The 2024 Working Aussie Futurity is in the books! The event went out without much of a hitch. Ten amazing trainers and dogs met up in Frost, Texas to share the best that the working Aussie world has to offer.

I have put on many events in the past several years from large national events to small local camps and clinics. This was by far the most amazing event of all. It is one of my favorite memories.

The Novice class was as large as the open class! Young handlers and dogs showed up and did some amazing work. Teams were supported by friends, families and other competitors. The whole feeling of the event was one of fun, challenge and meaning. 

The courses were designed to bring out the best in the working Aussie. There were 3 courses in sheep and 3 courses in cattle. No ducks in this futurity! Two of the three events were ranch courses. The dogs got to work in the pasture, hold sheep in areas without fences, and sort cattle to name a few. The courses were challenging and workable and both dogs and handlers stepped up the post and showed up in every way.

Handlers jumped in with enthusiasm and asked their dogs to do things they had never done before like sorting sheep through my race. In my race, the dog has to be left in the pen with the sheep while the handler moves to the sorting area to manage sheep. Most people have never asked their dogs to do anything like this. The working Aussies that showed up to this futurity handled it without blinking an eye. 

In true Aussie fashion every single dog easily managed the farm and ranch tasks and showed us what they can do. There were Aussies in the futurity at all levels of training and experience. The events allowed us to see what amazing creatures these dogs are in so many things. 

I wanted this event to be a place we can showcase the amazing talent and ranching usefulness of these dogs. I think it did that. I am a little disappointed to see so much push back over the futurity as a whole. I worked really hard to create an event that addressed the major complaints people make about a futurity. First of all, dogs can be up to 3 years old when they run. The eligibility dates are very generous. Secondly, the events were created to showcase the things that Aussies do so naturally.

I want to address some of these complaints for a bit if you will indulge me. Let’s talk about training a young dog. The past 4 Aussies I have put a WTCH on were all 3 years old or under. Harley was 2, Copper and Wyatt (who WTCHd the same day), were ready at 2 but Covid pushed us back a few months. Ranger was 3 as well. Flynn is two now and will most likely WTCH this year. He was my futurity dog. 

Let’s talk about Flynn. I will share my story of preparing for the futurity. Flynn was a late blooming baby. He wasn’t ready to really train on until he was over a year old. I didn’t push him. I let him grow on his own terms. It worked out ok for me because while he was growing up I was finishing Ranger and campaigning Copper. So Flynn had all the time in the world. If I needed a ranch hand though, it would have been less than ideal. I wouldn’t have had the luxury of being so patient with him.

I planned on running Flynn FEO at the Futurity since it was my place and we were using my livestock. So it also gave me an excuse to be lazy on training. Make no mistake, he is trained in many ways. He is trained better than most of my past dogs before I started trialing them. I let him work with Copper a lot when he was young and learning. I played around with different training techniques than I have used before. Some worked, some didn’t. I learned a lot in the process. I also spent time working on my training abilities. I sought out some amazing trainers and clinicians and worked on myself as much as I worked on Flynn.

When the futurity rolled around, he showed up and did a really nice job in most areas. He did well on the things I knew he would do well in, and struggled with the things I knew he would struggle with because of training. I knew where I had taken him in training and I supported him in the areas he struggled. The courses were designed so our dogs could figure them out and do what came naturally. So Flynn was able to show off some of his best talents.

As a livestock owner who uses a dog every day, having a late bloomer isn’t ideal. It begs the question. Do we really think we can be the premier ranching dog, and then run around shouting about how we can’t train this premier dog to work on a ranch by the age of 2 or 3? We always tell people the Aussie is an amazing ranch dog. Part of being an amazing ranch dog is to get to work as soon as possible. How many ranchers appreciate a dog on the payroll that doesn’t carry their own weight? Their working life is too short as it is, how can we justify shortening it even more by not getting them going as young as possible?

As to putting too much pressure on young dogs. I am going to be blunt here. We need to get better at training dogs. Yep, I agree, some dogs can’t take pressure at a young age. I get it. They can be great dogs, but is that the ideal working dog? I refer to the above paragraph. If we choose to step up and grow as trainers, we can learn how to manage expectations and teach these dogs how to be the best version of themselves. I hear things like: “People put too much pressure on young dogs.” “People stress these dogs out.” “Dogs who run in nursery don’t make it to open.” 

These are not dog problems. These are people problems. If we manage our egos, and we push ourselves to get better as hard as we push our dogs, we shouldn’t have a problem. We have a breed with a strong history of amazing dogs who started in the futurity. We can ask so much more of our dogs and ourselves. We owe it to this amazing breed to step up and show them off to their very best advantage.    

The advantage of The Working Aussie Ranch Dog Futurity is the passion to show off the working abilities of working bred Aussies. Setting up challenges that allow us to work with the natural abilities and expertise of this breed is the goal of this futurity. Our current arena trialing program isn’t ideal. The current trialing program doesn’t show off the natural talents and abilities of our dogs, which is a whole other conversation. So the WAS stepped up to design a program to compete in and show off the basic ranching abilities of our dogs. 

The point of a futurity in other species is to highlight better and better genetics, to breed for better and better youngsters. If we take that to heart for our dogs we can do a couple of things: 1) spend time learning to be a better trainers, 2) breed for fast young strong dogs, 3) be brave enough to step up and showcase our dogs.

Because our breed and our dogs deserve our best.