Jump to content
BC Boards

The Dog Fancy


Recommended Posts

Dear Doggers,

 

I didn't want to hijack a useful dog safety thread with these remarks; hence . . .

 

In the 19th century, people who competed in the new dog shows called themselves "dog fanciers" and although the term is old fashioned, many conformation folk do so today. AKC folk have asked me, "Which breed do you fancy."

 

The etymology of "fancy" suggests a core belief but I won't go into that now.

 

The Dog Fancy was, from its beginning, status-seeking, autocratic and profoundly dog ignorant. That’s the Fancy, not its individual adherents some of whom knew plenty about dogs.

 

It was as an AKC Director told me, “An avocation” for the wealthy and the plebes who aspired to be in their august company. In the 20’s, owners arrived at the Morristown Show in private rail cars. That changed after WW2 when the middleclass decided that a purebred was better than a mutt and why not enter Spot in a dog show? Concurrently, Blanch Saunders and Mrs Whitehouse-Walker started formal obedience not - its worth noting - because obedient dogs are intrinsically better than disobedient dogs but to prove that purebred dogs can be trained. (When they started “herding”it was to prove that conformation dogs hadn’t lost their instincts. Since they had in fact, that led to hilarity and inspired obfuscation.)

 

But obedience was very much a bastard child. “Ch” meant “conformation champion” and it was many years before the AKC bothered to have an obedience VP. Although the ordinary obedience or conformation “fancier” was middleclass, rich folks still ran the show and the most important event on the calendar wasn’t the AKC delegate’s meeting, nor who won what title but who got invited to the blacktie judge’s dinner at the Westminster Kennel Club DOg Show (AKA “Westminster”). Since the AKC BOD hasn’t changed materially since the dog wars, I presume that’s still true today.

 

Please note that the AKC and its culture was the only game in town. UKC and The Field were for coondoggers and bird doggers. Everybody else who did anything with dogs was ruled by the dog fancy.

 

In a century and a half, like any religion, the dog fancy established a confession of beliefs, some key, others trivial, to define itself and separate the saved from the damned..

 

These included:

 

Conformation is predicative of a dog’s abilities.

Purebred dogs are the best, other dogs are mutts.

Crossbreeding is morally wicked. (cf the Peekapoo rage).

Dogs offer unconditional love.

Since Fanciers are petulant, neurotic children, they require authoritarian government and detailed rules to cover each and every eventuality.

The Most Important dogs are owned by the Most Important people.

“Responsible Breeders” are good. “Backyard Breeders” are evil.

 

The showring was dressy and no judge had to rent his tuxedo. Dogs were transported to shows in the handler’s dog trucks and kenneled in breakdown wire crates at the shows.

 

Some years after the Dog Wars I became friends with a number of brilliant pet dog trainers and was surprised to learn how many Dog Fancy beliefs (and twitches) they still adhered to. Many had once shown dogs in the conformation ring and if they ever had, they still spoke of their activity as “showing in obedience”. They had imbibed Dog Fancy beliefs with their mother's milk.

 

Those many years of rule has had a powerful effect and now most novice sheepdoggers are coming out of agility or obedience into a very different culture. Though I believe sheepdog world is dog friendlier and dog savvyer than the Dog Fancy I won’t argue that here.

 

At its core, the Dog Fancy values the dog as a status giving possession. At its core, sheepdog culture values dogs as a unique form of livestock.

 

I am encouraged by the willingness of novices to understand a different culture.

 

A woman I knew had a dual registered Border Collie which her friend urged she should enter an AKC “herding” event. Done.

 

She arrives at the event and ju8mps her dog out of the car. She is puzzled by the shrieks of “loose dog” until she realizes said dog is hers. Later, she runs the AKC course and when she comes off, she lets her dog go to water. The shrieks of “Loose Dog” again. Her mortified friend says, “See if I ever go anywhere with you again!”

 

As it happens she’s won and goes to get her rpize. The judge, an enormous woman in an expensive flowing caftan congratulates her and bends to a barrel of dog toys. She drops one in front of Spot - who, like many sheepdogs, has never seen a dog toy before.

 

Spot promptly and enthusiastically dismembers and disembowels the toy.

 

There’s a silence. Spot looks up. Judge looks down.

 

“Oh my,” Judge said, “We don’t know how to respect our toys - do we?”

 

Donald McCaig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 74
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Years ago, I considered myself part of the "fancy". It was in my pre-border collie days and h-ll, that's all I knew. All I knew changed with Pete though, my first border collie and a whole new world opened up before me. Because of Pete, I began the separation from the "fancy" and, not only border collies, but all dogs, I began to see in a whole new light. Remember that scene in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy lands in Oz, opens the door and the world before her is in color. Pete opened that door for me. I'm sure Pete's & my story isn't unique. That world in color makes a whole lot more sense than the black & white and sepia tones of the world according to the "fancy".

 

I went on to get other border collies. One of these was my Tam dog, now going on 14 yrs. old. In his prime, he was a lot of dog, probably too much dog for me and so I sent him off for a few months of training with his breeder. Before I moved to Hooterville --- where I'll soon have my own sheep -- I worked my dogs by renting sheep at a place and a wide variety of people with a variety of breeds, went, the "fancy" folks. One of these had collies --- Lassie collies and she and I began to talk. Her idea of "herding" was telling the dogs what to do. She admired Tam when he worked and so one day, I asked if she'd like to try to work him, just to get a feel for working a different type of dog than what she was used to. She said OK.

 

So we walked out to the pasture. "Tam, COME!" she said. Tam looked up at me and we made eye contact. I told him that it was ok, so, still unsure, he walked over to her. "Tam, SIT", she said and Tam looked at me again, and

s l o w l y, lowered his butt to the ground, glaring at her the entire time, probably wondering what was next. Then she took her hand, her palm in Tam's face -- "STAY!" I could read the look on his face --- "WTF?". Then she told him in her praise voice: "Gooood Boy!", reached in her pocket and stuffed a doggie treat as a reward into his mouth. Tam promptly spit it out and looked at her like she was from another planet and got up and walked back to me. I had to go out on the field with this woman by my side, and then worked Tam.

 

Thing is, she probably missed the entire point of this interaction with Tam. I didn't and I never subjected him to anything remotely like this experience again. She went on to ruin a promising border collie.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A woman I knew had a dual registered Border Collie which her friend urged she should enter an AKC “herding” event. Done...

 

Donald McCaig

 

:rolleyes:

 

True story? Really? Never been to an AKC herding trial myself...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:rolleyes:

 

True story? Really? Never been to an AKC herding trial myself...

I've heard a similar story from others who experienced this sort of thing except that I'm not sure whether it was an AKC or an AHBA event.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've heard a similar story from others who experienced this sort of thing except that I'm not sure whether it was an AKC or an AHBA event.

 

I once helped set sheep at an AKC trial. There were four of us up at the "top" and the sheep were held on grain, so not much work was actually needed. I wandered down to where the competitors were sitting with my dog and we sat down around ten feet from the fence. Instantly, I heard squeals of "Move your dog! Move your dog!" I looked up in confusion, since we were well back from the fence, but they told me how my dog was a "draw" to the sheep. Um, okay. They wanted me to be like thirty feet from the fence. I went back up to the top after that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr McCaig I truly enjoy your postings, it is not just the sheepdog world that looks upon the dog show scene with bemusement.

I know nothing about the dog fancy world (until a couple of months ago I had not figured out what the term meant) coming from a world of pet dogs and having no interest in showing etc. Then a friend who is dating a lady, a wealthy dog fancier gave me a couple of AKC magazines because he knew I was into dogs. I can't remember what it was called, but it was big thick and heavy, I read anything so in I plowed and I felt like Alice falling into wonderland, it opened my eyes up to a new world, a surreal place that did not have anything in common with my desire to have dogs as companions and playmates, it was a place that I had no interest in joining even if I had another breed of dog.

 

Edited to add that my comments are in reference to the very high levels of the AKC world, I was reading articles written by AKC board members and judges.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't speak for the conformation ring and I get that AKC has made a mash of their herding program. My association with the AKC was in obedience and then agility and there are plenty of dog savvy (regarding training for their sports) and very welcoming people in those parts. They may not speak the same language or have the same world view as working folks, but many of them are good folks giving their dogs good lives and good training nonetheless.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have seen some very *interesting* approaches/ideas at "other venues". Enough said.

 

All groups have faults, all people have faults, some more than others. My association of several years' duration with a local AKC-affiliate club left me with very fond feelings and utmost respect for many people I met there - most are true dog lovers, kind owners, lovely people, dog-savvy, responsible, caring and kind.

 

But some are into conformation and I don't agree with that philosophy. Some are so into competition (of any sort) that I don't agree with their relationships with their dogs. Guess what? Some people who work with working/trial stockdogs have some similar faults and foibles as these people. We are, after all, human.

 

But I do believe that the mindset of the Dog Fancy world is not in the best interests of the dogs, nor of the majority of dog owners. And, it is truly a "different world" at the "higher levels". Rather unreal, actually.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lol! I have heard the cries of loose dog--at an AHBA event and also at a USBCHA event where cross over folks from other venues were appalled that some of us walked around with our dogs off leash. I didn't know which was funnier--the screams of "loose dog" or the fact that the folks doing the screaming didn't realize that is so marked them for what they were.... :rolleyes:

 

J.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK... Let me make it perfectly clear that I am not defending the conformation mindset per se. But.

 

Although the melee that ensues when a dog gets loose at a conformation event is indeed quite telling, and not a little amusing - especially for those of us who have a dog with a recall - there is nothing funny about an animal fleeing in a blind panic. Especially if that frightened dog's education has been so neglected that it will dart into traffic in a desperate attempt to find it's owner or the vehicle it arrived in.

 

No one finds it amusing when a horse gets loose at a show and gallops about in a state of panic. That is how all this "Loose dog!" kerfuffle got started.

 

A terrified Yorkie is not likely to trample anyone to death in it's careening flight, but the dog itself is at risk. And if it's darting around a crating/grooming area it can be pretty hard to spot. The cries of "loose dog" may enable a more heads-up person to step on a trailing leash in time to avert a painful death for an animal.

 

Yes, people should spend the time to train a dog to come when it's called, and to stick with its owner or stay put when it's crated or x-penned. But it's the damn fool who brought the dog to the event who is at fault, not the dog. And if it takes yelling "Loose Dog!" for a bunch of roly-poly, polyester-clad dunces (with hare-brained notions of what a dog is for) to keep a dog from a sudden and painful death, why then let 'em holler.

 

It's too bad that these same idiots can't take it in that your dog is not fleeing in a blind panic, and that it is perfectly safe, and everyone is perfectly safe with your dog trotting along in your general vicinity. But I've seen enough unsocialized, nasty dogs trying to take a piece out of anything with four legs (and many with only two) at conformation shows to know that a loose dog is usually either dangerous or in danger itself. Hence the seemingly idiotic verbal klaxon.

 

I spent time at conformation shows when I was in Collie rescue, networking with breeders for help with vet and kibble bills, (and for the most part they were as helpful as they possibly could be) So I've seen the loose dog thing end well and end badly a number of times.

 

OK. I'm done ranting... So shoot me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Geonni,

There's a difference between being at a dog show or similar venue, where yelling "loose dog" can be necessary or helpful, but it makes no sense to go into another, completely different venue--that is, a sheepdog trial--and do the same. It seems to me that when you join a different culture, it *is* helpful to learn the norms of that culture and at least try to accept that some things may be different, and for good reason.

 

J.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Geonni,

There's a difference between being at a dog show or similar venue, where yelling "loose dog" can be necessary or helpful, but it makes no sense to go into another, completely different venue--that is, a sheepdog trial--and do the same. It seems to me that when you join a different culture, it *is* helpful to learn the norms of that culture and at least try to accept that some things may be different, and for good reason.

 

J.

 

You are certainly right, and after re-reading your post I realized that I totally missed the point - that is that you were at AHBA and USBCHA events. Oh well. Sorry. I should slow down a bit and read more carefully...

 

For some reason I transposed your remarks to the ones made about being at an AKC herding event. (Is that an oxymoron?) Having never been to one of either kind, I shouldn't judge, but I sort of assume the AKC herding events are basically conformation folk playing at sheepdog so they can pretend their dog has a lick of ability.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I once helped set sheep at an AKC trial. There were four of us up at the "top" and the sheep were held on grain, so not much work was actually needed. I wandered down to where the competitors were sitting with my dog and we sat down around ten feet from the fence. Instantly, I heard squeals of "Move your dog! Move your dog!" I looked up in confusion, since we were well back from the fence, but they told me how my dog was a "draw" to the sheep. Um, okay. They wanted me to be like thirty feet from the fence. I went back up to the top after that.

 

Huh? A "draw" to the sheep? In my experience, sheep prefer to get away from dogs, hence the whole using dogs to move them places thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Back in the dark ages, I used to trial in AKC. Shiro and Sopie were the dogs that I ran. I was also training Tess to compete.

 

The conversation went something like this.....

 

I remember clear as day, looking at my score sheet (and I did win first place) and trying to figure out my scores when the ever so kind Judge explained it to me "I took points off when your dog was NOT behind the sheep" (Shiro and Sophie were covering the draw side and the sheep went through the course in straight lines.

 

I replied, "The sheep were in a straight line and the dog had to move that way to keep them in the line"

 

He replied, "It's a dog herding and not judging the sheep. Meaning, I watch to see where the dog is and the dog needs to be directly behind the sheep. I am not judging where the sheep are. Train your dog to stay behind the sheep. I judge for straight lines on the dog" (He meant the dog had to be directly behind the sheep at all time - the dog could not cover for the draw as you got points off for that)

 

That was my last trial. My dogs were grateful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I entered an AHBA trial back when I was just getting into working dogs on sheep. I was told it was a good way to get my feet wet since the outruns were much shorter. Anyway, I also lost points because my dog wasn't behind the sheep on the fetch, but instead at about 2 o'clock covering the draw. Not sure how that judging trend got started, but clearly it's on both coasts!

 

To be fair though, I ran in an AHBA trial judged by Roy Johnson and found it to be very fun and rewarding (it was a ranch course with a variety of obstacles). His comments were constructive and geared towards better stock work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dear Doggers,

 

Re: Loose dog.

 

Whether you see this as a problem depends on your default. If your particular dog culture insists that all dogs be on leads almost everywhere and your training method is on leash/halter/tether you are likely to believe there's something worrysome about offlead dogs - if yours: it might dash into traffic (even inside a trafficless coloseum) if another's: it might attack your dog.

 

This, although the oft stated goal of pet dog training, whether "positive" "Ecollar" or Koehler method is offlead reliability

 

Sheepdoggers aren't more virtuous because they train offlead but since they do they are less concerned about offlead dogs - theirs and others.So long as I have a voice my trained dogs won't run into traffic and so long as I'm meaner than it is, an aggressive dog won't harm my dog.

 

In my recent set of interviews with top pet dog trainers, every one (or their assistants) expressed alarm at my offlead collies. Some junior trainers were genuinely offended that mannerly June was wandering about, minding her own doggy business w/o a leash in sight.

 

The dog fancy and its heirs is an onlead culture.

 

As ye begin so shall ye go.

 

Donald McCaig

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There has become a culture that thinks off leash dogs are a very bad thing, and for lack of a better word new dog owners (particular those adopting from my local shelter) are brain washed into believing that a dog should never be off-leash unless surrounded by high fences. The irony being that the trainers there run their dogs off leash and fundamentally have no problem with the concept, I understand the point which is to educate about responsible ownership but some of the students can get a little carried away as I experienced from a couple of the shelters adopters....

 

Years ago I was walking my dogs on a dyke around the reservoir, and some ladies starting yelling at me to leash my dogs, well there was a slight problem, I had forgotten them in the car. So I had them sit and to reassure the rather hysterical ladies I hooked my fingers through their collars. Well the tirade that followed was truly horrid and even resorted to telling me that I knew nothing and should go back to the country I came from. :rolleyes: Meanwhile the dogs are just sitting at my feet. Once they started to move on we gave them lots of space so my dogs would not bother them....well..... I saw them go back to their car and wait for me so they could get my license# so the dogs and I sat on the back of the reservoir and waited them out, and just to prove the point the dogs stayed with me the whole hour.

 

The odd thing was that despite them yelling about how scarred of dogs one of theirs was, it waited calmly throughout the whole tirade, was a much calmer animal than the human at the other end of the leash.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To be fair though, I ran in an AHBA trial judged by Roy Johnson and found it to be very fun and rewarding (it was a ranch course with a variety of obstacles). His comments were constructive and geared towards better stock work.

Likely the reason for this is that Roy was a USBCHA competitor and judge long before he became an AHBA judge, so he has never been influenced by the craziness that goes into the judging of the other venues.

 

There's been a discussion on another (AHBA/AKC herding) list about things that could be allowed on a trial course. This discussion started with a question about someone going out on the course on crutches and the follow on was about the person using the crutch in the same manner as one might use a crook or stick. The ensuing discussion was enlightening, to say the least. Apparently there's a lot of concern among judges in those venues that handlers might be using things like sticks/crooks (or crutches) to *threaten* their dogs and so how a crook/stick might be used must be regulated. Apparently appropriate uses are to influence the stock and suggest directions (right/left) to the dog. Someone suggested not raising a crook above waist level (so as not to threaten). My reply to that was "What if I don't even use a crook but instead use my arm to suggest a flank to the dog? After all, my arm is attached above my waist." Well, and of course the issue that if you need to influence the sheep, the crook of necessity might be raised above waist level.

 

The discussion also led to a side discussion about people taking bottled water onto the course. Some thought this was okay because people's mouths get dry, making it difficult to whistle (never mind that on a tiny course you could get by with voice commands without even having to shout). Others didn't think it was okay because some people train with plastic bottles filled with pebbles or similar and so the plastic bottle could be used to threaten the dog. (Logically, for most courses, aside from the dry mouth issue, the handler isn't on the field more than a few minutes--not being able to survive that long without water would indicate a medical condition--as someone actually pointed out.)

 

What I gather from discussions like this one is that judging at such trials is concerned with a heck of a lot more than how the stock actually move through the course. I wonder how the judge even has time to watch what the stock are doing if s/he also has to focus on whether the handler is threatening the dog with a stick or bottle, among a gazillion other things. Totally foreign culture to be sure.

 

As for the draw thing, I imagine the sheep at such trials are so broke that they might well be drawn to a dog....

 

J.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's been many years since I have run in a USBCHA trial, but, morning and evening everyone walked their dogs. Off leash. many had a lot of dogs with them, if someone had a problem dog it was kept under control, but not necessarily on a leash. Everyone basicly stayed apart, but sometimes would stop to visit and their dogs would meet and greet. There were occaisional spats but they too were rare. You could also go to a dozen trials and not once hear a dog bark, but may be a different tale.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There has become a culture that thinks off leash dogs are a very bad thing, and for lack of a better word new dog owners (particular those adopting from my local shelter) are brain washed into believing that a dog should never be off-leash unless surrounded by high fences.

 

I think this largely stems from the increased popularity of pet dogs in urban environments. City living makes it fairly difficult to train a solid recall, largely because there's often not any space available that's appropriate for such training. City life is also a lot more hazardous for dogs and people. A single hesitation on the part of either handler or dog can have fatal consequences on a busy street. Also, the sheer volume of people around requires dog owners to be extra sensitive to the needs of non-dog people, who often don't understand that it's possible for a dog to be under voice control. And, of course, there are the leash laws, which require even the most calm and trustworthy dog to be leashed.

 

All of this has led to the strong leash culture that has extended past the city limits and into the suburbs and sometimes beyond. The problem is one of context. When I see a person walking their dog off-leash on a busy city street, I do cringe, no matter how well trained the dogs are. In the urban context leashing is an essential part of responsible dog ownership. In rural environments, having a firm recall is one of the most accomplishments of a responsible dog owner.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The problem is one of context. When I see a person walking their dog off-leash on a busy city street, I do cringe, no matter how well trained the dogs are.

 

So do I. I don't care how well trained or what a paragon of behavior the dog is, he's an animal and things happen.

 

The Loose Dog opinions are interesting. Back when I participated in Obedience and Agility, the shows and sites tended to be quite crowded with people, dogs, crates, tents, chairs, umbrellas, x-pens, etc. A dog who seemed to be detached from it's owner (i.e., not walking at the owner's side) admist all the activity generally did need to gotten hold of by someone. I think in an obedience/agility trial situation, it only makes sense to keep dogs on leash in what can be very tight, congested quarters with lots of activity.

 

And it isn't all about training. Once at an agility trial, I noticed some horses on the property and wandered over to admire them with my Lhasa at my side. My tough, confident, nothing scares him Lhasa. We weren't close to the fence and the horses were several yards into the pasture, but to my complete shock, the Lhasa acted as though we were approaching fire-breathing dragons. He absolutely panicked, ripped his leash out of my hand and ran blind, fortunately back towards the rings instead of the country road nearby. A cry of Loose Dog did go up and it was appropriate as well as appreciated. Once he had reached the safety and sanity of an environment he recognized, the Lhasa stopped and waited for me to reach him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always found it interesting that at some sport venues dogs were required to be on leash while not performing but were required to be without a collar (or ID) while performing as if the dogs were safer and under more control while performing than while not.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...