001 002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009

You Gotta Love Dogs Right?

Posted on 11/18/09 31 Comments


Encore and her littermate Temper
Encore and her littermate Temper

Driving through Dallas on the way home yesterday we stopped to look at a litter of puppies (not for me, for Lynda). The breeder owned Encore’s litter-sister so we just had to have a photo shoot. Can you guess which one is Encore?

To follow up on my thoughts about an ABBC class, I don’t know how they do it in the UK (maybe one of our British readers can fill us in) but here is what I was thinking. You take the the three best non-Border Collies times from the Steeplechase and the Grand Prix semis, if those 3 dogs happen to be already qualified to run in the finals, no sweat, they now are running for two titles; that of Grand Prix Champion and that of ABBC Grand Prix Champion. If the three dogs did not make it into the finals with the Border Collies, they then will only be running for the title of ABBC Champion.

Yes this leaves out slower Border Collies that can’t compete with the faster dogs. There are a zillion BCs competing now and as the years go on there will be even more. Someone has to be the slowest of the Border Collies, but should that be a reason to not honour the great dogs of other breeds?

Personally I don’t think so. Wings, the Terv that won the Steeplechase finals, was a really cool dog to watch. However there were 7 Border Collies with faster times in the semis that had a bar down. Which means there were 7 dogs that ran the semis faster than Wings. Next year there could be 10. If those dogs run clean, Wings will make it to the finals. If that had been this year we would have never known what a great dog Wings is, or witnessed that amazing run.

Each year there will be proportionately more Border Collies out there, soon it will be like Thoroughbreds at the Kentucky Derby, the other breeds will just dwindle in number, until all we see is Border Collies at Championship events.   There are some kick ass Goldens, Labs, German Sheperds, Catahoulas, Tervs ( well as all the other Belgian breeds), Kelpies, Aussies amoung others. All of these dogs would have a good shot at making it to the finals, but with the strangle-hold the Border Collies have on the sport it gets more unlikely every year that we will ever see them.Who knows, perhaps there are other amazing dogs out there whose owners are just not trying because they figure they have not chance against the Border Collies (I hope nobody has such a defeatist attitude, but it is possible).

I for one think it would be sad for National Agility Championships to turn into the Kentucky Derby for Border Collies and I hope anyone that loves dogs, and not just fast Border Collies would feel the same way. Remember I run Border Collies, I just happen to really appreciate the performance of the other breeds of dogs out there that are only a second or two behind our fast Borders. 

Today I am grateful that all of you feel welcome to disagree with me on my blog, that is what stimulates thinking, conversation and eventually change. There is no progress without change.  This blog will always be welcome everyone’s unique point of view (as long as in the end you all agree with me . . .  okay, just kidding)


  1. Neal S says:
    Friday, November 27, 2009 at 5:05pm

    Oooh well put Christy.

    In response to Lia, I agree with TLC in “that is simply not true.” I have a 5 year old border collie whose only blue ribbons have been in novice classes with virtually no other dogs competing, classes in which most other dogs have NQ’d, and sometimes Snooker. Although he’s a very consistent boy, other dogs, including many “off breeds” outrun him on course.


  2. TLC says:
    Friday, November 27, 2009 at 3:05pm

    “I think the top trainers all use border collies because they know that even a slow border collie is still going to “WIN” above a fast any-other kind of breed.”

    That is simply not true. Other fast breeds will beat a slow border collie. If you are a “top trainer”, and you want a border collie, you’re just not randomly picking one, because, hey, at least it will be faster than most dogs. That’s not going to get you anywhere -they’re picking the dogs they think will excel. That’s the point of the competition -excellence irrespective of if the winner is purple spotted and an Atlantis Lost Dog.

    I agree with Christy.


  3. Christy says:
    Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 12:28pm

    I’m probably going to offend quite a few people, so with that being said…
    I don’t understand the problem. When you attend a field trial it is mostly labs, lure coursing it is mostly greyhounds, earthdog is terriers, schutzhund is shepherds, etc.. Border collies happen to be a very agile breed and agility is their field trial, earthdog, and lure course. Dogs were bred for specific reasons. It just so happens that the border collie with their body style and their agile movements make agility a sport they dominate.

    I only hear the comments when it comes to the 20 (AKC) 22(USDAA) classes. But even within those highly competitive classes you can have a border collie and never win. I had a moderately fast bc that has very few blue ribbons. She could not win against the other quicker bcs and better handlers, and I think it has alot to do with handling. You could have the fastest bc and never win if you don’t know how to handle (that’s my problem now). I know a guy that started off with schnauzers and went to Nationals, Invitationals, etc and has done very well. He got a bc and does very well with that dog. He is an exceptional handler.

    Agility is a such a fun sport to compete in and I think it tends to be a case of sour grapes. Rightfully so? I don’t know. Maybe if you go in looking at it that bc dominate the sport it might not be so hard to accept. I wouldn’t attend a field trial and ask for a special class for my bc because I know I wouldn’t win. But as much as we want to place all the blame on the breed I think it has more to do with the handler. I see the same handlers winning and getting to the finals. Maybe we should have a different class for the exceptional handlers.


  4. Lia says:
    Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 2:59am

    Maybe some of the top trainers should just start training with any-breed-but-border-collie and show the world that they too can take some other breed, maybe even a rescued shelter mutt, to the top as they could with a border collie. I think the top trainers all use border collies because they know that even a slow border collie is still going to “WIN” above a fast any-other kind of breed.


  5. Jean says:
    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 11:32pm

    ABBC is a good idea. Seeing all the BCs is a little boring. My lab’s sire was in the USDAA finals in 2004 or 2005 and it was a thrill. We can dream. VBG

    No offense intended but I find the AKC Invitational hard to watch because the quality of competition is lacking. I applaud their attempt to showcase all breeds though.


  6. Cassie Levy says:
    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 9:59am

    I think the ABBC would be a great idea. I run my Rottweilers in agility and it is not uncommon for people who have never seen my Emma run to come up to me after one of her runs and comment on what a superb and FAST dog she is. I am very, very proud of my Emma. That being said, she will just not ever be capable of doing what the Border Collies can do. Emma is agile, quick and nimble for her size, but she easily outweighs the border collies by anywhere from 30 – 60 lbs! That’s a whole lot more dog to haul around the course. I put my Rotties in Specials from day one to try and extend their agility days, and while in Specials we did have a lot of success as we were often paired up with more “non-BCs” and thus is was a more equal playing field. However, now that she’s in the 16″ Vets. we are competing amongst many great veteran BCs and dogs that are just way out of our physical capabilities range. It’s not that I want to “sand-bag” and play in shallower pools, its just that no matter how great Emma runs, she will never be physically capable of doing what the BCs can do. Putting a 22″ Specials dog into the 16″ vets class is like putting a moose in a herd of gazelles! LOL
    I also am now raising a young BC and I made this choice facing a lot of grief from my Rottweiler friends. I did not do it so that I “could win”, I did it to experience something new and to see where I could push myself in my own training.
    Training a Rottweiler in agility is no easy feat and I have to say that there are days that it is a little discouraging to have some of your best runs ever and then to not even make the top ten. I honestly know it’s not about the wins and I am very proud of even Emma’s wildest runs, even when she gets more off courses than successful contacts! I just have very different concerns and considerations when I’m walking a course as I have a dog with far different physical capabilities and I need straighter approaches to the contacts etc. Although she is very agile, Newton’s Laws of Physics still apply to agility. If a n 85 lb dog is hurtling sideways towards a dogwalk plank, she will NOT be able to just flip onto it sideways, she’s going to continue right off the side. LOL So long story… long (sorry!) I think this would be a really nice way to highlight some of our non-BC greats!


  7. Julie says:
    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 9:28pm

    Hi Susan,

    I think one of the major hurdles of having an ABBC class is that there will be some that will register their dogs as an AB (all breed) in order to hedge their bets on getting into the finals. There are a lot of non registered BCs that may be atypical in colour or coat to consider them a mix, but are BCs. I think the last thing that any of us want to see is both the regular class and a ABBC class filled with BCs.


  8. Rosemary B. says:
    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 4:55pm

    We talk about “fastest” and in trials, the time is absolute. However, “fastest” is really relative. If you consider the weight, height, stride length, etc. of the different breeds, and if there were a way to calculate and compare their mechanics, I think many individuals from other breeds would turn out to be “fastest”.


  9. MicheleA. says:
    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 12:58pm

    I don’t have a BC, I run in the 8″ class, but I would LOVE to see a ABBC class….from a spectator stand point I will not even watch agility on TV because they only showcase the BC’s, I can’t tell 1 apart from the other, they are a very talented breed but there are lots of other talented dogs out there who don’t get there fair share of fame.


  10. Gina says:
    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 9:31am

    This is not a comment, but a question. Susan, when you say that 7 dogs would have beaten Wings in the Steeplechase Semi-Finals but for a bar, I am wondering how those bars affect the time of the run. My own observation is sometimes the dog gains time–didn’t jump as high and ran through the bar–and sometimes loses time–slams into the bar and stutters momentarily before regaining speed. I usually don’t compare clean runs to non-clean runs for this reason. My question is are you certain that for a bar all 7 dogs would have posted faster times than Wings?


  11. Jo says:
    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 8:39am

    It could be worse. In one association I compete in here in Australia ALL heights compete against each other. Yep thats right, regardless of breed or size we run the same courses and have the same standard course times. And the 200 and 300 height dogs have to win against the BCs to achieve their championship. Next year for the first time the Nationals will be run in individual heights so the tide is turning…but not fast enough for those of us with mini dogs (even though I own BCs too)


  12. Theresa Litourneau says:
    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 2:18am

    I think it would be great to have an ABBC class. I love watching fast BC’s. Truly !
    I have only attended,( as a spectator ) one USDAA trial and to be honest, I thought it was kind of boring . There were only about 12 or so dogs of other breeds participating at this particular trial, the rest were BC’s.
    I remember thinking then, how I missed seeing fast dogs of other breeds.


  13. Kathy Smith says:
    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 1:56am

    I have a little different take on it.
    I think that those at the top levels who succeed have the mindset that you NEED a Border Collie to win. I think those people are very very talented and could have very good success with a mixed breed or other breeds that are physically able. What I see is all the top handlers have BCs so is this just a case of getting what is percieved as the right dog and then the dog having the winning edge because of good training and handling??
    I have seen some pretty stunning Viszlas lately and some pretty amazing mixed breeds with no BC in them and I of course own non-bcs… Kelpies. Two Kelpies came in first and second in a jumpers run in our Regionals this year and mine had a bobble and looked at an offcourse tunnel and slowed (she was in second). Both dogs were very close to the BCs times and my young 26″ boy was also just as fast jumping 4 inches higher.
    I think it is about handling and the top people know how to shave fractions of a second off. I saw that Terv run… he was amazing! Could he have tightened up that run?? Could one of the top BC handlers have tightened up the run and got better times?? Hard to know since I don’t know of any top handlers that go from BCs to an alternate breed but it seems as handlers get better they get a Border Collie so we may never know!


  14. Lora says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 10:50pm

    I run a little dog, so I’m not really affected by the introduction of an ABBC class (although an ABSS class might be nice too! Just kidding.) I don’t do a ton of USDAA because it seems like the entire structure is set up to be a “BC party.” I feel excluded just by shear numbers. Having an ABBC class would be a nice gesture I think to make even those of us who don’t directly compete with the BC’s feel like we are at least wanted in USDAA.


  15. Tracy says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 9:19pm

    I guess…I do see the point about showing everyone that any dog can do it, go have fun, but I feel like an ABC class is trying to get USDAA to fit your (the general form of “your”) criteria, rather than trying a venue that fits you. There’s NADAC, AKC, AKC Invitational, AAC, CPE…

    I think USDAA is a very specific type of competition, as all these others are their own type, too. I guess I’m just trying to (politely) say I like USDAA as it is: not for every dog. I feel like, if you add a second class, you’re saying, well, we’re trying a little more to make it for every dog. Does anyone win in Veteran’s Showcase? It all looked like they got the same ribbon, so I wasn’t sure.

    And too…just a general observation, but, most people who seem to make agility a lifestyle/make a living off of it/go to multiple nationals…have border collies. If these people picked out an athletic, drivey, and lithe all-american at the pound, would this discussion be taking place?


  16. Marcella Ward says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 8:11pm

    Though I don’t have time to visit as often as I’d like, I love reading your blog updates Susan! I myself haven’t been in the sport very long, have many friends with great border collies, and hope to have one myself someday, but my little mutt with a lot of heart definitely has potential. It’s great to see such a positive and overall attitude from someone so well known. I think it encourages others to consider ideas that would otherwise be dismissed. The ABBC class sounds sooo good especially since I hope that one of these days possible, Shimmer and I may hope to at least have a shot at making it to semifinals and then finals. Since she’s my first agility dog we have our little problems and still have much room for improvement, but she’s such a quick dog and I’d love to let her show her potential. It’s so good to appreciate the sport the way you do and be considerate of everyone. You’re really a great inspiration to the agility world, and I only hope people learn as much from you as I have!


  17. Sally says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 8:11pm

    Not entirely because whatever way you look at it you take pot luck with the dog you get. I am not sure my second BC will be any more competitive then my first. A lot of agility just isn’t about speed and more about getting the best out of whatever particular dog your running. Whilst its a sport that BCs excel if you use the analogy of a high performance sports car, in the hands of a teenager or inexperienced driver that same high performance sports car could be a disaster.

    While I admire a fast dog handled well for as many fast dogs handled well there are likely a number who aren’t handled well.

    I guess it comes down to the reason for participating and whether your a win at all costs type of personality or whether your happy to settle for a dog that is more fitted with your lifestyle. If then becomes a vicious circle, if they are care that much about winning then they probably have a lifestyle suited to a BC. They obviously intend on devoting copious lengths of time to training to reach the pinnacle in the sport they have selected so I am not sure there is a mismatch.


  18. Jo Ussery says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 7:53pm

    I run a 16 inch dog so do not have an axe to grind so to speak & I think an abbc class would be great. I sometimes rent DVDs by trainers that have a variety of dogs that they use in their videos just because I am so tired of BCs shown in training videos(I do like BCs, don’t get me wrong). I have a great, smart, fast little guy that will only work for food so love trainers that help with that because not all dogs are so intense with toys. Thank you Susan for bringing this up. There are great dogs out there that deserve recognition.


  19. Michelle says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 6:13pm

    Great conversation.

    Sally, not meaning anything negative, but I think you somewhat contradict yourself in that your next BC you were more selective of the stock so you could be more competitive with your peers.

    Lets call a spade a spade. You will get fast dogs of other breeds, non BCs. However, these are the exception. You can get a field Golden, Lab, etc. or racey other breeds that can put their paws to the metal, but! But, typically, the class of BCs are going to takeover and typically do the winning. It is what it is. We are seeing more people that owned non BCs get BCs because they want to compete in that league. Some people get the bug and want to take it to that level. Others get the bug but are happy to compete as best they can with their non BC, that would be me. I love to watch the dynamo BCs. I am in awe and inspired. I “could” have a BC, I do not feel sorry for myself. It is my choice afterall. A point to consider is that the non BCs owners respect their breed, do the best they can but remember, that they are not BCs and not push them to lengths unreasonable for their dog. To feel you need to make a point that you have beat a BC with your non BC really isnt a healthy attitude. My Springer came second to Janet Lundy’s BC at a trial of 4 Steeplechase runs. She knocked a bar and still beat me, BUT, my dog ran fantastic that night, it is a night I will never forget. Janet even complimented our runs as did the judge. Did I feel I had to beat Janet, of course not. I was thrilled with how we did and being second to her with her great comraderie was all I could have asked for.

    An ABBC class would be fun, it would compliment other breeds that participate in the sport and some people might actually see other breeds qualities and look elsewhere than just to a fast BC, they might go to a fast Papillion or something.

    Get the dog you want and have fun!!


  20. Sally says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 5:47pm

    I guess I would support an ABBC class however with reservations. I happen to run one of those not so lightening fast BCs – some of which was a result of training but some of it is because she just isn’t a high drive personality type dog. To some extent I believe that breed shouldn’t really enter the equation and in my view how is your slightly less fast anything else breed any different to my not warp speed BC. Just because a dog is a BC doesn’t automatically make them a world class agility champion. I didn’t get my BCs to be champions at anything but rather as a breed that fits with my lifestyle. Although dog 2 was purchased with more consideration given to where she was from.

    I do have to say though it was nice to see a Dane running agility when I was fortunate enough to attend 1 agility championship that was located in my home state.


  21. Tori says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 5:00pm

    I have to say, I lean more towards what Jen said, “but it seems like just the introduction of a separate class is sort of admitting defeat” I feel like, if I have an “off” breed that has a shot at winning, I don’t even want to be bothered with the other championship or other title. I want to run with the “thoroughbreds” only.

    There were a TON of fabulous breeds at the USDAA nationals that were not border collies, as you have stated. However, what I noticed was not a lack of acknowledgment, just a lack of these dogs in the finals. For example, there was a *huge* Great Dane running (really awesome working team). After each one of their runs there was tons of applause. But if this is not enough, and it’s just the finals people want their non-border collie breeds in, I ask…why? (Unless you have earned your place there of course.) Is it not enough to go out and have the best time in the world with your dog, or is the blue ribbon a necessity these days? As far as I’m concerned, the recognition is there – though perhaps I’m just somewhat naive. I try to strive for a metaphoric win with all of my dogs – I want them to run to their potential and have fun. If that’s first place – awesome. If it’s last – awesome. Again, really fun and interesting topic.


  22. Jen says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 4:27pm

    Interesting conversation but I’m conflicted about this topic. As someone who runs an “other” and is routinely beaten by Border Collies (despite my dog being a ‘fastish’ dog), I hate the idea of admitting that nothing can possibly beat a Border Collie. While it may be completely true that Border Collies are the ‘thouroughbreds” of agility, I still like to dream that someday if all the stars align, I could possibly still beat the fastest of the fastest with my chosen breed of dog. Now, granted the best I could probably hope for is to be the fastest of the slowest, I still like to dream!

    Of course with your system, as you said, you could still compete for both titles which would be awesome but it seems like just the introduction of a separate class is sort of admitting defeat?

    On the other hand, I really can see the good points of this idea and think it would be a good thing for a variety of breeds to be seen so like I say, I’m conflited! 🙂


  23. Julie says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 4:16pm

    I love the idea ABBC idea. I love agility and I love being competitive, but I am just not a Border Collie type of person. I live with and play agility with whippets.

    I think having a way to show case other breeds at the national level would contribute greatly to the sport. I think seeing other breeds who are outstanding at agility, but may not be as fast as the top boarder collies would encourage people with that breed to try the sport. I also think it makes watching the sport more exciting. Every breed runs, jumps and climbs with a different style. I think diversifying the sport by acknowledging other breeds at a National level would be a big plus.

    Thanks for putting forth the idea.


  24. Tina says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 3:31pm


    I really appreciate this topic. I do not run a BC. I actually run a very talented Siberian and have a young Vizsla. Altho, It doesnt effect me too much because I am happy to run with my dogs and see the huge success they achieve being that of a non traditional breed. But, I think it would boost the number of people that would train harder and work for higher goals if they thought they might have a fighting chance in these events with all the BC out there. Love the idea and hope to see something work out in the future.


  25. Tracy says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 2:04pm

    If you say pretty soon agility will be all border collies, isn’t there a deeper problem? People shouldn’t be buying border collies because they will win agility events. People should buy the breed of dog they enjoy living with -not to get a blue ribbon. If you look at it that way, why is the ABC class even necessary? If my dog places as well as he can with his physical build -whether it is built for agility or not -that’s winning. If I don’t place as well as I could -not winning.

    If someone wants to compete to be the fastest of the not fastest -then isn’t why they have breed specialties? Someone could create an all breed (not including border collies) specialty or nationals, if they really felt passionate about it. I think the AAC system is built so not always the border collie wins (currently); maybe people should compete there with their “off breeds”. Like you said, USDAA Nationals is very unique in it’s type of competition (not making it better than any other type of national or world competition…just different) -why change it? I don’t think it’s USDAA’s job or place to create an ABC class.

    If any of my golden retrievers could still do agility, I have no problem with them not being fast enough to make certain levels of finals. They best of what they can be is the best. The Olympics don’t have classes for people who aren’t built for running…?


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 2:47pm

      You know Tracy I also thought about the comparison to the Olympics, but at the end of the day are we not just showcasing our family pets? What harm would it do to show the world not only the fastest, but also the fastest of the rest of the dog world, other than our “thoroughbreds”. If the mentality of only let the best into the finals ruled, we would have no Performance Grand Prix or Veteran Showcase. What I am suggesting would not take away from the USDAA event but add to it. It wouldn’t add a lot of time, I mean with dogs doing runs at 30 seconds on average now, all I am suggesting with 3 extra dogs in each class is an additional 5-6 minutes of time, tops!


  26. Betty belliveau says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 11:34am

    I think an ABBC class is a good idea . And I run only border collies ;c) Oh and some times a student’s sheltie.


  27. Mikey says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 11:32am

    With my pretty fast and dead accurate little Lab, I could wait for the BCs to fault out — we’d beat them about 1/2 the time. That said, I think ABC classes would be great, although to a certain extent, competing at different height levels replaces that. I *think* you are talking about USDAA, which is the one venue I don’t compete in and I’m not sure how heights figure into the USDAA whatever-it-was-thing that you all were at. 😉

    I’ve often wished that the AKC would allow “Group” type placements in agility trials. That would certainly encourage folks with breeds you don’t see very often. There is a woman locally with a HUGE Dane, and he has to duck and crawl though the tunnel. At the max height, he’ll never beat a BC (or a Lab!), but if he could get a nice Group placement ribbon that would be beyond fun.


  28. Sherry Moore says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 11:04am

    Hmmmm……Susan, if you get a different breed, a breed that can run the same height as your BC’s, my bet is with the success you will have, others will search out that breed and lo and behold, at least one other breed will show up in the championships, hopefully ending the thoroughbred example you gave in your blog today. I’m just saying, hehhehe!!!!!!!!!


  29. Sam says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 10:39am

    Over here (in the UK) we have a seperate qualifier for ABC dogs which is open to all dogs except border collies, working sheepdogs (BC’s without paperwork) or crosses with BC in them. The top dogs from these qualifiers (cant remember how many exactly but I think it’s the top 4) go through to a semi and then the top 10 go through to the final at the Olympia horse show just before christmas. It used to be run so that the final would be the top ten different breeds but was changed a few years back so that it was just the top ten placed dogs (although a handler can only qualify one dog for the final). Does mean you see alot of kelpies and belgian shepherds – looking at this years finalists there are 3 kelpies, 4 Belgians, a lurcher, a cross and a beardie.

    Some shows also put on an ABC class that doesn’t act as a qualifier but is just another option – the BC’s will generally have a BC class to enter if they do.


  30. Jan V says:
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 10:10am

    Encore on left (dog’s right). Both beautiful dogs!

    Love your idea… would allow head-to-head competition with the best, yet allow other breeds to be showcased!

    Lynda’s puppy is adorable – safe travels to all on your long journey home.


Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *