Border Collie Factory

Man, I’ve been sun-up-to-sun-down busy. We’re getting ready to get out the door for the Petit Prix in Wisconsin. In the mean time I’ve been doing some site maintenance for a TDAA trial we’re having here this weekend. That means mowing, getting the building neatened up, getting our teacup equipment ready, and so forth. I also needed a lesson plan for our Wednesday class. I usually share our lesson plans. But this one will have to escape the scrutiny of history.

This past weekend we went to a USDAA trial in Latrobe, PA. This was a shock to the system and a bit of a waker upper for me. It was a big trial. And something like 80% of the entry… was Border Collie.

While it wasn’t a particularly successful weekend for me and Kory, qualifying wise, I was happy with the development of his skills. I’ll put the bobble here and the bobble there mostly on me.

Funny thing, I went away from the trial promising myself that there’s no way I’m going to put the formidable pressure of competition on my boy, or on myself. The field of dogs in this Border Collie factory consisted of loads of dogs just as fast and as keen as Kory dog; and some of them clearly faster, scary fast. And the handlers for the most part are under-40 athletes keen and reckless themselves. The skills of both dogs and handlers spot on and high caliber.

I seek henceforth for myself is Zen-like objective, simple perfection. I will attend my own teaching, and give best effort every time. In terms of competition, I figure if I ever achieve the state of simple perfection, then I’ll accept the black-and-white measurement of the stopwatch and the score. It is what it is.

I’m a log way from perfection right now; but we’re just getting going.

It’s little wonder that people who’ve declined the dark side have run away to the low end agility venues. We really need a new venue in this country not quite so low end that appeals to the agility fan who wants to play the game with the family dog. We’re waiting!

If I’m disappointed on any level with the USDAA trial in Latrobe, it is being at a well-attended event at which the hosts had a harder time getting ring workers than dinky little trials out in the hinterlands. An agility player who does not volunteer to do some sort of work is a prima donna. I could rant on about the economics and hardships of hosting agility trials. But rational argument has failed to entice the lazy butts. So let me put it like this… everybody notices those who never pitch in to help.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

10 Responses to “Border Collie Factory”

  1. Jon Says:


    There already is a venue that appeals to the agility fan who wants to play the game with the family dog, it’s called ASCA. ASCA trials are open to all dogs and have a difficultly level in between that of USDAA and the “low end”. If you remember the “old” NADAC, with Regular, Jumpers and Gamblers, then you know ASCA.

    I really like USDAA, but the BC’s are so fast and well trained now and there are so many that if you have a 22″ dog, it’s getting really hard to get a Q in Steeplechase or a Super Q in Snooker.


    • budhouston Says:

      I used to be a big supporter of ASCA. But today I find them to be wicked political, and pretty much off the radar for me. I think DOCNA probably delivers a better product vision-wise in any case.

      • Jon Says:


        ASCA as an organization does get pretty political, however the ASCA agility committee does seem to get most of the agility decisions right. Since the NADAC/ASCA split, I can’t think of any controversial decisions by the agility committee. I think that this may have to do with the fact that decisions made by a group of agility competitors tend to better reflect the desires of those competitors compared to a single person making decisions.

        I think that you would find the typical ASCA trial refreshing compared to USDAA trials these days. As a disclaimer, I like USDAA trials and enjoy competing against all the BC’s, but it is a different trial environment.


  2. Donna Says:

    As someone new to agility and trying to get the lay of the land, I am wondering if you could explain a little bit what you mean by “low end” venues. Also, what does it mean to decline the “dark side”? I enjoy reading your blog, even if I don’t always understand everything in it!

  3. Jean Magee Says:

    I live in England ( I have spoken to you before) where we have a different system than in the US. In the UK only wins count. After G3 its 95% Border Collies. I too get discouraged by the fast handler courses. This seems to be especially true of those Judges who cant run themselves but who design courses which only a four minute miler can do. This is not dog training its running races with a dog in tow.
    The favourite this year has been courses with a box before and after the dog walk where the dog goes in all directions before going over the dog-walk and in all directions at the other end.
    Every time I come to a class that I know I can’t do I get really discouraged for a time and then go away and train it from half a field away. If only I had started when agility came out in 1978 (I was a spectator at Crufts and obedience was my thing)
    Now its a race against time with winning Agility at Olympia or Crufts the goal that keeps me going. We can all dream!

    • budhouston Says:

      I would love to have access to samples of the courses on which you must compete in England. The US tends to be myopic and self-absorbed. But it’s just a matter of time before all of that stuff trickles over here.

      Thanks for your note. I’m saving it aside as we contemplate a new venue with a rational view for course design here in the States.


  4. heneversaidhewasagod Says:


    I could be wrong, but I believe that Bud was possibly talking about CPE being the “low end” venue as CPE generally has the most lenient regulations in terms of the time allowed and the number of faults allowed while still being able to get a qualifying run. CPE is a good venue for a beginner to start and be successful. USDAA is generally considered the hardest venue to get a qualifying run.

    The “going over to the dark side” is someone who started in agility with a breed other than a Border Collie and then switched over to a Border Collie for their second agility dog in order to enhance their chances of winning.

    It ends up being a little like an arms race in USDAA in that in certain classes only the fastest, clean runs can qualify. So many competitors are always looking for the fastest breed and breeding of that breed. As Bud mentioned the 22″ Masters class in USDAA is composed mostly of scary fast BC’s.


    • budhouston Says:

      All of your observations are probably pretty accurate Jon.

      Tho I wasn’t naming names. I don’t need another nastygram from CPE. But your take on it is correct. It’s a terrific training venue.

      Let’s don’t over-look that AKC also offers a diminished standard when compared to the USDAA. It is a nice, low-end, recreational/training venue that doesn’t get bloody-minded until the dog is embroiled in the Excellent grind for the MACh and Nationals qualifier.


  5. Jan Says:

    I hate to tell you but the over 40 and even over 50 crowd did quite well at Latrobe. MY 22″ BC received a Super Q behind MEB due to strategy and not necessarily blistering speed.
    I am one of those over 40 and have had BCs for 23 years. I am not one of the reckless handlers. I am competitve and my dogs love the game. That’s all that’s important.
    As for ASCA agility, it is a great venue and place to have fun. I have no idea about ASCA’s politics, nor do I care. I care that their agility trials are fun and a great place to train a young dog or work on problems with a seasoned dog…

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