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farmers and working dogs

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I suppose this is regional, but alot of farmers and ranchers breed their own dogs.

 

 

Someone asked what is a definition of a farmer or rancher.

To me it is someone who makes their living from their stock. This means pays the morgage, insurance, groceries, fuel, from the money made by their stock.

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I'm back. Not once have I heard the word courage mentioned when talking about a cow dog in this post. I think that dogs that train easily are great also but when it comes to working range cows all the training in the world will not get the job done unless the dog has courage and the desire to control the stock. So, as far as I'm concerned, and I train a lot of cow dogs for ranchers in BC, you need to know that the dog has the right stuff before you spend all that time in training. I have seen some that have enough presence to move cattle and are also fairly biddable but the majority of good cow dogs take a fairly determined handler to bring them to the level of training that makes them useful to the rancher. I delivered a "broke" (ranchers' lingo)dog to a client the other day and, of course, we talked dogs for a while and one of the really important comments that I got from this rancher was: "Some of the people in our industry will go out and spend as much as $10,000.00 for a cow horse but they won't spend a nickle for a dog and the dog will do 3 times more work than the horse will and do it quicker." Obviously this fellow knows his dogs and horses and the family has ranched in this area for 100 years now and run their cows in the rough forestry permits on the mountains around here. He breeds his own dogs, and most of them are pretty good, but has them trained out when he needs another one and he is very appreciative of the dog and his abilities and all the help he gets from his dogs. He would never be without a good dog or a good horse. He runs about 500 cows. I have had lots of calls in the spring and fall requesting started or trained dogs as this is driving and gathering times when the hard work getting the cows to range or permit and back is occurring. The usual request is, "have you got a good dog for sale? I'm killing my horses trying to get my cows to range." There's more and more of the ranchers using dogs these days and the cowhands working for them are becoming more aware of the value of a good dog in the bush and on the range. To me, this is probably the "real" future of the working border collie and I, for one, like to see this happening. Bob

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Not once have I heard the word courage mentioned when talking about a cow dog in this post. I think that dogs that train easily are great also but when it comes to working range cows all the training in the world will not get the job done unless the dog has courage and the desire to control the stock. So, as far as I'm concerned, and I train a lot of cow dogs for ranchers in BC, you need to know that the dog has the right stuff before you spend all that time in training. I have seen some that have enough presence to move cattle and are also fairly biddable but the majority of good cow dogs take a fairly determined handler to bring them to the level of training that makes them useful to the rancher.

 

I agree Bob, good post. I would add that i would not keep a ranch,trial, sheep or cow dog that did not have courage and work ethic to spare. They may take longer to train( for trials at least), but at the end of the day you don't have to worry about having enough dog.

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Wow, Bob, great post and I loved it - and it's an inspiration as I'm struggling with Dan to harness his determination and his grit so that it works for me.

 

Some folks like Bob and Lana may enjoy their trialing, they know the proof of the dog is in the farm/ranch work because that's where the pedal hits the metal, so to speak.

 

Good to hear from both of you that there are farmers and ranchers who know and understand the value of a good dog. That's a good portent for the future of the breed.

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Wow, I'm saddened to know that trainability and courage/work ethic are mutually exclusive. But according to folks here, that seems to be the case. A shame really....

 

J.

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Julie they are not mutually exclusive but as more and more breed for trainability the natural ability is somewhat lost. To me this natural ability includes heart, courage and natural ability. This sort can be more difficult to train and has a brain so it might question a command it thinks is in error (and often is right!) But OTOH this sort often doesn't take alot of 'formal' training to make a useful/good farm/ranch dog.

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Wow, I'm saddened to know that trainability and courage/work ethic are mutually exclusive. But according to folks here, that seems to be the case. A shame really....

 

J.

 

For sure NOT what i meant.

 

We also do not all like the same dogs, or have the same ability too train. I am a very average trainer, so i like to let the stock teach the dogs, even if that means they hit the trial field later. I like a very useful( ranch) young dog, but one that is a little full of themselves. Maybe one that does not have as much "trainability" as others like. I never have a nursery dog, and that is fine.

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For sure NOT what i meant.

 

We also do not all like the same dogs, or have the same ability too train. I am a very average trainer, so i like to let the stock teach the dogs, even if that means they hit the trial field later. I like a very useful( ranch) young dog, but one that is a little full of themselves. Maybe one that does not have as much "trainability" as others like. I never have a nursery dog, and that is fine.

 

You are much too humble Lana. I would say that anyone who accomplished what you have in your time at this way of life and who has undertaken the ownership of a relatively large sheep ranch and raising two kids to boot doesn't have to call herself average in the training or any business. And as far as nursery dogs go I don't think you've ever seen me run very many of them either. And Julie, it sure isn't impossible to find a good dog with courage that is biddable but it sure isn't that common either. I wish there were more of them especially when you start getting into the mid 70's and you have to start those young ones that just seem to think you're wrong all the time!! Have fun with your dogs guys....talk later.....Bob

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I don't think anyone is saying to breed grit out of a dog. What I don't understand is that why grit and bidability can't go together?

I guess all I was trying to say was that I think there is a strong population of ranchers and farmers out there that use dogs, know their value in a livestock operation and will keep this "gene" pool alive and well.

Other than loosing farmers and ranchers due to them leaving because they can't make ends meet I think they are always going to be a strong factor of keeping our dogs as we know them.

 

For me it is more lean to the other side of the coin that I feel is the true threat to these dogs as we know them and that is the people who get these dogs , dummy down a herding course, breed dogs that can wear sheep to a handler or win a Novice class.That is what will change the dogs we know and admire.

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For me it is more lean to the other side of the coin that I feel is the true threat to these dogs as we know them and that is the people who get these dogs , dummy down a herding course, breed dogs that can wear sheep to a handler or win a Novice class.That is what will change the dogs we know and admire.

 

 

But, who's going to breed dogs for a Novice course, outside AKC? No one cares if a dog wins a novice trial except the person handling the dog. It's like "graduating" from elementary school. I'm not belittling the accomplishment, but in terms of proving the breeding worth of a dog, it's just not a consideration.

 

Few people who know much about dogs put much stock in a dog winning an Open trial or two. A dog that consistently wins, or consistently places, or shows good work at big trials around the country on a variety of types of sheep. That dog starts to get noticed. Even then, people will take into account how much is dog and how much is handler.

 

 

 

I think Lana and Bob have hit the mark in this thread and said pretty much all that needs to be said.

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right, and there is good strong population of Bob's and Lana's out there. I don't think that will go away . But even if we know what makes a good dog that is not to say it will stop the others, the sport/herding type handlers who are breeding dogs to stop breeding them.

I said from the start I don't think it is bad to have MORE farms and ranches using dogs out there, but having the ranching /farming community we have and had, is strong enough to keep the dogs we know , I don't think it is going away. The toughest trials in USBCHA/ CBCA and dogs that excell at this level will also keep the working dog strong .

I agree with all that has been stated other than the farming ranching community will die off and we will loose the dog we know and admire. I just don't see this happening.

I also think your kidding yourself if you think people are not breeding Novice type dogs. I hear of it quite a bit .

 

 

 

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And Julie, it sure isn't impossible to find a good dog with courage that is biddable but it sure isn't that common either.

Bob,

Maybe we're just using terms differently here. When I talk about a dog being easily trained, I am referring to a dog with *natural ability* that knows how to use it. I like that kind of dog, so to me, they equate with being easily trained (easily trained in that they will naturally do the right thing most of the time). Does this automatically mean they're completely biddable? I don't think so, since that also will know they're right, even if what they're doing isn't what you want. But it does mean that they generally don't go out and make wrecks, even at a young age, *because* they are natural workers. IMO the natural worker may choose to ignore the handler (often or not) because it believes it knows what's right, but to me that's a different sort of disobedience than what's exhibited by the hard-headed, hard-to-train dog.

 

For people who train dogs for a living, perhaps the distinction doesn't matter if they get the same result in the end. But if it takes you much longer to get to that result with one type of dog (hard to train) vs. another (natural, *perhaps* easier to train), then either you charge more for the dog to make up for the extra time, or you get less for your time. My larger point was that busy people will either be willing to pay for someone else to train a dog for them (however long that takes and however much it costs) or they will want a dog who works naturally from the start (because time = money; wrecks = money; etc.). IME farmers around here (no range in sight, mostly smaller family farms) want to take a dog and put it to work with essentially no training, so, for example, a natural gathering dog would be appreciated when it's time to bring the herd up to the milking parlor or gather up the herd that's gone through a hole in the fence, while a dog who needs to be taught an outrun would soon be cast aside for lack of usefulness.

 

I do NOT equate easy to train with soft, lacking grit or stamina, or any of the other similar descriptions that are being batted around here (in fact, I think a soft dog can be exceedingly difficult to train since you have to be very careful about pressure, etc., put on the dog during training). What I am advocating is the NATURAL dog, which I generally equate with being easy to train, though that may not always be the case. ISTM that a natural dog, even one that likes to mix it up on occasion, would be a more useful dog "out of the box" for a farmer--or anyone else for that matter--than a dog that required a ton of time and effort from a human in order to bring it a standard where it could be trusted to do the job at hand without making more work in the process.

 

Pearse,

A lot of novices (at least in this part of the country) are in the business of breeding dogs, for better or worse. Certainly top handlers aren't turning to these folks for thier next prospect, but I'd be willing to bet that the unsuspecting do indeed buy pups from such breedings, since they'd have no way of knowing the difference unless they were somehow steeped in stockdog culture.

 

J.

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Unfortunately Pearse, there are many who breed for novice dogs. I can think of several producers. They sell many to farmers and ranchers and since many of these dogs really cannot handle stock on a real working basis the breed is very unpopular in some areas. And many of these people are very anti AKC when they talk. But their claim to fame is never higher than pro novice (smaller open course w/o shed) and more often in the novice or ranch classes.

 

While people within the "right' circles understand what a novice win is, those outside the 'game' do not. Many times the dog is claimed to be a trial winner-which it may well be, but only at novice level.

 

For every Lana and Bob there are 5-10 (at least) farmers/ranchers who do NOT know the value of a good dog. Often because they bought a substandard dog and hence in their minds ALL Border Collies are no good. Additionally many do not understand the Border Collie is a gathering/fetching dog.

 

If things were so perfect with the Border Collie for the farmer/rancher why would there be a fair number of people adding pit bull and other breeds to the lines? And BTW, some of these dogs are being registered as pure Border Collie.

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Unfortunately Pearse, there are many who breed for novice dogs. I can think of several producers. They sell many to farmers and ranchers and since many of these dogs really cannot handle stock on a real working basis the breed is very unpopular in some areas. And many of these people are very anti AKC when they talk. But their claim to fame is never higher than pro novice (smaller open course w/o shed) and more often in the novice or ranch classes.

While people within the "right' circles understand what a novice win is, those outside the 'game' do not. Many times the dog is claimed to be a trial winner-which it may well be, but only at novice level.

 

 

That's different. They aren't breeding FOR novice dogs. They are breeding novice dogs because they have them and either don't know enough to know the difference, or more often, don't care. Nothing anyone can do about that but continue to educate people about what a real dog is.

 

For every Lana and Bob there are 5-10 (at least) farmers/ranchers who do NOT know the value of a good dog. Often because they bought a substandard dog and hence in their minds ALL Border Collies are no good. Additionally many do not understand the Border Collie is a gathering/fetching dog.

 

True. Which is what prompted this thread in the first place; how best to reach those people, respectfully, and show them what real dogs can do for them.

 

 

If things were so perfect with the Border Collie for the farmer/rancher why would there be a fair number of people adding pit bull and other breeds to the lines? And BTW, some of these dogs are being registered as pure Border Collie.

 

Because, some people don't know squat about working Border Collies and think the way to fix a weak dog is by putting something else in rather than just not buying/breeding weak Border Collies. It's not that those dogs aren't out there. There are lots of good dogs who can move cattle and sheep.

 

It's like the guy who buys a Hummer to drive into work on the freeway everyday because it might snow. When it does snow, he ends up upside down in the ditch because he still doesn't know how to drive on snow. A nice Subaru would have done him better but he's too dumb to know that and didn't listen when his wife told him so.

 

And, if you know of someone who is breeding Border Collies to Pit Bulls, or anything else, and registering the offspring as purebred Border Collies, then you should let the registry know who it is, as that would constitute fraud because they would be falsifying the breeding record.

 

 

 

 

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And, if you know of someone who is breeding Border Collies to Pit Bulls, or anything else, and registering the offspring as purebred Border Collies, then you should let the registry know who it is, as that would constitute fraud because they would be falsifying the breeding record.

 

I second that, strongly. If you actually know of an instance where parentage has been misrepresented like this, for the sake of the integrity of our studbook please report it to the registry.

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Actually some of these people do appear to be doing just that (breeding for novice) they state that for whatever reason they do not trial above novice, yet continue to crank out pups and sell to more novices (who stay in novice and repeat the cycle)

 

As for the Pit bull additions they have to be verified and that can be difficult without varifyable proof (and there are ways around these sorts of things). Breed to Pit, take offspring and register but lay low. Keep registrations up as Pure, then wait or kill off grandparents. The parents are who it is said to be and the dogs are registered as stated.

 

Guess my point is, WHY would these sorts of things be going on IF there were enough good quality BC's and info on how to select a good dog for your purposes available.

 

To those who say farming is a dieing lifestyle, there will always be farms and in reality the need for good dogs would help the farmer as a labor savings means, but the farmers need to be educated about how to select and how to use a good/well bred dog.

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I just had a phone conversation yesterday with a handler/breeder that said that pits were being bred in, I asked him if he knew it for certain and then confessed that it was a suspision and others are talking about it as why they are seeing so many dogs with larger broader heads and short coats. He also mentioned that there is rumors of handlers breeding greyhound back in also and that is why we are see so many smooth coats and speckled dogs, to the point of where he won't own a smooth coat or speckled dog.

 

All I can do is roll my eyes as I own a broad headed very short coated male who inherited both his short coat and head from his dam who is out of a bitch that was a import and whose sire is Christopher/Sealine bred. I just don't see it..though I have had more then one handler ask me what he was crossed with and if there was pit or McCallum in him at trials.

 

BTW, the person I was talking to yesterday was informed that if I catch him calling my dog a pit or McCallum cross bred that I'm going to kick his...

 

ETA: When I was down south at a trial I had more then one handler ask about the breeding of my dog, they were surprised expecting to hear Griz, McCallum and such.

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I believe this has already been stated, but thought I'd bring it up again..... If you want to educate farmers, you need to go where they are. Hanging out at sheep trials won't often put you in touch with the folks who need a dog. If you have sheep, join your local producers group and get the word out that you use dogs in your operation.

 

I can't tell you how many fellow producers come up and ask about my dogs simply because I am available to them. They come by and ask to watch, or call to ask questions because they know me as a producer, not as a trialer. Just had a fellow here yesterday talking about buying a border collie to help on his farm. He has a small flock, about a hundred ewes but also runs about 30 cows and wants a dog that will work both. Spent quite some time talking about it and I was happy to hear that he was serious about buying a dog with working parents. Now he feels it isn't necessary that he buys off Big Hat A or B, but that he buys from someone who is working their dogs every day in the same sort of operation he has. I couldn't agree more with him. I'll help him all I can with finding a pup and getting good training.....

 

So there are plenty of opportunities for us to help inform the farmer/rancher. Just need to put ourselves out there and be available.

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I just moved and my sheep are up at Robin's place on an unused patch of ground she has up there until I can get fence up here. I go feed and water them every day. The other day a fellow stopped while I was getting ready to feed them. As I was dumping out feed he asked, "Are those dogs holding them off?" (Twist and Pip were holding the flock in the woods.) When I answered "Yes," his response was "I sure could use a dog like that." So there are indeed opportunities to educate folks, and most of mine come at home when I'm doing routine stuff and a farmer happens to stop by.

 

In this case I was on deadline with a freelance job and this fellow really wanted to talk, so even though I was in a hurry, I took the time to talk to him, because taking time is necessary, even when it's not entirely convenient.

 

J.

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Lana writes about these stereotypes:

 

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.

 

I agree that the above stereotypes are true in many instances. Before I owned my own sheep, I WAS the handler described in the above paragraph. And I see abuse of livestock all the time at when connected to sheepdog training/trialing. But that is another topic. But still I ask, how am I, with my small 35 acres of pasture and 70 sheep, going to convince a rancher, with hundreds of head of ewes or cattle over hundreds of acres of rangeland, to use a dog? How could I possibly bridge this gap in culture and experience? It would be laughable. I feel that I have more to learn from ranchers than the other way around. And perhaps we should be buying dogs from Lana's neighbors to breed into our weekend warrior-type, soft, biddable trial dogs.

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But still I ask, how am I, with my small 35 acres of pasture and 70 sheep, going to convince a rancher, with hundreds of head of ewes or cattle over hundreds of acres of rangeland, to use a dog? How could I possibly bridge this gap in culture and experience?

 

I don't think you could. I don't think you'd have the credibility. And I admire your humility in recognizing that. But how many ranchers running hundreds of head of ewes or cattle over hundreds of acres of range land do you come into contact with? Your sphere of influence is more likely to be with smaller producers whose flock/herd size is similar to yours. Do you belong to your state or local sheep breeders association?

 

Here is the sort of thing I'm thinking of. Last year was the first year that there was webcast coverage of the national finals. It got off to a good start, but there's lots of room for expansion and improvement. I would like to see, on future webcasts or (hopefully) telecasts of the sheep and cattle finals, interviews with cattle and sheep producers with a range of operations, from thousands of head of cattle to thirty ewes, explaining how they use their dogs at home, how the work there differs from what's called for in the trial and how it's the same, what you need in a good dog and how to find it, etc. We have -- among our handlers who compete in the finals -- good, articulate, credible spokespersons who can relate to viewers who are not using dogs, and with whom those viewers could relate.

 

There are many other approaches we could pursue. Some are more realistic than others. Some are ideas we haven't thought of yet. I think it would be good if we focused on trying to think of them.

 

And perhaps we should be buying dogs from Lana's neighbors to breed into our weekend warrior-type, soft, biddable trial dogs.

 

Well, we should certainly be buying dogs who are fully capable of doing real practical work of the type Lana and her neighbors need done. Many of us try to--and do--buy this type of dog. That's one reason it's so important that the dogs continue to be used as widely as possible by "real" farmers and ranchers (the other reason being that it benefits the farmers and ranchers). It's how the breed developed -- tested by real work and tested by trials.

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then maybe the working dog clubs could put money aside to either compose video and or written information showcasing the producers who do use these dogs and how they can be benifit to a larger scale operation. They can be submitted to ranching/farming publications or farming/ranching symposiums ?

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I love the idea of interviews with smaller and larger livestock producers. The future of the sheep industry is in the smaller producers.

 

 

I hope it is clear that i was speaking of what a forum of dog user ranchers (who don't trial) would say about trial dogs. It was in response to what i read as very disrespectful statements about ranchers and their dogs. I don't run around saying "trial dogs are weak" any more than i say that" ranch dogs are superior".

 

 

I larger producer would be open to help from a smaller producer as long as the dogs could do the work. Many times being able to do certain tasks( larger groups or a different breed of sheep that reacts in a different way to dogs) is merely a matter of exposure...for the dog and the handler. This is where volunteering to help work at a ranch or farm is a great way to build a bridge. The rancher gets to see the benefit of using dogs, and the handler and dog get the benefit of a new experience.

 

Bob's very kind words aside, i am a very average hand. None of this came easy to me, and i still struggle daily. I did hundreds of hours of free work on a small sheep farm before i bought my first farm. I did mostly grunt work that helped keep the sheep healthy, like trimming feet and cleaning barns. I have helped range ewe operations lamb, and again it was most all un glamourous/dity work. I spent many hours helping move cattle on the range, and in the begging this was all just for the experience( for the dogs and for my learning stock)...not for pay.

 

I know not every person has the opportunity to do these things, and had a started today with 2 small children, i would not have been able to take advantage of all these experiences either. There are always work opportunities at trials as well.

 

Pearse said it well when he said go where the farmers and ranchers are, and show, or help them with something practical.

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There are opportunities to reach farmers/ranchers, and situations such as Red Bluff, where serious stockmen and stockwomen are congregated and have the opportunity to see good dogs working real stock.

 

Anna was telling me how much interest there is in the dogs at Red Bluff, how the stands are packed during the dog trial, and how many farmers/ranchers talk to her (and other handler/breeder/trainers) about the merits and availability of good working dogs.

 

What most people need is a good started or trained dog, one they can use "out of the box" with a bit of training themselves. I'd have been well off to do that myself.

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I love the idea of interviews with smaller and larger livestock producers. The future of the sheep industry is in the smaller producers.

 

 

I hope it is clear that i was speaking of what a forum of dog user ranchers (who don't trial) would say about trial dogs. It was in response to what i read as very disrespectful statements about ranchers and their dogs. I don't run around saying "trial dogs are weak" any more than i say that" ranch dogs are superior".

 

 

I larger producer would be open to help from a smaller producer as long as the dogs could do the work. Many times being able to do certain tasks( larger groups or a different breed of sheep that reacts in a different way to dogs) is merely a matter of exposure...for the dog and the handler. This is where volunteering to help work at a ranch or farm is a great way to build a bridge. The rancher gets to see the benefit of using dogs, and the handler and dog get the benefit of a new experience.

 

Bob's very kind words aside, i am a very average hand. None of this came easy to me, and i still struggle daily. I did hundreds of hours of free work on a small sheep farm before i bought my first farm. I did mostly grunt work that helped keep the sheep healthy, like trimming feet and cleaning barns. I have helped range ewe operations lamb, and again it was most all un glamourous/dity work. I spent many hours helping move cattle on the range, and in the begging this was all just for the experience( for the dogs and for my learning stock)...not for pay.

 

I know not every person has the opportunity to do these things, and had a started today with 2 small children, i would not have been able to take advantage of all these experiences either. There are always work opportunities at trials as well.

 

Pearse said it well when he said go where the farmers and ranchers are, and show, or help them with something practical.

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