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Liz P

farmers and working dogs

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Bob, thanks for taking the time to let us know about your experiences. I am trying, in my own small way, to spread the word one farmer at a time.

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Are there any livestock farmers in LA?

Depends on how you define LA. If you mean LA county, sure. Our counties are huge out here. If you mean metropolitan area, sure. In the city proper, you do see some contract brush-clearing flocks of sheep or goats occasionally. And people love 'em!

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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.

 

Very true.

The choice at feedlots around here as of late has been Hangin' Tree, and ACD x BC mixes, or AussieX BC mixes. Drives me nuts because a Border Collie can get the job done, but this theory exists that they aren't tough enough to handle the work.

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My experience is that spreading the word to farmers (btw I consider myself a farmer; I got into border collies for my sheep, not the other way round) is next to useless, if you want to make them understand how usefull a good stockdog can be you need to demonstrate that.

My situation here I think is somewhat different than that of most boardmembers, mostly living in the US, I can only give my opinion on what is happening here (Iceland).

 

As I said in the other thread, in icelandic sheep keeping the real need for stockdogs is a relatively short period (about 6 to 8 weeks) in the fall when the free range sheep are gathered for the slaughter time. This work consists of gathering sheep over very great distances (they hardly flock while foraging) and driving them home, we are on horseback, quads are also used where the landscape allows it (not by me though;) ). Alltough border collies are on the rise it is astonishing how little dogs are used.

 

This is also the reason it often goes wrong; Some farmer is being convinced a BC is what he needs, gets a pup, does little to nothing in the way of training, takes it with him to gather the sheep (usually way to young), and does nothing but curse at the d****d dog that keeps running in the way of the sheep that are supposed to be driven home. Story usually ends with the "good for nothing" dog being put to sleep.

 

I more often advice people (who I know have a track record of not being willing to spend a lot of time training their dogs) not to get a BC. They are better off with a barking icelandic "sheepdog" that stays close to its owner and does not head the sheep off. Better to have a dog of little use than one that works against you...

 

But there is a lot of positive stuff happening also, more and more people get a good dog and seek good education. The icelandic stockdog club almost exclusively consists of interested farmers, and it is all about the border collie.

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SM writes:

Story usually ends with the "good for nothing" dog being put to sleep.

 

The dogs would be shot to death here. It takes time and dedication to learn how to train and use a stock dog properly. Many do not have the time or aptitude to acquire the skills necessary to use a dog well. Why inflict suffering upon the dogs?

 

I more often advice people (who I know have a track record of not being willing to spend a lot of time training their dogs) not to get a BC.

 

I could not agree more.

 

Liz P writes:

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.

 

I guess I do not understand. Why would one need a larger market unless you were seeking to promote your own breeding program? Why do we need a larger population of underutilized sheepdogs?

 

RMS writes:

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.

 

Bob, in all due respect, why would I care if border collies are being used by others or not? IMO, for those who need or want one, a good dog will always be able to be found. The USBCHA members seem to be breeding hundreds every year. And there are plenty being bred from working ranchers/farmers who use them in their operations. And many dogs are being imported as well. Are we lacking good dogs?

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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.

 

Yes, there are more than enough - if you look. But here vs. there I noticed a huge difference in the attitude towards Border Collies vs Sporter Collies vs Pets.

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Are we lacking good dogs?

 

 

IMO Yes, there are plenty of prospects as in pups and untrained or undertrained individuals, many that may make a OK dog, many that are only useful as pets or companions when factoring what is required to be a useful working dog, one that will save a rancher from hiring a couple/few employees and extra quad runners. There is certainly a lack of good dogs, as in solid working, usable, proven dogs that work in a fashion that meets the standard of a good strong, hard working border collie. The dog that can handle the pressure and respond in a acceptable fashion with little to no handler intervention when being asked to do a job.

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I have to agree with Deb here. Liz P has seen a local farmer purchase a dog from 'trial' stock (OK in all honesty it was novice level) and said dog has little in the way of talent and is defenitely not a good working prospect. I also agree with Liz P that we need to educate farmers/ranchers on how to select a good dog and not to just take the word of a 'breeder'. After all, the breeder is trying to sell pups so has a stake in promoting them.

 

Does this mean we need more people breeding dogs, definitely NOT! What we need is education to help the farmer and rancher select a dog suitable for the type of work he has . And education on not breeding a dog unless it is of good quality for work. Not to breed dogs as 'pets' and then sell them as working dogs.

 

While most on these boards agree with this attitude, it is the farmer and rancher who needs to know. One at a time helps only a tiny faction. We need a way to hit a broader base.

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"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."

 

I guess I do not understand. Why would one need a larger market unless you were seeking to promote your own breeding program? Why do we need a larger population of underutilized sheepdogs?

I think Bob meant a larger market FOR working dogs, and by extension, dogs that have proven their worth by doing real work. If you get more farmers and ranchers using dogs, and hook them up with breeders of working dogs, then you have a greater percentage of the working-bred dogs ending up in working homes instead of in sport homes, pet homes, or with hobby herders and weekend warriors. How would that not be a good thing?

The problem is that unlike the UK where there is an existing culture of using dogs and you can walk down the road to the next farm (and I do mean walk) and in all likelihood find someone who could help you with your training issues, here there is less of a culture and those using dogs are more spread out. That means that anyone who wants to get into using dogs on their operations, needs to take time off from the farm for lessons or clinics and incur considerable expense to travel to where those are offered. If this is something we really want to promote, we need to start thinking of ways to make it practical and affordable.

 

RMS writes

 

"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."

 

Bob, in all due respect, why would I care if border collies are being used by others or not? IMO, for those who need or want one, a good dog will always be able to be found.

 

Except if they are no longer used to any great extent in real work situations. You may be able to get a good dog, but if the top working breeders are selling only to trial or sport homes, and fewer and fewer actual working operations are using well trained dogs, how will you find dogs that you know can work 7 days in a week, over rough terrain, with difficult stock?

 

I think it's something we all need to care about to some degree.

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The point is not to breed MORE dogs, but to maintain a large, healthy, diverse gene pool of working dogs. Without that the breed will slowly deteriorate. I don't want to see that happen.

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Interesting.

A few questions

So we want to educate the ranches and farmers out "there"

That is great,

great for anyone who plans on using these dogs for a livestock operation. Perfect job for our dogs

A pup for such a person, I think not.

A fully trained dog is needed that will get the job done, and be able to do it with a relative Novice to working dogs .

So how much will said dog set the farmer / rancher back ?

Hmmm, most likely more than a farmer / rancher is willing or able to afford would be my guess. Have you noticed how much a really good fully trained dog is selling for these days , if for sale at all?

How many of these farmer/ ranchers are going to be willing and dedicated enough to learn how to get the most out of the dogs they now have?

Most farmer/ ranchers have their operation set up that they don't really NEED a dog per say.

So while it is a romantic notion of ranchers and farmers incorperating these very useful and capable animals into their farming it is also a very few and select number of said people who will be able to afford one as well as educate themselves and use a dog(s) to their full capabilities.

 

I lean to what Wendy suggested in that there are strong lines of dogs being produced here. It is an idividual choice to a farmer/rancher if they wish to employ a dog. There could be a double edge sword if the farmer/rancher witnesses what a good dog is able to do in a farm/ranch situation yet is unable to reproduce it on their own farm.

 

I embrace the idea of what has been put on the table, just not sure about the reality of it coming to fruit.

 

The breed has been around here for a while, there must be more to it than farmer/ranchers not knowing of the usefullness of Border Collies by now ?

The folks who ranch/ farm AND train, trial dogs successfully to the USBCHA / CBCA levels are the true guardians of keeping the "working" in the Border Collie breed in North America.

 

I am not sure if it's fact North America is breeding weekend warrior type Border Collies because there is not a large interest or need in working dogs through the farmer/rancher population.

I don't think it's a bad thing ( educating farmer/ranches to the value of a good dog) at all but I also don't think it will effect the breed if the farm/ranch community does not have a real interest in using dogs for their needs.

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So while it is a romantic notion of ranchers and farmers incorperating these very useful and capable animals into their farming it is also a very few and select number of said people who will be able to afford one as well as educate themselves and use a dog(s) to their full capabilities.

 

 

It depends on what part of the country you are in. If you took a road trip to south central Iowa in a week and a half you would be able to attend a clinic that will have a handful of cattle ranchers and possibly a dairy farmer or two that have discovered the practical application of working dogs over the last year or so. Some will have their first dogs, some will be there after upgrading their dogs after discovering that what they originally purchased was not capable of the level and quality of work that they have learned to expect. It's a few more that will expect more of breeders, or maybe just maybe if they get good ones will be able to someday produce more good ones with selection based on work.

 

 

I am not sure if in fact North America is breeding weekend warrior Border Collies because there is not a large interest in them through the farm/rancher population.

 

Who do you view as being the Weekend Warrior Border Collie Breeder?

 

I think that if someone is breeding to produce their own personal trial dog that is fine, but if there are ones out there that are breeding strictly with the intentions of producing weekend warrior trial dogs for others, they should consider stopping.

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I did not say there were NO farmer/ranchers using dogs, wanting to use dogs or take the time to learn HOW to use a dog for their operation.

I just don't see this as a more or less being used ( these dogs being over here as long as they have ) by farmer /ranchers impacting what we know as the working border collie as a breed overall.

 

weekend warrior dog.: one with no stamina to be ABLE to do the work needed of a dog in a farm/ranch situation.

 

I don't think people as a whole here in North America are breeding such a dog ( weekend warrior). At least not the bloodstock I would be interested in.

That was what I meant by making the comment that "breeders" are breeding ( or trying to ) quality animals that can work all week on a farm and go to a trial weekends.

That also raises another question about people who are "Breeders" versus people who "breed" working dogs.

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Yes, most new farmers need either a trained dog or a dog with aton of natural ability. I have seen farmers get a first pup and do quite well with it and I've seen pups that had no chance. But far too often I see pups that have poor ability regardless of the upbringing.

 

Farmers need to be educated on HOW to select a dog, what to avoid, the benefit (financially and time wise) of purchasing a trained dog, how to train a pup to be of the best use.

 

As to the subject of weekend warriors, they are the majority now IMHO. There are the workaholics on ranches where they have enough work, but having put one such in the hands of a competent 'weekend warrior' some years ago and having said dog returnede with the owner saying she no longer wanted the work it entailed for the workaholic, I realized few have the work for such dogs. This is the type of dog I personally want. I also have spoken to some big hats who recognize that most people are not work wise, nor handling (on a daily basis) wise able to handle the workaholic. At least one big hat told me he now breeds the weekender dog for those reasons.

 

IF there were a larger market for the workaholic type dog (and the market IS there, just not tapped) then the dilution of the breed would not be as great, the genepool would be enabled to be kept larger with a wider variety of working dogs.

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I don't think it's a bad thing ( educating farmer/ranches to the value of a good dog) at all but I also don't think it will effect the breed if the farm/ranch community does not have a real interest in using dogs for their needs.

 

I could not disagree more. If the farm/ranch community does not have a real interest in using dogs for their needs, that will not only affect the breed, it will be the end of the breed as we know it. How do you know if you're breeding dogs with the "stamina to be ABLE to do the work needed of a dog in a farm/ranch situation" if the dogs you're breeding are never in a situation where they are called upon to demonstrate whether they have this stamina or not?

 

As long as there are farmers and ranchers whose operations could benefit from the use of a good dog, but are not using dogs, then it seems to me a priority to try to make it possible for them to have and use good dogs. It's good for them and it's good for us. Yes, there are obstacles, but I thought this discussion was focusing on how to overcome those obstacles. There is no doubt in my mind that a larger market among farmer/ranchers for good working border collies would benefit the breed and those who already utilize the dogs successfully, as well as those who would come to using them. It has nothing to do with promoting your own breeding program. It has to do with enhancing the gene pool that we need in order to keep producing quality working dogs.

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At least one big hat told me he now breeds the weekender dog for those reasons

 

As I recount my blessings that we made our first border collie purchase from outside of our area from a handler that who sells the majority of his pups and started dogs to ranchers.

 

 

It wouldn't be so bad if those purchasing the easy to train mellow bred weekend warrior selected pups understood that their dogs were bred down and that those dogs should not be used to improve lessor dogs but rather that if they are bred that you need to breed up looking for a mate that is superiour, but instead it seems like many times those dogs are being viewed as the proven dog, some times based on where they are running (pro-novice or open) or based on their pedigree.

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If you eliminate the need for dogs that can really work, you eliminate the need for the working Border Collie - what you'll be left with are the pet/companion/sporter/show dogs on one hand, and the hobby herder/trial-only dogs on the other hand.

 

It's hard work that produced the working Border Collie and it's only hard work that will maintain the working Border Collie.

 

JMO.

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"So how much will said dog set the farmer / rancher back ?

Hmmm, most likely more than a farmer / rancher is willing or able to afford would be my guess. Have you noticed how much a really good fully trained dog is selling for these days , if for sale at all?"

 

Probably not as much as a fancy new Quad. Then they have to have someone who knows and understands stock to run it. The ranchers that I know who have had the opportunity to get a good working dog say they'd never willingly be without one. The number of dogs out there that are trained AND experienced with ranch level work, which isn't necessarily trial level skills, are few and far between. I get contacted by cattle ranchers looking for working cattle dogs many times a year and I'm lucky if I can know of 5-10 available, qualified dogs for sale that I can pass the information on.

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It wouldn't be so bad if those purchasing the easy to train mellow bred weekend warrior selected pups understood that their dogs were bred down and that those dogs should not be used to improve lessor dogs but rather that if they are bred that you need to breed up looking for a mate that is superiour, but instead it seems like many times those dogs are being viewed as the proven dog, some times based on where they are running (pro-novice or open) or based on their pedigree.

 

 

Unfortunately I see this far too often. I am not sure which is worse, this trend or the trend of selling pups from "titled" parents to farmers as working dogs.

 

We have some 'professional' novice trialers in the area who sell a lot of pups. The parents are not priven, but they have won 'trials'. What happened to a working standard? Do trials need to go back to Open only as the standard?

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Probably not as much as a fancy new Quad.

But you can park your fancy new quad in a shed between uses.

I think the bigger problem is the investment of time in training (not only the dog, yourself too...), and taking care of the dog.

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okay I'll just head back into lurking mode. ;)

But... just wanted to say that while each and every sentence is being pulled apart instead of reading the message as a whole, I was saying that if more farmers/ranchers had dogs it would be a good thing but I don't think that the working dog is in trouble as it is at present and has been here for years past here in North America.

I just am not seeing HOW this will be the downfall of our dogs as we know them.

There will always be Frarmers and Ranchers who know the value of a good dog.

Are not most of our USBCHA/ CBCA top handlers, who on occassion breed litters, sell started to fully trained dogs not considered farmer/ranchers too? Are they not doing a good job with our bloodstock?

What then, IS a Farmer Rancher? Does it mean you need to have 500 or more head ?

I am just not understanding how our breed as we know it is going down the tubes or thriving due to more

rancher / farmers using or not using these dogs .

 

Are working dogs with an On Off switch less of a dog, A weekend dog?

There is plenty of down time in farming livestock and or things that are better off doing without a dog. (I'm sure I'll get ripped apart for that statement)

 

Like I said , I think it would be a great thing to have more ranchers and farmers using dogs. But is is a select few dedicated farmers who will get the most out of dogs.

I think the real problem is Farming /Ranching is dwindling at an alarming rate because of cost factors and profit margin for farmers and ranchers. More and more farms and ranches are going under each year because the just can't afford to do it anymore.

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Hmmm...I don't think easy to train necessarily equated with weekend warrior. As someone posted earlier, farmers and ranchers might be more amenable to dogs if they were relatively easy to train. Easy to train doesn't have to mean the dog doesn't have what it takes to work all day every day. The generalizations being thrown around here are pretty shocking.

 

I agree with Michele that even on some large ranches the dogs aren't needed for every minute of every day, and if you're out doing *something else* and your dog is along with you, you (the farmer or rancher) certainly doesn't want to have to worry that the dog is so desperate to work 24/7 that it's constantly running off to freelance....

 

I realize that there are sort of two separate conversations going on here, one in which folks are talking about novices breeding unproven dogs suitable for other weekend warrior type novices, but honestly, the farmers I know who have gotten dogs to work on their farms--mostly cattle--expected the dog to learn on the job, which IMO translates into easy to train (which doesn't necessarily mean soft, or weak, or lacking stamina, or anything else like that). If you're trying to convince a farmer/rancher to use a dog in his operation is he going to be pleased with the one you have to grind on to make listen and do the right thing or the one who essentially does it right from the start, requiring minimal input from the human?

 

J.

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The generalizations being thrown around here are pretty shocking.

 

 

As i have posted before i know many, many ranchers who use good dogs. Within 30 miles of our ranch 4 ranches run several thousand ewes, and all but one of these use a dog. If i expand that to cattle and go 120 miles from our place the numbers are higher. If i want to go to MT or Wy or CO the numbers of people i know using good dogs would continue to climb.

 

 

There are so many stereotypes in use on this topic. The brush used to paint ranchers and ranch dogs is mostly negative.

 

OF course we have all seen the follow or get in the way type of un trained "ranch dog." yes i know ranchers who would rather have an ATV.

 

To play devils advocate.... if this were a forum of ranchers who use their dogs in ranching, but dont trial, here are some comments you would likely hear.

 

Trial dogs are weak. Trial dogs don't have the stamina to do "real work. Trial dogs are only good on broke stock. Trial people don't know anything about using dogs in real life. Trial dogs break down and cant work long hours. Trial dogs cant think on their own. Trial dogs are neurotic. Most trial handlers don't know much about livestock, or have much respect for it.

 

Now are some of these statements true of some trial dogs and handlers? Sure they are, just like some of the statements about ranchers used here are true. If this topic is about how to encourage more farmers and ranchers to use good dogs, i don't see where the "farmers wont do it because they are to (insert negative comment here)statements are helping the cause.

 

The future of the sheep industry(IMHO and according to the NSIP) is in smaller farms and ranches. These farms are more likely to be open to using and animal that will help with labor, as most will have off farm jobs.

 

I do think ranchers want a dog that is quite natural and useful at a young age. I am not sure these same dogs are always easy to get on the trial field at a young age.

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There are so many stereotypes in use on this topic. The brush used to paint ranchers and ranch dogs is mostly negative.

 

I don't think stating that a farmer might prefer to have an easier to train dog is implying anything negative about the farmer. Honestly there have been plenty of times when I've taken a young dog out to help with chores so the dog can gain experience and then wondered why I bothered because of the messes made and the extra time required. Maybe I'm generalizing when I say that I think many farmers and ranchers are busy people (heck, I have a tiny place and it keeps me busy), but seriously what typical farmer or rancher has the time to put into training a dog that hobby farmers or trialers have? I think people who have a lot of work to do and who could use the help of a dog (whether they know it or not) would prefer (well, they'd probably love a fully trained dog, who wouldn't?) a dog that doesn't require all sorts of training time on the part of the farmer. That's all I'm saying. Easy to train dogs may or may not make good trial dogs or even farm dogs, but speaking from my own experience, if I had to put hours and hours into a dog just to make it somewhat useful and I was a busy farmer, I don't think the dog would end up getting trained....

 

I know that as I've come along in the world of working dogs, I have come to appreciate the ones who do want to do it right from the start and who are willing to try to work with the human. Even if I have more time to train a dog than the average farmer has, I can't say I'd want to spend a lot of time training a difficult-to-train dog, I don't care how much potential it might have. The key here is time.

 

J.

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I don't think stating that a farmer might prefer to have an easier to train dog is implying anything negative about the farmer.

the dog would end up getting trained....

 

 

No i dont either Julie and i don't think you said anything negative. I liked your quote. I did not put every negative comment in my post as i did not want to make this personal and start a pissing match :huh: If you read some of these comments to a rancher i am sure they would find them at the very least condescending.

 

I think a natural dog is what busy rancher wants. My expecience has been my most useful ranch dogs( at a young age) were sometimes also not easy to fine tune for the trial field.

 

I think we have a few topic going here now :P

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