By Deanna Levenhagen
There are many collies out there shown on a competitive level. Collies have and currently are excelling in each of the venues offered by the AKC (conformation, obedience, rally, agility, herding, and tracking). And, there are many collies that compete in more than one venue. There are, however, a select few collies and their owners that compete in most, if not all, of these venues. That takes not only extreme dedication by the owner, but also a special collie to take on all of these venues competitively. It takes a versatile collie that can do it all.
There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about training, developing, and competing with a versatile collie. The first thing is that it takes a special collie. Although most collies have an innate desire to please their owners, not all collies have a strong, outgoing personality that can stand up to the rigors and stresses of competing in all the venues. Aside from the personality, there are obvious physical traits that are important for excelling in each venue. Although some of these traits can be taught, the successful versatile collie will have these components as part of their personality and make-up. If the collie is missing or weak in one of these areas, competing in the venue that needs that missing component will be difficult. Many collies have the personality and ability to compete in multiple venues. But, it is truly a special collie that is able to compete in all of them.
Aside from finding that special collie, a versatile collie has to be with an owner that wants to do it all. A collie can have the ability to do a lot of things, but if the owner doesn't foster, train, and develop the skills, it won't matter.
Aside from finding that special collie, a versatile collie has to be with an owner that wants to do it all. A collie can have the ability to do a lot of things, but if the owner doesn't foster, train, and develop the skills, it won't matter. Obviously, the more venues the collie is involved in, the bigger the commitment of time, money, and training for the owner. And these commitments are year around from the time the collie is a puppy to even after the collie is retired from competition.
Training a versatile collie for multiple venues can have its advantages. Although the skills and requirements between the venues aren't the same, the partnership developed with your collie in one venue carries over to all the others.
There's no question it takes a lot of time, money, and commitment to have a versatile collie. Not only does it need to be the right kind of collie, but it also needs to be a good match for the owner and their training style. How many times have we seen a collie do well with one handler and not with another? The same thing applies to the versatile collie.
From a training perspective, it isn't unusual for the versatile collie and their owner to attend formal training classes at least 4 nights a week. Consider that for each venue the collie will be active in, the owner is likely participating in at least one class a week for training, development, and refinement in that sport. That doesn't leave much time for any other interests, especially if you have a full-time job to support your "dog habit." Versatile collies and their owners have to enjoy training because they do A LOT of it.
Training a versatile collie for multiple venues can have its advantages. Although the skills and requirements between the venues aren't the same, the partnership developed with your collie in one venue carries over to all the others. And there are many times when you reach a training road block in one venue that you can draw from skills and commands the dog knows from those other venues to help. But, this cross-training can also be detrimental. There is always some carryover from the previous training session that can impact training for another venue. Realize that the dog still has those past training sessions in their mind and can't just shut them off. It isn't unlikely for the dog to still be thinking about the requirements from the last training session even though you are training something completely different. So, as the trainer of a versatile collie, you always have to be aware of things that could be running through your dog's mind and consider their perspective. Additionally, you have to keep track of past training sessions (what was worked on, what was working, where the stumbling blocks were, etc.) and try to keep all those details straight from training session to training session across each of the venues.
I and other owners of versatile collies are very fortunate to be able to experience first hand all the wonderful things the collie is capable of excelling in.
Although training itself can be very rewarding, one of the obvious goals following the hours of training is to trial/show. And, just like virtually every night of the week will be filled with training, it is likely that nearly every weekend will be committed to trialing/showing. Consider the collie that competes in at least four venues. With four weekends in a month, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that IF there are no trial/show conflicts and IF there is a trial available and IF there is money to enter and travel, you have to trial every weekend just to get one chance at a championship point or a qualifying leg in each venue the collie is involved in. Of course, attending the trial/show doesn't guarantee a win or qualifying leg. There are many weekends where things just don't work out and you come home empty handed.
Aside from the training and trialing, the versatile collie is not going to be a couch potato or low key member of your household. Because they have the personality and traits to compete in multiple venues, they are going to want to be active most all of the time. That includes at home. And, if they aren't kept busy, they'll find something to occupy their energy and brain. Versatile collies are constant thinkers, problem solvers, and multitaskers. Their brain doesn't turn off when training or competing is over. It is constantly on and they want to work. It doesn't mean that they don't enjoy down time or relax. They will, but the versatile collie will definitely be an active and creative member of your household.
I have personally trained and competed with two versatile collies. It has been a lot of work and full of both up's and down's. But, it has been and continues to be a very rewarding experience. I and other owners of versatile collies are very fortunate to be able to experience first hand all the wonderful things the collie is capable of excelling in.