First, Kaffee is my almost 11 year old amazing Border Collie. I got him when he was 8 weeks old and started taking him places to train and learn. Back then, we did a lot of pre-agility work preparing to start agility when the dogs were between 12 and 18 months. Kaffee started agility when he was 15 months old and did very well for a few years. As the courses got more challenging he had increasing difficulty with turning due to his structure. Eventually I left agility and went to herding. My dream was always to do open field herding as I had seen done in Europe.
I took herding lessons for several years, trialed and titled Kaffee in all the novice and started herding classes in AKC, AHBA and ASC. However when the place we trained lost the larger field, I lost my interest in herding since we had to work in an arena and it seemed all I was doing was hollering at Kaffee all the time. Teaching Kaffee to drive was very hard for me.
Then we started training and more seriously showing in obedience. Kaffee got his OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion) in December 2014 when he was almost 10. This journey was long and quite stressful since Kaffee was my first obedience dog. I had a lot of stops and starts in my showing including Kaffee’s iliososas injury. I started showing and training obedience again when I worked with Catherine Zinsky in southern California. With her encouragement and support we finished Kaffee’s OTCH. Even though Kaffee was 10 years old he still was happy when he trained and went in the ring. Kaffee loves to do anything I ask him. He does it with a happy heart and happy expression.
This all made me reflect on our journey and why Kaffee, even today almost age 11, still enjoys doing obedience with happiness. When he sees his dumbbell he jumps in the air with excitement even at shows.
Kaffee is also very sound and healthy. We often go on hikes of 1-3 hours; when there is snow, he runs and runs; he loves to swim and float around in local Oak Creek; chase balls at the ocean and anywhere; and I hoped he might still enjoy and be able to do herding.
When trying to think of some other activities to do with my dogs other than drill and drill in obedience, I came up with trying herding again. However, due to my time and problems I had teaching Kaffee to drive and also wanting both dogs to herd without crazy running and chasing, my decision was to try herding with a local experienced, and excellent handler, Dawna Sims. Kaffee had worked with her before and adored her as do most of the dogs that she trains.
We only go for training once a week yet both Kaffee and Myst continued to make excellent progress. Kaffee finished his Course B (open field) Started sheep title a few months after working with Dawna and Myst just started trialing this fall. She was a challenge and certainly needed a professional to handle her but she has done very well as you can see in the videos. This past weekend she trialed in a very busy and full ASC of AZ trial. On Friday she finished first in STARTED SHEEP with 16 dogs in her class; on Saturday she finished FIRST IN STARTED GEESE with 13 dogs in her class.
I love watching both dogs enjoy their herding and do so with such intensity and focus. Such a joy for me to watch them do what they were bred for and for them to not only do well but be happy.
However, what I saw this weekend and continue to see at both herding, agility and obedience competitions is that not all dogs are happy and enjoy their sport. This is why I feel such a need to share some ways to help make dogs enjoy their work in their sport. And, it has to do with