Just a few comments (which might get me in trouble, but I can handle it). I have absolutely no problem with people that want to trial in smaller venues, or larger venues, or both. All of them are good experience for the handler and for the dog. I'm going to make a few observations coming directly from how I think. I'm pretty sure this isn't how the majority thinks. Maybe...maybe not. Don't get your panties in a twist :0)
ASCA Can't say much since I haven't trialed this venue in YEARS. I did trial Jet all the way up to the advanced field level (if that is a level). The problem is you have to start your dog in started, no matter if your dog is NOT a started dog. Correct me if things have changed. I don't mind being corrected. I stopped trialing in ASCA because the runs seemed so out of control and sometimes out of control won.
With that said, it should be all about teaming up with your dog, right? So, it really shouldn't matter if dogs out of control, or who aren't really working, place and get qualifying scores. But, it just doesn't sit well with me.
That goes for AKC events also. I just started judging AKC. I think I have judged maybe 4 events. AKC allows you to start at the level you think you belong in, but now has this Master program, so you can stay at that same level for another 8 qualifying scores. Really, who gives a rat's ass about a Master started dog? Stupid and just a money maker for the AKC organization. That's how I see it.
So why do I judge it? Because I thoroughly enjoy watching all of the herding breeds. I love a good herding dog. Kudos to the Arizona people. When I judged in Arizona, I was most IMPRESSED. I saw nice working dogs of all breeds. And, many of those other breeds beat the Border Collies. That said, we have some wonderful handlers/dogs here, too in SoCal. but, the overall work at the Arizona trial I went to was an eye opener.
What I don't like to see in AKC is a lack of professionalism. I am not qualifying a dog that is NOT doing the work. I don't care what breed you handle or who you are. Period. I know good work when I see it. I don't like to see people qualify with dogs that aren't working the stock. And, sometimes the stock almost know the A course (arena). So if the handler can down their dog and have patience, the stock may just walk on through the obstacles. Painful.
With that said, I do enjoy working some of my dogs on the B course (field). It's nice that advanced has a shed to practice for USBCHA. Shedding dog broke farm flocks is always a challenge. I enjoy working the field geese. I used to do arena work with Jet. He was the finesse man, but I rarely trial in arena work now. You have to slow your dog down too much and it puts a lot of pressure on them. Since, I also like to trial USBCHA, I need a dog that is coming on to his sheep some 300 to 400 yards away.
And, the rules. OMG...the rules in AKC. Honestly, many have little to do with stockmanship. And, AKC people LOVE their rules. If I hear "Where in the rule book does it say that one more time?" Lordy. I personally could care less if the dog comes into the arena with their leash on or their leash off. I'm there to judge the dog's work. The rules are maddening. Every time I read the rule book, I see some new rule.
AHBA My most favorite venue, because it has ranch classes and large flock classes. AHBA has it share of rules, but nothing like AKC. My dogs enjoy the ranch classes as much as I do. You can also start at the level where you think your dog belongs.
While I'm on a role, I'd like to mention a few pet peeves of mine in the smaller venues (we don't see it in USBCHA). When you walk to the post, you should pretty much have an idea as to what side you are going to send your dog on. Right? Once in awhile a dog might indicate which way he wants to go and you change sides, but that is rare. The whole object is to teach the dog to look straight ahead in the direction you are walking. The less fussing you can do at the post ensures a better outrun. In the smaller venues, my pet peeve is people come to the post, try to line the dog up, step over the dog and make all sorts of extra movements with their hands, mouths and crooks. It's kind of a set up for disaster. Teach your dog to come to the post quietly with his mind focused on the stock, not on you.
The other pet peeve (ain't it great having your own blog LOL) is "here, here." Here to me means asking the dog to come to me on his shed. "Here, here" is NOT a flank. What that means is your dog is NOT listening to you and is NOT taking his flanks. You need to go back to the drawing board. I see many handler's dogs that know their flanks and the handler still uses "here" instead of the flank only confusing the dog more. Many times the dogs will spin around with a "here" instead of giving a flank. It just isn't something a handler should have to use very often. Thank-you, now I feel better for saying that.
One last thing while I'm on a roll. You can give a gruff vocal correction, but try to make your commands in a nice tone. It is painful to yell flanks at your dog. We all get frustrated when we ask our dogs to do something and they don't on the trial field. I'm right there with you. If the dog is NOT trying and is NOT listening, then it is best to retire. You know what you need to work on. No use allowing the dog to get away with doing it wrong over and over again through out a 10-12 minute run.
USBCHA Little to no rules. I love you. I love the challenge. I love the comraderie. Amen.