I have been fortunate enough to work with Ali and Joe at Mountain Freaks Agility for the past 2 1/2 years. Their method of teaching, determination and love of the sport and the animals has really helped my dogs and I succeed in agilty. Whenever I have trouble with something at our Tuesday night group class, Ali and Joe are there to help me conquer whatever obstacle I am faced with. They are determined for me to get the job done correctly, and they won't stop till I fully understand the task at hand. I have been taking privates with Ali for awhile now and I honestly don't know where I would be without her. She pushes me when I am frustrated and never gives up on me or my dogs. The Mountain Freaks instructors strive for perfection, but yet keep it fun for everyone at every level. No matter what your level is or what you strive to achieve, training at Mountain Freaks makes you believe in yourself and your dogs.
Rose Savkov, Zoie and Ki-Ki
UPDATE: Rose and Zoie just competed at their first AKC National Championship in March of 2007. They WON round 2 and the challengers class to make it into the FINALS!! Bravo!
My first introduction to Mountain Freaks was watching Ali compete at a show. I knew right away that I was watching something really special, and I yearned for my performance to be more like hers. I started going to Mountain Freaks for lessons a year ago. At that time, I had Open titles on Emmy, my Dobie, then 3 yrs old; I was struggling to handle what I was encountering on the Excellent courses. Emmy is the first dog I have ever shown past the Novice level.
When I first stepped into Mountain Freaks, I was amazed at what the other students were practicing. It was like a whole different world for me. But Joe and Ali made me feel at home right away, and, week by week, they brought me along at a nice comfortable pace until I was up-to-speed with the rest of the class. I continue to learn and improve every week. It's amazing how much I have grown in terms of my skill, knowledge, level of preparedness, and confidence. My dog has also grown tremendously in her training. I’m enjoying the sport more than ever before.
I measure success by how much we have learned and improved; the titles are secondary, but they reflect that improvement. Within the last year, Emmy earned her AX, AXJ, MX, MXJ, and completed half of her MACH. She qualified for the AKC Nationals. We also moved into the Top 10 on the Doberman Agility list. More importantly, I feel we are in a much better position now to achieve our potential.
One thing I like most about Mountain Freaks is an integrated proactive system of handling and training that really works. It mostly involved retraining me … Emmy intuitively picked up on my new handling moves. The Mountain Freaks system is very clear for the dog, and that’s important to me, especially since Emmy has probably the biggest stride in the ring on any given day. I know she has more confidence in me now.
Another thing I like most about Mountain Freaks is the way Ali and Joe give you their all, every time. They put their heart into it. They pay attention to the details and the needs of every team. They go above and beyond to prepare both dog and handler for all levels of competition. They really want you to be the best you can be. And thanks to them, Emmy and I are becoming better and better all the time. I love going to Mountain Freaks! My sincere thanks to Ali and Joe.
Ali and Joe have not only been great training partners over the years, but they have been dear friends too. My dogs and I have come a long way since working with Ali and Joe. Their support, instruction and coaching have helped me reach goals I never thought possible.
UPDATE: Bridget and her Border Collie Kestrel made it into the finals of their first AKC national championship in 2007 as well as the USDAA Grand Prix finals.
My 2 year old Toller, Cody, and I have worked with Ali since he was 6 months old. The foundation and handling skills that we have learned resulted in our sailing through the AKC lower level titles to Exc. B levels in a few short months. Her progressive training methods highly motivate both handler and dog, and provide a thorough understanding of the mechanics behind course analysis and getting the tightest line for the dog.
I just wanted once again to thank you and Joe both for all of your help too. Also for being so nice and believing in and treating all of your students with respect and decency!!! You never make any of us feel as though we stink. You are always patient, and most of all you treat us all as though we all have the potential to make it to nationals, and further. Whatever our individual goals may be. You always treat us as though we have a chance at anything and you both will do whatever you can to help us achieve those goals. It means more than you could ever know to many of us, that you believe in us like that, and don't put us down. Some friends of mine bought me a private lesson as a present with another instructor they really loved this weekend. I cheerfully went to see what that person might have to offer. They had little more than humiliation and degredation. I left the lesson in tears. Fortunately, a good friend of mine in NH reminded me of Jus's successes at PA OH recently, and she told me that she loved what you guys have done for Jus and I as a team. I then realized that part of my successful progress so far under you guys was not just all of the great training and handling info. that you have been kind enough to share with me. But, also because you have NEVER treated me like I was a sub class of person, and that my dog and I were never going to be able to realize my dreams. That is important too...I just wanted to let you guys know that, and once again thank you for all that you do for all of us. You truly are great teachers!!
You helped Jus and me with weave poles, you taught me how to handle and Ali has helped polish his contacts!
We wouldn't have achieved all that we have in our first year of trialing if I would never have come to Mountain Freaks for lessons.
Thanks again, and looking forward to another fall/winter season of training.
Val Henry & Jus :)
Thanks, I know I am blessed with a very talented dog, but without you and Joe and your expertise, I don't think I would have accomplished half of what I've done so far, not to mention your coaching and the both of you pushing me to higher levels. No man or woman is an island and I never would have dreamed of these accomplishments in the past. I thank all of the Freaks for their support and friendship, Ali & Joe what can I say in the year I have been training with you I have made tremendous strides.
Ali is just fantastic, she treated everyone the same and spent time with everyone, she is funny, smart, and can explain things in a way that you can fully understand. People were in awe of her knowledge and when people found out how lucky I am to have her in my backyard, they were so jealous!!!!
Another thing about Ali, she never gets sidetracked when teaching, she never tells stories about her life or her dogs, she stays on topic and always gives 110% of herself.
Now Joe we love you also!!!! and everything I said above goes for you too. It's just interesting to have people from alot of different backgrounds and states going crazy over a teacher, that I get to train under all the time. We love you Ali and I am so proud to have you and Joe as instructors!!!!!
Over this past weekend at Saratoga, Joe sat me down and had a little conversation with me. I will not go into that much detail, but his advice did not fall on deaf ears and it was exactly what I needed to hear although at first it was not exactly what I wanted to hear :>) but Joe wanted me to learn from mistakes he had made some years ago with his dog.
I took his words to heart and went on to run 3 classes in which I Q'd, one with a 3rd place and 1 with a 1st place. In the Grand Prix the timer malfunctioned and I just took course time.
Joe is a GREAT coach and if he gives you a "talking to" take it from which it comes, which is from wanting you to be the best team you can be, both Joe and Ali want the best for us and you couldn't ask for a more supportive team in my very humble opinion:>)
So if the Zen Master gives advice to the grasshoppers, TAKE IT!!!!!!
Sparkle UD MX MXJ
Scooter NA NAJ
Jay AKA "The Fine Machine" MX AXJ AAD
Today Willow got her last leg for her Ex. JWW title. After years of NQ's and close calls, we got all 3 Q's in the past 2 months. I know that it's because of all your help and excellent training! Thank you so much! We really couldn't have done it without you!
Ali & Joe,
Super class last night! Your patience in explaining how important timing & correct positions for crosses is was very much appreciated. What a world of difference it makes to understand the how's & why's of handling correctly & not just how to run a course. Thanks a million. Looking forward to next Tues. already.
Ali and Joe have made a world of difference in my handling and in our performance as a team. Wisp was very motivationally challenged. While we had made great strides prior to coming to "The Freaks", we still lacked speed, drive and consistency in our performance. That changed. I learned so much more about reading a course, driving my dog and determining what was the best way to handle different challenges for my particular dog. I was never made to feel as if we could not “do it”. I was challenged to do it. Ali and Joe recognize that there is no one way of handling that works for every dog. Rather, they work on teaching what is right for your dog, espousing consistency in the training method we use, as handlers, as a means of gaining success. Through consistency in approach, Wisp gained confidence she was lacking. Through listening to not only instruction geared towards Wisp & I, but also that geared towards faster teams, I learned so much about handling. As Wisp’s speed increases I feel prepared to keep up with her and Q. We look forward to continuing to improve under Ali & Joe's tutelage, and to baby Clash learning with the Freaks from the beginning.
Kathy Hunter & MACH, NATCH2 Wisp, SSA, SS, SJ, S-TN-E, O-TG-E, WV-E (and, of course, baby Clash)
In my previous brag about Stamp I neglected to thank Joe for the weekend’s successes. I owe a lot of Stamp’s success to what I’ve learned from Ali and Joe, but this weekend in particular I really owe Joe for commenting to me, the last time I was in class, that I should really stop babysitting Stamp’s weaves. Stamp has had issues with popping out of the poles on occasion in the past, but for the last two weeks I just sent him to the weaves and went on to do whatever it was I had to do next, and he was much more comfortable than when I was babysitting him and never put a foot down wrong. Watching the videos for his last five runs really brought this home as his average speed on the weaves also improved by about 1/4 of a second.
Sassie, Joiris and Stamp
For someone so young, Ali has talent beyond her years when it comes to teaching agility. Not only does she have a thorough understanding of the theory behind training methods and handling systems, but she is able to explain it all in a hands-on manner so that even a ditshead like me can understand! Its always a pleasure to watch Ali running her dogs at trials - I just wish I could see her more often - and I wish that Mountain Freaks was closer to me, so that I could come to lessons once a week.
Juliet with Freddie and Fiona (the White Witch)
I want to say that I have learned so much at Mountain Freaks with Ali that my confidence level has soared. I believe I have come very far with Dazzle and am pleased that I have made it to Excellent in AKC and Masters in USDAA in a year. I couldn't have done it without Ali's help. I've even got my puppy going to Mountain Freaks! :)
Thanks so much.
Jean, Dazzle and Motor Pika
I have been training with Ali Roukas for about 2 1/2 years with my shelties, KC and Tag. Ali has the ability to both highlight a team's strengths and identify any areas that need improvement. She creates exercises that work specific skills and will break them down if needed in order for the dog to be successful. If a method does not work, she is quite willing to develop a different strategy, and is patient and positive, even if progression is slow. I look forward to our training sessions -- her positive outlook and enthusiasm create a fun atmosphere for both myself and my dogs.
I run a Welsh Springer Spaniel — not your "typical agility breed." Ali and Joe have always treated my choice with respect and taught me how to bring out the very best in my dog. As a result, my TangoBango has surpassed my wildest expectations and earned many honors including 2nd place at the 2006 All-Star Agility Tournament, Finalist and 6th place at the 2006 AKC/Eukanuba Invitational Agility Tournament, and an invitation to compete in the 2006 Eastern Regional Purina Incredible Dog Challenge. Thank you, Ali and Joe, for your awesome teaching of both the mental and technical aspects of agility!!
Mary Mandich-Steigerwald and TangoBango
I joined Mountain Freaks after many of my friends switched over and began showing amazing successes at trials. I was a little nervous at first as I have rescues that are non-traditional agility breeds. I soon found that it certainly didn't matter!
I brought my Elkhound to Ali even though I really thought he had no hope of being successful in agility. No one was ever able to help me get him to stay in the ring.
After only a few short months of both private lessons and group classes, I entered Dakota into his "coming out of retirement" trial. I chose DOCNA due to their openness about training in the ring where you could even touch your dog and put them back on equipment, etc. Dakota not only stayed in the ring with me, but he also got 5 out of 6 Q's that day, and 5 blue ribbons! Since then he has gotten a few more DOCNA Q's, CPE Q's, and USDAA Q's! He even achieved a few DOCNA and CPE titles.
We were hoping to get back to NADAC this spring and AKC in the fall. However, Dakota has now been retired again, unfortunately due to age and arthritis.
I am oh so grateful to Ali for giving me those few months of absolute fun in the ring with my Elkhound! I literally was brought to tears with each success as every single one was so special with my very special boy.
I'd like to thank Ali and Joe for their patience and wonderful instruction. In the short time we have trained at Mountain Freaks, we have scored 13 QQ's, and we don't even trial every weekend! They have fine tuned us into a great team!
Sundance - Fun Loving Golden
Cassidy - MXP3 MJP3 PAX
Wyeth - Pup in Training