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farmers and working dogs


Liz P
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OK, now the topic has its own thread.

 

This is the way I see the problem. If you are a shepherd in the UK you grew up around working Border Collies. Your family has had them for many generations. You saw how useful they can be growing up and almost certainly used them to assist with chores as a kid. Your family probably trained them and maybe even bred a few litters. Even if you had no idea how to train a useful sheepdog you would at least know where to buy one, and they are widely available. Even if your family was a holdout that didn't want to use Border Collies, all your neighbors did. In other words, you were immersed in the culture whether you wanted to be or not. **These are the people who created and perfected the breed!**

 

Most of the members of the BCBoard are from the USA and Canada. The sheepdog culture is not widespread here. If you didn't grow up around Border Collies, you had a chance meeting with them some other way. The history of the farms in the USA is small holdings on the east coast that maybe had an all purpose farm dog (related to the ancestor of the Border Collie) and big ranches in the Midwest and west that relied heavily on horses. As sheep were imported and shepherds came with them from the UK, so did some dogs. But despite this, the culture of sheepdogs has not yet become as widespread as it is elsewhere, so many farmers just don't know that the dogs can be useful, how to train or breed them. **These are the farmers who are currently being asked to help preserve the breed within the USA.**

 

This is why we are saying that farmers created the breed, but at the same time that farmers need to be educated about their usefulness. We are not talking about the same group of people.

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Farmers and ranchers do need education about the Border Collie no argument there, but the hobby folks are not the only people using and maintaining the breed in the US.

 

 

The US also has a west coast where ranchers have been using dogs on cattle ranchers for many many years. The west( and plains states) also have large range ewe opertaions and larger tracks of ground than the east coast with larger sheep operations.

 

Run the top sheep producing states in the US..per the us lamb board

 

The top five sheep producing states are Texas, California, Wyoming, Colorado and South Dakota. I think Oregon is 6.

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I didn't say that dogs were not being used in the USA, just that the culture was not as deeply entrenched or widespread. The people who are using dogs need to help get the word out and preserve the breed.

Great first post! But I think it might be true that the people who want to preserve the breed need to get the word out about the working dogs and the people who use them. The people who actually use them very likely don't have the time/resources for promotion of anything except staying "in the black."

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Great first post! But I think it might be true that the people who want to preserve the breed need to get the word out about the working dogs and the people who use them. The people who actually use them very likely don't have the time/resources for promotion of anything except staying "in the black."

 

The most important thing they can do is expose their neighbors to the dogs. Farmer Dan from down the street comes over to help Farmer John load the cattle bound for the feedlot. Farmer Dan uses his dogs to help. Farmer John is impressed with how the dog made things easier, so Farmer Dan gives him the name and phone number of the person he bought the dog from. That's it. Plant the seeds in the minds of the livestock owners during everyday life.

 

Last year I lived next to a woman who raised dairy goats. She had 4 mixed breed dogs that ran around the farm, but they were just pets. Her goats were getting out all the time. I helped her get them back on many an occasion with my dogs. If I wasn't around to help she had to catch each one and drag it back to the front gate, then go back for the next goat until she had them all (luring with grain didn't work). One day, after we had them safely contained once again, she turn around and said to me, "You know, I really should get one of those dogs. Then I could do this on my own." Talk about a light bulb moment!

 

I was about 10 miles from a commercial flock of rare breed sheep. That farmer had purchased 2 trained dogs to help her run the farm. A friend of hers, who raised another rare breed and often helped her out, saw how useful the dogs were. That friend in turn went out and purchased a trained dog. The sheepdog culture was slowly spreading in the area, and it was doing so without the help of demonstrations or other structured, purposeful education.

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The most important thing they can do is expose their neighbors to the dogs. Farmer Dan from down the street comes over to help Farmer John load the cattle bound for the feedlot. Farmer Dan uses his dogs to help. Farmer John is impressed with how the dog made things easier, so Farmer Dan gives him the name and phone number of the person he bought the dog from. That's it. Plant the seeds in the minds of the livestock owners during everyday life.

 

Last year I lived next to a woman who raised dairy goats. She had 4 mixed breed dogs that ran around the farm, but they were just pets. Her goats were getting out all the time. I helped her get them back on many an occasion with my dogs. If I wasn't around to help she had to catch each one and drag it back to the front gate, then go back for the next goat until she had them all (luring with grain didn't work). One day, after we had them safely contained once again, she turn around and said to me, "You know, I really should get one of those dogs. Then I could do this on my own." Talk about a light bulb moment!

 

I was about 10 miles from a commercial flock of rare breed sheep. That farmer had purchased 2 trained dogs to help her run the farm. A friend of hers, who raised another rare breed and often helped her out, saw how useful the dogs were. That friend in turn went out and purchased a trained dog. The sheepdog culture was slowly spreading in the area, and it was doing so without the help of demonstrations or other structured, purposeful education.

 

Awesome! Eyewitness conversion... The best!

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That farmer had purchased 2 trained dogs to help her run the farm. A friend of hers, who raised another rare breed and often helped her out, saw how useful the dogs were. That friend in turn went out and purchased a trained dog. The sheepdog culture was slowly spreading in the area, and it was doing so without the help of demonstrations or other structured, purposeful education.

 

 

 

 

In reference to the above occuring without the use of a demo or such, maybe, maybe not, where did the farmer get introduced to border collies in the first place that convinced her to purchase 2 trained dogs?

 

IMO, the key to the success of demonstrations, or even a series of demonstrations is to get just 1 person to start using dogs or you may have to be happy with 1 person just considering it, that one person can influence so many more. But, the way the demonstration is presented and the type of dog work produced can either make or break it.

 

I think that Pearse mentioned that going out and demonstrating on a few sheep won't convince people to use dogs, he is right. If you go out and do sheep dog demos based on trialling, with drive panels, pen and shedding or even fetching sheep around a set course the farmers walk away, to them it's just a show.

 

Wayne and I do quite a few demos, we are asked to do them more for entertainment, but we try to balance education trying to show some real work applications and then we also tap into basic obedience and manners for the general pet public. We talk about working bred vs. the other, try to demonstrate correct useful work on a variety of livestock along with showing the importance of obedience and self control. Wayne has an advantage over myself, he has used dogs on ranches before in Colorado and Kansas so he can talk to the farmers in a fashion that translates, I just train the dogs.

 

One of the events we were contracted for was a antique tractor show, it was to produce 3 days of demonstrations. There was a club lamb producer also there running a petting zoo. When we first arrived he kinda laughed when Jake moved the sheep from the trailer out in the open and put them in work area. We make a point of dropping the sheep from the trailer out into the open and letting the dog take them to the demonstration enclosure, to show that the dog can do this.

 

The club lamb producer pulled me aside and said "Do you know why I don't need one of those dogs? Because my sheep are all halter broke, I just lead them from the trailer to the barn". I just laughed with him and said "But I can take all of the sheep in one trip", we both had a good chuckle and went on about our work.

 

That evening we used Jake to take the sheep out of the demo area, to the unfenced area and then up into the lean-to of the barn where there was a holding pen. We did the same with the calves, but they had to be driven around the barn, along a driveway while keeping them out of the lean-to and into a horse stall. In the morning we did the reverse. The club lamb breeder was there watching from a far each time.

 

The next day it got real hot so we split the sheep into two groups leaving one set in the shade and bringing the calves out just before demos. It didn't take long before the stock started to fight and challange Jake, they wanted to stay in the shade. It became clear that the dog was doing alot of work while we had to do little. Anyway, by the middle of the third day that club lamb producer came to me and said "I gotta get my kids to buy me one of those dogs, there are times that it would be really useful and save me a lot of walking". Now, will he ever buy one, hard to say, but, he has a different opinion now then what he had before and will now share his new knowledge. To me it was a win.

 

A few weeks later we were at Farm Progress Show, just so happens some that saw us at the Antique Tractor Show were there, they brought friends over to watch, telling those friends how the dog could handle the livestock in places and in fashions that they never imagined. It's building, it will never get huge, just a few trying to use dogs that didn't before, or maybe in a different fashion. Some will continue using dogs more effectively, some will give up and go back to their old ways.

 

 

BTW, I was just speaking to Bob Johnson, he had cattle handling demos at the community college yesterday. He said that he had about 20 in attendence, there was a lot of interest from the future young farmers. He is telling them that not only will the dog save them from having to hire employees but if they get handy at training them they can earn a little extra money training for others. Another thing that helps is to suggest that they speak to their tax accountant, some have been able to write the dog off on their taxes. Sometimes that little extra will take them that next step. If one out of those 20 end up incorporating dogs into their future operations we will be lucky.

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I grew up in relatively rural part of Nebraska and my first experience with a Border Collie as a child was a working ranch dog owned by friends who maintained their sheep and cow/calf operation. However, my next experience (especially after moving into the city) involved seeing Border Collies running at agility and Flyball demos.

Many friends of mine own or help operate ranches and most use Border Collies for work. However, they do not trial their dogs (no time) and certainly do not do any type of health testing or care about structure. It's survival of the fittest and it shows. In several instances the dogs are outcrossed with Heelers or whatever else was working the ranch on the day the bitch went into heat.

I grew up watching Borders work, but compare this to say, my friends in Los Angeles who own exclusively sporting bred dogs, and compete only in agility. They wouldn't even know where to begin when it comes to herding, nor have any desire to do so.

Around here, a good farm dog is a treasured thing, but we still have the need here in a state supported by ranching and farming industries.

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There are lots of new lambs at xxxxx. So precious! Today Gxxxx moved ewes with their new lambs (some as young as 2 days old) into a different field. He powered down and communicated to the ewes that he was no threat to their lambs. He got the job done calmly and with no stress to the mamas and their babies. Love my Boy Gxxxxx!

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I grew up watching Borders work, but compare this to say, my friends in Los Angeles who own exclusively sporting bred dogs, and compete only in agility. They wouldn't even know where to begin when it comes to herding, nor have any desire to do so.

 

There are actually a number of opportunities in the Los Angeles area to learn about sheepherding. I used to do demos at a number of festivals throughout area. The Scottish Festival on The Queen Mary has sheepdog demos, as does the Irish Fair in the San Fernando Valley (just north of LA) There are people who give sheepdog lessons where quite a few sport people bring their dogs. If you drive north about 85 miles into the Antelope Valley, you can watch the shepherds work flocks of 100's of sheep where they graze them all over. Southern CA has quite a few very reputable trainers. When I got my first Border Collie it took me about a week to find a trainer to work with, having absolutely no idea where to start looking. Once there all kinds of opportunities opened up to learn about sheepdogs. I didn't start out with the intention of trialing, in fact I've done very limited trialing in the past 11 years. I just wanted to learn more about what my dog was bred to do. And even though he was not working bred, he had enough in him for me to be able to learn how to work with him.

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I got started when living in Los Angles also. In addition to what Joan mentioned, there is also plenty of AKC and arena herding to go around and it's advertised all over the place, and there are websites up and running. So if your friend was ever interested, I'm sure they'd find everything they'd be looking for. Los Angeles has got it covered. In fact, a little bit north of Los Angeles is an agility training facility with a huge reputation (what that reputation is depends on who you're talking to) that also has sheep and herding instructors. I can't help you with the "nor have any desire to do so" sentiment, though.

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I got started when living in Los Angles also. In addition to what Joan mentioned, there is also plenty of AKC and arena herding to go around and it's advertised all over the place, and there are websites up and running. So if your friend was ever interested, I'm sure they'd find everything they'd be looking for.

 

And, there my friends is the problem in a nutshell. After two weeks of debating Dual Registration bans as ways to preserve the future of the working Border Collie, someone sets up a separate topic to discuss how to attract producers by demonstrating good stockwork and Jodi seriously suggests steering people towards "plenty of AKC and arena herding". If I had one of those banging your head on the desk gifs, I'd be using it.

 

If the people on this Board don't "get it" what's the chance the general public, who don't spend half their life here as RDM so correctly pointed out, will get it?

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Pearse. Go ahead. Bang your head. I hope that works for ya.

 

I was just pointing out that sitting in Los Angeles and saying they can't find herding is a mere copout. They have more herding -- of all kinds -- even coupled with agility facilities -- if someone wanted it. If what you got out of that is that I was promoting AKC herding, you probably should bang your head and read it again.

 

Or maybe I should. (eta: bang my head ... not yours!)

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I'll go with Pearse here. Jodi you honestly do not think AKC people (as a general rule) would point people towards well bred working dogs or that farmers would be able to translate the AKC courses into practical work do you?

 

Herding in the AKC<, AHBA, ASCA sense is NOT real work. This thread is about getting farmers/ranchers educated on working and using BC's in their operations, not about encouraging sport people to 'compete' with their dogs.

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It might take slightly more effort than running over to the AKC training facility next door, but Southern California is home to a number of highly regarded USBCHA sheepdog/cattledog handlers, trainers and breeders of quality working dogs. Their operations are not located in metropolitan areas because the facilities and livestock that are part of quality stockdog training are not conducive to urban areas....so a little effort might be required to reach these people....but they are there in So California and really where someone should go to see and learn about quality dogs. I'm sure it was an "oversight" on Jody's part, but someone looking to get a quality education in quality working dogs and stockdog training would be best contacting Candy Kennedy, Jennifer Ewers or Anna Guthrie.

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It might take slightly more effort than running over to the AKC training facility next door, but Southern California is home to a number of highly regarded USBCHA sheepdog/cattledog handlers, trainers and breeders of quality working dogs. Their operations are not located in metropolitan areas because the facilities and livestock that are part of quality stockdog training are not conducive to urban areas....so a little effort might be required to reach these people....but they are there in So California and really where someone should go to see and learn about quality dogs. I'm sure it was an "oversight" on Jody's part, but someone looking to get a quality education in quality working dogs and stockdog training would be best contacting Candy Kennedy, Jennifer Ewers or Anna Guthrie.

 

Having just returned from my weekly 4 hour driving roundtrip to Jennifer Ewers for training I second Eluizabeth's commentary that there are highly qualified trainers inSouthern California even if they are not found in the middle of the urban areas.

 

Oh and Elizabeth - BTW - we are loving Rylee. (from you via Stephanie Goracke)

 

Pat Grannan

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Pat,

I am so happy that you have Rylee and that I get to see her here on the West Coast.

Her big full sister, Sooty, just won her first Open trial today and first Open points on her 3rd run in Open....I just moved her up in December. Full brother Ross was just a step behind and did a wonderful job as well.

I'm on the waitlist for Zamora....hopefully, I'll see you there. If I get in, I'll run Ross and Soot.

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Pat,

I am so happy that you have Rylee and that I get to see her here on the West Coast.

Her big full sister, Sooty, just won her first Open trial today and first Open points on her 3rd run in Open....I just moved her up in December. Full brother Ross was just a step behind and did a wonderful job as well.

I'm on the waitlist for Zamora....hopefully, I'll see you there. If I get in, I'll run Ross and Soot.

 

Hopefully you get in. Would love to meet you and also see Rylee's full brother and sister run.

 

If not - most likely at Sonoma in March.

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Liz P Wrote:

The people who are using dogs need to help get the word out and preserve the breed.

 

I would think that getting the "word out" would serve to dilute the breed. Promotion does not equal preservation. Just the opposite, I would think. Using dogs for work, and then breeding the good ones preserves working characteristics.

 

I think there will always be a subset of good working collies. People who need them will know where to find them.

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I would think that getting the "word out" would serve to dilute the breed. Promotion does not equal preservation. Just the opposite, I would think. Using dogs for work, and then breeding the good ones preserves working characteristics.

 

I was hoping that farmers who need good working dogs would buy them from people who know how to breed and train them. This would provide a larger market and population of dogs proven by their work on stock. From what I can see it is the growing demand for pets and sport dogs that is causing the dilution of the breed.

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Herding in the AKC<, AHBA, ASCA sense is NOT real work. This thread is about getting farmers/ranchers educated on working and using BC's in their operations, not about encouraging sport people to 'compete' with their dogs.

 

That.

 

If a rancher or farmer came in off the highway to watch an AKC or ASCA trial, they would probably be unimpressed, and even horrified by some of the barking and chasing that happens with ASCA dogs on cattle runs. Of course there are good working Aussies, and ASCA permits all herding breeds, but that's not the venue in which I'd look for the best in working border collies. (And yes, I do trial ASCA with my BCs, because ASCA and AHBA are in my back yard and it's where I started.)

 

The hardest thing I see, out here in the West, is convincing some ranchers that border collies are tough enough to do the job. As Liz pointed out, a lot of ranchers and cowboys have cross-breeds, BC/blue heeler or BC/Aussie, or out this way in Smith Valley, there's even someone breeding dogs who distinctly resemble a cattle dog/pitpull cross. Cowboys are often convinced border collies are too soft. They don't like a dog with lots of eye, they prefer something with some bite and dash, and there you get the mixed breeds. (I'll bet my hat that Tony McCallum added a little "spice" to his lines, somewhere along the line.)

 

Plus, without proper understanding of what a border collie is bred to do or knowledge of how to train it, they sometimes get their britches in a twist because "the damn dog won't get out of the gate." They don't know the dog is trying to fetch the cows to them, they just want the dog to drive the cows, instead.

 

Which is to say, education and practical demonstration are important, to overcome entrenched misconceptions some ranch folks have. There will always be dilution of the breed, because there will always be demand for cross-bred cow dogs, from people who are convinced that's what they want.

 

But I wish I could think of some good suggestions as to how the working border collie could get some better press, and reach the attention of those folks beyond the blacktop's end. They're out there - we have the cowdog trials in Winnemucca every year. Somehow, though, the border collie and its champions need to overcome some old, closely-held misconceptions about what the border collie as a useful dog can really do.

 

Mark, there might be somebody in LA raising potbellied pigs or pigmy goats ... B):P

Regards,

 

Gloria

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The hardest thing I see, out here in the West, is convincing some ranchers that border collies are tough enough to do the job.

 

Not just in the West. It's pretty typical when I've shown Ricky to the guys with cattle that their eyes glaze over and they say, we didn't know that a Border Collie would heel like that, is he purebred? Even at trials I have had other handlers ask if he had Pit in him, or even McCallum breeding based on his head and the way he travels, and no, he does not have either, and yes, he is a sheepdog. So far, most have picked up on the fact that he is not the typical border collie that they have envisioned. For some reason, border collies have gotten the reputation of being soft and only being useful if you have sheep, basically if you own cattle and are a bit rough around the edges you don't want a border collie. To a certain degree there is a misunderstanding, but then again I have seen quite a few on the trial field that couldn't move the sheep or the cattle, those don't help.

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I have been following this thread quite closely and it is my firm belief that education and putting proof in the pudding is the answer to the border collie being used more by the ranchers and farmers. My part in this is writing aticles in the "Beef in BC" magazine which is the magazine put out by the British Columbia Cattlemens' Association. I have been doing this for about 4 or 5 years now and have lots of response and emails asking questions about stock dogs, specifically border collies, how to raise them, how to pick them, feed, training etc., etc. I get so many calls either for training or to buy started or finished dogs that it is impossible for me to do it all most of the time. I do take in some dogs over the winter for training and I do some clinics at my place for the ranchers and farmers in the area and I make them cheap enough and usually short enough that they can take the time and money to come to them. I have seen some good growth in the use of stock dogs, not only in this area but up north also, and, even though it's not where I would like it to be, it is growing. I could carry on longer but I think you get the drift of what I am leading to and that is that each one of us, in our own way, needs to contribute something, if we want to see our fabulous dogs being used more and more in the ranch and farm world. And that doesn't involve criticism of the rancher and farmer, it involves a lot of patience, knowledge of their needs, and the dedication by all of us to give them what they need, a good, stgrong, well trained cattle dog and the ability for them to run them. ....Bob

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