By Michele Brane, Branestorm Collies
"Doing it all" with your collie can be fun, but it takes time, money, commitment – and the right dog!
Our "Lark" doing so well at the Collie Club of America National Specialty this year, just one week after she competed and placed at the AKC Agility National Finals, was beyond our wildest dreams. But "doing it all" comes at a cost, and there are things that you need to consider if you decide that you want your own "Wonderdog."
It might be easier if you're retired and independently wealthy. However if you, like many of us, need to work and have a limited amount of vacation, you have to decide if this is really what you want to do. When other people are going to the beach in the summer, or going away on a nice vacation during the year, you'll be using your vacation days and extra time to travel to and from shows and/or show your dog, or to go to seminars or training weekends, train your dog, or lay track for tracking. You'll also be spending a lot of money on entry fees, trainers, shoes, boots, rain gear, training treats, shade tents, various leashes and collars, agility equipment, stock for herding practice (or rental of stock if you're not able to keep it on your property), scent articles and jumps for obedience, possibly handlers, and on and on. Some competitors even buy motor homes in which to travel to all the events, or at least a larger van or SUV to carry all the 'stuff'.
It's most important that you consider your dog if you want to "do it all." Some collies can do it all – and some just can't. Some collies don't have the temperament or drive to do multiple venues. We had a sweet boy who WALKED through agility courses, and was not the least bit interested in obedience, but he did love herding, so we did that as far as he could go. Lark is happy doing herding, obedience, rally and conformation, but she actually gets depressed when she's not competing in agility over a weekend or two, and she gently reminds my husband Brian when it's "time to go practice" when he is working from home. When Lark had a litter, she, as a friend commented, couldn't figure out what she did that was so terrible that she wasn't allowed to do agility for 8 weeks. So remember that collies who "do it all" LIKE to be doing things, though they usually happily snooze on the sofa in between.
Some dogs just aren't physically able to do a lot of advanced herding or agility, even if they have the drive, because their structure limits them. However, these dogs may be outstanding inobedience and rally, and may also
wonderful Therapy Dogs.
It is also important to find a trainer with whom you are comfortable working and who can also help you figure out the best way to keep your dog a happy worker. You need to determine what training techniques work best for YOUR dog, because even a happy, willing, sound collie can be shut down with the wrong training – or miscues from you! If you are doing multiple things with your collie, you will find that they often complement one another – techniques you learn in obedience – sit, stay, wait – carry over to herding, and a dog who is comfortable working away from you in herding, may also be comfortable working away from you in agility.
If your collie really isn't happy doing a venue, seriously consider how important it is that they do it. You may dream of having a dog that has advanced titles in everything, but time, interest on the part of you or your dog, injury to the dog, or money may dictate otherwise. You may not be able to get that last UD leg or finish the MXJ or MACH, or get that last leg for an HX on sheep, but you still have your wonderful, loving companion whose life you share and with whom you've had so much fun. When my dear "Morgen" was near leaving us, I didn't lament that she didn't do more in obedience, herding, agility or conformation. I just wanted to see her lovely floating trot one more time, tail wagging, eyes dancing as we took our walk when I got home from work each day. No matter how bad a day I'd had, her joy of living brought a smile to my face and lightened my heart.
So, keep it all in perspective, have fun, and "do it all" in all that you can!