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Recommended sheepdog trialing organizations?

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Hello all,


Long time since I've posted. Mojo and I have been *very* busy! :D


So, Mojo still has hip dysplasia in both hips, and lumbar disc disease, AND paroxysmal dyskinesia (now confirmed by a neurologist, but thankfully remaining stable). We are still out of agility because it seems it wasn't the jumping that was bothering him so much, but the weaving (his disc disease appears to trouble him more than his hips do). Shortly after his diagnosis, I sadly put away all of our yard agility equipment for good, and started taking him to a chiropractor twice a month (now down to maintenance therapy once a month). We were initially doing hydrotherapy (underwater treadmill) once a week, but then I switched to actual swim therapy (in a lap pool, easier on his joints) 1-2x per week, and give him daily salmon oil, SAM-e, and glucosamine/chondroitin/perna/MSM. I replaced all the decorative dog beds in the house with orthopedic ones, bought him stairs to help him get on/off the human bed, don't allow him to jump into or out of the SUV (I carry him), and I basically try my best to keep his jumping onto/off of things to a strict minimum. Thus, all this extra care adds up to make Mojo completely sound to walk, run, hike....and HERD. Yup, I said HERD. :D


We were focusing on competitive obedience and rally for a while, and still are training in these activities, but through an unexpected chain of events, we ended up trying out herding lessons again this past January. Since that time, we have had lessons 2-3x per week, approximately 2 weeks out of the month, and the amazing news is that Mojo has lost none of his initial interest in sheep, and has actually managed to surprise all of us--including his trainer, me, and basically everyone else who's seen him since--because, despite appearances, he really seems to be a working dog, after all! To be sure, he may not be the world's most *talented* herding dog, but he definitely has the desire to work, and even some small amount of ability!! In short, Mojo not only has some gathering and fetching instincts, but he is also perfectly okay taking training pressure (as long as I am the one giving it. He refuses to work for anyone else except me, which is a difficulty unto itself since I have no previous herding experience, but we are doing the best we can). In fact, we are actually just now starting to get him to rate, widen out, and even put flanking commands on him! Who would ever have thought??? As much as he used to love agility, and as much as he still enjoys obedience training and trick training, it is all absolutely nothing compared to how much he loves to work sheep--he will try to work those sheep until he literally collapses from either physical or mental exhaustion (I try and stop him before we get to that point, of course)! One time we even worked in the pouring rain and mud, and it never even slowed him down....and this is the same dog that is reluctant to leave the house to use the bathroom if he sees it is raining outside. :D Trust me, we are all VERY surprised.


The most super, fantastic news out of all of this is that my whole reason for starting agility with him to begin with was to help boost his confidence and get him over his extreme leash reactivity by involving him in an activity where he would be so focused on the activity itself that it would help desensitize him to being leashed around other dogs (in addition, of course, to a formal socialization/desensitization program--I actually hosted an entire series of weekly Control Unleashed classes at our house on Mojo's behalf earlier this year)....and as horribly disappointed as I was once agility became a dead end for us due to his newfound orthopedic issues, and despairing that I would ever get Mojo to act normally in public when leashed (he is a *model* citizen when UNleashed), I really am now ecstatic that herding is actually accomplishing this desensitization for us in a way that I had never even dared to imagine with agility! As I've read so many others describe on this Board, when my dog is around sheep, the one and only thing he cares about is the sheep--all other things, including leashed dogs, gardeners, and everything else that normally makes him go barking mad--completely ceases to exist!! Heck, even I hardly matter!!! :D If sheep are around, I never even need to get out the clicker and treats, compared to when we were waiting for our turn in agility, where Mojo would still react to the presence of other dogs coming and going.....hip, hip, hooray!!!!!!


So, in conclusion, things are going great, and our trainer has actually suggested that we THINK ABOUT TRIALING IN HERDING....but since Mojo is more than likely not purebred, I am not sure what organization we should set as a training goal, and this is why I'm posting now, to ask for your kind recommendations. The main problem is that he is unregistered, and frankly, we have no idea what breed or breed mix he is, so I'm not sure where to start with trying to enter him in a trial, especially if we attempt to pursue non-USBCHA venues.


**Just as an FYI for anyone who may not already be familiar with us, I picked up Mojo on the streets of Los Angeles as a neutered middle-aged (best guess) stray about 2.5 years ago, so I have no idea what he "is," and have no history on him whatsoever. More than likely, he is some kind of herding-breed mix. For all I know, however, Mojo is a purebred BC who sort of looks like a spaniel, or a spaniel that somehow is a throwback to some long-lost wolf ancestor that bequeathed him the ability to gather and fetch without his necessarily having any specific herding breed in him at all. :D Mojo works completely upright, and is basically a loose-eyed dog (though sometimes I think he has a tiny bit of eye). I do think he *looks* mostly Australian Shepherd, and has the guardian instincts to match, but is colored like a white-factored BC, and is rough-coated....however, our trainer thinks he herds just like an Australian Cattle Dog (and his guarding instincts, love of barking, and especially his one-person nature, would fit there, too). The DNA mixed-breed tests were completely unhelpful: one came back as totally inconclusive (no breeds found), and a second test with a different company showed nothing in the first generation, Shih Tzu in the second, and Doberman in the third, which is far from being anywhere close to believable, based on Mojo's appearance.**


Given all of the above, I am sorry to ask my questions on a purebred BC forum, but I thought the members here would be most knowledgeable about the different sheepdog trialing organizations. Thanks in advance, as always, for any advice!


1) USBCHA: naturally, my first choice, since I know for a fact that unregistered dogs can compete....but how hard IS this? I suspect Mojo isn't talented enough for USBCHA, but I just wanted to make sure that I at least explored this possibility for him. Thus:


--Novice-Novice IS the lowest level, right?

--I am also confused at the difference between Novice and Nursery--which is harder?

--Is Nursery only for dogs below a certain age? If I don't know how old Mojo actually is, could we still compete in Nursery?


There is not much information that I can find about these trials online, especially Novice-Novice. As far as I understand it, USBCHA does not officially sanction trials at this introductory level, so it is up to local clubs to determine the course and level of difficulty; if that is correct, it sure makes it difficult for someone like me to figure out if my dog is, or could ever be, ready for this level of trialing...I certainly wouldn't want to have a terrible experience because I inadvertently pushed him beyond what he can do--even I am not deluded as to my dog's abilities. Mojo sure can herd at this point, and is getting better at it every day, but is he ever going to be an International Supreme Champion? I think not, and for the record, I am totally fine with whatever he CAN do--I have no farm and no real need of a working dog, so this is all just FUN for us, and I am just so happy that he can herd at all, and that he derives such incredible joy and fulfillment from this activity, just as I do! I have a whole shelf full of herding books and DVDs at this point! :rolleyes: I thought we had a good relationship before, but now, getting out there and tapping into whatever deep instinct is inside of him and cultivating this ability--it is such an incredible THRILL for both of us to work together in this way, let me tell you!!


Sorry for the effusive digression:


--So, despite the lack of standardization, is there nevertheless a general level of competence that could be expected at USBCHA Novice-Novice?

--To word it another way, what would I need to have solidly trained with Mojo such that we could conceivably go to any Novice-Novice trial in the SoCal area and not embarrass ourselves?

--Should I have a certain length of outrun on him (and what would a safe length be for this level of competition?), a lift, and a fetch?

--Would he already have to know how to drive (he doesn't yet)?

--Also, ARE there ever any non-BCs, let alone mixes, at these trials?


USBCHA certainly sounds very intimidating, especially from what I've read on these Boards. Any advice would be very much appreciated.


2) AKC: I am quite aware of the sentiments regarding AKC on this Board, but with the chances of Mojo being a purebred Border Collie being highly unlikely:


--Is it then still morally wrong to support the AKC by trying to get an ILP for Mojo, even as a breed other than a Border Collie (like an Aussie)?


It has, however, been suggested to me that my best chance of getting any ILP for him at all (and that we still would have a high likelihood of being rejected) would be as a Border Collie, but I am very torn about this for many ethical reasons...although I know I would not be falsifying information because I don't know for sure that he is NOT a Border Collie, I also understand that even if Mojo looked 100% like a Border Collie, that ILPing him as a BC would only be supporting the AKC recognition of Border Collies, which I am against in principle, despite my having no current tangible or emotional investment in the Border Collie breed as a breeder or owner of a purebred BC. Of course, if we go to an AKC herding trial as an ILP BC, and subsequently crash and burn, maybe we would actually be doing some GOOD for the breed, LOL. Seriously, though, any thoughts on this?


3) ASCA, AHBA: I honestly am having trouble finding out online if either of these organizations will allow mixes or unregistered dogs to compete in HERDING, although I know, of course, that ASCA will let non-Aussie purebreds and mixes compete in regular performance events (agility, obedience, etc), since I already have the limited registration number for Mojo with ASCA since I thought we would be trialing in agility back in the fall of last year, but I cannot seem to find out if limited-registration dogs can compete in *herding* with ASCA. I am particularly interested in AHBA (compared to ASCA) since it sounds like the trial scoring in AHBA is less based on evaluating the working style of the dog, and more on whether or not the work simply gets done (especially since Mojo is not very stylish, LOL) but I really cannot seem to find out if mixes/unregistered dogs can compete in AHBA. Again, any advice on this would be deeply appreciated.


I guess my bottom-line question is the following: where would YOU start trialing with a herding dog that isn't necessarily a TALENTED Border Collie, IF one wanted to trial at all?





Koi and Mojo

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Hi Koi,


Good on you for doing such fun things with Mojo, and for exploring the working possibilities. I'll offer a bit of insight.


If you can't prove Mojo's age, you can't run in USBCHA Nursery; it's for dogs under 3 years old, essentially. Novice-novice classes, not USBCHA sanctioned, are at the host's discretion, but generally involve a short gather (around 100-150 yards), sometimes an assisted, one-leg drive, and sometimes a pen. The sheep are usually accustomed to dogs but may not be overly 'dog-broke'.


I don't trial in AKC or AHBA, but I know the ASCA program well. If you call your dog a "border collie" you will be welcome there (without any proof of heritage) and hopefully will find the venue friendly, if not overly challenging. The ASCA Started course involves basically fetching your stock around the perimeter of a fenced paddock. Generally the stock are dog-broke and compliant. There are increasing levels of difficulty as your dog achieves 'legs' in the lower classes. It can be quite a fun and encouraging venue to work a dog that is less talented, or for training certain aspects of the work.


Good luck, and have fun with Mojo, whatever you decide to do!



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Hi Koi,


It's great to read your post and hear how well herding training has worked out for Mojo.


While USBCHA does not sanction the novice classes, novice classes are often offered along with USBCHA Open and Nursery trials. You might want to try to attend a novice-novice trial as a spectator, just to see what level of work is required in that class. The list of USBCHA sanctioned trials can be found here, so you could just keep an eye on that, and if you see an upcoming trial near enough for you to attend, you could contact the information person to make sure they will be running novice-novice as well as the sanctioned classes. Right now, based on the level of training and aptitude you have described for Mojo, I think Amy's suggestion of aiming for an ASCA trial is a very good one.

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Definitely make USBCHA-style trials your goal, but while you are doing so you can also get experience and have some fun on the way, at AHBA and ASCA. AHBA is super-casual about breeds - basically if Mojo is partly trained on stock, "proving" he's a "herding breed" is a fait accompli.


There should be a list of events in your area on the AHBA web site. ASCA probably has a similar thing. If you have any questions, just e-mail the people listed as being in charge - or I know Linda Rorem would be happy to answer any questions about AHBA.


Congrats! It's terrific that you've been able to find something to improve Mojo's physical and mental health!

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The AHBA website used to have standard course diagrams (don't know if it still does, but imagine so) that would give you an idea of what might be expected at each level.


Okay, I checked and the info is still there. Go here to the AHBA home page. Scroll down to the bottom and look at the clickable links. You will find "HTD trials," "HTAD trials," and "HRD trials." If you click on any of those links, it brings up a description of the various courses and includes a link to download a PDF diagram of the course. In case you don't know, HTD = herding trial dog, and the course is set up like a mini USBCHA course. HTAD is an arena course. HRD = ranch dog and this is the course that could have the most variability and is meant to mimic practical work you might do on a farm.


Good luck and keep us posted on how you do!



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AHBA does not require proof of pedigree and herding mixed breeds are welcome in the trial classes. Not sure about the instinct classes - I think that my be restricted to herding breeds only. Rule book is online for download on their website.

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Wow, thank you so much to Amy, Diane, Eileen, Becca, Julie, Lenajo, and Soda-pop for your very helpful and detailed responses and links!


Well, I am delighted to learn that a dog like Mojo would be welcomed at ASCA and AHBA trials, and it sounds like both of these venues could be completely realistic short-term training goals for us. I definitely will keep USBCHA Novice-Novice as a long-term goal/ideal, depending on if I am ever successful in lengthening Mojo's outrun to 100-150 yards, and teaching him to drive and pen, and getting him used to working on less-broke sheep...I guess we'll just have to see what will and won't be possible as I continue to train him! I would be more than happy to keep everyone updated. :D We just had another lesson yesterday, with two more to come this weekend, and even though we are only progressing very slowly, Mojo nevertheless continues to make visible progress each and every single time he is on sheep, and has not really taken any steps back, so, you never know--maybe we *will* eventually be able to handle a USBCHA Novice-Novice course someday! If that day should ever actually come, I will absolutely go to watch a trial first to make sure that we are fully ready for that level of competition! This is all so exciting! :rolleyes:


Thank you so very much again for all of your kind advice and well wishes!!



Koi and Mojo

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