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Spotlight on Agility with Ben and Nancy

Performance interview:   Spotlight on Agility:  Featuring Nancy Wentworth (NW) and Mach 6, MXS2, MJG2, MAD, PDCH Catch 7 Merrigang Benjamin Matlock, WCRL veterans CH x 2 (Ben).


  • Heather Rife (HR) How did you get started in Australian Terriers? Did you have a mentor?

(NW) – Ha! Well I got started in Aussies in 2007 when I happened to see Heather Rife’s puppies at an agility trial. She had two puppies left from her litter – one she was keeping and one that was looking for a home. I took the puppy that needed a home and started my journey with Australian Terriers.

(HR) What led you to pick this performance activity for this particular dog (or did you pick this puppy for Agility)?

(NW) – I had been training in Agility since 1991 and had three Portuguese Water Dogs which were very successful. At that time, I was 54 years old and wanted/needed a smaller dog. I hoped he would love the sport, and he absolutely did!

  • (HR) When did you know that you had a dog that was going to really excel in Agility?

(NW) You never really know until you begin working with a dog and seeing if they enjoy the sport. I don’t recall if there was a time I knew for sure – that is, until he started winning (laughs).

(HR) Laughing – that’s a big clue, isn’t it?

  • (HR) How do you motivate and maintain enthusiasm and energy while training your dogs?

(NW) – Through treats and praise while training. In the ring, I try to be happy with everything my dog does, and if something goes wrong, I try not to let my dog see my disappointment. Hopefully, my training will follow through and he will do well the next time.

(HR) Good answer!

  • (HR) What is the most difficult obstacle you’ve encountered in training? I guess in agility that obstacle could be a physical or behavioral/mental obstacle. Describe how you managed to overcome it.

(NW) – Well the hardest agility obstacles for us were hitting the A frame yellow contact zone and staying on the table for 5 seconds. I overcame both through training and in working every day using lots of praise. There were times he didn’t Q (qualify) because he was so enthusiastic. Eventually he became very reliable, and my agility friends began calling him “Ben the Reliable”.

(HR) Can you explain to our readers what a MACH title encompasses.

(NW) A MACH is a Master Agility Champion Title. One must score a total of 750 “speed points” which are earned by accumulating points based upon the number of seconds faster than the standard course time( the standard course time is calculated by the judge based on the path of the course )  Additionally, one must earn 20 double qualifying scores (qualifying in both jumpers and standard Agility courses on the same day).

(HR) In earning a MACH 6, Ben accumulated 4500 points and 120 double Q’s in AKC agility. WOW!

(NW) Yes. Ben was a terrific partner, and we were a great team! He always barked throughout his runs because he was so happy. My friends would say “how did Ben do? I heard him running” (laughing)

(HR) Tell us one of the funniest things that happened to you and Ben in the ring.  

(NW) – We were running in an outdoor  trial, and I fell flat on my face right by a jump – just before a tunnel. People on the sidelines were yelling “get up …..GET UP !!!!”. Ben just stood there, not moving, waiting on me to get up. So, I got up and continued the run. Remarkably, we actually finished under course time and Q’d!

(HR) – So nobody came to see if you were hurt? They just yelled “get up”? That’s funny!

  • (HR)- How were you initially received by competitors or judges who were not familiar with our breed?

(NW) – Hmmmmmm – I don’t really know. People always commented that Ben was always right, and he would always Q. He didn’t always Q but he did qualify more often than not. He really could do no wrong and was a great partner.

  • (HR) – Have you and your dogs influenced others to think about an Australian Terrier as a performance dog?

(NW) – I’m not sure. I have now owned and trained three Aussies and I think people are beginning to see them as terrific performance dogs.

  • (HR) – Describe your most exciting agility win for yourself and Ben.

(NW) – Our first novice win was the most memorable. Ben had always been slow and exacting in training. It was a beautiful day and was his first outdoor trial. I was expecting him to be his slow and methodical self, but he proved to be fast and accurate and earned his very first Q. I will never forget that day.

(HR) – Isn’t it amazing how you will always remember a particular win and how you felt during and after the run? It was probably a surprise to you to have him run so fast.

(NW) – Yes I was expecting a slow pokey kind of run but suddenly realized that I was really going to have to speed up to keep up with him.

(HR) – It’s a certain kind of feeling when you realize you’re getting left in the dust by your dog and you’re going to have to step on the gas to correctly cue him.

(NW) –Yes ,they keep you on your toes all the time

  • (HR) – Any words of wisdom to those just beginning their agility journey?

(NW) – If you and your dog like it, keep at it and don’t be discouraged. Remain positive and praise your dog frequently.

  • (HR) – You have so much expertise in agility. I understand that you’re just starting out with your third Aussie – CH TAKE5 LOVE ME TENDER, ELVIS. Would you be willing to mentor anyone that might wish to contact you with questions?

(NW) – Yes. I would be happy to help. I can be reached through my personal email at:

(HR) Thank you for your time Nancy. It was a pleasure reliving our time(s) doing agility together.

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