Aurora was competing in the Rally National Championship in Orlando, Florida, for the fourth time. She’s placed in the top 10 of every national event she’s competed in.
To compete in this top-tier event, Aurora had to meet eligibility requirements in more than 1,000 events during the past pandemic year.
Four must have been her lucky number—Aurora earned four perfect scores that day. But so had another handler and her dog. That meant the win would come down to time.
As soon as the judges announced the second-place winner, 25-year-old, pink-haired handler Brianne Farr knew they’d won.
“I love doing Rally and I’ve always wanted to win, but I always felt like it was possible, but not probable,” Brianne says. She’s an LGBTQ+ woman with pink hair in a traditionally old dog sport community.
When they announced over the loudspeaker that Aurora and Brianne won, Brianne was ecstatic. “It was unbelievable,” Brianne says. “It’s always been a goal, but I was shocked when it happened. And just so proud of Aurora and the performance that she put up with me.”
Their training started long before their win. Brianne has participated in Rally for 15 years and has earned more than 50 titles with her dogs over the years. In the past year, Aurora earned her MACH and her RACH.
Getting Started in Dog Sports as a Junior
When Brianne was five years old, her mom would take her to Agility trials. As Brianne watched the Border Collies zooming around and executing their moves, she fell in love with the world of dog sports.
Since her mom’s best friend participated in Obedience, she encouraged Brianne and taught her everything she needed to know to get started. Brianne wanted a Border Collie of her own to train, but she began training the dogs she had: first a Golden Retriever, then a terrier, next an Australian Shepherd.
Though she got “terrible ring nerves” when she started competing as a Junior at eight years old in Obedience, Rally, and Agility, Brianne overcame this feeling in time. Unfortunately, Brianne was also dealing with other mental health issues.
“In the midst of all of that was when things started to take a downward turn,” she says. “I was struggling to get out and about, but I will say that dog shows have always been the one safe spot for me and all my friends would tell you the same thing. If I’m having a hard time or not doing well, the one place that I feel comfortable and happy and safe is at dog shows. I think that it’s just like a second home for me.”
In April 2010, Brianne finally achieved her dream—she got her first Border Collie, Dare, at age 14 from a reputable breeder.
Dare was trained as a service dog to mitigate Brianne’s physical and mental health issues by performing tasks like retrieving items and doing deep pressure therapy in response to panic attacks.
When Brianne was 18, she contacted her Californian breeder for another Border Collie. But between a long waitlist and a surviving litter of one, her breeder told her that she would have to wait for another opportunity.
Brianne was disappointed, but she tried to move on. Then she got a text from the breeder that read: “This is the right puppy for you.”
Within weeks, Brianne welcomed Aurora into her life.
There was something special about puppy Aurora, but she was a challenge to train. Feisty and rambunctious, the 10-week-old would latch onto Brianne’s sweatpants when they were training, to the point that she could walk and drag her across the floor.
Brianne fell in love with her and immediately saw her potential. But she also thought: What have I done?
“It was really hard when I got her because I was really depressed at the time and I didn’t feel like putting her through training,” Brianne says. “But I had to because she was a very rambunctious, very talented puppy. So she kind of forced me to work with her.”
Aurora loves to play, and Brianne discovered it was important to make every sport a game. “You can see her put her game face on when she thinks that we’re going to play a game,” she says.
When they’re working on an exercise, Brianne will break it up to play fetch or tag and motivate Aurora. Even during competitions, she’ll find a moment to take Aurora outside away from the crowds before going into the ring, to get her amped up.
Though Brianne has trained and competed with other dogs, Aurora is her most calm and consistent.
“She doesn’t really let the pressure and distraction of big crowds and big events get to her,” Brianne says. “She focuses on me no matter what’s going on around her.”
Leading a Legacy of Championship Inside the Ring and Out
In addition to competing in Obedience, Rally, Agility, Herding, Disc Dog, and Dock Diving, Brianne breeds Border Collies and teaches classes through the organization she built, Trinity Border Collies. She fits training her dogs in between working with pet owners and dog sport students, which is a constant balancing act.
“I am just so thankful that I get to do it because, honestly, it’s hard sometimes to juggle my clients and working with my own dogs,” she says. “But it’s such a privilege to get to do something that I love pretty much all the time.”
Like many business owners, Brianne had to temporarily shut her doors due to COVID. “This past year has been really hard for a lot of people and it’s no exception for me,” she says.
With her business at a standstill, and with the recent death of her grandfather, Brianne was understandably depressed. But once again, her dogs Aurora and Dare—who are both attuned to her emotions—helped motivate her. Even though Dare is now a retired service dog, he’s always stuck by her side ready to serve. And without fail, Aurora will be the first to find Brianne when she’s feeling down and is even trained to perform many of the service tasks that Dare was once in charge of. Both dogs encourage Brianne to be active with walks and fetch sessions.
“I just hope that I can continue to repay back all the love that they give me,” she said.
Now that Brianne and Aurora are Rally National Champions, they’ve received an “unbelievable” amount of support on social media. But Brianne isn’t slowing down—she and Aurora are already trying for their PACH (Preferred Agility Championship) and plan to try for another championship in the future. The championship win caused Brianne to add two more Rally classes to her already busy schedule.
Dog Sports Are for Everyone
Brianne’s advice to anyone in the LGBTQ community looking to get involved in dog sports is not to fear being yourself and or worry what people will think.
“Don’t be afraid to be who you are in the community of dog sports because there are allies around every corner,” Brianne says.”There are so many people that are supportive and understanding that want to see more participation from LGBTQ people in dog sports.”
Brianne says she owes part of her success to support from her mom, partner, and trainers. “I think that LGBTQ people will be surprisingly met with a lot of love and support,” she says.
If you want to get started at home, Brianne recommends watching professional trainers like on AKC.tv and AKC.org.
“I think a lot of people are scared to start with—they don’t want to do it wrong,” Brianne says. “But it’s better to just get started and work on building whatever skills you want to.”
For example, Brianne has one student who had never taken a formal obedience class but trained their dog to do novice obedience skills on their own.
Anyone can get started in dog sports. Find a local trainer, club, or mentor to help introduce your dog to these activities.
Join Brianne and Aurora
Follow Aurora’s adventures through dog sports like Agility on Instagram.
Think your dog has what it takes to be Dog Athlete of the Month? Use hashtag #ThisisAKC on Instagram.