Collies Online presents an interview with performance trainers: Noreen Bennett, Babbi Dilbeck, DVM, Sandy Getz, Joyce Jackowski, Vicki Lincoln, Jeannette Poling, Michelle Shoemaker and Peg Smith. We wanted to find out the performance balancing act of where they are now, how they got there and where they plan to go.
Bring us up to speed, please tell us who you have been competing with or training since the last performance week in 2018.
Sandy Getz: I am currently training/competing with 3 collies Raylan, Gemma and now Vinnie who just came to live with me on October 4, 2018.
Gemma owned by Sandy Getz
Noreen Bennett: Competing with Triple CH (CH, HC, MACH) Millknock Tri The Next Chapter (Sequel) BN RN CD TD HSAds HIAds HXAd HSBd MXG MJG MFG T2B4 TKI GV ROM-P and Millknock Turn the Page to Wonderful (Chapter) TKI PT MXB MJB MXF T2B.
Sequel owned by Noreen Bennett
Joyce Jackowski: In Punta Gorda, Florida, Bratty Paws opened up in 2017. This is an indoor facility, air conditioned, on turf. We started taking classes there in 2018, seminars, and private lessons with Kris Seiter. The difference in my handling as well as Carson’s response and speed has improved phenomenally. We have branched out into UKI Agility trials that include international style courses that have been fun as well as challenging. Carlie was side lined for eight months with an iliopsoas injury and is now back to training and trialing only JWW.
Katy with her 2018 litter -- Owned by Babbi Dilbeck, DVM
Babbi Dilbeck: DVM: Both of the puppies that I kept from my Cage x Katy litter have been in training on agility equipment and have been exposed to sheep. Both are very promising! Chynna seems to be the fastest in agility, while Creedence is more thoughtful and deliberate. Both show good aptitude for stock and I hope to be able to fit more training time in both events into my busy work and show schedule.
Vicki Lincoln: Since Performance Week 2018, I have been training and competing with Savannah my youngest collie who turned 2 in June. My other 3 collies are retired from competition but do continue to do therapy work which they love!
Peggy Smith: I’ve been training with Tyler since the last performance week in 2018. She was five months old when she joined us.
Michelle Shoemaker: The last twelve months have been busy with my two competition dogs, Gabby and Topper. Gabby is almost 9 years old so most of her competition is agility while Topper at 2 years old is training in obedience, herding and agility. We have recently started tracking lessons - will see where that leads!
Natalie owned by Tom and Jeannette Poling and Gayle Kaye
Jeannette Poling: Since October 2018, I have continued to compete with Rory, Gabi and our puppy Natalie, and our ten year old golden, Cooper.
Which venues have been the focus of the past year?
Gabby owned by Michelle Shoemaker
Michelle Shoemaker: Gabby has focused on agility and has had quite a year. She attended the AKC Agility Invitational in Florida where she won High Scoring Collie, made it to finals and placed third in the 20” class. What a thrill that was. She completed her MACH 6 and was also invited to the first ever AKC Premier Cup held in New York. After that we attended the CCA National and Gabby went High in Trial Agility, Reserve High in Trialing Herding and was Runner Up for Most Versatile Collie. She is now finishing up MACH 7 - just needs two more QQ’s.
Peggy Smith: We’ve been doing basic pet, clicker unleashed, and CGC classes and after completing those and getting her CGC title, we moved into rally where we’re just getting ready to enter our first AKC trial in mid-October. We’ve also taken tricks classes and earned our novice and intermediate titles in that venue. Rally is somewhat new for me as I haven’t done it for probably 10 years. We have been doing herding while in Florida in the winter and Tyler absolutely loves that venue. This is also where she got her Farm Dog Certification. This is a new venue for me. And, of course, all the training is new to our dear little youngster, Tyler. She does very well in any venue we’ve tried. I’m no longer able to do agility or we’d be in that venue in a heartbeat. She is now one year and 10 months old.
Savannah owned by Vicki Lincoln
Vicki Lincoln: There are few venues we have been focusing on but our main emphasis has been obedience and agility. We are newbies to the sport of agility and there is so much to learn. I have a new appreciation for the teams that make it look effortless as it takes commitment and passion to achieve that level. Our newest adventure is FAST CAT. Savannah can’t get enough of that “lure”.. we will continue practicing as weather permits .
Babbi Dilbeck, DVM: As stated above, we are muddling through agility and herding.
Joyce Jackowski: The venues that have been our focus for the past year have primarily been AKC agility. My other venue focuses are Rally, UKI agility, Fast Cat, and Barn Hunt.
Noreen Bennett: Agility.
Jeannette Poling: Agility for Rory, Gabi and Natalie; Conformation for Rory and Natalie; Obedience for Rory and Natalie; Tracking for Rory and Natalie.
Sandy Getz: We compete in Herding (AKC, AHBA and ASCA), AKC obedience, AKC Rally, CDSP obedience, CGC/CGCA, Trick Dog, and FastCat.
3. Have you tried any new venues with your collies? If so, how did that go? If not, are there any that you might consider in the future? Why?
Michelle Shoemaker: Our new adventure this year has been tracking. We have attended a couple of clinics and are finding our way in this new sport. The dogs and I really do enjoy it but the learning curve is great. I look to try something new with each dog and this has been on my “bucket list” for a while. It is quite time consuming but we are enjoying the process.
Jeannette Poling: I have not added any new venues since I am training and competing with 3 Collies in 4 different venues. I do not have any plans to add anything. I also have a fabulous Golden, Cooper, who at 10 continues to compete, and is working on his 3rd agility championship.
Carlie owned by Joyce Jackowski
Joyce Jackowski: Carlie had an iliopsoas injury in January, 2018 which meant rest for her. Because I feel very strongly that our dogs need to have a “job” to do; some sort of ongoing activity to keep them mentally and physically healthy, we decided to try Rally and Obedience. Well, Carlie likes to have words of praise and encouragement. Once she got her Beginner Novice Obedience Title, we decided that she had done a great job with that and let’s just work on Rally which she loves. And considering her flare for style in the Rally ring (imagine a twirl and a skip between signs), we are hoping to find some Freestyle Dance classes for her. Carson being the “jock”, he got involved with Fast Cat. Has done a few runs and is scheduled again in October. We would love to try lure coursing at some point. I would also like to try Triball. Herding balls rather than animals.
Sandy Getz: We have tried Barn Hunt, (which Gemma really likes) and FastCat (which both Vinnie and Gemma just LOVE). I hope to try Nosework this fall with Raylan and maybe Gemma. I think they’ll both be good at it and as Raylan gets older he would not have to run and jump. I also would love to try tracking.
Babbi Dilbeck, DVM: I may try scent work with my veteran dog, Cage. He has a good nose for rats, so may pursue nosework training. It’s low impact and should be a good choice for an older dog.
Peg Smith: As far as the future training with Tyler, I want to continue in herding (I do have to have someone else go in the ring for me) and in rally, and I want to add nosework into our repertoire as well. I found the basic classes and the tricks classes were really good bonding activities with Tyler. I use a walker some of the time and one of the great things in our training is that Tyler has learned to walk along beside the walker with no issues. I’ve had people ask me if she was trained specifically for that and I tell them she was not. But with all the classes above, the walking on a loose leash has become something she does easily and happily, and she puts up with the walker going along for our walks.
The minimum age for competing in performance events per AKC is 15 months for agility, 9 months for herding and 6 months for obedience. What are the ages of the collies that you are currently competing with? At what age did they first begin competing? How do you know when a dog is ready for competition both mentally and physically?
Chapter owned by Noreen Bennett
Noreen Bennett: Sequel is 5 and was 18 months for agility, 9 months for herding and 2 years for obedience. Chapter is 2 and was 15 months for agility and 9 months for herding and not competing yet for obedience. Each dog is an individual. For herding, both girls were shown really early only because of the Eastern Region Herding event and the CCA National. It didn’t matter if they qualified or not. I entered to support the venues and get them on different stock. Obedience is a sport of precision. I don’t trial my dogs early in obedience. I prefer to wait until I know I have a dog that is really ready. For agility and herding, it’s easy to salvage the run to make sure a young dog is having a good time. That is hard to do in an obedience ring so if a young dog is stressed, I can’t “make it better” at the exact moment. Agility - Normally I start a dog around 18 months – 2 years. I usually start in the FAST class which allows me to create a course I know is beneficial for the skill set of my dog. Again, it’s not about qualifying. I enter them to find out where the holes are in my training. If mistakes happen, that’s on me, not on the dog. It means I haven’t trained it thoroughly. I may try them twice a month and then re evaluate if we’re ready for more. Chapter started early only because, living in the northeast, once winter is here, I’m very limited as to where we can trial. I wanted her to have exposure to outside and multiple facilities. If my young dog stays connected with me, is trying and at the end of the run, turns and looks at me with joy, wanting more, I know we’re okay to try a few more shows. If I get a dog that wanders, sniffs etc, they aren’t ready. I may just do one or two obstacles and have a big party and leave (deposits into the happy account). FYI, as of January, AKC is allowing for exhibition only in agility and we will be allowed to bring in a toy. I think that will help young dogs to make the transition from training to competing much easier.
Topper owned by Michelle Shoemaker
Michelle Shoemaker: Gabby is 8 1/2 years old and she began competing in agility and herding rather early but her obedience career started later. Topper is just 2 years old and has followed the same career path - he started competing in agility at 15 months and herding at 10 months. Obedience will wait for several more months before we step into the ring. I tend to compete in certain venues early -partly just to give the young dog some ring experience. The feel of competition is so different than just training so I find it valuable to see how they adapt to the competition stress. We treat these early exposures as training and keep it as happy as possible. In agility, I do not stop and correct a mistake in early competition as I want the runs to be fun, fast and stress free. As long as there is effort on the dog’s part we just go with it!
Babbi Dilbeck DVM: My puppies are 15 months old now but, due to my schedule, they aren’t ready for competition yet. I think that the age greatly depends on the individual dog. Some are precocious and can compete earlier while others need time to mature, both mentally and physically. I started my older dogs when they were 15-18 months old. It’s important that an owner be certain of growth plate closure before competing in agility or other events that require repetitive impact, like jumping.
Carson owned by Jackie Jackowski
Jackie Jackowski: We started competing at the age of 15 months with both Carlie and Carson. I am not sure if either of them were ready at the time because I did not really know any better. The ages of other collies that we compete with varies from 2-8. The 2 year olds just started out recently and are a blast to watch. With the experience of my two, I would consider waiting until I have weaves and contact performance better before entering into an agility trial rather than entering at 15 months because I could. I think I would have to say the same for any other event and age limit. If the age to enter is 6 months but the dog does not have a clear understanding of what it is doing, then wait. Trophies are earned in practice and picked up at the trial. When your dog can consistently meet the criteria needed at a trial during class, then it is time to enter. It will be less stress on the dog and handler.
Gabi owned by Tom and Jeannette Poling and Gayle Kaye
Jeannette Poling: Rory was 3 in August, Gabi was 8 in September, and Natalie is now 18 months old. All of my dogs (I have 5) started out with tracking as their first performance venue. Tracking is a dog directed event, and it is a lot of fun for a dog. Smell is a very significant sense for dogs, and they love to use their nose. My goal is to have my young dogs certified to be ready for track for the upcoming December trials, which is generally when they are about a year old. They start tracking lessons at 4 months, after their 16-week vaccinations. My dogs begin their agility and obedience lessons at about 6 months of age. Over the course of their training, they take both private and group lessons. The puppies start off with private lessons. What works well for me, is having an hour lesson with one of my fabulous trainers, and the puppy gets a part of the hour, as much as seems appropriate for that day, and then the adult has the rest of the hour. That is working well for Rory and Natalie. My dogs have been ready to compete in agility a bit prior to the 2nd birthdays. My plan is to begin competing with Natalie in January, prior to her 2nd birthday in March. As the dogs progress I get a feel for what they can handle, and with that I decide when they are ready to compete. Last May before Rory competed for his CD we practiced in parks, and at agility trials, and lots of places, so that he would be able to stay focused and respond appropriately. I am proud to say he earned his CD in three consecutive shows, on three consecutive days, with three first places. Competing in different venues gives the team, many different experiences, and these skills do transfer from one venue to another. An example: waiting on the start line in agility is very closely related to waiting for a recall in obedience, both require steadiness and focus and a quick accurate response. Focus training, which I write about below also is a very significant skill that is useful in the conformation ring. My dogs are all very attentive showmen, who will stand back and “show” because they learned their “watch me” or “ready” commands when they started their training as puppies.
Vinnie owned by Sandy Getz
Sandy Getz: Raylan is 7 years old, he started in herding when just 15 weeks old. He would watch my older dogs work and get so excited. He was so very keen and absolutely loves it. He began competing at about 1.5 yearsrs (when I could get him to stop!) He started in obedience very young also and was competing in Rally at about 10 months and obedience at 1 year. He is my first dog to compete at advanced levels in both sports, we have a wonderful bond. He has taught me so much and I hope I have become a better handler and trainer because of this special boy. Gemma is 3 years old. She started in herding and obedience at a young age and was competing in both by 1 year of age. Although we didn’t start training lots of jumping until she was about 13 months, I started her fairly young for experience in show settings at the beginning test levels. She has always been a great student in classes and seemed to have the maturity to start competing at about 1 year. She is now competing at advanced levels and we hope to have great success with her. Vinnie is 2 years old, and came to live with me about 16 months old. He had some exposure to herding prior to coming to me and had an HT at 9 months. I started working with him right away in both obedience and herding, as he has great drive and potential to be a great partner in both. I started competing with him in herding a few months after I got him at test levels and participated in a couple clinics to improve his natural skills. Physically he is ready but mentally he needed a little more time. He is now actively competing in herding and will start competing in obedience this fall.
Do you have any foundation training that you practice before a performance career is launched? Please elaborate?
Michelle Shoemaker: There is so much “foundation” work for performance. Each venue has it’s own specific work but I think the most important foundation you can truly have is enthusiasm! Teaching the dog that any kind of work is fun is absolutely the most important thing for me. Play with your dog - make your dog think you are the most fun ever. I will spend 5 minutes when I first get home to train the dogs because they are so happy to see me. I use this enthusiasm - bring one out in the front yard at a time, play tug for a few seconds, put him on a sit, wait - then start to run and release him to catch me and the toy. The other dogs watch this from the back yard and can hardly contain themselves waiting for their turn. In the end, all three come out and we play a bit of chase and tug. You want your dog’s main goal to be to interact with you. If I had one piece of advice to would be to make it fun!
Sandy Getz: Yes indeed, besides the process of learning trust and bonding with me, all of my dogs go through puppy classes and basic training with the initial goal of getting a CGC. Not only do we train the skills and exercises, but also train self control, attention and focus. In the classes/lessons we take we do many exercises to emphasize the connection between me and my dog. This is especially the case for obedience work. Most importantly my dog needs to enjoy working with me and we need to be having some fun.
Jeannette Poling: “Focus Training” or “Attention Training” is the foundation of all of my training. A dog must know that you are going to give them new information that they are going to act on. I start focus training at 8 weeks. I teach them to make eye contact with me. I want a dog to look at me so that we both know additional information is coming. I spend a lot of time on focus training, and I continue to practice and reward it through out my dogs’ lives. My dogs love this skill training, which gives them a lot of praise, and feedback through treats, hugs, toy play and verbal praise. So when I see people who are having trouble teaching a skill, often my first thought is that the dog has no focus. No human or canine can learn anything without focusing on what they are learning. From their first day with me, I teach my dogs a quick and responsive recall using the word “here”. When I shout “here” I expect all dogs to come running and stand in front of me, close enough that I can touch them. This is useful for many life experiences, and builds on the tight bond I have with each dog. It is a safety skill. Also I will say that I would teach these skills, even if I decided to never compete in anything ever again. These attention skills are what make a good pet. My dogs live in our home, sleep on the bed, and are our 24/7 companions. Being a trained companion means they can be taken anywhere, anytime; and that is the life I want for my dogs. Having a life of a beloved trained companion is the life they deserve.
Noreen Bennett: It’s all about foundation. It’s not about getting the dogs on obstacles as much as it is about foundation, teaching a dog to look and take obstacle in front of them. Months are spent working with just a cone. We work on teaching the dog acceleration so they are comfortable passing us which allows us to cross behind them. We work on teaching the dog deceleration so if we stop, it’s a cue to the dog. I also teach a lot of tricks. It teaches my dog to think and problem solve, it shows me how the dog think and most importantly, it teaches my dog to fail without feeling like a failure. Instead they try harder, trying to figure out what they did that got them a treat. Ideally that carries over into the ring so the dog doesn’t shut down when something goes wrong.
Joyce Jackowski: I was so new to agility with Carlie that I had no idea about foundations for this. I took obedience classes and an introduction class that she got to experience a tunnel, teeter, jump, chute, table. That was enough to get me interested. I understand more now about foundations for agility. When I get another collie, I do plan to do things differently and have a foundation on which to build upon for agility.
Babbi Dilbeck DVM: I think it’s important to develop a bond and open communication with your canine teammate. Knowing how to clearly state the desired behavior leads to less confusion and more enthusiasm from the dog.
Savannah owned by Vicki Lincoln
Vicki Lincoln: All of my collies have attended formal training classes beginning with Puppy Kindergarten , Basic Manners, Competition Obedience , Rally, CGC, Trick and Agility lessons. I think it is very important to have a solid obedience background to move forward in other sports. I can’t say there is any magic age when your dog is mentally ready for competition it’s that special bond you share and your heart will guide you. You never want to set your dog up to fail. Regardless what happens in the ring smile and let your dog know they are the most wonderful team mate you could ask for. They love us unconditionally and we need to love them back.
Peg Smith: I like to have the basic companion dog classes noted above completed as a foundation for going into performance training. I feel they provide the basic behavior training and facilitate in the bonding process.
What were the most significant highlights and/or accomplishments from the past 12 months?
Noreen Bennett: Sequel finished her MACH in February which made her a Triple Champion (conformation, herding and agility). She also was the #1 collie at AKC Obedience Classic and was High in Trial in Agility at the national. Even more rewarding is seeing her puppies competing. All 8 are titled in either agility, herding or rally. Because she is the first dog I have bred, it was very special to earn her ROM-P. I don’t think I’ll ever have a year like that again! Chapter tied for High in Trial in Agility at our national, earning her first double QQ, the day after Sequel won HIT. She also earned her first MACH points the same day Sequel earned her MACH. She also qualified for AKC Agility Nationals in 3 months. It’s so awesome to watch her blossom.
Michelle Shoemaker: Gabby has focused on agility and has had quite a year. She attended the AKC Agility Invitational in Florida where she won High Scoring Collie, made it to finals and placed third in the 20” class. What a thrill that was. She completed her MACH 6 and was also invited to the first ever AKC Premier Cup held in New York. After that we attended the CCA National and Gabby went High in Trial Agility, Reserve High in Trialing Herding and was Runner Up for Most Versatile Collie. She is now finishing up MACH 7 - just needs two more QQ’s. Topper finished his breed Championship and then really got busy with his performance competition. In agility he went from Novice to Masters and has even picked up 8 QQ’s towards his MACH! In herding he completed his Started Sheep title at the National and since then has completed his Started Duck title, his Intermediate Sheep title and has picked up his first Advanced Sheep leg and his first Intermediate Duck leg. He also has a leg on D Course and two legs on B Course ducks. Topper continues to train in obedience but we have yet to compete in the venue.
Peg Smith: Tyler being part of my life would have to be it.
Babbi Dilbeck DVM: I’m afraid I haven’t done much in the performance/companion events. Katy had her puppies in June of 2018 and I’ve been busy showing them in conformation. I think it’s important to have dogs that conform to the breed standard and to be able to compete in the performance events, as well. We’ve had some nice success in the breed ring with specialty and all breed wins for the three pups that are shown. Chynna and Creedence (the two smooths that I kept), finished their AKC championship at 9 and 11 months of age, respectively. Their rough brother, Jackson, who I co-own with my friend and fellow veterinarian Stephanie Hickey, DVM earned a Herding Group 2 from the classes, is major pointed and only needs his last major to finish. My first litter after being in the breed for over 25 years and it’s been a wild ride! I’m just hanging on and smiling! I hope I can do right by them and help them to show ALL of their potential!
Jackie Jackowski: Carlie: Barn Hunt Instinct Test, CCGC,Beginner Novice Obedience,Rally Novice, Rally Intermediate, Excellent JWW Preferred,Excellent STD Preferred. Carson: Excellent JWW Preferred, Excellent STD Preferred, Rally Novice, Rally Intermediate, Bad Dog Agility Power Score: Ranked 8th for 20” Preferred Collies in Second Quarter of 2019. I cried when I saw this. I was checking to see how my collie friends were ranked and had no idea that Carson was up to the caliber of being on this prestigious list.
Raylan owned by Sandy Getz
Sandy Getz: Oh wow, we have had a spectacular year thus far. Raylan finished herding championship at the CCA national with HIT, finished B course duck Int and Adv titles, won High combined with Loving Cup at the CCA Eastern Regionals, finished Intermediate D Ranch course title. In obedience finished UD title and RM title in Rally with multiple triple Q’s towards RACH. Gemma Won RHIT at CCA Eastern regional herding 9/14, HIT at CCA Eastern regional herding 9/15 with high scoring duck award. She finished Adv A duck title (now working on HC points) finished B course duck started title, and intermediate A course sheep title In obedience finished CDX and PCDX titles, and in Rally finished RM title while picking up multiple triple Q’s towards her RACH, and earned CGCA. Vinnie At CCA Eastern regional herding 9/14, won high scoring sheep award, won HIT at Rochester collie club herding 9/15 and RHIT for CCA Eastern regional herding with high scoring sheep award. In March at CCA nationals, finished PT, this summer he finished Started A course sheep and duck titles and is working on Master titles for both. He earned his CGC, CGCA, TKN, and TKI titles also next week he will make his debut in the Rally and Obedience ring.
Rory owned by Tom and Jeannette Poling and Gayle Kaye
Jeannette Poling: The last year has been very exciting for my Rory (MBISS CH Chelsea Here Comes the Sun, VCD1 CD BN TDX AXP AJP CGC HIC). It is a year that can never be duplicated. Rory is truly my Sun King. In January he won two large California Specialties going Best of Breed with his handler, Jessica Wittman. In January he earned his Tracking Dog Excellent title with his trainer/handler Paula Cingota. In June he earned his Companion Dog title in three consecutive shows, on three consecutive days, with three first places, with me. The AKC awarded him their Versatile Companion Dog Title, for excelling in 3 different performance venues: tracking, agility and obedience. Very few dogs, of any breed, are VCD1 titled dogs. In June Rory played the “world’s most famous Collie,” along with Jon Provost (Timmy from the “Lassie Show”) in a Jerome’s furniture commercial. It now has over 350,000 YouTube views in just 2 months. And while this was a once in a lifetime fabulous experience, the reality is that it was truly a “performance” event: Rory did a fabulous job of “performing” in this commercial. He was able to perform what the director wanted, and hit all his marks, because of his obedience training and all of his life experiences, which required focus and a specific response. His ability to stay focused, with so much going on around him, made my heart sing. His obedience training was his foundation for doing so many behaviors, and his agility training for knowing how to perform a “go on” without a human partner: all this training made him a star! In July I was called by a writer, Elaine Gewritz who works out of David Frei’s AKC office. She wanted to know about Rory. She was looking for a Champion who also had a variety of performance titles, especially dogs that had advanced titles outside their AKC groups' area of expertise, so Rory being a MBISS CH “herding group dog” having his TDX was very appealing. She wrote a fabulous article about Rory and all his performance successes, that was put up on the AKC.org website in September. Gayle Kaye (his breeder and co-owner,) my family and I were, and still are, over the moon with pride for my wonderful Rory.