The speed and flexibility of a Border Collie is perfect for many agility tasks, including those that are extremely competitive. Border Collies have a mindset – they will run and run with a prize in mind, whether singly or in teams.
The physiology of a Border collie lends itself to flexibility, in that it can almost bend itself in half, making agility tests easy for them. If there is one drawback, it is the size of your dog when competing, as some smaller dogs are just as fast and equally as ‘bendy’. But it is the spirit of the dog that will always shine through in competitive work or play.
It is important to consider when owning a Border Collie that the spirit they possess must be controlled, in spite of their tremendous will to please their owners. It is imperative that you keep your dog ‘busy’ at all times, otherwise you may find yourself in a reverse situation – he or she will be controlling you. They must have tasks to complete, which is why agility activities are of prime importance. Obviously, the working dog can exhaust themselves with farm work, but those that are kept primarily as pets can soon become bored and frustrated. This is no easy journey, it will take time and effort, but the results are those of sheer pleasure when these dogs are in action.
Almost anything complex where your dog needs to use their brain is an absolutely perfect activity for them, but coupled with their rapid speed is the ultimate scenario. Anyone who has owned a Border Collie will know just how much they love chasing balls – they will literally do this for hours and hours. Catching balls or any non-dangerous item will have your dog leaping high in the air from side to side, never wanting to miss one aimed at his sphere.
It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that the Kennel Club recognised both Border Collie working dogs and show dogs as different entities. Now with the addition of agility, this breed has become the most popular to use in competitive trials in indoor arenas, such as Crufts. When trials such as agility and flyball are underway, the arena is always packed with people wanting to see the dogs in action. It’s both exciting and fun and watchers on are enthusiastic to say the least.
If you are keen to progress your dog in agility, start simply and be patient. Use your garden to set up jumps, use polytunnels for them to wiggle their lithe bodies through, and a homemade set of posts to bend and weave their way through. If you happen to have an old see-saw, even better for them to learn balance in a marked area. Once your dog has mastered these four tasks, you can then consider a more professional set of tasks for them to complete, which hopefully leads you on to competition, if you want to.
Most counties have quite a few agility groups and classes, so consider checking those out if you are serious about competing. Your dog will have the ability to mix with other dogs and owners with the same aim and they will normally have full sets of equipment for your dogs to practice on ready for competition.
Flyball is one of the most entertaining activities for your dog – it really is such fun for them and for you.
Flyball is a team competition, where two teams of 4 dogs compete against each other in adjoining lanes on a track and is based on a ‘knockout’ over several heats.
Your dog will be expected to run at fast speed down the track, catch a tennis ball that is released from a specially constructed machine and then run like the wind back down the track. When the dog reaches the finishing line (from where they started), the next dog will run and do the same. If the ball is dropped during the run, then that dog has to go again after the last dog has competed!
Early starts from dogs are not allowed, the previous dog must cross the line before the second, third or fourth is released by the handler! The team that completes the task with no penalties, normally progresses to another heat or two, then semi finals and finals. It’s fast, fun and quite enthralling! Excitement reigns with participants and the crowd! There are many Flyball clubs nationwide, so contact the British Flyball Association if you are interested in joining a team.
Disc Dog is another competitive sport, started around the early 1970’s and growing in popularity. Whilst it is not performed in high ranking dog shows, it can be seen around the country at smaller shows and trials. The name somewhat gives it away – a disc similar to a frisbee is thrown for your dog to catch – the further the catch the better. There are other variations on Disc Dog, such as those choreographed to music in freestyle form. Originating in the United States, it is growing in popularity in the UK.
Your Border Collie loves nothing more than being challenged. Their sense of enjoyment at such tasks is clearly manifested during competition work at whatever level they are able to reach. Take it slow, work with them regularly and you will have a very contented dog. Recognition and reward will surely come your way for both you and your happy hound.