Paige Johnson and Harbin were the only Beauceron team out of three invited to compete in the 2020 AKC Agility Invitational.
In Round 1 JWW they had a clean run with a score of 100 and time of 40.531. In Round 2 Standard, they had a cumulative score of 185. In Round 3 (Hybrid), Paige and Harbin cleared the course with a score of 100 in 46.551 seconds and left the agility ring in 37th place in the 24 in. jump division! The duo then filmed some agility shots for a commercial (to air on ABC on January 17th), then to the conformation ring, and a mad dash back to agility. Round 4, back to JWW, and Paige and Harbin scored a perfect 100 again with a clean run in 42.493 seconds. An eight year old veteran, Harbin was also Select Dog during Breed competition. Congratulations to GCHB CH Harbin L’Amour de ma Vie RN, MXP, MJP, CA, DS, CGC, TKP and Paige Johnson for clean runs and representing the breed in both the agility AND conformation rings!
Deva Wilson is an agility instructor that has been involved in dog sports her whole life, at the age of 12 she was competing at a national level. She is now 22 and successfully runs her own training business while training and competing with her own dogs. ABC Member Stacy Crivello sat down with her to procure this issue’s Unsolicited Advice.
What should someone who is just starting out in agility, or a first-time Beauceron owner wanting to do agility, look for in an instructor?
Look for an instructor that has experience with a wide variety of breeds. An instructor should be willing to adapt and modify their program to the needs of the individual dog that’s in front of them. Positive re-enforcement is used most of the time but with intelligent high intensity breeds like Beaucerons negative marker words can be very useful.
What is the most challenging aspect of the breed, relative to other breeds, that you have experienced during training agility?
A dog that doesn’t like repetition can be a challenge, as with most training, agility does involve a lot of repetition. So, you do have to be creative at times to keep some dogs engaged when learning certain skills. They are, of course, a herding breed which tend to be mouthy and can be triggered by motion. Agility is all about motion so it’s important to make sure that puppies and young dogs understand how to control themselves because a lot of motion is involved and you don’t want bad habits to develop in the ring.
They are a large quick breed which can also be a challenge as timing is very important in the sport of agility so sometimes as a handler you have to improvise during a run so always make sure you have plan A, B, and C.
What has surprised you about the breed, good and/or bad?
They are a lot like training my Border Collies, just bigger. They are high drive and very smart, therefore they pick up on things quickly so you want to make sure they are always rewarded for the correct things at the correct time as they can imprint a behavior, correct or incorrect, after only a session or two. Which is another reason why finding a good instructor is so important.
Any other thoughts or advice for doing agility with a Beauceron?
Make sure that you have clear consistent contact criteria from the beginning as it makes the job easier on the dog. A contact, for those that have never done agility, are the yellow areas at the bottom of the dog walk, A-frame, and teeter. Learning proper jump mechanics is very important along with making sure that if you start with a puppy that you remember their growth plates don’t close until usually around 12-18 months old so they should not be put on obstacles right away. There is a lot of flat work and foundational skills that are involved in agility and those can be started immediately with a puppy, but not the actual obstacles themselves.
As shows tentatively begin to take place again, the AKC (and most other trialing organizations) have issued guidance for safe participation and attendance. The AKC has a dedicated page on their website that includes best practices by sport, up to date cancellations, and other pertinent information.
They are also offering free breed webinars, which are open to judges and the general public, every day from 1:00-2:30 pm EST. If you are curious about conformation, a Conformation for Beginners class is also being offered free of charge.
The AKC is holding a Virtual Top Dog Challenge. You have to enter and submit a brief video through the associated portal on AKC’s website. Entries are open June 5th through 12th and winners will be announced June 17th-19th and cost $25. Videos must include a stack from the front, rear, and side, oral exam, gaiting, and free stack. A portion of the entry fee goes to Take the Lead.
As many of you already know, AKC also moved to allow Trick Dog and Rally Novice titles to be completed online. Competitors will need to set up one of five courses, video their run, and submit the video through YouTube (along with entry form and fees). The AKC will assign a Rally judge to score and qualifying scores are added to your dog’s record. As of now, this pilot program will end on December 31, 2020.
Just this week the Agility Course Test (ACT) program is also a virtual competition. It operates similarly to the Rally program with predesigned courses that must be completed within a time limit. These courses do require access to agility equipment but with two qualifying runs you can earn the ACT title.