Not all border collies are the same. in fact, they are probably one of the most widely varying breeds out there, due to the nature of what they are bred for, and how they were created. Some border collies (many of them) have what I like to call a "space bubble". This is like personal space, and they would prefer you not get closer than necessary while running a course. Of course, we must train them to overcome this tendency for some situations, but these dogs will always be more comfortable in situations where they are asked to move away from you than they are in situations where they must choose to work close. Drifter prefers I push him away - it took me a while to get him to allow me in close, and even then it is usually a brief thing - I can of course do push-through's or tight front crosses or serpentines now, but when he was younger he would either hit the bar as he struggled to stay as far as possible while being very close (his bubble was bouncing off mine!) or just pretend he didnt' see me asking him to come in and sort of slide away. Now he is perfectly good, with only ONE exception - weave entries. Drifter has extremely good weave entries in every situation but one. Here is an illustration!
This entry asks Drifter to move away from me while following the line set by my body. He's VERY GOOD at this, and I can send him from much more extreme angles than the 90 degrees shown in this picture:
Drifter is more than happy to move off the pressure of my body and enter his weaves correctly. He has a great understanding of how to find the correct entry and wrap the pole without coming out. I do not have to babysit this entry.
Same entry, with me on the other side, is a nightmare of argument. I say "come to me", he counters with "why the hell should I when I know the poles are next?". he doesn't understand that he must come towards me to get the poles, and this is the only entry he will miss. In fact, he did, at IFCS last year when I chose the hard weave entry over a bar-knocking risk (parallel double jump with NO lower bars at 26").
This is one of 2 sticking points in Drifter's training that i was never able to properly resolve. He just loves weaves, and dislikes coming towards me, so much so that this was just an argument every time. if we had this weave entry, I just went on the inside and pushed out and he was fine. He is almost 9 now, not going overseas again, and now I just don't care to worry about it anymore. (the 2nd unresolvable issue? chutes as the beginning obstacle of a course, but his lead-out is so bad now that it doesn't really matter!)
Now, the study in opposites: Kiba! When Kiba was young and I trained her weaves and entries, she was VERY soft, and was so afraid to be wrong that if she erred twice in a row she shut down completely and had to be coaxed back into working. Thus, I had a very hard time training difficult weave entries with her. Right now her entries are "good", and in most situations if I can show her the entry from somewhere nearby and use my motion to indicate it, she will get it just fine. She understands how to slow down, and how to wrap the 2nd pole at speed, and not pop out. She's pretty good at 90+ degree angles on the "off-side" (the direction not shown in the diagrams) where she can sight on the first pole and go round it. But the "on-side" or "soft-side" as shown is baffling to her. Kiba, however, does not have a giant space bubble like Drifter. She does understand not to cross the line of my path and cut in front of me, but she has much less resistance to coming into me during a run. Thus, Kiba's right angle soft-side weave entries are best like this:
Which is interesting to me, and just illustrates how different individual dogs can be! I am NOT used to handling difficult sequences that way. Before I considered taking her to the WAO next year, I just assumed her entries were good enough for american agility and left it at that. But Kiba is not a wilting flower in training anymore. And I am thinking about trying to make a team that goes to an event that has weave entries like this! So we need to feel each other out. i will need to learn to "prefer" that handling. In the meantime, I am trying to train the other way, because you can't always be where you want to be on a course, and being on the inside does put you farther ahead.
Kiba's response to Drifter's preferred handling:
In other news, I just heard that Sweden does NOT require a titre to enter the country beginning in January, so if Kiba does not make the WAO Team and i have enough money to afford it, I will take Strafe to the EO. That will be exciting! Many of his relatives have matured and done well quite early, and he seems to be strongly heading the same way, so I think it will be a lot of fun to go show him there and his breeder could see him again too! Downside is that the EO Team is almost 100% self-funded and basically any good handler with the money can go, whereas the WAO Team has multiple sponsors that help reimburse travel costs, and it's a much more exclusive, smaller, more Team-like group of handlers. Each has its own merits and I wouldn't be sad to attend either one but I absolutely know I can't afford both (WAO does not have enough sponsors to cover our entire costs!).