Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 10:22 am | A Few Clouds 69º


Local Trainer Leads Border Collie to Obedience Title

Nathan Woods with UDX champion Tippy. Click to view larger
Nathan Woods with UDX champion Tippy.

Santa Barbara dog trainer Nathan Woods led Tippy, a 4-year-old border collie owned by Scott and Julia Evans, to the Utility Dog Excellent (UDX) title at a recent American Kennel Club show at Cal State University Channel Islands.

Utility Dog Excellent is one of the highest obedience titles given. To earn it, a dog and handler must first earn three qualifying scores in the Novice Level, earning a Companion Dog (CD) title; three qualifying scores in the Open Level, earning a Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title; and three qualifying scores in the Utility Level, earning a Utility Dog (UD) title.

They then must earn qualifying scores in both the Open B and Utility B classes on the same day at 10 different trials. In 2015, only 186 dogs earned UDX titles out of 130,894 entries in AKC obedience trials.

“I view the accomplishment of AKC Obedience titles as the ultimate confirmation of my dog-training ability,” Woods said. “It takes many years of practice and persistence to get a dog through all three levels, Novice, Open, and Utility.

"Often, dogs get too old before a trainer can get to the highest levels, so it is somewhat of a race against time," he said.

"Yet I consider this kind of validation important because, while a lawyer must pass a bar exam, an accountant has to become certified, and a doctor has to get their M.D. or Ph.D, dog trainers are not required to get anything in order to professionally practice. Earning this type of title attests to the skill I bring to my clients and their animals,” Woods said.

To achieve this level of mastery, including his RAE (Rally Advanced Excellent) title, Tippy the dog had to acquire a total of 58 qualifying scores, Woods said.

Accuracy and precision are vital to scoring well, but the handler’s ease and the dog’s enjoyment are also essential.

In the Open class, dogs must complete their routines off-leash, and retrieving and jumping requirements are added.

Trials in the Utility class include scent discrimination, directed retrieves, jumping, and silent-signal exercises, making it the most difficult class.

Although Nathan has led other dogs to various titles, Tippy is his first UDX recipient.

“He’s definitely one of the most motivated dogs I’ve ever worked with,” Woods said.

“We’ve been training together since he was 10 weeks old, and he’s very serious about it. He’s waiting at the gate when I come to pick him up in the morning, and it’s almost as if he gets angry at himself if he misses a trick," Woods said.

“Border collies tend to be purpose-driven,” Woods said. “They need a job to be happy. Tippy loves to show what he can do. That’s what makes a great performance dog, when the dog himself loves it,” Woods said.

Woods has been training dogs in Santa Barbara since 2001, when he opened Santa Barbara Pet Services. A year ago, he changed his company’s name to Nathan Woods, Dog Trainer to reflect his growing emphasis on his personal dog-training expertise and philosophy — summarized in the tagline “Unleash your dog’s full potential—and your own.”

“My experience has convinced me that virtually all dogs are capable of performing at the responsiveness level of show dogs,” Woods said. “Moreover, they enjoy responding at this level; it gives them a sense of purpose.

"And dogs don’t have to be purebred to compete in AKC obedience and Rally trials.”

Tippy, for example, is already working on his next accomplishment: the Obedience Master (OM) title.

“Aspiring owners often ask me what they can do to increase their dog-training skills. I tell them that achieving high-level obedience titles with their dog will greatly raise their skill level.

"Achieving a high-level title makes the basic level look extremely easy. Most pet owners are thrilled if their dog can do 80 percent of Novice Level.

“Everyone is capable of greatness,” Woods said. “It’s the same for dogs.”

Woods can be reached via, email [email protected], phone, 452-2817, or at Loose Pooch Dog Club, 1925 State St., Santa Barbara.

— Leslee Goodman for Nathan Woods.


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