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Astra and Artoo
Carla Repko
Astra (left), a Smooth Collie, and Artoo (right) a Collie mix, have competed in dog sports like Rally, Agility, and Barn Hunt.

When Carla Repko was younger, she and her brother would beg and beg their parents for a dog and were sadly unsuccessful with each attempt. So naturally, when she bought her first house, the first thing she did was get a dog: a mixed breed named Artoo.

While his behavior was great in the first year, he began showing some signs of reactivity and light dog aggression, which unexpectedly landed the pair into the world of dog sports.

“I sought out a trainer to start working on that, see what we could do,” Carla said. “And they pointed me in the direction of dog sports to help him build his confidence and be less afraid of everything.”

They started with Rally and then expanded to Barn Hunt and Agility to help keep building the confidence. Within the first six months, Carla noticed improvement in his socialization skills and ability to relax.

Adding a Smooth Collie to the Mix

Since Artoo no longer could go to park to play with other dogs, Carla began searching for another dog that would understand him. With Artoo being approximately 50 percent Collie and 50 percent Siberian Husky, Carla decided to do some research about temperaments and traits to narrow down what breed she wanted. She decided that what she liked most about R2 came from the Collie side but decided to try for a Smooth Collie in order to deal with less fur.

She found a local breed that she’s still in contact with and the rest is history. “I got Astra and she’s been a hot mess, but a delightful, hot mess,” Carla said. “I like the calm but focused nature of them.”

Astra competing in AKC Rally.
Carla Repko
Astra competing in AKC Rally with Carla.

With Smooth Collies being less common than the Rough Collie, Carla finds herself explaining that Astra is a purebred and “not some Doberman mix.” “I’ve used her to kind of educate my family on responsible breeding in general, which has been an adventure, I would say.”

Though bringing a second dog in the mix was a bit of an adjustment for already anxious Artoo, eventually he was able to exist in the same space as her without getting upset and they now live together peacefully. But now the issue remains of finding the time in her day to give each dog enough attention.

“I find myself spending time with one I’m like, ‘oh, I feel bad that I’m not spending time with the other one,’ but they’ll get their time next,” Carla said.

Competing with a Canine Parter

Naturally, Astra had to join in the fun of dog sports and began competing in Rally, Barn Hunt, Fast CAT, as well as Conformation.

“[Dog sports have] helped me understand them a whole lot more,” Carla said. “I didn’t realize how much there really was to owning a dog and relating to them because I’ve always just seen people with dogs, but there’s so much that goes on in their heads and meeting their needs and helping them feel comfortable and okay with the world.”

Even with Artoo competing as a mixed breed, Carla says she’s received nothing but support from everyone she’s encountered. “Even when I’ve had him lurking at breed shows with Astra, I haven’t gotten any weird comments. It’s been awesome.”

Since competing with Artoo, she has seen him get more confident and more relaxed while surround by dogs.

Artoo heading into the water
Carla Repko
Carla is always encouraging Artoo to try new dog sports, like Dock Diving, to help build his confidence.

Because he enjoys swimming, Carla is hoping for him to try Dock Diving next—as soon as she convinces him that jumping into the water is fun. She’s also trying to get Astra into herding, and is currently practicing with real sheep that her breeder owns.

One of Carla’s favorite aspects of competing with both a mixed breed and purebred is seeing both rescues and fanciers join in on the fun and learn from each other in the process.

“We love to see people that have taken a rescue dog, work them through a bunch of different sports, and then realized they want this out of my next dog and making that step to responsibly find a pure bred dog,” she says. Though she adds she still supports responsibly getting a rescue.

With a positive experience with dog sports from both her dogs, Carla finds herself encouraging everyone she knows with a dog to try it out for themselves. Her advice? Just get out there.

“It sounds way scarier than it really is,” Carla said. “I would just say just try and you’ll probably love it and your dog will love it and it’ll be great.”

Join Carla, Artoo, and Astra

Follow Carla’s adventures with Artoo and Astra on Instagram!

Any breed — including mixed breeds — can participate in dog sports like Trick Dog, FAST CAT, and Diving Dogs.

Think your dog has what it takes to be Dog Athlete of the Month? Use the hashtag #ThisIsAKC on Instagram.

Related article: Is Your Dog Stressing You Out?
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