Agility is a sport to which Border Collies are ideally suited, as they are to most dog activities. The sport consists of a series of obstacles arranged in a pattern by the judge which must be taken in a predetermined order. The obstacles consist of various jumps, a high narrow plank to walk, a tall A-frame to climb, a see saw, tire jump, two different types of tunnels and a set of 12 upright poles which the dog has to zig-zag through, known as weaving. Each course is given a completion time according to the distance to be covered. Points are lost for missing certain contact zones, knocking down jumps, taking an obstacle out of sequence and going over time.
The speed and motivation of a Border Collie are his greatest assets, but speed can be a problem. He is always anxious to be doing something, and if the handler does not snap out her commands fast enough the dog will turn in circles or flash over any obstacle in front of him. To cope with this the handler must teach the dog a name or word for each obstacle and be prepared to give it while the dog is doing the previous obstacle. It also helps if the animal knows right, left, go on straight, turn around, and go round (that obstacle you are looking at.)
The Border Collie's herding skills enable him to work at a distance from his handler, unlike all other breeds who seem to need their handlers to run with them to complete the course. Dog speed is faster than human speed, therefore a motivated Border Collie can be very competitive in an Agility Trial when unhampered by a slower human running at his side. Initially their intensity, hyperactivity, need to be "getting on with it" has to be dampened and a good "stop" order or "call off" order has to be developed. There is a saying in Obedience: "you have to teach a Border collie not to anticipate even before you teach him what he is anticipating ."
In an Agility Trial the Border Collies are the dogs to watch, the ones with the most speed, grace, and sheer athletic ability. They may not be the most accurate and therefore may be beaten by a slower but careful (boring) dog, but they are exciting and the ones who get the loudest cheers from the crowd.
For more information on agility, contact:
United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. P.O. Box 850955 Richardson, TX 75085 phone: (214) 231-97700 fax: (214) 669-8187