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JoAnna Lou
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Anything But A Border Collie
What happens when a dog is too good at something?
Border Collies' intelligence, trainability, and powerful structure put them at the top of the class when it comes to agility.

Last weekend I watched the online broadcast of the United States Dog Agility Association’s Cynosport World Games. As usual, the finals for the top jump heights (above 20”) were dominated by Border Collies. 

I have to admit, I love watching the powerful black and white blurs fly through an agility course, but it is refreshing to see a variety of breeds compete, which doesn’t happen very often at the top levels of competition.

Following the games, there’s been a lot of talk about wanting the USDAA to create an Anything but Border Collie (ABC) championship, a class that already exists in the United Kingdom.

The numbers certainly support the fact that Border Collies are in a class of their own. Take a look at the finals at three championships this year.

The American Kennel Club’s national competition in March: All 18 dogs in the 20”, 24”, and 26” height groups in the finals were Border Collies. There were even two small Border Collies in the 16” height group.

The European Open’s international competition in July: 58 of 67 Large dogs in the final were Border Collies.

USDAA Cynosport World Games: 31 of 32 dogs in the 22” and 26” height groups in the Steeplechase Finals and 38 of 40 dogs in the Grand Prix Finals were Border Collies.

Do Border Collies’ super canine genes give them an unfair advantage? Getting a Border Collie isn’t an instant ticket to success. As individuals, each dog, regardless of breed, has their own challenges, strengths, and weaknesses. Nonetheless, it’s apparent that Border Collies dominate the sport.

My Sheltie, Nemo, measures a whopping 19.5” at the withers and has to compete against the big dogs. He’ll never keep up with the Border Collies in terms of speed and we only place if it’s a technical course where faster dogs knock bars or run off course. Still, I can’t imagine not having the thrill of competing alongside these amazing dogs.

And while it’s not common, I’d like to think that non-Border Collies can be competitive, even at the highest levels. At the USDAA’s Cynosport World Games this year, that one non-Border Collie in Steeplechase Finals, a Belgian Tervuren, ended up winning the championship. 

When it comes down to it, I’m conflicted. I do think that having more opportunities to showcase non-Border Collies would encourage more people to participate in competition, but on the other hand if a team is talented enough to make it to the top levels, don’t they deserve to be there, regardless of breed?

What do you think about creating more opportunities for non-Border Collies in dog sports?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by JB Newman.

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