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Diana A

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Everything posted by Diana A

  1. Thank you to everyone involved in putting on these trials. It was great to get the dogs out so early in the year to work out some of the trial rustiness. Things were well run, lunches were great, and whoever ordered up the weather deserves an extra bonus :-).
  2. For me it's in how they move. Very rarely do I ever see another breed of dog that moves like a border collie. Whether it's the intense crouch and eye or relaxed flank of a dog working sheep, the snake-like turning ability and drive of a dog running agility, or just seeing them run with the simple joy of chasing a ball or running in a field with a pack of friends - border collies are like living art. There is also just something to the way they hold themselves when concentrating on a task, and that special look in their eyes when they know they're about to do something, whether working or playing. The focus and connection of working with these dogs is incredible. My preference is rough coated tricolor with a dark face, but I've owned traditional black and white dogs and now own a white faced girl who I think is gorgeous, and also have fallen in love with many smooth coated dogs that I've seen - they are all beautiful. One of my favorite things to see is that moment when they drop from that relaxed but fast flank into an instant stop and mentally 'grab hold' of the sheep in just the perfect spot, switching from movement to still, focused, absolute intensity and communication with another creature - it's just amazing.
  3. I don't feed my guys raw bones that often mainly due to mess and expense and a couple of them get diarrhea afterwards. But all of mine except one have practically spotless teeth, including my 11 year old. I feed dry (Taste of the Wild) and put water on it immediately before feeding and feed right away. So the food is still crunchy but there's water around it. That combination seems to work wonders for their teeth, and that's for four different dogs, only two of whom are related, and two different breeds of dogs. The only one who has some gunk on her teeth is my 2 year old border collie, because she's going through a picky eating stage right now and either gets the food dry (which does not seem to help with cleaning) or lets it sit so long before eating that if I put water on it it's all mushy before she eats it. She went through a stage a month or so ago where she was cleaning up the bowl every single day and her teeth got really clean, but now are starting to get yucky again as she's once again getting picky about her food. So something to think about trying if you don't want to do raw. I'm not sure it works for all dogs or will work with any kind of dry food, but so far it's been great for my guys.
  4. I teach my dogs to value the rewards during the puppy foundation training stage, before the 'high' of running an actual sequence sucks them in. Because the problem with dogs whose reward is the work itself, is that they get the same reward/satisfaction from incorrect work as they do from correct work. You need some way to differeniate the really exceptional performance, the just okay performance, and the wrong performance. The dog has to care strongly about something besides simply doing the equipment and getting to run. So I focus a lot on play with my puppies - we tug and wrestle and interact and I let them chase me. Food treats are things to be tossed, chased, chase me for the treat, rev and release to the treat, etc. I also have special toys that only come out for agility. And I do a lot of very short drill-type work and equipment work where the dog isn't doing enough running to get sucked into just the joy of running, but is focusing on 'what do I do to get the reward again'. About the only time I do longer sequences is in class, and even then I'll stop in the middle to reward a particularly good turn or a really fast contact or anything else really good that the dog does in that run. Part of how I reward is giving the dog my complete attention. If I string a few things together before the reward comes, the fact that I'm 100% engaged in him and what we're doing tells him we're still working and the reward is coming. I see too often handlers remove their attention from the dog to ask the instructor something or because they made a handling mistake and are thinking about what they need to do next, and the poor dog is left hanging, disconnected, with no idea that anything he just did was good in any way. Agility is a game and it's no fun when one of the players just quits. Think about when dogs play with each other - they don't give each other food or toy rewards, but they do give each other intense undivided attention and physical interaction, which is what keeps the game going and makes play so rewarding that a lot of dogs will even pass up toys or treats to play with another dog. There are two elements to reward - one is the cold calculating "I want that, so I need to figure out what to do to get it" and the other is the emotional involvement and how your reward effects the dog's emotional state in regards to the activity he's doing. If frequent rewards program that dog at a young age that these agility games are the coolest most fun thing on the planet, he's going to come to every training session with that mindset already in place instead of you having to work for that attitude in each and every situation. So you shouldn't look at what is the minimum reward to get a dog to repeat that particular behavior, but what reward will change that dog's whole emotional and drive level during a training session? I reward after every run at a trial mainly because the reward is the dog's consolation for having to leave the ring at the end of the run :-). Knowing the reward will come at the end also builds anticipation and expectation in the dog, which will make your next run that much faster and more motivated. I don't look at it as so much a reward for that run, but money in the bank for the next run we do. I strongly agree most people do not reward nearly enough or put enough thought into what their dog really finds rewarding. They come in with a tiny handful of kibble or cheerios thinking that will get them through a whole class. If the dog struggles with something they'll withhold reward because 'he didn't get it right on the first try'. Or they'll start jabbering to the instrutor or their friends and reward the dog so late that the dog can't possibly make the connection as to what the reward is for. Or they'll stuff a cookie in the dog's mouth but not really focus on the dog or get the dog engaged with them.
  5. The difference is that they intentionally created the double merle dog, knowing that there would be an extremely high likelihood of health problems and knowing that the dog produced would most likely not be functional for the stated breeding goal (in this case competing in the show ring). Your example of the 'go normal' dog would only be a similar circumstance if he was produced by intentionally and knowingly breeding together two parents who would be expected to produce CEA affected pups who had a high liklihood of being nonfunctional for their intended purpose of working livestock. The fact that the dog became a 'go normal' and ended up functional would be just pure luck, as I don't believe current genetic testing can tell you to what a degree a genetically effected dog will actually express the disease. The problem I see is not so much in using the affected dog for breeding (although I'm not saying that's okay either) but in intentionally creating such a dog in the first place.
  6. I just got the email for the second video. Maybe they really are timing it for one per week, based on when you sign up, and my week just wasn't up yet.
  7. I'm subscribed and watched the first in the series. I didn't know the second one was out yet. I can't figure out how to get to it though. When I click the link all I get is a page to sign up (and if I put my name in it says I'm already subscribed) but I can't find a sign on link or figure out how to get back to the videos. I bookmarked that first one (and that link still works) but nothing on that page points me to the second one. Do they send you an e-mail link or something?
  8. Oh, no, I didn't mean to give that impression at all. I haven't seen Serena's videos, so I'm speaking more from a general sense and not trying to criticize any particulars of what she's doing now. That one comment just really caught me, that she was so worried about not learning it well that she preferred to work on her own for a whole year instead of just trusting in a good mentor from the start. That feeling of worry can be so limiting and I hate to see someone do that to themselves. Just saying, a good teacher is not going to criticize for someone taking a bit to learn it. Everyone has problems and isn't perfect, learning disability or no learning disability. I have worked with very intelligent educated people on training agility and something that seems so simple to me they just don't get it at first, and these are people who in normal life are probably way smarter than I am. It's just an expected part of doing something new, that it's not going to be perfect and the mistakes are just part of the process. I like to think of it as similar to when you free shape (clicker training for example) a dog to do some behavior. The ones that are the easiest are the ones who aren't worried about being wrong but will just jump in and try stuff, and if one thing doesn't work, they try something else and don't let it bother them. The ones that are really hard are the ones that are afraid to make a mistake and will wait to be told what to do, or will get stuck on one thing that worked for them once and refuse to change their behavior as the training requirements increase (i.e. they have preconceived ideas of what they think should work and have a very hard time letting go of them). Do not ever be afraid to just jump and do something, mistakes and all. Just let go and enjoy the process.
  9. I'm pulling up this quote from a previous post, in regards to your comment Serena about realizing you aren't rewarding your dog enough in agility. I do see the two as being connected - it seems that you're so worried about not understanding something or getting criticized, that you'd prefer to do it on your own (with very little or no in-person guidance, as in, someone actually there to see you and your in real time and exactly what's being done and when) rather than get help right from the start and get it right the first time. All these comments about 'pre-learning' are the same thing. You fill your head with so much information that may not be relevant, and it may actually interfere with learning when you do get a real live person to spend some time helping you. It's much better to just clear your head, have a totally open mind, and listen to what the person helping you is saying without all kinds of pre-conceived ideas and bad habits clouding the picture. Now as far as rewards (and at the risk of getting a bit off topic for this thread) - those are very important in agility because in the beginning the agility activities are not inherently rewarding to the dog. You build value into them through the training. So you have to break it down into very small pieces and reward the hell out of those pieces, then slowly put them all together. And not only reward doing a behavior, but how exactly that behavior is done (with drive and attitude). A dog in agility is moving very quickly with very little time to think or analyze, so they need to have a lot of confidence and muscle memory of what they're doing, they don't have the luxury to think 'is this right, is this really what she wants, is this really how I should be doing this'. Those type of thoughts are what will slow a dog down or make them not think the activity is very fun because they can't commit 100% to what they're doing at that moment but always have that level of worry in their minds. I teach agility classes and can speak from experience it's very hard if not impossible to convey the details to a new agility trainer without being right there to see what they're doing and their timing. They THINK they're doing exactly as you said, but as the experienced trainer, I see so many things being done wrong, and you can't overwhelm them with a bucket list of everything they're doing wrong because then you just paralyze them. The same as in training a dog, you have to break it down for the human student into manageable pieces. When you work on your own too early, you're more likely getting big chunks instead of those broken down pieces, and a lot will be missed. I will also say as a teacher, I much prefer a new student who is a blank slate then someone coming in with all kinds of bad habits and ideas. It's so painful to break the habits and build new ones and usually it ends up with just putting a band-aid on things rather than really fixing them. For the sake of your dog, please don't worry about yourself looking bad or 'not getting it' right off, or get too caught up in trying to figure it all out on your own. Find a good trainer that you TRUST and then put yourself in their hands and really listen to them. That goes for agility and for stock work. Later, when you have some experience and a framework to fit the pieces onto, you can branch out into other resources, and start fleshing up the picture a bit more, but in the beginning it's more likely to be confusing than helpful to try to reconcile information from many different sources that may be contradictory or misunderstood. Method A and Method B may both be perfectly valid, but trying to combine a piece of Method A with the wrong piece of Method B without really understanding either one may just get you in trouble. As far as rewards in stock work, the difference between that and agility (at least for a decently bred dog) is the stock work is inherently rewarding. Being in control is inherently rewarding. If the dog finds the right balance point and controls the sheep, she will feel that by herself and be very happy with herself, without you having to tell her she's a good dog. She may be so into those sheep that she may not care much what you think anyway. That is why stockdog training comes across to some as seeming very negative, because the trainer seems to be always correcting (blocking the dog, verbal correcions, using a stock stick, etc) but the reward is so subtle (releasing pressure and allowing the dog to contact and control the stock) that people miss it. The reward is letting the dog work, and the way the sheep act will tell the dog just as much, if not more, about what its doing right or wrong as the trainer does.
  10. Finally had a chance to watch the videos. Maybe there are some others in between that you didn't post a link for, but it looks to me like it jumps straight from the pup on a rope outside of the sheep pen going around penned sheep, to a dog in a big open field working on driving and shedding. There are some parts in between those two . . . and at least some of it seems to actually be his older dog "Meg" and not a young dog at all (unless he has more than one Meg). The dogs were nice to watch work, not criticizing that, just be careful you don't develop unrealistic expectations for your own dog her first few times on sheep based on these. If you are on Facebook, look up a group called BC Working Evaluation. They have several videos on there of dogs at various stages of training including a lot of young dogs and first time on sheep videos.
  11. I think most people even without learning disabilities have a tough time their first time learning about working a dog on stock. The dogs have the instinct, but we don't! It's just a very confusing thing at first, and a lot happening at once, with you, the trainer, a dog, and several sheep all doing their own thing. So don't worry if it's overwhelming at first. Everyone feels that way I'm sure. It was very hard for me learning with one of my older dogs, she was so fast and intense for me. By the time the trainer said something to me and I processed it,the whole situation had changed. Worse, every time she talked to me, even though I didn't feel like was affecting me much, I'd lose my focus on the dog just that little bit in turning attention to what was being said, and my dog would react to that loss of focus by running through the sheep or starting a wild ride while hanging onto some wool. I very much need to go into a situation with scenario A, B, C, and D all set in my head so I can pull up the appropriate action on auto pilot in the right situation. Which is to say, I don't 'think well on my feet'. It helped me a lot to have someone video some of our training sessions, and the trainer talked on the camera instead of to me. Then I'd stop and we'd talk a bit, I'd reset the picture in my head if I was doing something wrong, and we'd work some more. Then I'd go home and watch the video over and over again. That worked a lot better for me than trying to listen and do at the same time. The funny thing is, there are a couple of people I work with on occasion who I can multi-task with, no problem, and other people that it just doesn't work with. I never could figure out why that was. One other very good thing to do is to work the sheep yourself without a dog. Walk behind them and try moving them along the fence, then through some obstacles, then off the fence and aim for some target a decent distance away. It will give you a better sense of how the dog's movement affects the sheep, and I actually find it very relaxing and enjoyable :-). I have also seen some trainers will bring out an experienced dog and let you work their dog - just walk around and see how the dog moves to balance to sheep to you and what a soft feel they have on the sheep, so you know what the corret way of working feels like from your end - it will help you to recognize when your own dog is correct and also give you some idea of how your movements will likely influence where she wants to go. I think the whole concept of balance is counter-intuitive for most people. If you can learn where you need to be in relation to the sheep to have the dog move them where you want them, then you'll be much better prepared with your own dog to understand where to be to help her. Of course, many trainers will take the dog in themselves the first few times, so you can just enjoy and watch.
  12. Actually, it's interesting, but I'm not so sure about the 'clean slate' concept or older dogs having a harder time adjusting. I've seen a number of instinct tests (don't base anything on them, but I love seeing a dog see sheep for its first time, so interesting to see the different reactions) and plenty of dogs, both young and old, started at clinics or having lessons for the first time at the places where I take my dogs. I've seen a number of older dogs just take one look at sheep and go right to work - maybe sloppy work, but they definitely had ideas already about doing something with sheep and it wasn't any sloppier than what a younger dog might offer. Many of them have actually been down right nice to watch - all that ability coming to life, with some seasoning of age, thoughtfulness, and emotional control added to the mix. I've seen a few older dogs, mainly dogs who've done a lot of obedience training, who aren't sure at first that they're really allowed to work (it might be a trick to test their attention to the handler!), but once they realize it's okay, you see that same 'flip of the switch' where all of a sudden they have their own ideas about controlling the sheep. And the younger dogs, NOT a clean slate - there is a lot hard wired in there already. You might see one who's a bit intimidated at first, or just doesn't 'notice' the sheep right away, or some just aren't old enough and all the 'wiring' isn't connect up yet. But then the unsure one tries a few experimental moves, or you bring the younger one back a few weeks later, and all of a sudden it clicks and off they go. That's why you hear it called 'instinct' after all - because it's already there in their heads, just waiting for the right set of circumstances for it to express itself. I never get tired of watching it - it's amazing what genes encoding proteins can put into an animal's brain in the form of complex behaviors - totally fascinating. As the last poster said, just jump right in and do it. And stick around around and watch some other dogs if you can. It may totally change your perspective to see it in person.
  13. I'd say the most important prep was done (or not done, as the case may be) when someone decided on which two parents to put together to create the dog in question. No amount of training can make up for missing that basic step. Also I'm not sure where the misconception in your original post is coming from that older dogs tend to chase sheep more than younger dogs. They are all different their first time regardless of age - some fall into it really nicely, others are a bit frantic and chaotic at first. There was a nice video by a man from England that I got sometime back about starting dogs (can't remember the name of it now) but he started three pups - a gung ho 'bust em up' grippy pup, a sticky pup that would lock up on sheep and hold them to the fence, and a dog with some confidence issues who didn't seem sure she wanted to work in the beginning. By the end of the video all three were doing nice work and you'd never have guessed how different they were in the beginning. And a dog who is timid or sensitive in other areas, may be a completely different dog on stock. You may see a side of your dog you didn't even know was there.
  14. What is he like normally when running agility for practice and training? You said he's 'tuned in' but is he excited about it? Does he appear to be enjoying it? It really sounds like stress to me, especially if he normally is very excited and happy to do agility. If his practice performance is just 'tuned in' but not enthusiastic then I'd work on that first. Find a reward he likes (toy, tug, really good treats) and reward small bits of things he knows how to do. Make it exciting, like jump to a tunnel and exit to chase you to a toy and a few solid minutes of intense play. Try a toy rather than treats if you can, as treats are a good 'do that again' reward, but a toy not only says 'do that again' it also jumps up the dog intensity and excitement by bringing out some prey drive. Also it helps to have someone video you in competition vs training. One thing I see A LOT with new handlers is they get very excited and intense and it becomes life or death that the dog might miss a jump or something. Their voices change and they don't realize they're coming across as demanding, upset, or even shouting. All of which can really scare a sensitive dog. I'm not saying that's you, just that I've seen it a lot and I know the people doing it often don't realize they're doing it until they see it on a video.
  15. I'm not that familiar with ASCA. Do they only run arena type of courses? I know in AHBA and AKC, where I see the other breeds often having a problem is more in the open field type of courses (AKC B Course, AHBA HTD, and to some extent AHBA ranch courses depending on how they're designed). It's simply a matter of the sheep have a lot of options for where to go and a lot of the larger upright breeds just can't move fast enough to cover them if they decide to make a break for it. Some of the smaller ones (corgis, shelties) can really move fast, but have the disadvantage of shorter legs. Many of them I see don't read the sheep quickly enough to make a preemptive move - they react when they see sheep escaping and by then it's too late. The dogs I enjoy watching are the ones who see it coming while it's still just a thought in the sheep's head and can move to communicate 'don't even think about it' before the handler even sees it. Those are the runs you hear everyone complain that that dog got the 'good' sheep because they never tried to run. I think some of the comments I hear about 'trained school sheep' in the other organizations isn't so much really trained sheep as the way the course is set up, the fences are doing half the work for the dog and the sheep know their options are limited, and a dog put in the right place through obedience moves can get through it without having much real stock ability. Those same sheep out in a big field can be another story - trying to 'obedience through' an open field course doesn't work as well as in an arena. The place I see the trained school sheep phenomenon most apparent is in the beginner levels where the handler can walk with the sheep. You see sheep that will follow a person if a dog is anywhere in the vicinity, and the run often looks pretty smooth as long as the dog isn't too involved. But it goes in the toilet pretty quickly the more the dog tries to 'help' because then the dog pushes the sheep off the handler and the handler either is afraid to let the dog cover it, or the dog doesn't know how to cover because he's only been taught to follow sheep that are following a handler. I've seen a lot of these beginner runs that consist mostly of the handler fending their dog off the sheep while the sheep cling to the handler for protection. And then the breeder can brag about the titles. Ugh. I once saw a run score really high where the dog spent most of the run just standing in the middle of the arena (between the sheep and the exhaust) while the sheep followed the person. In an open field, those sheep would have been long gone.
  16. Yes, I think AKC trials are insufficient to test working ability. The titles are very misleading. Even 'herding champion' doesn't mean it's a really good dog. The title means usually several fellow hobby herders who have titled a small number of dogs themselves judged your work as okay on a course that wasn't terribly challenging against competitor dogs that are likely as green as your dog is. You just have to do it enough times to collect the points. And you're often looked down on by the other competitors if your dog is a champion and you keep trialing it and taking the points. The polite thing to do is step aside so only the new upcoming dogs are competing against each other for those points. Sort of like if in Open you told the 'big hats' they had to sit this one out and give someone else a chance to win. The A Course is the most common one for people to get titles on as it takes less space to run. Half the course is around the edges of the arena, so just having a dog 'somewhere out in the middle' will often get the sheep through a good part of the course, and a lot of them know to run into the chutes (located along the fence lines) to get away from the dog's pressure. A truly incompetent dog will keep losing the sheep (or not be able to push them out of the chutes) and won't do well, but a 'just okay' dog who listens well will probably do okay and get titles that his owner may see as proof that he should be bred. The B Course is like a traditional USBCHA course but much smaller. The Advanced level, wich is the highest it goes, is about the outrun distance you'd see at a novice trial, or sometimes a bit bigger (like a small pronovice course), with pretty short drive legs, and Advanced does have the shed at the end. It's still sheep out in the open with a dog trying to get them from point A to point B in a straight line, same as an USBCHA course (sometimes run on the same field and same sheep even). But I think anyone here would agree that even an USBCHA small pronovice course (or novice course with a drive added) is not appropriate for judging a dog's ability. If nothing else, the skill of finding sheep at a great distance and bringing them to the handler over that same distance is never tested. There is a C Course also, which sounds like more a large flock/tending sort of course. I have never seen that one in person, and have to admit the rules make no sense to me. It takes a lot of room and time to run (you have to do stuff like graze the sheep, take them down a road, etc) so you don't see it very often. Border collies are not appropriately tested because the rules and course sizes have to allow for all breeds, and most of the other breeds competing were never bred for that sort of work at great distances. I won't say it's a totally useless test, but it's not set up to really test a border collie. A sheltie or a belgian or some other breed who got through B Course in good form would probably impress me a bit though.
  17. Opposing AKC and helping working border collies are not necessarily the same thing and I don't think anyone can assume that "all USBHCA people oppose AKC". There is a lot of overlap, to be sure, but they aren't the same thing and you'll find many people all over both sides of the AKC issue. As long as a person's actions are in line with their professed beliefs and politics, I don't see it as hypocritical. You can oppose AKC (or at least not support it) and still do nothing to help (or you can even actively harm) working border collies. Flyball breeders and puppy millers who register ABCA (or with some designer made up registry) come to mind as two groups who do harm to border collie bloodlines but are not directly supporting AKC. I know of at least one breeder who breeds ABCA only, but for colors and pet dogs, not work - no AKC involvement there but it sure isn't 'fighting the good fight' for working dogs. You can also not speak out against AKC (or you can even support it in some form) and do a lot to help working border collies. I know of a few USBCHA people who judge AKC trials, or at least participate in them, but don't use them as a means to make breeding decisions. They breed good dogs and educate other interested dog people. Don't forget AKC is about other breeds besides border collies, and it is nice of these knowledgeable folk to offer their expertise and help to all the newbies out there - it might just steer a few of them in the right direction. I know of a few AKC people with other breeds who, with the help of an USBCHA trainer/judge, ended up getting working border collies and supporting ABCA breeders as a result. The absolute line (in my opinion) is breed for work only, and define that work through appropriate tests (real work or USBCHA trials), not watered down versions of them (i.e. AKC titles). Any other breeding criteria will ruin the breed. I don't care if that 'anything else' is for pet breeding, agility breeding, service dog breeding, or breeding for work but with greatly reduced standards for that work - it will all lead down the same road, just some faster than others. Breeding decisions (and which breeders a person buys from) are where you can really see if someone puts their money where their mouth is about supporting working border collies. The rest (AKC, what someone does with their dog, who they judge for, etc) is just human politics and everyone is going to have their own opinions about what is appropriate and what isn't.
  18. I just saw this video someone posted on facebook. I wish all conformation people would see this. They did not show border collies in it, but a picture of Old Hemp along side a picture of a modern day ABCA working dog, and a modern day show dog, would have said a message loud and clear about breeding for form vs function. Breed for functon and you preserve not only function but also health, temperament, and form. Breed for form only and you create a mess. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hex00WjSobE
  19. Yes, this exactly is what I was getting at. I do not believe border collies should be bred for agility. First, I don't think it's necessary in order to get a good agility dog. Second, even if it was necessary to breed for agility to get a good agility dog, getting good agility dogs is not a good enough reason to risk ruining the breed. Luckily for the agility people they can get what they need from those who do breed for work, so in theory we can make everyone happy, the trick is convincing the people who buy (or want to breed) agility dogs of that. Or if convincing doesn't work, find a way to force the issue. Which is where a requirement of some type for suspected agility-bred dogs would help. Because if they really are breeding for agility, a work requirement (even if an imperfect one) would bring the deficiencies to the surface within a generation or two (assuming the person even tried to meet the requirement and didn't just throw up their hands and walk away to start with) and you'd get those dogs out of the ABCA gene pool. Breeding for agility would become a self-limiting behavior - let the work speak for itself. Breeding for agility would cause such a decline in working ability that you don't need a test to separate the 'best of the best' but just a test that will show up the 'obviously deficient'. In other words, the divide is so great between the two types of dogs that you don't need a super-precise test to tell the difference. I think winning Open level trials is good enough for that task. Sure it's not perfect and trial work isn't everything, but it's good enough to weed out breedings that have obviously gone down the wrong path. And it's better than what's in place now, which is absolutely nothing, letting everyone just do as they please and breed for whatever they want. Bottom line, does anyone on this board honestly believe if a person is breeding for even a few generations with stock work either not considered or only considered as secondary, that they'd still be getting dogs capable of not only getting around Open courses but of winning them? It may not be the absolute gold standard, and it definitely isn't the only thing you considering in breeding choices, but it sure isn't something you do by chance with a crappy dog. And if we think that's something a dog bred for other than work for several generations could do, then maybe the trial format, judging, etc needs to be revised so it's a better challenge of the dog's abilities. Otherwise why do we even bother with trials and Open points and National Finals if none of it means anything? And I know 'real work' is the true test, but I haven't seen anyone yet come up with a way to measure that objectively, so if you're talking about a requirement of some type, we're down to subjective individual opinions on dogs the person evaluating has personally seen work, or looking at trial results. Scoring within the top 10% of open trials is one of the ways of satisfying the work requirement criteria for ROM, so if Open trials are good enough to be considered for letting a dog into the gene pool, why aren't they a good enough criteria for kicking an obviously deficient dog out of the gene pool?
  20. No, I actually did say in one of my recent posts that I've seen open trial winners that I wouldn't want a pup out of. And I picked my last pup based on the work I saw of a full brother who was still only in Pronovice (but I just liked the dog) and had one parent with open trial wins and one parent who had never trialed. I don't think an open trial winner should automatically be bred. But you still aren't likely to produce a dog good enough to win open trials if you aren't breeding for work. It's not as if any old biscuit eater can walk off with an open trial win. Even if open trial winner isn't a sign of top quality talent, it's still something requiring a halfway decent dog and not something you're going to get with haphazard breeding. It certainly isn't something that a person with agility as their main focus is going to acheive by 'dabbling' in the stockdog world and trying to better an inferior dog by throwing in the occasional token working line. So a requirement of open trial accopmlisments for dogs of a potentially questionable background (such as a world team agility dog) would weed out most (maybe all) of those dogs from putting their genetics back into ABCA and be an improvment over the 'anything goes' policy in place now. At the very least it means the person trialing and training that dog should be well acquainted with its strong and weak points with regard to working ability and be in a better position to judge its qualities than if the dog has never worked sheep off its home turf. And it absolutely would guarantee people with sport dogs who had never even seen stock wouldn't be able to register those offspring. And as I said before, I wasn't being entirely serious - my suggestion was more of a knee jerk reaction to the suggestion of setting requirements like the owner has attended seminars and meets yearly to discuss issues (which have no bearing on the dog's ability at all). In reality, you'd never be able to put a requirement like this in place because first you'd have to define who would need to meet it (obviously not real sheep ranchers who don't even trial, or as you said, owners of good dogs who know their dog is good even if it's not a trial dog). It's something you'd want for 'questionable dogs' but who's going to define what is considered a questionable dog and track it? Do we expect ABCA to look at every registration that comes in and figure out if the parents have competed in agility trials, or if the owner doesn't live on a sheep or cattle ranch, or look up the trial record of both parents?
  21. I do see the difference. Really, my original suggestion was sort of tongue-in-cheek. Basically saying the only way you could let an 'agility breeder' breed would be set requirements so high you'd be forcing them to actually breed for stock work as the primary consideration after all. Because you aren't going to produce a high probability of open trial winners by putting the stock work talents as a secondary consideration. I don't see any top level agility person as being able to have the time or expertise to pull that off. So it's pretty much an impossible requirement. Meaning if you could actually force people to follow a requirement like that, you'd pretty much put an end to agility breeding.
  22. I agree - everyone should be always looking for that next outstanding dog. I've seen dogs win Open trials (even large ones) that I wouldn't care for a pup out of. You have to use your own judgement and not just trial results. But as objective documentable criteria go, winning Open trials (especially the big ones) is about as high as it goes. The exception would be winning the National Finals, which while an admirable accomplishment, is a distinction given to so few dogs that you'd be seriously limiting your gene pool to use that as a sole breeding criteria. So then it comes down to a judgement call from the people who are familiar with the dog personally if it's a better dog than even mere trial results indicate. And the truth is there are a lot of dogs bred for work who are just 'good' or even 'very good' who are more likely to maintain the current status quo than to pull the breed up another notch. I'm thinking of dogs like Wiston Cap, they don't come around that often so if you didn't breed anything up to that standard you'd have a very limited gene pool. It goes back to that analogy posted a while back about the red circle dogs vs orange circle dogs. So no, not ideal that anyone does a breeding with the intent to produce a bunch of dogs for agility homes, but at the very least requirements of Open trial accomplishments help ensure that it's not a step back, even if it's not really a step forward either. At the very least it would limit the number of people doing it. And if nothing else, if someone ever actually tried it, they'd see for themselves how easy the agility part was and how hard the stock work part was and then they'd be in a much better position to understand what the working people have been trying to tell them. And maybe they'd drop the whole thing and take the easier route of just buying from working dog breeders instead of trying to breed their own agility dogs. It's all a moot point anyway as no one is forcing agility breeders to do anything to assess stock working ability in their dogs, and it's a hard enough thing to do that I really don't see anyone at the top levels of agility ever attempting it of their own free will.
  23. Well, okay, I wasn't entirely being serious as I don't really seeing anyone as being able to accomplish even the first part of it. But in theory, (assuming I was serious about it) the second part that the offspring would need to prove themselves in stockwork, would cover it. Because even if the intent was to produce an agility dog (which I think we most all agree is not THAT hard to do without even hardly trying) the cross would still need to prove itself on the USBCHA trial field otherwise it would be a dead-end with all offspring spayed or neutered. Basically you'd be requiring the breeder to breed for both things, and since breeding a winning USBCHA trial dog is more difficult than breeding a winning agility dog, they'd have to put a lot more focus on selecting for working traits to pull it off. Because just producing a dog that sort of works wouldn't meet the requirement - it would need to be a dog that worked really really well and could prove itself able to hold its own against the best of the 'working only' bred dogs, and that would need to proven every single generation. Which is why I don't see it has ever happening in reality. Now the TRUE reality - people will continue to do as they please for whatever reasons suit them and no one is really in control of what breedings happen. Which makes the whole discussion sort of pointless really, except for whatever (possibly minimal) value it may have in educating the people who are making these decisions.
  24. Yes, what Pam said. Agility is just as much a HUMAN sport as it is a dog sport. It's just extra fun for us humans that our dogs get to come play the game with us.The human has to come up with the strategy for how to communicate the course to the dog, and then actually carry it out, time it all just as planned, and physically be able to get to the correct locations to make the correct cues at the right time to make it work. Microseconds of timing differences, spatial location, and choice of handling strategy on a particular course can be all the difference between winning and not even making the placings. Minor differences in training can make all the difference as well. Top competitors spend a lot of time training, are meticulous about their foundation training all the way up through maintenance training, and practice a lot for themselves for the skills they need to be absolutely focused and precise and consistent in their own movements and timing, because the dog can only be as good as his handler allows him to be, since the dog has no idea where the course goes. Mental management for the human half of the team has become quite an important thing in the sport as well, and you even see articles about physical drills for the person, exercises, etc to help the human half of the team move more efficiently and therefore cue the dog better. The average competitor doesn't typically take it all as far as the top competitor (that's why they're the top) so the fact that the top competitor's dog looks really good is not necessarily all about the dog. You do need a certain minimum level of skills from the dog in order to maximize what the dog brings to it - a dog who plods through the course won't win and I doubt we'll ever see a bull mastiff or basset hound on the World Team, and even border collies at the size or 'body bulk' extremes may be at a disadvantage. There are a lot of breeds where it might make sense to breed for agility because the base package of dogs in the breed may fall short (motivation levels are a common problem I see with dogs of other breeds, and something that breeding could improve upon). Even in border collies, extremely independent, frenzied, fearful, or laid back type of border collies may not do very well. But your average working line body-type border collie with a good work ethic and half way decent temperament has what it takes without breeding for it. We are already at a point of diminishing returns as far as producing a better agility dog - and that's even with dogs not purpose bred for agility, so just using what was there already. Once you get that minimum level of dog with a decent package of skills and mentality, additional is really wasted. It becomes all about how choices are weighed in both training and handling, and then how they're communicated, and not so much about the dog's abilities. A faster dog than what we have now won't be able to use that speed (too many turns for more ground speed to be beneficial). And we already have dogs who can turn so tight that any tighter is either going to start bringing bars down or start eating more time (due to deceleration) than the saved yardage gains them. Now I know you can say stock dog trialing is also somewhat of a human sport. The human makes the handling strategies and spends a lot of time training and has to be mentally in the right frame of mind to carry out a really good run and you do tend to see a lot of the same handlers winning with different dogs. The difference is that the base package of skills required of the dog is so much larger than that required of an agility dog, that even the top stock dog handler/trainer is going to have dogs who they judge just aren't up to their standards and will sell them and seek out better ones. Whereas I see top agility handlers take pretty much every dog they get and crank out top dogs. And then you have the added component in the stock dog world of REAL WORK that simply does not exist for the agility dog. There are real life farmers who need a dog that can be useful without a lot of expensive expert training. The dog MUST bring a lot of skills to the table to fit the needs of the real stock owner, who may not be a great trainer or a great handler, but still needs a dog who can do great work. I still think breeding for agility is rather pointless and is harmful to working ability - even if it's two working dogs bred together but for the wrong reason. I bought my last border collie purely based on potential for stock work. I had no idea how she'd be as an agility dog and I didn't really care as that wasn't my priority. It turns out with no agility dogs in her pedigree EVER, she's an awesome agility dog, very fast, agile, tight turning, etc. She is not uncommon, I see great dogs from 'non agility' lines all the time. But how often do you see a great stockdog crop up in lines that haven't been used or evaluated for stock work in several generations, or maybe even never? It just doesn't seem to happen. That right there tells me you must breed for stockwork, but there is no need to breed for agility. Serena, you're trying to come up with all sorts of complicated requirements for certain people to breed agility dogs. I have a very simple list of requirements that would work just fine. The agility breeder can breed two dogs together for agility if both dogs have won Open USBHCA trials. Then if the offspring show they can also win Open trials, the breeding would be allowed to be repeated and the original offspring could be bred (otherwise all offspring should be spayed/neutered and not bred). You probably won't find any top level agility people who could meet that requirement. Maybe ABCA needs to deregister offspring of world team agility dogs unless they prove themselves in Open trials, to avoid the possible devastating effects of a popular agility sire on the ABCA gene pool.
  25. I actually didn't think the dog looked at all an unusual size. I was going off of Serena's post that he was very short, only around 17" I think she said. I have no way of knowing how tall he is so I took her word for it. I do know about the surface at Crufts, also the World Team competition is on a bad surface from what I've heard. So I agree the dog is at a disadvantage in the video. All I meant to say was that as an example of a 'one in a million' and part of an argument for why we must absolutely breed for agility skills, it falls far short of the mark - whether that is due to an actual failing in the dog, the handler, or the venue, I don't know. I just didn't see 'Oh wow, you're right, that dog is amazing and it would be a shame not to breed him'. I agree with you, I don't think you're going to see an agiity dog that is 'one in a million'. The skills needed are just not that specialized. Now stockwork might be a differet story - you get dogs like Old Hemp or Wiston Cap who were a stand out in their time and shaped the entire breed. But there you're talking about a mix of a lot of different skills and genetics and it really could be 'one in a million' to get that one dog who not only gets them in the right proportion, but can pass them on as a unit to his offspring even when bred to a variety of bitches. And once you get that combination set, it would be SO easy to mess it up, and what are the chances you will get that one-in-a-million dog to put them all back together the right way again once you've lost it?
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