Small – Medium – Large
Now that little Bu started to compete, the most common question I get is how does it feel to run in large in comparison to medium… Well, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you - it's very easy. Bu is my best trained dog, trained on cik&cap from puppyhood, with better turns and less speed as La, so handling her in comparison to La is like being on vacationJ.
Well yes, as always, I do not agree with general opinion that large dogs are the hardest to handle, train contacts etc., etc., etc.
In my humble opinion, how easy or hard a dog is to handle depends on two things:
1. how fast he is and
2. how well trained he is.
The faster the dog and less trained it is, harder things get.
I always say that you have two options: either you’re a great trainer or you’re a great handler. If you’re great enough handler to be in exactly the right places all the time, then you don’t really need to train your dog. I’m not. Luckily, I’m good enough trainer to train my dogs to save my ass when I’m not in the exactly the ideal place. Better I train them, more they’re up to this job. And while I do agree that average-fast not-trained Sheltie is easier to handle as average-fast not-trained Border Collie, I think that average-fast superb-trained Border Collie is easier to handle as average-fast not-trained Sheltie. And my pretty-fast very-well-trained BC is easier to handle as my superior-fast well-trained crazy little La, even though Bu is 52,5cm and La is 37cm…
But large dogs turn wider??? Well, mine doesn’t… Bu turns tighter as La and WAAAY tighter as Lo… Why? Because she is best trained in that aspect. It has nothing to do with her size. But they jump longer??? Well, mine jumps just as long as I tell her to… But they’re faster??? Well, I’m pretty sure they’re not faster as La… But it’s easier to get contacts with them??? I don’t think so – natural running contacts are almost as rare in medium as they’re in large… So most likely, you’ll have to train contacts no matter how small or big your dog is and I don’t see why it would be any easier to do so with smaller as with bigger dog??? How easy it will be depends mostly on 1. how motivated the dog is and 2. how much of a thinker he is.
And no, I’m not trying to say that there is no difference between small - medium – large. In initial phases of training, they do bring very different challenges. But the end product, if as fast and as well trained as I would wish for, doesn’t really differ. La is not any easier to handle as a BC with her speed and training would be.
The major difference I see in initial phases of training big vs. small dogs is that on average, average large dog (BC) has more drive as average small dog (Sheltie) and is therefore easier to train: he can stand more repetition, doesn’t shut down so easily and is not so sensitive to trainer’s mistakes. Of course, we can’t generalize that either: my small dog (La) has way more drive as my BC, can stand about million more repetitions and is much more sure about the fact that my mistakes are my problem, not hers, and just couldn’t care less about them. Bu on the other hand is very sensitive, obsessed by doing everything right and still lacks self-confidence, so it’s actually harder to train her as La in that aspect. Still, it takes longer for La to learn something as with Bu since, unlike Bu who is a thinker, La is a “do-er” – do first, think somewhere in between. Or not at all.
The other difference is jumping issue. While perfectly-trained large dog will jump just as good and turn just as good as perfectly-trained small dog, you can get away also with not-at-all trained small dog as far as jumping is concerned, while you in general can’t do that with large dog… Large dog need more jumping training – while just the same turning work, just that he needs it even more essentially.
Anyway, to sum it all up: there is no difference in the end-product, but there is a difference in challenges you’ll encounter on the way there. In general, you’ll encounter more motivational issues with small dogs and more jumping issues with large dogs. But even this is just “in general”, in my case, La is much more of a Border Collie as my Border CollieJ. I also admit that a mistake while handling a large dog will have larger effect as the same mistake while handling a small dog, but then, our goal is to avoid those mistakes, isn’t it? I mean: if you tell your large dog about the turn too late, it will end with a bigger turn as if you do the same mistake with your small dog… But then, if you’re in time, both turns will be equally good. I also agree that there are more exceptionally good large dogs as small/medium. But it’s like that with a reason. Getting a BC is almost getting a dog with drive-guarantee (well, only if you get Bu…), while with small/medium dogs, it’s just not so easy. But again: at the end of the day, speed&training is all that matters. And the only important thing is that you have fun on a way there! – With small, medium or large dog, it’s your choice.