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Eileen Stein

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Everything posted by Eileen Stein

  1. I'm glad we agree that selecting for different qualities will lead to different offspring. So the AKC, which encourages and rewards selection for different qualities, is a threat to the merit of the dogs of every breeder who succumbs to their lure to select for different qualities. Because of AKC's prestige, awards and influence, they are causing the progeny of many border collies to become something that is called a border collie but we both agree is not truly a border collie. If that only happened to a very small percentage of the gene pool, it would be questionable whether that constituted damage to the breed. But what if, over time, it came to amount to 70%, 80%, 90% of the breed? It came to be the recognized norm (as it is fast becoming)? Could you say then that the breed had not been seriously damaged? The fact is that there's a tipping point, even if we don't know exactly where it is. There comes a point where you don't have enough dogs who still have the qualities that define a border collie to maintain a healthy, viable breed. Working traits cannot be "fixed" the way color and ear set and tail carriage can be "fixed." You need enough dogs in the gene pool to be able to choose mates that will keep these traits in balance in the next generation and the next, as well as avoid the health problems of inbreeding. The ones who have lost the traits cannot contribute. If they become a big enough proportion of the breed, we will see the quality of working dogs diminish even if it is not recognized as happening, because the pool of dogs who still have all the traits has become so small. And if it IS recognized as happening, livestock people will probably turn to other breeds, or at least an infusion of other breeds, and that will be the demise of the working border collie breed in the sense in which the AKC (and you, I think) are using the word "breed." The AKC has done this. They didn't have to, they could have left the border collie alone, as the vast majority of border collie owners and 100% of border collie registries and 99% of border collie organizations wanted them to do. But they wanted the breed and they took it. Suppose some rich whacko offered to pay $100,000 to anyone who bred a line of prick-eared, short-coated solid-brown-except-for-one-white-circle-on-the-top-of-the-head border collies that breeds true for three generations. Doesn't that person bear some responsibility for the harm s/he causes to the breed as breeders go all out to win the prize, even if no one was forced to seek the prize? In the same way, AKC bears the responsibility for setting appearance standards as the measure of excellence for border collies, offering incentives to breeders to breed to those standards, and legitimizing dogs so bred as authentic border collies, and even Champion border collies. The factor that everyone seems to lose sight of in these arguments is TIME. It's natural to think that how it is now is how it will always be. But that's not true -- acts can set in motion processes that take a fairly long time to play out. Often their effects are barely noticeable at first, but gather speed over time and then snowball. The border collie was recognized by the AKC in 1995. The fact that there are still working border collies in the US twenty years later does not mean the AKC is not a serious threat to the breed. Nor does the AKC have to be the one single cause of harm to the border collie. Most complex events have more than one cause -- some major, some minor. Climate change has not had a single cause, but there are entities that still played an outsized part in causing it. Throwing sandwich wrappers overboard may contribute to pollution of a river, but that does not minimize or excuse the role of the chemical company that pipes its waste into the river. If the AKC has done the things you acknowledge they've done, they deserve blame for the harm those things predictably have caused and will cause. There are many breeds that have totally lost their function after being taken in by the AKC. I'm not aware that working Cocker Spaniels exist in any number. How hard does it have to be to find a dog from a surviving working strain for you to acknowledge AKC recognition has caused harm to that breed? Even what has happened to the lab and the GSD and the Aussie looks like harm to me. Sounds good to me.
  2. I don't think chene's argument is flawed at all. I have bolded the part of your quote that I think is most significant, and which you seem to glide over without giving it any consideration. The names we use to designate objects or beings are designed to convey information about them. If an entity changes the nature of something -- be it animal, vegetable or mineral -- but continues using the same name to denote the thing, and claims that the thing is the same as the original, that leads at best to incoherence and confusion. If the entity doing it is powerful and respected by most, that can indeed lead to changes over time in how the thing is bred or made. Let's go back to Tea's tomato. Suppose Burpee decided to develop a 'Beefsteak' tomato that had a spectacular flower. Over the tomato generations it took to develop the spectacular flower, no attention was paid to the fruit -- its taste, the thickness of its skin, etc., so the fruit deteriorated in the qualities we currently value in a tomato. They brought it on the market, advertising it as a new and improved 'Beefsteak' tomato that gave gorgeous blooms as well as fruit. Now Burpee is not as dominant in the flower and vegetable business as AKC is in the dog business, but still this would lead to problems. A lot of people, home growers as well as seed companies and nurseries, would buy those 'tomato' seeds and plants. Many would be disappointed, but many would not be -- they'd be entranced by the flowers, or they didn't have much of a sense of taste, or they're easily influenced (think "The Emperor's New Clothes"), or they never ate tomatoes often or at all, etc. If that was your first tomato, you might well think it was fine. Those who were disappointed might not buy again (or would try not to, because how can you be sure when they're both called 'Beefsteak' tomatoes?) and would only be out the money they spent for their first plants. But there would be enough demand from those who weren't disappointed to cause market share to grow. Over time, more and more people would buy that tomato, and produce that tomato, and fewer and fewer people would remember what a "real" 'Beefsteak' tomato was like. They would think that the new model was quite a good tomato. They would think they "had it all." (Have you ever tasted beef raised on pasture on a farm? I was amazed when I first tasted it, it was so much better tasting than supermarket beef. But how many people know that? How many have had that experience? Everybody once did, but over time less and less do.) There is not the rigid line you seem to think between breeders of working border collies and breeders of others. Many good breeders of border collies were able to breed more working dogs than they otherwise would have because there was demand for their pups from non-livestock folks who nevertheless appreciated border collies' attributes. Those folks may be misled into buying the "new and improved" border collie, because after all it's a border collie, and AKC besides, and probably easier to come by. There are many livestock producers who do not currently use dogs, but who would certainly be better off if they did. If they decide to give a dog a try, they may well choose an AKC border collie, because after all it's a border collie, and as a result decide that border collies are not that much use. Not only are they worse off as a result, but the breed is worse off. You cannot keep a breed alive without a fairly broad and deep gene pool. And you cannot have large numbers of the breeders of that breed working at cross purposes, breeding for different and mutually inconsistent things, without serious damage if not destruction of the breed. Yes, those are the easy arguments to make. AKC rewards the production of deformed dogs. AKC supports puppy mills. But I think it's important to make the argument that's harder to grasp, because it goes to the very foundation of how people think about dogs (thanks to the AKC and other KCs). Who says a breed is what it looks like? The AKC. And that thinking has permeated the larger society. It's important to fight that. To explain that there's a different way of defining a breed than by its appearance. That a breed can be defined by what it can do, not by how it looks, and that besides being the original way breeds were defined, it's a more useful way, because breeds have been developed to be of service to us in different ways, and to disregard the importance of what the dog was developed (painstakingly and over many generations) to do is to undermine that breed. That's what the AKC does. ETA: I was writing this response to an earlier post of yours, Chanse, while you were posting the one immediately above. I do think you are still minimizing the significance of using a single name for what are in essence two different breeds, though. And I would not know where to begin to find a working lab, even though I'm sure that some (but not many) people would.
  3. Ah, yes . . . how do you get people to care about something they don't care about? I'm surprised it can ever be done, but sometimes it can. The people you succeed with are the ones who are open-minded enough to entertain a new thought, smart enough to reason it through, and have enough empathy to imagine themselves in the shoes of someone who needs working dogs. Such people will always be a minority, but once they're convinced, they make the best advocates.
  4. I'm moving this topic to General Border Collie Discussion. I'm sure you'll get more responses there, since this forum is for questions about training dogs for livestock management and stockdog trials.
  5. I believe the best current thinking on EOD is that it is autosomal recessive rather than dominant, and that the family trees used in this article do not rule out a recessive pattern of inheritance.
  6. If that's true, then why does every police K-9 handler and vet I talk to say they have to go to Europe to get a decent GSD?
  7. Yes, it's so often a mistake to assume that the situation in one country is the same as the situation in another. One of the differences here is that I can't imagine that anyone in the US who is not directly involved with working labs would ever ask what "type" a lab they were told about is. The working lab has been so marginalized here that even in the unlikely event someone knew such a distinction existed, he would just assume the lab in question was the show/sport/pet type. Very occasionally there will be a pet owner who will have gotten a lab of the working "type" and s/he will almost always make a big point of saying so. The usual response is something like an uninterested,"Oh really? Well, he sure is a pretty dog." And privately: "There can't be any distinction there that matters -- a lab is a lab, after all." Another possible difference: I'm guessing the trousers worn by competitors in the Working Gundog class at Crufts would not have been called knickers in the UK? Just a guess.
  8. Of course you should love your dog and be proud of him. That would be true regardless of what breed he is, wouldn't it? I've loved every dog I've ever owned, border collie or not. If people want to create a dog for a different purpose, and want to start their breeding project with border collies because they like border collies and feel they're good raw material, they can do that, but when they do they are changing the standard of the breed. Whether they're changing the standard to a dog that looks a certain way (an appearance standard), or a dog who's good at agility (an agility performance standard), they're still breeding away from the standard that has traditionally defined a border collie (the working standard). They're free to do that, and I wouldn't down them at all for doing that, provided they changed the name of the dog to something else. If they don't, at best it's akin to "stolen valor" (wanting the dog to have the high-status name "border collie" when it's being bred to change it into something else), and at worst it's depriving the words "border collie" of meaning. The only purpose of words is to define things clearly, and they are defeating that purpose. I don't understand why they don't want to change the name, in recognition of what they're trying to achieve. They can pick their own name. The only reason the dogs end up being called Barbie collies or sporter collies is because they haven't chosen their own name, and those terms denote a distinction that is important. Also, there's no implication there that any of those people don't care a lot about the health, performance and temperament of their dogs. I am quite willing to assume they do, and it's certainly to their credit that they do. But that's a different issue. You're aware, aren't you, that the working dog was originally called just "collie." Then Queen Victoria and the Kennel Club began breeding them to meet an appearance standard, and what they developed became the show Collie, because they kept the original name. But what they created was so far from the "raw material" they started from that farmers/shepherds had to adopt a new name for the original collie to avoid confusion. That's why the ISDS adopted the new name "border collie" for the working (herding) collies. This time I think it would be nice if the people who are changing the dog would be the ones to change the name of the ones they're changing. Then we wouldn't have to keep pointing out that they're not really border collies, and risk hurting people's feelings. I think most of us care only about our individual dogs at first. I think it takes a while living with a breed of dogs before you begin to think in terms of the breed as well as the dog -- what's good for the breed as well as what's good for an individual dog. Eventually -- especially if you understand and care about what's involved in the breed's standard -- you may come to care about both.
  9. I've had an email from a person in Omaha, Nebraska who is looking for a home for a border collie mix she got from the pound, before a death in the family that means she will have to move to an apartment. I thought I'd suggest Nebraska Border Collie Rescue, but since I have no personal knowledge of them, I thought I'd check here first to see if anyone had any reason to think I should not refer her there. Thanks.
  10. Great post in general, Julie, but especially this: ETA: PSmitty, the trainer did not hit the dog, she hit the ground next to the dog.
  11. I felt that way also. When I use a line on a beginner dog, I just let go of it and let the dog trail it at the point when I want to give him freedom to work. That avoids the tension created by the process of unhooking it, and also is less of a demarcation for the dog between being controlled and being free. Usually it takes a little while before the dog realizes he is free, and so you skip over that "yee-ha!" moment and have a better chance that he will continue on in calmer mode. It also makes him easier to catch, if necessary. I realize how problematic it is for you as a newbie to look like you're telling the trainer what to do, especially when she is apparently wanting to protect her sheep. This is one thing, though, where you might be able to indirectly suggest it by asking what would happen if the trainer just let go of the line when Otto seems to be relatively calm and focused and oriented correctly. If she was on the lookout for a moment when he was calm and focused and oriented correctly, she might let him go sooner and thus cut short the prolonged (counterproductive, IMO) stage of following the sheep around the ring. ETA: Maybe I should add that I do like to start a dog in a ring (although preferably not one with a no-go zone in the middle), and I'm not inclined to use a line for much at that stage (though I'll often have the dog trailing one). This is just by way of illustrating that both methods have their proponents. I do like to move the dog out of the ring as soon as he's got the idea, though.
  12. The dog has to reach balance (the place where he feels the sheep are under control between him and the handler) before he can fetch. That didn't happen in the video here, because the trainer was moving in a way that kept him off balance. I felt he spent the time he was free from the line just running off the tension he'd built up while he was on the line. Evidently the trainer is apprehensive that he would dive into the sheep if she did let him get to balance. She was certainly right about that early on in his "free running" -- he wasn't looking in to find balance at all -- but whether he might have been able to feel balance toward the end when he was tireder, I couldn't tell for sure. Anyway, in answer to your question, the bottom line, IMO, is that the trainer is not working on fetching, or even permitting fetching, at this point -- she is trying to get him more relaxed and wider circling, to a point where he no longer wants to dive in -- and therefore there's no reason for you to worry based on the stage he's at now that he won't fetch as the training goes forward. He just hasn't come to that point yet. It's a long road. And BTW, I wouldn't count what he was doing when he was on the long line as driving, even though he was behind the sheep and they were moving forward. He was just walking behind the sheep because he was being kept in that position. So he's not learning to drive before he learns to fetch. You have to let him have the sheep before he can either fetch or drive, and the trainer clearly doesn't feel he's ready for that yet because she isn't letting him have them.
  13. You gave Buddy a good life, and you were able and willing to let him go when the right time had come. I am so sorry for your loss, but happy for both of you that you had such a fulfilling time together.
  14. Apologies for not going back to read everything, but does your vet feel s/he's ruled out hemangiosarcoma?
  15. "The rule structure in our home [is] that dogs keep four on the floor in the kitchen" = Putting paws up on the counter is wrong. "The correct behavior in the kitchen is to keep four on the floor" = Putting paws up on the counter is wrong. I don't think you can escape that equivalence by saying that you don't conceptualize it that way, that you don't think of anything as "wrong," that you refuse to let "wrong" into the picture. In actual fact you are trying to train your dogs not to put their paws up on the counter, but at the same time you are trying to obscure that that is your aim (or to conceal it from the dog?). If one of them had an injured paw and was limping, you would be quite happy with "three on the floor" because you don't care how many paws are on the floor -- your purpose is simply to train the dogs not to put their paws up on the counter. And they will only do that when you are not there if they internalize the idea that putting their paws up on the counter is wrong. By "wrong," I don't mean sinful, I don't mean immoral, I don't mean punishable. I just mean that the dog knows it's something he is not to do.
  16. I had understood your earlier post to be saying that if you left a steak on the counter, you've never had a dog who wouldn't take it while you were gone, but okay. I now understand you to be saying that three of your dogs would not take a steak off the counter, but only because they don't like steak enough to want it much. If they wanted it as much as your two other dogs do, you could not train them not to go up on the counter and take it. Right? Yes, that is the sad reductionism of behavioral theory. I always advocate trying to learn from observing the dog rather than to learn from the theory.
  17. I don't understand why you see this story as bearing on what I wrote. Why did he go outside, if being inside was the "better choice"? Why wasn't he inside? That would have been the "better choice" according to your example -- the one he would have learned was better because you always called him in when he was outside. How does being outside by the stairs differ from being outside? All this illustrates my point -- calling him in from outside did NOT make him less likely to go outside when you're not there, because it didn't convey that being outside is wrong. Just as cueing a dog to do something else when he's countersurfing, without more, wouldn't make him less likely to countersurf because it wouldn't convey that countersurfing is wrong. Did you train him to stay by the stairs when he's outside? If not, how was being by the stairs an example of being a better choice than lying under a tree?
  18. IF you actually use "off" as a cue in neutral situations also, such as dancing, then I agree that it would not convey "wrong." Many people use "off" as a correction word only, in situations like countersurfing or jumping up, however, and in that case I think it does convey "wrong." I know you often employ a term -- "something-or-other directive" -- that I have difficulty seeing as functionally anything other than a correction that you don't want to term a correction. I took this to be an instance of that, but again, if you also use it in neutral situations, then I would expect it to convey a neutral meaning (as long as your manner is not different in the two instances, I suppose). But it's not the same principle. You have not conveyed to the dog that it's wrong to be outside in the yard, agreed, but by the same token he would not hesitate to go out into the yard if you weren't there (assuming he had a dog door) precisely BECAUSE you haven't conveyed that it's wrong to be in the yard. The fact that you call him in and reward him would not make coming inside a "better choice" for him when you're not there, because what you've taught him is that both things are acceptable -- being outside or being inside -- unless you tell him otherwise. One is not ipso facto better than the other. Surely you're not saying that if every time you call him in when he's outside, his being outside is itself going to become a cue for coming in? Or if you are, I don't buy it. He is in the habit of coming in when he's outside and you call him; he is in the habit of stopping when he's countersurfing and you say "off." I don't see how habit in either case is going to make him choose being inside over being outside (absent a cue), or choose keeping his feet on the floor over surfing the counter (absent a cue). If he in fact doesn't countersurf when you're not there, something else is in play.
  19. Mine learn through the natural flow of life too, but without reinforcers. To me, consistently telling them "Off" would be equivalent to telling them they are wrong, and I'm not surprised yours would internalize it as a No, and get the point that it's wrong to do that. I AM surprised that someone would think you can't train a dog not to countersurf when you are not there. In my opinion there are some things that most border collies readily grasp as having a special status, even a moral dimension, and rules surrounding food -- who is entitled to have the food or control the food -- is one of them. I have run into a store for something leaving my dog in the car with a rotisserie chicken in my groceries, and was not surprised to come back to find it untouched. But how does the dog know that it's a "better decision" not to do X unless you have conveyed to him that X is wrong? For all he would know, X is okay and so is the thing you've told him to do instead of X. Unless you're saying that he would assume that anything you haven't rewarded him for is wrong? Surely not -- that would be too sad to contemplate. But then, I shy away from dog training "in theory."
  20. Except if you're training them to follow directives, you have to be there to give the directive. If you're not conveying "No. Not that," why would the dog internalize the concept "No. Not that"? And if he doesn't internalize "No. Not that," why would it occur to him to refrain from doing that when you're not there to give the cue to do something else?
  21. I think the grocery store analogy is a poor one for many reasons, chief among them the fact that it assumes you want the dog to be doing something in particular (oranges, turkey and swiss), rather than just not doing what it's doing. I've found my dogs are smart enough to understand the concept that I don't want them to do X, and that I don't care what they do as long as it's not X. That's a useful thing to be able to communicate. Of course you can communicate with just NO. Think of the dog who picks up a (non-poisonous) toad, and never picks one up again. The toad didn't tell it to sit instead, or lie down instead, or tug on a tug toy instead. The toad told it "Don't pick up toads," and it communicated that very well. It was very simple to train my dogs not to try to interact with me before the alarm goes off in the morning. Two steps: Murmur "Uh uh" when the dog tries, and never react in any other way until the alarm goes off. Now they wouldn't think of trying to interrupt my sleep. Did they get a reward for leaving me alone? Did they get a punishment for not leaving me alone? So why did it work? Also, think about how dogs train thousands of pet owners to get up very early in the morning when the owner doesn't want to. Don't try to fit it into some terminology like +P or -R. Just think about what they do, and why it is (or is not) effective. The dog isn't giving the owner a list of things to do; the dog is just communicating "Stop lying there." "NO! NOT THAT!"
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