Truant the border collie is the 2023 Masters Agility Champion
May 16, 2023 9:42 PM   Subscribe

Truant the border collies zooms into first place in the 20" class and also becomes the champion at the 2023 WKC Masters Agility show. (SLYT)
posted by Harald74 (38 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Ah damn I was hoping that it was a truant border collie and we had some sort of surprisingly literal Air Bud situation here.
posted by cortex at 9:45 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]

posted by Ickster at 10:04 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]

that's a very good boy
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:38 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]

Phew! that dog had the eye of the tiger before he started!
posted by praemunire at 11:10 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]

Here's a longer video including the other four category champions, including a wee papillion. Very good doggos all!

But my heart is always with those that don't make the prime time but do the best with what they've got, like Diesel and Zeus.
posted by Superilla at 11:30 PM on May 16 [19 favorites]

Wow! Unbelievable. But my heart is with the underdogs who crush it--like Rudy the bulldog.
posted by pangolin party at 5:00 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]

But my heart is always with those that don't make the prime time but do the best with what they've got, like Diesel and Zeus .

Diesel's slow and careful stroll through the line of upright poles was delightful.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:26 AM on May 17 [9 favorites]

good doggo but apparently Truant didn't read the memo about leaping into his handlers' arms at the end -- that's always my favorite part. You can tell she was waiting for it, but doggo was way too amped after finishing!
posted by martin q blank at 6:30 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]

I think Truant wanted to go around a second time!
posted by Harald74 at 6:33 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

He is a very good boy.

On a side note, you can always tell when someone is not from Maryland when they pronounce "Ellicott City" that way. The locals pronounce it "ELL-ih-cut".
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 6:57 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

I think Truant wanted to go around a second time!

yeah that there was a dog whose entire body was saying ARE THERE MORE JUMPS WHERE DO I JUMP NEXT
posted by mightygodking at 6:58 AM on May 17 [14 favorites]

The locals pronounce it "ELL-ih-cut".

or even ELL-ih-kit. But yeah, I lived in Maryland for several years. That jumped out at me, too.
posted by martin q blank at 7:00 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Diesel was surrendered for being untrainable! Take that, surrenderers!!!!!!
posted by praemunire at 7:34 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

I don't know who chose 'Dancing Queen' for the stadium sound system, but it really, really works.
posted by box at 7:45 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

awwww Diesel. lol "basset hound" + "agility"
posted by obfuscation at 7:45 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

But my heart is with the underdogs who crush it--like Rudy the bulldog

Full name: Von Rudolph Augustus Perkins. Because, of course it is.
posted by gwint at 7:49 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]

I am going to show this to A Certain Border Collie of my acquaintance, if he can be bothered to get off the sofa.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 9:22 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]

Mrs. slkinsey and I were there for the prelims that morning and saw Truant run. It's interesting to see all the dogs compete. Some are smart and very fast, but some are clearly invested in going as fast as they possibly can and these are usually the top performers. I'm unsure that can be trained. I think the dog just has to want it. You can usually tell when a dog is going to post a competitive time based on how they take the dog walk (that's the narrow bridge-like element). Most dogs slow down for that, but some seem actually to accelerate and float up/down those ramps.

Also super fun to see how many of the competing dogs are just so happy to be doing it. It's quite usual that they jump up into their handler's arms at the end.
posted by slkinsey at 9:24 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

Another thing that many may not realize is that the dogs are seeing the course for the first time, and the handlers only have a few minutes to go over the course themselves prior to competition (some handlers ran multiple dogs, which may have given them an advantage in the later runs). There were certainly instances in which a dog's chance to run a really fast time was stymied by poor positioning and/or direction by the handler. It was also not altogether unusual to see handlers who were unable to keep up with the speed of the dog.
posted by slkinsey at 9:42 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]

I do dog agility with my niece's pit mix, and yeah, problems are almost always user error. The dog mostly does what you have trained them to do, and what you cue them to do.

But if, for instance, you don't get out ahead of them to make that blind cross (the dog is on your right going over a jump, and you get enough ahead to pick up the dog on your left), and/or forget to look over your left shoulder, the dog is going to go off course. Agility is about the trainer being in the right place to cue the move.

My niece's dog is much faster than my old GSD, and I'm struggling with figuring out how to give him the right signals when I'm a ways behind him. You can do it, but it's harder.
posted by suelac at 9:59 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]

Every year when we get agility champion videos, I state my universal belief "more this (dogs competing doing dog things), less that (conforming standard comps that cripple breeds over time)"

Still stands!
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:38 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]

Yeah, but can he dance?
posted by BWA at 10:47 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]

OK, I never knew about dog dance, but that it pretty amazing.
posted by Windopaene at 11:00 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

that "is" pretty amazing.

And of course that is what they call it...

But the blind backing up and other scripted moves... That is a good dog and handler right there.
posted by Windopaene at 11:58 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Truant is so excited "where next? where next? what jump? mom? mom? moar jump!" super cute (and very agile indeed!)
posted by supermedusa at 1:53 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I've been doing agility with my mini poodle mix for about 8 months (unfortunately taking a break now for my own medical stuff), and have such an appreciation for the amount of time and effort that goes into these dogs. My pup loves it, but dang it's not easy on the human side either. Trying to keep ahead of pup to direct them (my girl is fast... I am slow...), not getting my own feet tangled when having to switch directions (every time they mention a handler doing a cross means there pup has switched sides on their owner)... it's intense! Never mind all the training that goes into this -- first you need to to spend the time to get a generally well behaved dog, and then train all the obstacles (the weaves and the teeter are extra hard!) and then stringing it all together... its a lot! Huge kudos to all the dogs and their humans -- getting to this stage is an amazing accomplishment!
posted by cgg at 3:06 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

There were certainly instances in which a dog's chance to run a really fast time was stymied by poor positioning and/or direction by the handler. It was also not altogether unusual to see handlers who were unable to keep up with the speed of the dog.

Oof, yeah. This is one of the things that also changes very quickly when you change size of dogs: an equally driven Papillon is going to be easier to maneuver around for a human than a Border Collie because stride lengths are so much shorter and the dog is faster, but that Papillon has a massive advantage over a much larger dog in that you don't have to worry quite as much about things like collection or tight turns because the spacing between obstacles is comparatively enormous.

It's one of the big reasons I love watching the largest and smallest height classes. The biggest dogs really struggle with collection, sharp turns, and sometimes things like tunnels at speed; the smallest dogs are generally working on speed, stamina, and pure motivation. You actually can build that, you can teach a dog to want to go at speed, but it's harder with a teeny dog for a variety of reasons: there aren't as many small breeds that have been bred to work closely with a human handler to the extent as larger ones; toy dogs in particular have tiny stomachs that fill up easily with rewards and are easily intimidated out of maximal play mode; the cutoffs on the extreme ends of the sport don't actually serve the true extreme ends of dog size and structure. For example, in the 8inch class for dogs 11in and shorter at the shoulders, you have Poms and Papillion (often as little as 8in themselves!) and Chihuahuas competing against smaller Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Jack Russell Terriers up to the tip-top of that 11 inches at the shoulder in size.

On the other hand, the 24+ inch class contains everything that is more than 22 inches at the shoulder, which means your particularly tall Border Collies and your taller Standard Poodles and your Malinois and Tervuren, but also your Labs and Goldens and GSDs and pointers and Rottweilers and a huge swathe of popular larger breeds. If it's tall enough to register to you as a large dog rather than a medium one, it's probably been dumped into this class--right next to, say, any giant breeds that happen to show up. Everyone uses the same tunnel and ring jump, too, so if you've ever watched a Great Dane carefully crawl through a tunnel.... well, you can see why these dogs tend not to enjoy agility very much. Although the heights of jumps change from class to class, that's usually the only thing that changes, so larger dogs have fewer strides to maneuver between obstacles and smaller dogs have more.

I really love agility. It's one of my favorite sports to watch, and I'm having a lot of fun putting non-contact foundations on my six-month-old until we can play ourselves. (We are practicing a lot of running to and perching on rubber feed bowls right now.) But I do think it's worth noting that it is a sport that is built very specifically alongside the skills and athletic strengths of a fairly narrow range of dogs, and the jump heights actually don't necessarily address the different needs of dogs between the categories. It's a really hard thing to do, evening the playing field for such a wide range of bodies and body types.
posted by sciatrix at 3:17 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]

We always used very large breeds because the horses would treat them as part of the herd. Large dogs can catch a stampede and return it safely.

Big dogs were extremely agile with the horses. Run through tight forests and culverts without any issues. Very slow and trepidatious inside the house . They didn’t want to break the furniture , grandma, or the kids.

I think they’d saunter through the courses like Diesel rather than just plowing over the equipment out of a sense of civic responsibility
posted by pdoege at 6:16 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

“Diesel in the weave poles…”
posted by Windopaene at 8:49 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

The biggest dogs really struggle with collection, sharp turns, and sometimes things like tunnels at speed

One of the dogs we saw was a rottweiler. We figured it would be kind of a joke, but that dog really moved.

We saw any number of goldens compete, and it was interesting to see that some of them ran and appeared highly invested in competing for speed whereas others loped and seemed more invested in having a good time. There was even one who abandoned the course and started running around the perimeter sticking its nose into as many laps as possible. He eventually "completed" the course with something like 200 seconds in faults. Big round of applause, needless to say.
posted by slkinsey at 7:35 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]

I'm not going to lie: one of the breeds I have a big soft spot for is Bull Terriers, who have a reputation for pulling stunts like that one and blowing off the course in favor of visiting with the audience. They do not have a reputation for being good at the sport, but boy howdy those dogs know how to have fun.
posted by sciatrix at 7:55 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I grew up with bull terriers & love them! And, yeah, THEY decide what they feel like doing and that is that.
posted by slkinsey at 2:33 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I think Truant wanted to go around a second time!

I never had close experience with border collies until I last year I visited a friend who had one. As soon as the video started I recognized that Truant had the same obsessive energy as this friend's dog. Based on that experience, I'd say Truant wanted to go around again and again as many times as he could until he died of dehydration.
posted by polecat at 3:42 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

Border collies are so driven and athletic that in the UK, there are two agility classes: Border Collies and ABC (Anything But Collies).

No, I'm not actually kidding: look for the Crufts Agility videos on Youtube.

In the US we don't break them out, but it's true that many of the best agility dogs are border collies. They are dogs who love to DO SHIT, and also they are very fast. But they're a LOT: I would never get one.
posted by suelac at 9:28 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I have actually watched a few people who got collies specifically to play this sport wind up really frustrated because the collies are SO fast and SO intensely focused that they get really frustrated with handler screw ups. Of which there will be many. (I also see that with Belgians, especially Malinois.)

Those two are popular sport dogs not least because they will keep working even if you screw up instead of disengaging with training altogether when they get frustrated, but I think that can be a huge trap for handlers even though it sounds good up front. Sometimes when things are not working, you should disengage and think about the problem from another angle. BCs and Mals are never going to teach you that; you'll just wind up keeping practicing and continuing to be frustrated together instead of taking a break to think. There's pros and cons to everything!

Anyway I got the cattle dog instead for many reasons but not least among them is that I wanted to have fun, and I'm quite prone enough to perfectionism and frustration as it is without also having to manage my dog about it. A dog who will occasionally tell me to go fuck myself if I'm insisting on doing something dumb or boring is a plus in my book.

Speaking of Bull Terriers, actually, there's a great book by Jane Killion called When Pigs Fly on training "off breed" dogs to do sports like agility. Jane keeps Bull Terriers herself--hence the name--but it's an incredibly useful book for anyone who wants to train a dog that isn't automatically inclined to do what you want to do just because you want it, and I honestly think everyone who likes to do stuff with dogs should read it. If nothing else, it's funny, and it's really useful at teaching the reader how to build motivation and excitement to work or do activities together.
posted by sciatrix at 6:46 AM on May 19

They are dogs who love to DO SHIT, and also they are very fast. But they're a LOT: I would never get one.

I would get one if I lived on a large acreage and could keep stock animals for the border collie to herd and move around every day. In my modest house on a small urban lot? No way in hell would I get one of those.

I have seen a number of cattle dogs and Aus shepherds (who are very driven and hard working when on the ranch) be great, mellow house dogs. They seem to have more of an "off switch" to their working drive, which the border collies don't have.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:46 AM on May 19

I mean, "off switch" is also a learned skill, and I do think there's a bit of self fulfilling prophecy there. A lot of people with drivey, busy dogs get in the habit of entertaining puppies with something to do or exercise every time the puppy seeks attention... which sometimes means the puppy never learns how to settle down and entertain itself without being exhausted, and the owner winds up conditioning the dogs into athletes that really don't get exhausted without a ton of exercise...

I have ABSOLUTELY seen people do this with cattle dogs and Aussies. And then people will get into pissing contests about how much exercise the dog needs every day. Really, what you have to do is teach the dog how to settle and entertain itself when nothing interesting is happening, and I think the expectations people have when they get a puppy have a ton to do with how that pans out.
posted by sciatrix at 6:58 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

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