Carol Donnelly acquired Belli on a co-ownership agreement with breeder Vicki Sandage, and thus started a wonderful journey where this Pembroke Welsh Corgi would become the breed’s first triple champion. Carol first started working with Belli in agility, introducing many of the elements of the sport in a puppy-friendly setting. Carol uses Frisbees to build speed, and tug-toys to increase drive and desire. Tupperware lids were used to teach targeting, and rear-end awareness was taught with use of a clay flowerpot.
Belli also attended puppy kindergarten class as well as show-handling classes, and in these experiences obedience and future herding commands were introduced.
Carol Donnelly and her triple-champion Pembroke Welsh Corgi “Belli”—GCh./TC/MACH2 Sandfox Rags to Riches, CD, RA, HSAds, HSBd, HIAds, HXAdMsM, MXG, MJC
For a Pembroke Welsh Corgi to earn a triple championship, he or she must earn championships in both conformation and herding, and then also earn a championship title in agility, obedience, or tracking.
The Biggest Challenge: Herding Championship
Carol said that beyond a doubt, the herding championship was the most difficult to attain. She said she made lots of novice-handler mistakes. Getting the livestock around the course and still keeping enough points to qualify is in itself a big challenge at every level.
Once a dog attains the Advanced (HX) title in herding, then he has to beat all of the other dogs competing in the Advanced levels on all the courses and livestock offered at that trial to earn championship points. That means beating your instructors, professional herding trainers, and facility owners, as well as fellow exhibitors who may be herding judges or have many more years’ experience working livestock. It also means beating dogs of the other breeds eligible to compete in herding events.
A dog must win two first places under two different judges in the Advanced classes where championship points are available, and one of those first placings must be a major.
The point scale is the same throughout the country, and many trials do not have enough entries to make up a major.
Belli is the ninth HC Pembroke, the fourth one to also be a breed champion, and the first to have a championship in another discipline.
With so few HCs in the breed, I asked Carol her thoughts about possible reasons why. Following is her reply:
“I think it’s a function of availability, access (to training, practice, and trialing sites), and belief. The more of us who accomplish this goal, the more people who will believe they can do it as well … and they can! Herding, although it has been around for over 25 years, is still an infant sport, just now beginning to see growth in the more suburban areas. When I first began in Corgis, I don’t think I knew anyone who worked stock with their dog. Now it’s a rare thing to not meet someone with a herding breed who has not at least seen an instinct test or knows someone taking lessons.”
Some of the problems that potential herding enthusiasts encounter include lack of training facilities, instructors, and trials. She feels that this situation has improved, and newcomers do not have the difficulties people faced even 10 years ago. The kind comments from fellow competitors, as well as compliments on Belli’s work from the judges themselves, and each High in Trial or Reserve High in Trial award were affirmations of their ability to compete at the highest levels in herding.
Aiming for a Triple Championship
If you want to add a triple championship to your goals, Carol has some suggestions.
- First, find a breeder whom you can trust, if you yourself are not breeding your prospect. Traits to look for in the puppy include biddability, correct structure, and drive.
- Find instructors who have achieved what you aspire to do, whether it’s an OTCH, CT, or a MACH in addition to the HC.
- Spend some time studying the psychology of winning. With both the OTCH and HC titles, you and your dog will have to beat others to get the needed points, unlike the MACH.
- Don’t course-train your dog in herding, as both of you will need to be able to think quickly on your feet and adapt to sudden changes. That takes a dog who understands the fundamental skills, rather than just the pattern. Take the time to learn and to teach a firm foundation of skills.
From just “Belli” to GCh./TC/MACH2 Sandfox Rags to Riches, CD, RA, HSAds, HSBd, HIAds, HXAdMsM, MXG, MJC, it’s been quite a ride! She is an inspiration to all of us, and we can’t wait to see what other achievements await this team.
To see our finest Pembrokes in action, plan to attend this year’s national specialty, September 26 through October 3 in Wisconsin. See the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America’s website for full details.