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The Australian Shepherd in the Agility ring

Aussies first arrived in the UK in 1985 and they quickly made their mark in the Agility ring.  There were only a small number of handlers with their Aussies in the early years but the number of Aussies competing in agility in the UK has steadily increased, there are now approximately 40 Aussies competing with dogs ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 6.

In the 80’s one of the first and most successful dog/handler combinations was Sheila Eckersley and Inca (Lanbria Inca Gold) who progressed to Intermediate (equivalent to Grade 5 today). In 1988, 1989 and 1990 Sheila and Inca qualified for the Barbour Pairs Finals; in 1988 they also qualified for the Pedigree Two Dog Relay. Her partner for these was Jackie Treagus with Toddy (Lanbria Copperchops). Sheila and Inca also qualified for the Vet Health Novice Agility Dog of year in 1989.

The 90’s saw a steady increase in the number of Aussies competing in Agility. Ian Manuell and Danny (Winserne Ruff ‘N’ Tumble) started competing around 1991 and by 1992 Danny had already won out Starters, they continued to do well and Danny progressed to Intermediate. You could always hear when Ian was running Danny as Danny barked all the way round!

1993 saw Bill Metcalf and Bear (Kapia Hawk) make their debut and they did it in style!! Bear was a big, handsome dog, but boy was he agile! Bear qualified for the Spillers Starters Final in 1995 and was placed, he progressed to Intermediate. At a young age Bear died in a tragic accident so we never got to see him progress further.

In 1995 I arrived with Indiana (Winserne Be My American Dream) who was my first Aussie and a once in a lifetime dog! He won out of Elementary in his first season of competition and carried on to progress to Intermediate level. He qualified for the Spillers Knockout Finals, came 2nd in the Supa Dog Starters final in 1997 and he won the KCJO (now YKC) Triathlon in 1995. In 1996 I started competing with Hoby (Abbiejay Lad), a small but very powerful Aussie he rarely used to leave a course intact but when he did he was always placed in the top 10, Hoby progressed to Novice (equivalent to Grade 4 today) but had to retire aged 4 due to illness.

Denise Moon and Mowgi (Accra L’Eagle Ayde) made their debut in 1997 and made an instant impression on the Agility world. In 1998 Mowgi won out of Starters and was the Agility Eye Starter dog of the year, she had accumulated eleven 2nd places before she got the illusive 1st place. Mowgi qualified for several finals during her career, including the Dogs In Need finals, Supa Dog Finals where she came 3rd, RVA Starters Finals. Her most notable achievements were that she was the first Aussie ever to qualify for the Olympia ABC Finals. She also competed at Crufts in 2000 in the ABC Agility Competition and came 2nd and in 2001 Mowgi was a member of the Lewes Agility team who competed at Crufts. Mowgi progressed to Intermediate level before she retired.

The 00’s saw numbers increase further;

2000 saw Denise Moon and her second Aussie Midge (Accra Warp Speed) start competing. At the age of only 20 months Midge qualified for the 2002 Dogs in Need Finals and she qualified for these Finals every year up until she retired at the end of 2009. She also qualified for the Supa dog Finals and regularly competed in the ABC Agility competitions at Discover Dogs.  Midge was the second Aussie to qualify for the ABC Finals at Olympia (the first to qualify was Denise’s first Aussie, ‘Mowgi’, Accra L’eagle Ayde); she also qualified for the ABC competition at Crufts. Midge progressed to Intermediate and won several ABC Agility classes and gained many 2nd and 3rd placings. Midge is now enjoying her retirement!!

2002 saw the arrival of probably the most successful Aussie in Agility in recent years.  Mark Douglas and Amber (Dishy Scarlet under Stars of Mars). Amber was an amazing little red tri! She started in Grade 1 and quickly progressed her way through the grades and in 2005 at the age of five she won into Grade 6; she was the first Aussie bitch to get to this level. Amber came 3rd in the Supa-Dog Novice Finals in 2004, won the Olympia ABC (Anything But Collies) Semi-Final in 2005 (probably her greatest achievement and is the only Aussie ever to have won this title). She competed at Olympia in the ABC Finals in 2004, 2005 and 2007, having the fastest time in 2004 and 2005, just let down by 5 faults on her dog walk. In 2007 it was the A-frame touch point that cost them 5 faults, she would have been 2nd! Amber was retired from full height competition in 2008 at the age of 8. In 2010 at the age of 11 and still as fit as a fiddle Mark decided to enter Amber in Veteran and Allsorts classes where the jumps are lower and courses are more flowing and she and has thoroughly enjoyed them! Picking up trophy after trophy again!

2004 saw the arrival of Sandra Spruce and Woody (Lyveden Niraya Nahaid). This has been a successful partnership. Woody has qualified for the Agility Club Starters Challenge Finals three years running, he has also qualified for the Olympia ABC Semi-Finals, was in the Team Dash Finals running for Chipping Norton, and been in the Laser Pairs final. Woody has been very close to reaching Grade 6 with several 2nd and 3rd places in Grade 5, he gained a 2nd place in 2010 at 8 years old so hopefully Grade 6 is not far away!

2005 saw Carol Disley and her first ever Agility dog Calca (Inoby Pinterry Dancer) make their debut. Carol and Calca started in Grade 1 and they progressed through the grades until in May 2010, a month before Calca’s seventh birthday, she progressed into Grade 5. Carol thought that this would be as far as she would go but Calca proved Carol wrong and in July 2010, at the age of seven she progressed to Grade 6.  What a way to start your Agility career! Sadly Carol lost Calca in 2011 after a short illness.

2005 also saw Steiff (Inoby Urban Chaos Beg.Ex, AW(B)) start competing, he was never the easiest of dogs to train but we persevered and in 2007 he won out of Grade 3 and progressed to Grade 4 and in 2010 he qualified for the Olympia ABC Agility Semi-Finals. Steiff has gained many top 5 placings in Grade 4 but his lack of confidence meant he never progressed further. Steiff retired in July 2011 and is now enjoying a stress free life.

2008 also saw Garry Smith and Eric (Gemthorne Thunderflash AW(G)) make their Agility debut. Eric started in Grade 1 and by the end of 2009 they had already won into Grade 3. Eric started 2011 in Grade 5 and by July he has already gained 40 placings, with 90% of these being in the top 6. In August 2011 Garry and Eric won Grade 5 Agility and went into Grade 6. In May 2012 Eric became the first Aussie to ever reach Grade 7, a fantastic achievement.

2009 and it was the arrival of David Wright and Betsy (Bachero Winnie-Bago), also David’s first Agility dog, and this pair has taken the Agility world by storm! Born in 2007 Betsy is the youngest Aussie to progress into Grade 6, she achieved this at the tender age of three which is amazing as dogs cannot compete until they are 18 months old. Betsy also qualified for the ABC Semi-Finals in 2009 and 2010. Betsy has three of the required four wins to take her to Grade 7.

2011 has seen Denise Catt and Mikki (Bachero Redwood C’Mikki AW(S)) compete in their first full season of Agility and what and impressive start they have had! Mikki won a Grade 3 jumping class and two Grade 3-5 Agility Classes which progressed him to Grade 4 in his first season of competing, he also qualified for the 2012 Olympia ABC Agility Semi-Finals. At the tender age of three Denise and Mikki won into Grade 6.  Mikki Has also qualified for the Pro Plan Novice final where he was the only Aussie and came 4th. In 2013 he qualified for the Grade 1-7 Olympia Semi Final that was held at Stoneleigh Park.

2011 also saw Denise’s husband, Pete, competing with Mikki’s brother Finch (Bachero Redwood Crazy Finch AW(S)). Pete and Finch have gained many top 10 placings in Grade 3 and in 2012 Finch won out of Grade 3 and is now Grade 4. Pete and Finch qualified for the ABC Novice Finals that were held at Crufts in 2013 and WON it!! They have also won the Traval Grade 4-7 League and qualified for the Pro Plan Novice Final to be held on September 2013.

Other Aussies competing in Agility are Caroline Smith and Sheila (Elkstone Zugbug) who came 2nd in the UKA Finals in 2013. Nicola Ashton and Harley (Triforce Nautilus) who have only been competing since the start of 2013 but have already gained several top 10 places in Grade 3. Tracy Matheson-Smith and Dizzy (Triforce the The Stormrunner AW(S)) who currently compete in Grade 5 but I’m sure that Grade 6 isn’t far away. I have Chayse (Trijem Apple Danish at Inoby) and Kobi (Trijem Urban Daredevil for Inoby) competing lightly at Grade 3, we do the odd show for a bit of fun!!

The standard in Agility is rising but those who get an Aussie thinking that they are like a Collie soon realise that they aren‘t, the difference in attitude, style and build make them truly unique.  The Aussie is a very agile dog, they can jump from a standstill and turn on a sixpence which makes them ideal for Agility, you often hear an Aussie doing an Agility round before you see one!

Catherine Fuller


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