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Red Zone Dog


Debbie Meier
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Nothing like being snowed in, thought I would ask this question of everyone to see what the responses would be, I know I don't have the answers but it's kinda fun to dream.

 

If you realized that you had produced or purchased and raised a red zone dog possibly even a bullseye, what would you do with it?

 

Deb

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First I would break open a bottle of bubbly!!!! And do a little dance! With no one watching though....

Two options.

One, I would start saving my money so that I could learn and go with that dog as far as I possibly could.

Or option two, start looking for a really good handler that would do him/her justice.

I suppose it totally depends on your personality what you would choose.

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I was assuming that if I know I have a red zone dog, that dog has already been trained to a high level and probably trialed as well.

 

Aside from the obvious, going for a win at the Nationals and/or World Trial, I would be securing the genetic material for the next generation. If the dog was a male I would be banking frozen semen as well as doing test breedings with good bitches. If a female I would be consulting with the most respected breeders in the world, carefully choosing studs in order to produce a couple of litters. The resulting pups would be placed in homes where they could be trained and utilized to their fullest potential.

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How would you know it was a red zone dog?

 

If I felt in my heart that I had a "red zone dog"....then I'd try to prove it to myself and others.

 

Train up, trial the dog, ranch chores and then start hitting the toughest tests you can find....the toughest biggest fields, toughest sheep, toughest competitors and hard ranch work to test endurance, heart, soundness and smarts.

 

I wouldn't be sure until the dog had proven itself.

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Gloria and Donald,

Here is the link to a thread in which Denise discusses her dart board analogy. It's worth a read.

 

Oh heck, I think it's important enough to just repost it here. You still might want to go back and read the full discussion, but here's the relevant part so you'll understand what people are referring to when they talk about red circle dogs (or orange, yellow, white circle dogs).

 

J.

 

 

 

==============================================

Several people have asked me to repost this so here it is:

 

Okay, heres my attempt at explaining what I think happens when working breeds are lost. Assume the border collie is the theoretical breed, where many strong workers existed in the original breeding pool and the need for their work was not lost or reduced over time but instead the dogs became less and less useful for it.

 

I believe it simplifies the concept Im trying to get across to think of the different levels of workers in concrete groups, even though, in reality, the scale from all to none is on a continuum. And, in reality, each dog of a breeding pair should be evaluated through actual stockwork for each of the many traits involved, and bred to the best complimentary mate in an effort to produce the proper mix of these traits in the progeny. So, this analogy is strictly my theoretical attempt at a simple representation.

 

**************************************************************

 

Imagine something such as a dart board, with a bulls-eye and several circles that indicate areas farther and farther from the middle target. Lets say the bulls-eye circle is red, the next circle is orange, the next yellow, and the very outside circle is white. The actual area within these circles varies depending on the number of dogs in each class at any one time.

 

Now lets define the groups of dogs within the different colored circles. Please remember all of these categories in this hypothetical situation represent the genetic potential of these dogs. In other words, this is what's in the gene pool. I'm not talking about what people think the dogs are or don't know whether they are or not due to not having tested them:

 

Red circle (bulls eye) = The very best quality of working border collies. A working definition might be dogs that are exceptional enough to save a great deal of time and manpower for a livestock operation.

 

Orange circle = Useful dogs who save time and manpower for the operation but who are not top quality.

 

Yellow circle = Dogs who will work a little, but wouldnt be considered useful workers on a real livestock operation because they would cost time and cause too much trouble to train or use. IOW, someone may want to pretend they're actually helping, but they really aren't and sometimes they're hindering. Although they may show some herding instincts, it's not the right total package for work.

 

White circle dogs = Not interested or not capable of doing anything with stock except maybe chasing or showing only prey drive. So, not useful or way less than helpful, and sometimes downright dangerous to the stock.

 

 

Livestock working ability is comprised of many complex traits. These traits all need to fit together just right and in the right amounts for the dog to be the complete package, and be considered a top worker -- the bulls-eye. Achieving this package with the consistency needed requires stringent evaluation and selection for working ability every generation. Because of the complexity of reproducing behavioral traits such as these, its difficult to get this package that is a top worker, in every pup, or even close, despite crossing the best to the best. This is partly because some dogs, for whatever reason, arent good breeders, no matter how good they, themselves, are. So lets say if only red circle dogs were crossed, only 80% of that number of red circle dogs would be produced in the next generation. (This is a hypothetical number it may actually be more or less.) Therefore, breeding only red circle dogs will not replace all of the red circle dogs, and the number of red circle dogs will drop each generation if only these crosses are used.

 

As with other breeds used for other purposes, many a top sire gets bred to a mediocre bitch. Because the working genes were (are?) still highly concentrated in the border collie gene pool, the chances of hitting upon a dog that may not be a top worker herself but is a good breeder, are still pretty good. This type of good breeder would be mostly in the orange circle with a few in the yellow circle, but almost none in the white circle. Breeders of these top working sires may take a stud pup from these crosses to increase their chances of hitting on a good breeder should their top bitches not be, or not cross well with their choice of stud dog. In other words, the top breeders still rely on the peripheral pools of dogs that are not as good workers themselves but are good breeders, to provide some of their next generations of top red circle dogs. As long as the emphasis is on breeding for work and the momentum of most of the breeding is going toward breeding for the bulls-eye and concentrating only the working genes, the number of red circle dogs will be replaced each generation and maybe even expanded.

 

Now, suppose the breed becomes popular for dog shows, pets, and dog sports such as agility. Suppose these people do not only buy puppies from the working bred dogs. Now instead of a mostly dead end gene pool -- dogs that will not be bred but only used for dog sports, etc., these dogs with no working ability will be bred as the demand increases. The number of white circle dogs increases. And since people seem to want to claim their borders can still herd with the best of them, or the sport dog people need to tap into the working traits for success in their endeavor, they will look to the working circles for breeding to try to get these traits in the pups. Regardless of how it happens, however, now the momentum has changed and the working genes are being diluted, instead of concentrated, in this peripheral gene pool that has formerly been the source of good breeders to help replenish the red circle top workers. As this trend progresses, the good breeders in the peripheral gene pool become rarer, the yellow circle fades more to white, the orange fades more to yellow and the red fades more to orange. Unable to replace themselves without the help of the strong working genes formerly present in the peripheral gene pool, over time, the number of dogs truly in the red circle diminishes until the gene pool is too small.

 

===============================================

 

J.

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Red circle (bull’s eye) = The very best quality of working border collies. A working definition might be dogs that are exceptional enough to save a great deal of time and manpower for a livestock operation.

 

Ok, so you popped the bottle of bubbly but then reality set in, your broke and can't pull off the $250-$500 a weekend it will take to go to the trials or the $500 a month plus other expenses to keep the dog with a trainer that could take the dog and prove the dog on the field.

 

Do you sell the dog, take up an offer on partnership, put the dog on hold from a trial standpoint until the dog is a proven producer and allow puppy sales or stud fees help cover the travel expense in the future or just enjoy the dog, stay local, use to dog yourself and dream about what could have been?

 

Hmmm, betcha there are a lot of red circle dogs that never make it to the trial field.......

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Ok, so you popped the bottle of bubbly but then reality set in, your broke and can't pull off the $250-$500 a weekend it will take to go to the trials or the $500 a month plus other expenses to keep the dog with a trainer that could take the dog and prove the dog on the field.

 

The way you first asked the question it sounded like you already KNEW you had a red circle dog. It's my belief that you couldn't be sure of that unless the dog was already a proven farm and trial dog. IOW, you have already won some of the most prestigious trials in the country.

 

If I had a Border Collie I suspected to be a red circle but I didn't have the money to prove it on the trial field, I would sit down and try to figure out a solution.

 

I might start small and trial local only. If your dog is that good, even if your handling is bad, the dog should do well and people will recognize it for what it is. Any money I won at the local trials would go into a savings account towards entering a few select trials that would really showcase my dog. If it was possible to do, I would get my dog qualified for the Nationals by running mostly at local trials.

 

I might also just take a break from trials and save my money for several years towards a single season of travel to the big ones, the last one being the Nationals.

 

Another possible solution would be to approach the best handlers in the country and try to work out a deal. Take my dog for a month of in house training that I would pay for. If after a month you think this is the next Wiston Cap, let's work something out. Maybe the big hat would keep working with the dog and run it in trials in exchange for all the prize money or some other form of trade. But if you are a farmer that needs dogs to manage your livestock, would you want your best dog gone for several years?

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Thank you, Julie, for spoon-feeding me the answers! :) I'm afraid if I Googled it, I'd have come up with something totally weird and involving pit bulls. :P

 

Anyway, off to do dog things this morning. I'll ponder on this and see if I can come up with any thoughts for our original poster. Thanks again!

Cheers ~

 

Gloria

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I think if you are good enough to know you have a red zone dog, you won't need to ask the question.

 

 

I think that is very much the case but alot of novices get confused as exactly what a red zone dog is. Even if you read the analogy. Hell my first couple dogs in my mind, were the BEST dogs I'd ever seen, or so I thought cause I hadn't really been around. Now since I've been around long enough I can only be grateful I wasn't in a hurry to breed and I had some very honest mentors that kept me on the straight an narrow.

 

For me, if I thought I had a red zone dog, it'd still be subjective to my opinion, I would probably try to get out to local trials and when the right dog came along IMO I'd probably breed them. Would others believe that I have a red zone dog? wouldn't matter to me, the proof is in the pudding that I'd be eating. If no one got on our bandwagon...I guess that's one that gets passed up on. But I think if you truly had a red zone dog that the open handlers around your area would probably get wind of the dog and be curious enough to come see for themselves or at least find out where that dog came from or what lines he goes back to. Then they'd be their own judge.

 

As far as working out a deal with some big handler to showcase my dog? Why do I need to prove to others that my dog is a red zone dog. Again, the people around me that I respect and who respect me would see the dog without a big handler running it. I don't go in for someone to own a dog and have a big name trialing it for them. What would I/they be looking for? Money from breeding? A name for myself? How would I be creating a name if I wasn't trialing it? Nah....the glory would be mine, if anyone got to share it with me it'd be a plus for them but I don't feel the need to showcase anything.

Not saying I wouldn't have my own line of dogs by the end of that special dogs lifetime, trying to duplicate or add to what I thought made the red zone dog in the first place. But again, it'd be personal to me. As it always seems to be with anyone's choices when it comes to breeding their dog. Unless you're in it for fame and fortune, then, I don't even think it takes red zone dogs, just good handlers and people to believe what they perceive to be a great dog.

 

I don't own red zone dogs, not because I don't want to but because I haven't been good enough or lucky enough with my selection process. but in my mind and for what they do for me...they are my very own special dogs, whom I'd be lost without. they mean no more or less than someone else's perceived red zone dogs. And that makes me a very happy camper.

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Yeah, the old money and time issue of what to do with that one of kind animal that we somehow end up with.

 

Several years back a local horse trainer discovered a young stallion prospect that was to be sold. So she got one of her clients to buy him and foot the bill. She went on to show this horse to the highest level and he was an important part to get her name in the standings.

Anyway, after the show career was over (as in past the aged events that pay all the money) the owner wanted to show him. You should have heard the outcry! Being that the owner was not a particularly gifted or talented rider. But of course her point was that she was only going to have a horse of that quality once in her life and she paid for him. So she was darn sure going to enjoy him to the best of her ability.

Was it a waste? Ask most trainers and you would have heard a hearty yes!

But he went on to the stallion shed, bred and produced well despite spending the last years in the show ring looking like a lower level non pro horse. But I reckon he really did not care one bit. And the owner had a ball! And after all, is that not what it is all about?

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Under the given definition of a "red zone dog" it would be absolutely impossible for me to ever find out if my dog was one. So I would just congratulate myself on owning a great dog and continue to use him/her for the purpose I got into this whole thing; working the sheep on our farm.

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I think if you are good enough to know you have a red zone dog, you won't need to ask the question.

 

I've been on facebook too much lately - I was seriously searching for the "like" button for this post. Exactly.

 

Edited to add: One think I like about the stockdog world in general is that there are some extraordinarily good dogs all over. We don't (I hope at least) suffer from the same bottleneck problem many show breeds do - where only a handful of popular sires are really considered "Top of the Line" and breed-worthy. Instead, we have a pretty diverse gene pool and a group of knowledgeable handlers and stockmean that have a vested interest in making good breeding decisions and the means to test it out properly.

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I would think you would keep doing what you had been doing. You're not going to know a "red zone" dog until they are coming 3 or older. Time and mileage is needed to make this determination. Why would you change or alter things that brought you to the point of realization?

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I think if you are good enough to know you have a red zone dog, you won't need to ask the question.

 

I am not entirely sure what you are getting at here.

 

Many a novice to sheepdog training and handling has been certain that they owned a red zone dog, even though they didn't. Hopefully the novices' mentors are letting them know that their dogs are not the greatest thing since sliced bread.

 

There have also certainly been red zone dogs owned by farmers and inexperienced handlers who didn't realize just how good the dog was at the time. Such dogs would have been useful despite the handling mistakes, but they would not look as good as better handled dogs of lesser quality. Highly skilled dog people will see the potential in the poorly handled dogs and still want to breed to them.

 

So I can understand someone asking the question of how you KNOW you have such a dog. Ownership of red zone dogs has never been exclusive to the very best handlers in the world.

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In answer to Debbie's question, I would try to give the dog the best chance to show itself that I could. But as others have pointed out, I wouldn't just presume I had a bull's-eye dog because *I* thought so. I'd at least try to get opinions from people more knowledgeable than I (e.g., if you can't afford to campaign the dog at trials, you can probably take the dog to clinics or for lessons with people who are capable of recognizing real talent, even in a young dog). If you have well-respected handlers asking about the dog or, as Denise notes, you have an operation for which your dog is indispensable, then you might be able to judge the dog yourself, but of course the "indispensable to your operation" is quite subjective, and all operations are not created equal....

 

But the fact is that if you want for others to acknowledge that you do, indeed, have a red circle or bull's eye dog, then you're going to have to figure out a way for those others to see your dog working and not just in "gimme" situations. And as someone said, people who are expert stock- and dog-people will be able to recognize raw talent, even in a dog hindered by a less-than-stellar handler.

 

J.

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Yeah, the old money and time issue of what to do with that one of kind animal that we somehow end up with.

 

Several years back a local horse trainer discovered a young stallion prospect that was to be sold. So she got one of her clients to buy him and foot the bill. She went on to show this horse to the highest level and he was an important part to get her name in the standings.

Anyway, after the show career was over (as in past the aged events that pay all the money) the owner wanted to show him. You should have heard the outcry! Being that the owner was not a particularly gifted or talented rider. But of course her point was that she was only going to have a horse of that quality once in her life and she paid for him. So she was darn sure going to enjoy him to the best of her ability.

Was it a waste? Ask most trainers and you would have heard a hearty yes!

But he went on to the stallion shed, bred and produced well despite spending the last years in the show ring looking like a lower level non pro horse. But I reckon he really did not care one bit. And the owner had a ball! And after all, is that not what it is all about?

 

 

My own experience with both a stallion I owned all of his 24 years and a Border Collie I presently own was similar to the woman in your post. I had a wonderfully talented cowhorse that was trained and shown by my trainer. When he was done showing him I showed him in the Non-Pro classes. My trainer was 100% behind me and very supportive. I was hesitent as I still wanted the horse to attract outside mares. My trainer told me not to worry , with me showing my horse it would demonstate how good minded the horse was!

 

With my Border Collie I knew I wanted a dog trained up better than I could so she was trained/trialed as a Nursery dog age. When it came time for me to trial her I was hesitent to as I knew I could no where near do as well as my trainer with her, and I did care that my dog looked trained out there on the field. My trainer's answer was--get out there , trial and enjoy your dog. The dog won't care that you are learning. We did share my dog on and off for a few years , and that worked great. My dog got to go to the big trials and I got to trial her in the P/N and learn along the way and move up the levels.

 

So bottom line, each has to work it out the way that suits themselves, and it is necessary to find the right professionals for the journey.

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Okay, I've been thinking about this today, and pondering Debbie's original question:

 

If you realized that you had produced or purchased and raised a red zone dog possibly even a bullseye, what would you do with it?

 

For my own self, the question I would ask myself is, "Does my dog truly have 'something' that would improve the breed?" If the answer is, "Yes, I truly think so," then I'd just continue trying to bring out the best in my dog. I'd do my utmost to give him quality training and good opportunities to live the best life he could have. I'd give him chances to do good work, to show his worth, to be the best damn dog he can be.

 

And if I could afford to trial him, if I am able to push my own learning curve to give him that extra edge, I'd do it. I'd do it because I love this partnership with my dog, because something magic happens every time we step out on the field. If we managed to become something fine enough that others, my peers, took note ... that's all just gravy.

 

And that's all I could or would do. Whether or not anyone would ever bring their nice bitch to him is a question to be pondered if the time came.

 

The word that comes to my mind, in pondering the whole evaluative process, is "subjective." What Top Handler A thinks constitutes a "bullseye" dog may not be what Top Handler B looks for, and may be different yet from what Top Handler C likes. And if someone lives out on a ranch in the middle of Montana, never to see a trial field, the big hats might never know of the very good dog who's the talk of the Stinky Boot Valley.

 

I like Denise's article particularly because she demonstrates the value of the not-quite-red-zone dogs. The gene pool of the breed requires stepping outside the qualifiers for National Finals, or whatever other criteria some debates arrive at. Red zone dogs, bulls-eye dogs may be an ideal, but they are neither the Alpha nor the Omega. They are vital! But they are not the end all, and the manner by which one decides a dog is red zone or not is rather subjective.

 

If one thinks they have a red zone dog, if they've spent enough time contemplating and knowing the breed to feel they've got that magic ... just use the dog. Learn him, teach him, show him the way to his potential. Delight in the journey. But know that for every peer who agrees your dog is magnificent, someone out there will grimace and tilt their hand "so-so."

 

And know that a helluva lot is going to depend on whose neck the whistle lanyard hangs around. I know my dog would look a lot fancier if he lived with someone like Suzy Applegate, instead of the two of us just taking lessons from her once a month. ;)

Respectfully submitted ~

 

Gloria

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But know that for every peer who agrees your dog is magnificent, someone out there will grimace and tilt their hand "so-so."

 

 

So true.

 

 

I asked the original question the way I did so as to hear what others would do if they found themselves in the situation. It's so much different applying it to yourself then it is when giving someone else advise based on what you perceive is ideal. I've found that it's easy to spend someone else's money especially when you don't have any idea as to how much they have or what their expenses are.

 

 

At this point it is all just a dream for me, but I'm one that dreams with reality in mind. I remind myself that dreams are nice, but I also have to consider if the dream is based on a expensive champagn budget when I'm only able to buy cheap beer.

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You know there are a handful of Top Handlers that don't really participate in the "trailer race" for points. They earn 'enough' points at some regional trials and attend one or two of the Big Events (Finals, Meeker, SH, Bluegrass, Kingston). There are a few UK handlers that do the same....do just enough to get into the Nationals/International....and then go in for the "kill".

 

Heck, you don't need points to get to Meeker/Bluegrass/Kingston.....but you sure can earn alot points there. In fact, winning the Qualifying at just one of these trials is enough points to get you into most Sheepdog Finals. Winning the DL will earn you the financing to get to the Finals.

 

So all you really need to do it attend TWO trials to demonstrate that you've got the best dog in North America.

 

It will take a little advance preparation to pull this stunt off, but just think of the impression you'd make!

 

In cattle, so far it appears that all you need a point (and not many points) to attend the Cattle Finals.....so it shouldn't take much in the way of campaigning (trailer racing) to get to the Cattle Finals and show what your dog is made of.

 

So on minimal trialing you could also sweep up two National Finals Ch.....and why stop there....by default you'd win Stockdog of the Year, too.

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The trainer that I worked with a long time back that helped me with a super nice Russian bred Arab gelding offered up a simular plan for Nationals, the trainer felt that my horse would have been a contender in the reining horse and working cow horse divisions. Even going that route he told me to plan on making a $10,000.00 investment. I didn't have access to money like that nor could I see any reason in investing that much just to prove I could do it.

 

It really hit home a few weeks back when I travelled down to a trial in Arkansas, spent $500.00 by the time I made it back home, I ran 2 dogs, won the open and was returned back $50.00. Ultimately trialling costs money that not everyone has easy access to. We are lucky to have cattledog finals in our back yard this year, I'm figuring that it's going to be a $1200.00 learning expirence by the time we get home.

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