Clan der Wölfe also before that date. Marion, if I am right, you started to participate in competitions with your Malinois Kulta vom Parchimer Land after that year. Does it mean you got involved in dog sport with Mario and is Kulta your first dog for competitions?
MARION: I got my Kulta in 2011 and in October 2014 we had our first competition in IPO3. When we met in 2008, I had a hunting dog named “Dyke” and did some BGH-Obedience and “Breitensport” – it’s a kind of “Turnierhundesport” in Austria. In 2009, we visited the FCI World Championship in Schwanenstadt in Austria with some friends – until this event I didn’t really know what IPO was. When we came there, a young smart blond girl was doing her obedience round on the field with her Malinois – and I was totally excited by how a dog can be heeling and about the total harmony between dog and dog handler! On Sunday at the closing ceremony, I heard that it was Mia Skogster with her Helge. Peter Scherk won the World Champion title at this FCI event. Back at home I read everything about those two on the Internet and became their fan. Unfortunately, Dyke died at the beginning of 2011. First I didn’t want to have a dog anymore, but then Mario wrote to Mia (meanwhile, we got to know her at seminars) about a litter after Helge, and she recommended the litter where Kulta was born. And so we also got to know Peter & Connie Scherk and everything went its way…
Mario, you finished with Bagdad on 16th place at the FMBB 2017 and on 14th place at the FCI IPO Championship. Before him, you also had a German Shepherd Dog Uran von Patscherkofel and a Dutch Shepherd Ebola Rommels Herdermeute. How did those two dogs come to you and why did you choose them?
Uran was my first Police dog, he was also a drug searching dog. After he was in the age to go to pension, I wanted to have another breed and so I got my Dutch Shepherd Ebola. A good nose and a big will to find something is a requirement for a good drug searching dog – that’s why I chose them.
Could you please describe their character? Did you train them and compete with them?
I passed IPO exams in Carinthia with Uran, Ebola also has IPO1 and did some smaller obedience competitions in Carinthia. He also competes at our Police exams and Police Championships and makes a good job there. Bagdad is a very social dog, he is ready for work in one second. He is quick to learn, totally uncompromising in protection work and very motivated in obedience.
Marion, what is Kulta like?
Kulta is on the one hand a dog with a big will to please and high fighting spirit. On the other hand, he is very social and kind to people, he is very funny and loves to play and to suck on his pillow. 🙂 As I´ve mentioned, I knew his father Helge (Mecberger Chortoryiski) and really liked his character – so I wanted a puppy after him. He is my first sport dog and I am very happy and blessed that I got him!
How many dogs do you recently have at home and how do they get on together?
MARIO: We have three dogs at home – the Police dog Ebola, Kulta and Bagdad. They all live with us in the house and get on very well together. The fourth dog will come in a few months, because my Police dog is 9 years old and I am going to train a new puppy for Police work. I can do dog sport as well as Police work with this dog. It can also happen that next puppy will come from the Czech Republic ;-).
I am really curious, but I will wait then! 🙂 Are you going to stick to Belgian Mali? Why is this breed close to you, and what do you like about Malinois?
MARION: Well, I can’t say that I “stick” to them, because as I´ve mentioned, Kulta is my first IPO dog, and so I can’t really compare. What I like about Malinois is their versatility – they are strong but sensible, faithful but also independent and very active yet nice to live with. Generally, I think it is just a matter of taste which breed you choose. For me personally my Malinois Kulta was the best decision!
MARIO: I will definitely stick to Malinois. This breed is the ultimate working dog for me. Their willingness to work even under extreme conditions distinguishes those dogs. Where other dogs may would give up, the Malinois is still fighting to please his/her handler. No matter, if it is on a difficult tracking field, if there is extreme heat during obedience or any big challenges in protection work. I see those qualities not only in dog sport, but in Police work as well.
What do your training sessions look like? Do you train together, just the two of you or do you have a team?
MARION: Just the two of us train at home or we train together with Paul Woschitz (he has A’tomic vom Clan der Wölfe) and his wife Ilse. Our very small team has been existing for almost five years and really works well! We train whatever is needed during our training sessions, parts of the routine or the whole phase, most of the time with lots of rewards and sometimes just like in competition.
MARIO: Our training season started with a break from training ;-). Our dogs had a break from November until the middle of February, so they could recover from the competition season where they participated in five to seven big trials. In the middle of February, we started depending on the weather with our sessions on the training field or in a horse-riding hall as that there can still be snow until April. It’s good that we also have friends in Italy and Slovenia. Both countries are only 20 km away from us, so we can go tracking there if it is necessary due to snow in Carinthia. As Marion said, we have our training team with Paul and Ilse Woschitz. Paul is also competing with Atomic on a very high level. We get on more than well together and we motivate each other in trainings. Our big mentors are Peter and Connie Scherk – everything we have achieved was taught by those two handlers. Katja and Daniel Stüwe with Mia Skogster were also always helping us a lot over the past years.
Sometimes, it is not easy to train as a couple. There may be some arguments and nerves when it comes to well-meant critique, even constructive. Do you criticize your partner and are you able to bear the criticism if you are being criticized? Are you able to cope with it or do you need some time to “breathe” and then you accept it, talk about it later and try to get to know why something went wrong?
MARION: It’s definitely not easy to train as a couple. It got better and better over the years, because we both got more experience. But even now it’s easier if other people from our team spot some mistakes. If we don´t have the same opinion or if one handler does not believe he/she made a mistake, we record a video so that everybody can watch it. Then we discuss how we can make it better. I really avoid discussions while training, because it can be very bad for the dog´s mood.
MARIO: I do my sessions very carefully not to get surprised from something in training. I work with high emotions and my voice to help my dog with understanding all exercises well. Training together works most of the time fine in obedience and tracking. Biggest challenge is the protection work. I am the helper for my dog and Marion is the handler then. It’s difficult to be patient with your own partner and be the same way as if you train with other people.
How do you characters fit when it comes to dog training? Are you patient and calm, or are you energetic and impatient? How would you characterize yourself and your partner? 🙂
MARION: We both have strong characters and different opinions in some parts of training. I am very diligent and ambitious. I train the exercises as many times as I can to be sure the dog really understands what he has to do. I think I am the patient part and I take care that everything works precisely in the best way for each dog. Fun in training is very important to me as well. Mario is sometimes a little bit impatient if, for example, a new exercise doesn’t work in perfection after some lessons. The good thing is that Mario can train the dogs very straight – in black and white. He can switch his mood immediately from strict to euphoric and back, so it’s very easy for the dog to understand what he wants from him.
MARIO: In the last years training with Peter and Connie Scherk, we have learned that you have to be patient with your dog and yourself. As Marion said, it’s easy for me to have much fun in training but I can also be strict when necessary. In my opinion, my biggest part is to watch that dogs remain obedient besides the fun in training. Marion is more diligent and if something doesn’t work perfectly, she trains again and again and she really has a good hand for exercises that need many repetitions.
Do you have a special method that you use in training? 🙂 What kind of motivation do you use?
MARION: We were honoured to have the chance to train both our dogs from puppy age with Peter and Connie Scherk. They taught us everything about the “Heuwinkl-System”. This system is based on the point that the dog finds his fulfilment in the exercise itself. The system is very clear for the dog, the whole education and every exercise is divided up in very small steps so that the dog and the handler really have the chance to understand it. We are really blessed that we got this chance. Thanks to Peter and Connie we also got to know so many fantastic people – Bagdad’s breeder Katja and Daniel Stüwe who are a big help in training from the beginning.
MARIO: My biggest trick and ace in training is my voice when it comes to high emotional praising and corrections. I also reward with top-matic balls and food.
Do you come from a dog sport family? Did your parents support you in dog sport and did you grow up with dogs?
MARION: Absolutely not, I wasn’t even allowed to have a Jack Russel when I was a child. But now, my parents love our dogs and support me in doing IPO dog sport.
MARIO: In the year 1977, my father got his first working dog at the customs. I was born in 1978 so I grew up with German Shepherd Dogs. My father showed me how to handle dogs and how to train them when I was a small child.
How did you start with dog training and how did you get involved in dog sport?
MARION: Before I graduated from my University, I did show jumping with horses for more than 10 years. I gave up horse riding when I started to work. My ex-boyfriend had a dog at that time and I was looking for a new hobby, so I went to dog school with this dog – and I liked it! This was my very first contact with dog training.
MARIO: My first contact with dog training was in 1997. However, before that I never worked with dogs on the level where we are now. Then I worked with my Police dog and I also participated in some smaller trials with him.
Are there public dog training clubs in Austria, where whoever can come and train? Or private dog clubs prevail? Actually, is dog sport a favourite hobby in your country and what working breeds are popular?
MARION: There are many clubs for many canine sports in Austria, not only for IPO sport. The dog clubs where mostly IPO is trained are more private with smaller groups of handlers. Honestly, I don’t know all details about the club structures but I think IPO sport is more trained in teams than in big clubs. There are usually about 30 to 70 entries in our qualifiers for the IPO-World Championship, but I am sure the number of competitors for various canine sports is much bigger (Obedience, Agility, Tracking etc.).
MARIO: In our part of Austria, Carinthia, we have many dog clubs. It is very nice to see how people are encouraged to teach something to their dogs. Also dogs from other working-lines like Dobermann, Boxer and Giant Schnauzers became more popular in the last years.
When you go tracking, do you need a permission from the land owner? What kind of motivation do you use on tracks? How often do you train tracking and do you lay tracks to each other?
MARIO: Yes, we always ask the land owner for permission to do tracking, because it’s polite to ask before you step on somebody´s property. I am sure you also would not like to see anybody walking through your garden without asking for permission. We have a very good agreement with all of the land owners. This is really necessary, because in Carinthia we have many mountains and not so large fields as for example in Upper Austria. Therefore we have to make sure that different terrains where we can go tracking are available for us. We are both very busy at work, so it’s also important that the tracking fields are not 100 km away. We go tracking two or three times a week when full dog sport season is ahead of us, and we go tracking four or five times a week before the qualifiers or Championships, the frequency depends on each dog´s training plan.
MARION: Normally, everybody lays the track by him/herself, because our dogs need very different trainings tracks. We change that once or twice before a trial and lay the tracks for each other. Bagdad gets raw food, so in tracking he gets small boxes with his raw food in it. Kulta gets his normal food in very small pieces on the track. They both get something special as reward for the articles, for example chopped sausage.
Talking about frequency of training – how often do you train protection and obedience?
Well, if we talk about training on a training field or the stadium, we train obedience and protection work four times a week in case there is a competition in the near future. It’s also important to say that we don’t always train the whole routine there, we usually split it into individual exercises. Kulta and I have some things that we train almost every day at home – for example dumbbell hold, present and some other small things. Bagdad also does dumbbell hold and indicates on the articles very often at home, either in the garden or in the living room. Training at home is very important to us, because if everything works fine, you have less problems in the “big” sessions on the training field and you can keep your dog in good mood.
How about the helpers in Austria? Do you have a sufficient number of them or do you have to travel far to train protection?
MARIO: As I´ve mentioned, I do the protection work for our dogs by myself most of the time. We can also go to friends from dog sport who are also helpers in Upper Austria before competitions, or we do protection with Daniel Stüwe if his time allows it. We have some excellent helpers in Austria, but most of them are far away. It is really important to us when doing protection with other helpers that they should know the Heuwinkl System.
Do you go abroad to organize or to participate in seminars?
MARION: In the last years, we visited the Heuwinkl Seminars, seminars of Mia Skogster and also tracking seminars of Bernd Föry.
MARIO: Basically, we are satisfied with the Heuwinkl training system. However, it is always good and important to have a look at how other very successful people train their dogs. I, personally find many ways of training interesting as I can include them in the Police dog training.
How would you compare the Austrian dog sport to other countries? What is its position in dog sport world?
Austria is a small IPO dog sport country – but in the last years, the standard at qualification trials gets higher and higher and many good results were achieved at the World Championships by our competitors. For example, Austria finished on wonderful 2nd place in Teams at the FCI WCH in 2015, and the Austrian team placed the 3rd at both the FCI IPO and the FMBB World Championships in 2017. In Austria most dog sport handlers have a normal full time job here and dog sport is just their hobby. We know more dog handlers in other countries who are doing dog training as their job.
Which trial do you value the most? Which one of them was the most difficult and which one was unforgettable?
MARIO: Bagdad´s performances in obedience and protection are quite stable. I was a little bit worried about his tracking at first, but due to ambitious and perfect training we were awarded 98 points for tracking at the last year´s FCI World Championship and also results from his other tracks were constant. I really enjoy obedience in every competition, because I recognize how much fun and will to please my dog has there, he is always motivated so much for it! I think protection is Bagdad´s favourite discipline as he loves to get a grip on the sleeve and to use his 39 kilograms to fight the helper. I think he is not easy for the helpers with his temperament and fighting spirit – in protection we got to have a war ;-).
MARION: My first qualifier for the World Championship in 2014 was very exciting for me, because Kulta and I did pass our first IPO3 exam there and Kulta was only three years old. My second highlight and experience for me was definitely my participation at the FMBB in 2016 in France. It was a great feeling to belong to the Team and to read my name next to so many “VIP’s” on the starting list. Kulta´s 1st place at last year´s selection trial is also unforgettable for me.
Marion, the FMBB Championship is ahead for you and Kulta in a short time. You also won the Austrian qualifier in 2017 for the FCI IPO World Championship, as you have said. So this competition season is going to be really demanding for you. How are you looking forwards to it?
First of all, I am really looking forward to taking part at the FMBB World Championship. It is special for me to get the chance to go there and it’s a big honour. I hope that I will have my trial nerves under control so that Kulta will have the chance to show off a good performance in all disciplines.
Do you have any expectations or goals? Or you do not have anything like that and let just things go?
As I´ve mentioned above, Kulta is my first IPO dog and so many unbelievable and wonderful things with this dog and our team happened in the last years. The only thing I can do is trying to prepare as well as possible and then let just things go – because if you don’t do this and you would be too ambitious, things for sure will go in the wrong way. Most important is that Kulta stays healthy and that we keep on having much fun together in doing our sport.
Mario, we will meet you and Bagdad too at the FMBB Championship in 2018. What are your expectations and goals? By the way, congratulations on your second place in the Austrian qualifier for the FCI IPO WCH and the ÖKV Championship that took place in April in Austria! 🙂
Thank you for congrats. We actually train very hard and hope that the dogs will be top fit at the FMBB. My big wish is to be in the finals again, because it was an unbelievable feeling to belong to the best 20 of the world last year. The atmosphere on the stadium really gets under the skin and makes you shiver.
How are you going to solve the Championship logistically? Will you go there by two cars? After all, it may happen after the draw that you may need two cars…
If we both start, every participation needs a good organisation. It happened already during the qualifiers that Mario was on the competition field on the stadium and I had to go tracking at the same time. Therefore we are very happy to have our friends who accompany us and thus we have a second car there for emergency cases. One of our friends will be there with us at the FMBB. It means we will have two cars there and she will also help us during official training sessions. Without her it would be very difficult, because we wouldn’t be able to help each other in those important 5 minutes. We also hope for a good draw, because for sure we want to watch the team members on the field live. It is horrible when you have to concentrate on your own performance, but at the same time you are thinking about your partner on the field and if everything going well there on that field.
I really believe that and wish you both good luck at the draw! 🙂 Have you already experienced such a big trial where both of you were competing? What is it like to qualify together to the Austrian team? 🙂 Congratulations on that, the Austrian team usually has great results.
No, this will be the first time that we both compete at the World Championship together and it’s a great feeling, although it for sure will be a big challenge for our nerves.
Does the Austrian Cynological Association support the competitors financially and materially? There are teams that have everything paid by their countries, but unfortunately, there are also ones that have to pay all for themselves.
The support of the Austrian participants is really great both for the FCI and FMBB Championships! I have to say a big thank you this way to our associations for this! Without this help, it would be much more difficult or even impossible to do dog sport on such a high level.
At this point, I have to express admiration to your two team leaders, who we can meet at many international championships – namely Andreas Wohlschlager and Manfred Hammel. I love the way they support and care for their team members. I have watched those two team leaders many times and for me, they are an example how a team leader should work :-).
We have different team leaders for the FMBB and FCI WCH. At the FCI World Championship those two mentioned always did a great job. Andreas will not be a team leader anymore in the future because he is very busy at his work. Manfred Hammel, who always did a perfect job, is the main team leader and second team leader will be Isabella Gollner now. She is very motivated, she is also competing at the FMBB this year, and she is our team physiotherapist for the dogs. This year´s FMBB team leader is Bernd Sommer, a professional dog handler, who has competed at World Championships very often and who knows a lot about the dog sport world.
Do you have a ritual that you always keep for your dogs and for you as the handlers? Do you have a mascot or a talisman to have more good luck?
MARIO: My wife is my talisman – I can’t have more good luck! 🙂 We have a different ritual for each discipline, where we prepare the dog with mimics, gesticulation and voice.
MARION: Besides Mario & Kulta, who always bring me good luck, I also have a little plastic figure out of those Kinder surprise eggs which consist of chocolate outside and have something to play inside. I got it from Peter Scherk as a joke at our first meeting in Germany. I kept in my jacket since that moment and it guides Kulta and me wherever we competed from BH on.
Will you tell us what is this figure? 🙂
A little turtle :-).
What does the dog sport world mean to you? Do you have also other hobbies, either common or some that you enjoy separately?
MARIO: Dog sport shapes our lives. There is not much time for other things, but we try to keep our friendships outside dog sports alive and this is important to us. In the past, I loved to do motorcycling and I was in the mountains very often as I did ski tours, but now I don’t have time for those things. I found my fulfilment in dog sport, it’s a great hobby with animals and nature which I love to share with my wife.
MARION: Shortly said, I found everything in dog sport. It means the world to me – dog sport can be so different, diverse and sometimes it is a challenge. But I love to train a dog and I really have fun teaching and learning new things together with my dog. We also got to know so many great people all over the world thanks to dog sport. Besides dog sport, I do some horse riding, maybe once per week or so. As Mario said, there is not much time for other things. But hey, that’s the game if you want to compete on a high level – in every kind of sports!
What do you like on your partner?
MARIO: I can see how Marion is blooming in dog sports. Her patience and eye for the details in many small things in trainings distinguish her work. I don’t know many dog handlers who give so much love and heart to work with dogs as she does.
MARION: Mario has really good nerves at competitions. I am usually very straight and good organized, but competing is a big challenge for my nerves and so I am often a bit chaotic there in the days and hours before the trial. He is my “manager” then and takes care that I have everything and everything goes right. He is able to bring me in a good mood and he builds me up if I think I can’t do something.
Except for you partner, what else do you like in life? 🙂
MARION: I love my family and our fantastic friends. Some of them guide us from the first time we participated in competitions, keep their fingers crossed and they are a big mental support there! Some of them are not even involved in dog sport but they come to trials and listened to our dog sports stories many times. So, thank you, our dear friends, I hope one day we can give you all your support back!
MARIO: Besides our friends as Marion mentioned, I like my job at the Police! 90 % of my work there is to educate young dogs to become Police dogs. So I do the same in my work as in my free time – what do I want more?
Is there anything that you would like to change in the dog sport world? Or in your life?
MARIO: Less work and more money, I´m joking of course! 😀 Some exercises in dog sport could be changed a little bit, but there are professionals in Utility Dogs´ Commissions for that who try to work out the best form of the IPO.
MARION: I don’t want to change anything in dog sport world. It depends on you how you create your own dog sport world. If you want to be better, train harder. If you “lose”, think about the reason and if another person is better than you, don’t be jealous and be happy about his/her success. Because your day will also come. Everything is about your attitude.
Do you have any life motto?
MARIO: Rise and rise again – until lambs become lions!
What I mean is – you have to lift up your butt from the couch to achieve something!
MARION: Never give up and use your time wisely!
And please, do you have any message to our readers or to anybody else?
MARIO: Don’t forget that dog sport is a team sport! Only if you fight for something, you are able to reach your goal.
MARION: Your dog is your partner and not a sport equipment. He lays his life and his heart in our hands – so it’s our job to make it perfect for him. Only as a team you can be successful. So let´s play the dog sport game with each other and not against each other (suits for relationships among people as well as between people and their dogs 🙂 ).
I was honoured to interview you two. Thank you very much and I wish best of luck for the FMBB. See you there! 🙂
Edit: Eva Fiedlerová
Special thanks to: Steffi Loidl, Powerful Impressions by Steffi Loidl; Cläffer; Sempiternal moments by Sabine Kriz; EP Photo; Michaela Donabaum