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Comparative skill levels between USBCHA and AKC?

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Not sure where to post this question, so posted here since this forum has a lot of activity. Please feel free to move.


This question may have been answered in other discussions, but I can't remember where or when. I apologize for any redundancies.


I have a couple of friends who are interested in herding with their dogs. One actually takes her sport-bred border collie to an all-breed trainer and has trialed a few times at AKC trials. Another one is going to get a Mudi and is considering trying some herding lessons.


Because I have not yet participated in herding with my dog and only know what I read on these Boards (and I have read a LOT and have drunk the Kool-Aid :)), I don't want to come off as an expert on herding in these typed of situations - nor do I want to make my friend with the border collie feel that all her time and money spent on participating in the AKC venue was a waste of time. She has encouraged me to bring my dog and take lessons with her, but I figure that when I go down that road, I want to do it right. I have demurred.


For my own edification, how would you compare the skills needed at the various levels in USBCHA vs. AKC? i.e. Would a novice AKC dog be able to compete at a novice level in USBCHA? And so on...


If you want to save yourself a lot of typing, feel free to provide a link any discussion that can help answer this question. I must not be searching with the right words/phrases.



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My experiences are very limited but I can say that I used to go to an all-breed trainer with my friend who had an Aussie. And, to support her, I went to a couple of non-USBCHA events at the trainer's facility. I say "non-USBCHA" because I think they were AHBA and not AKC, although many of the event classes were run on the same field and course as AKC event classes were run, and with the same sheep. My friend also ran her Aussie at another all-breed (but primarily Aussie) place in another state, as well.


What I can say is that the fields for the classes were generally very small compared to any place (including the same venue) I have been to a USBCHA-style trial. The sheep were totally dog-broke (they were lesson sheep) and knew the course inside-out so if the dog was at all reasonable and the handler walked backwards through the course, the sheep would follow. They might have even followed without a dog present!


I think there may well be some AKC-oriented trainers and facilities that endeavor to offer more challenging courses and sheep, but I think they are probably very much in the minority. After all (and this is my belief from what I've seen and heard), these trainers and facilities make their money from keeping an AKC-oriented clientele happy, and most of those people I've seen have AKC-registered dogs, not serious working dogs (although I'd probably be tarred-and-feathered to say that to their faces), and are interested in achieving their version of success by winning ribbons and titles, and not really preparing for challenging stock work. JMO.


While I would not begin to tell your friend what to do, I applaud you for choosing to go with a USBCHA-oriented instructor and trials when and if the time comes. I don't think you will regret it.


PS - USBCHA only sanctions the Open and Nursery classes. When I say "USBCHA" I do mean those people who train with USBCHA Open (and Nursery) in mind as a goal, and utilize USBCHA-type courses in their trials and training.

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Because I have not yet participated in herding with my dog and only know what I read on these Boards (and I have read a LOT and have drunk the Kool-Aid :)



Yaay! She drank the Kool-Aid! B)


Sorry I can't be any help with the question, other than to say that some organizers at an ACK instinct test many years ago wouldn't even speak to me (literally) about entering my border collie. (I've told this story elsewhere in these Boards.) So I have a hard time believing that an ACK trial would be at all competitive with a USBCHA trial.

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I believe the advanced level courses have the same basic elements as an open USBCHA course, and in fact the AKC rules allow for large courses with distances measured in yards, but in practice almost all AKC trials are held in small spaces with distances measured in feet. As Sue notes, the stock are generally well dog broke and used to being worked by a variety of dog breeds. Stock not exposed to numerous breeds are generally frowned upon. I know thst often a ribbon pull will be used in place of a shed/single (that is, dog has to get stock close enough to the handler for a ribbon to be yanked off). In some levels there are also things like "holds," where the dog must keep the stock in a particular area for a specific period of time, generally measured in seconds, say, for example, while the handler opens the pen gate.



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Hi there ~

You've had some good answers, so I'll see what I can add. :)

If we are speaking of AKC arena trials, I'd say the skill levels don't compare much. An Advanced AKC arena dog might - and I say might - be able to do a Novice-novice field course. A started level AKC arena dog generally will only know how to fetch dog-broke sheep around the course and so may not have the skills to run a novice-novice field course. But the first thing to bear in mind is the differences in distances and sheep.

* AKC arena trials are generally on hair-breed sheep which are usually pretty dog broke and used to being worked by dogs. Field trials may be on any sort of sheep, including hair breeds, but are most often on various wool sheep and generally are not supper doggy.

* AKC arena trial specs call for an arena that is no larger than 200 x 400 feet - that's maximum 133 yards from fence to fence. A novice-novice outrun may be 100 to 150 yards with no fence constraints and Pro Novice outruns may be 250-300 yards.

* AKC arena courses are designed to run mainly along the fence lines, with only a brief cross drive done out in the open. A field trial may not have a fence for a couple hundred yards to either side.

* AKC arena handlers are allowed to move at a certain handler's line, depending on which level they are running, and thus help and guide their dogs. In field trials, the handler is stuck at the post until when they go to the pen - though sometimes a Novice-Novice judge will allow an assisted drive.

The transition between AKC arena trials and anything in the USBCHA world is a fairly large one. In part because the sheep are not always very cooperative and control of the sheep rests entirely on the dog. There are no fences to help and the sheep may not particularly like the dog or the handler. Therefore it can be a pretty big shock for an AKC dog and AKC handler to find themselves out in some big space with sheep that would just as soon leave the country as cooperate. AKC arena trials don't really encourage the sort of instinctive work and independent thinking by the dog that field trials require.

Now, granted, AKC does have their B Course, which in theory at least can be set up much like a USBCHA field trial, with an Advanced level outrun up to 400 yards and even a shed. If an AKC dog is proficient at the AKC B course, then he should do all right on an USBCHA field course. But I am not aware that B Course trials are all that common or that they are often set up to their full advantage.

And again, the quality of dogs one will meet on a USBCHA trial course is probably going to be a good deal stronger than in AKC.

Hope this helps! I ran a little in AKC many, many years ago and I occasionally peek onto their website to see what their trial courses are like. :ph34r:

~ Gloria

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Can't say about Oregon, but AKC (and according to it's regulations) isn't about improving any particular breed, while USBCHA (in theory) is about improving the Border Collie.


Have you ever seen the reaction of flighty sheep to in intense dog in an arena? It ain't pretty! And most of the AKC breeds were never about working flighty sheep while the Border Collie was/is. At best, even if those breeds had any selection for working ability (other than some historical use on the farm) the type of stock used generally was quite calm and placid.


But to the OP, Much depends on the individual trainer's abilities. Are the dogs doing 'obedience on stock'? Are the stock running the patterns and the dogs simply following? In these cases the trainer probably will not be one to help you train your dog to work stock, win titles, maybe, especially at the lower levels.

But one big difference is CAN THEY TEACH A DOG TO DRIVE? This is where many AKC trainers (and ASCA too) fall short. They may have a dog push stock down a fenceline, but the dog cannot drive stock in even a relatively straight line down a field. It can be difficult for a beginner to be sure in the first case, but the later, driving, will be easy for anyone to see. Most arena trials do not really require driving so much as controlled escape, or simply blundering through hitting the correct obstacles. By driving, I mean the handler standing in one place while the dog moves the sheep off in a relative straight line towards a given point out in the field (I would then prefer to see the trainer send the dog to gather said sheep in a decent manner).

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