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Maybe re-education isn't the answer. Maybe it's showing them something beautiful and real and pure that

they couldn't imagine existed until they're shown.

^^ This. Exactly. I live in Vancouver, BC which is a very urban city (well, now I'm in a suburb but it's still urban). Most of my friends have never been on a farm, and very few have seen a dog work sheep. But when I posted Denise's beautiful video on how trials relate to real work, quite a few of them commented on how they'd never seen anything like it, the way the dog and handler worked together. They might not understand what's happening, but they do know that they're seeing something rather rare and beautiful.

 

Quite a few of my agility friends, few of whom work their dogs, LOVE watching videos of Lou and Rex working sheep. It seems that knowing the dogs makes it a little more accessible to them. And they do know that what my dogs do is different than the stuff that you do to get a title. I encourage those who ask me to get their next border collie from rescue and, failing that, I give them the names of working border collie breeders whom I admire.

 

As an aside, until about 6 years ago, I'd never seen a sheep in any setting other than a petting zoo. I went to an all-breed facility for a few months, and thought my dog was doing pretty well, circling the sheep in a little pen. By chance, I heard about an arena trial, and I went to watch. Talk about a lightbulb moment! I plopped myself down beside a nice man who explained to me very patiently what I was watching. Though I didn't know enough about herding to grasp most of what he was saying, I knew that the kind of work I was seeing was vastly different than what I saw at the other place. Because someone took the time to explain it to me, I changed trainers, changed my outlook on what a working stockdog was, and started down this wonderful path. So keep trying, Denise, and Heather, and Pearse, and the rest of you. It makes a difference, even if it seems small.

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Maybe re-education isn't the answer. Maybe it's showing them something beautiful and real and pure that

they couldn't imagine existed until they're shown.

 

 

Sadly, that's the hardest part. The people most in need of illumination, regarding all things agrarian, are usually those most physically and socially removed. But ... we keep trying.

 

Gloria

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

Pearse wrote:

 

 

"As for people not wanting to know where their food comes from or how stock ought to be handled, I don't find that to be the case either. I've always found people interested when one takes the time to chat with them. I've spent many days under the tent at Kevin Bailey's trial in Jordan MN, across the road from the Co. Fair and people who have never seen stockdogs (or sheep for that matter some of them) wander over to see what's happening and end up spending half the day there because someone takes five minutes to explain what's going on, what the rules are, and why we do it.

 

It takes effort. It's worth it."

 

It is vital for the future of our dogs. If dog friendly folk decide that Barbie Collies are the true Border Collies, we will be as effectively marginalized as the poor souls breeding working Beardies or American Farm Collies or any of the other once-useful dog breeds.

 

Those who'd like to pretend Barbie Collies are Border Collies outnumber us, have more money, better contacts, and more skill attracting sponsorship. In 1999 The USBCHA lost Purina sponsorship to the AKC although I traveled to St Louis and pitched the Purina President as hard as I ever pitched anybody. That loss still hurts.

 

We're lucky - we have a showcase: the sheepdog trial. And with announcer commentary sheepdog trials are just as riveting for dog-interested civilians as for us. People plan their vacations around Meeker. People return to my little trial year after year.And, as the Purina rep told me years ago: "You have the most televisable dog sport."

 

But many hosts, even those who run big important trials, do little or nothing to promote their trials and at the trial they don't explain what's going onto spectators who do happen in.

 

Their trial; their prerogative. I am grateful to any host who does all that work so I can run my dogs.

 

Still: It is no accident that trials run by hosts with PR experience are among the biggest: Meeker; Soldier Hollow.

 

2500 people live in my isolated rural county and my trial is the same weekend and in a different location as the county fair. I get between 2 and 600 spectators by the simple expedient of sending PR releases to local papers and radio stations, printing 30 posters distributed at feed stores, pet stores, my vet, the shopping town book store, our post office, county library and taking out an ad in our weekly newspaper.

 

If you build it but don't let them know it's there, they won't come.

 

Donald McCaig

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If done right a sheepdog trial can be very well received and attended by urban and suburban spectators who have no agrarian background.

It takes a good venue, good spectating locations, good announcing & commentary, food concessions, and promotion.

 

Oatlands Sheepdog Trial (Leesburg, VA - 1hr from DC) was a great example; spectators came year after year and followed their favorite handlers.

 

This is year is our first year hosting a trial and we had at least 1 offer to promote our trial to the public; we're not ready for lots of spectators so we declined the generous offer. People in the DC metro area have seen a trial or herding demo and want more. A great example of this is the fact that the DC Fox news station jumped at the opportunity to do a live segment at the VA finals with just 1 email.

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Maybe re-education isn't the answer. Maybe it's showing them something beautiful and real and pure that

they couldn't imagine existed until they're shown.

 

I think this is key. I teach linguistics at a research oriented university--pretty far from anything obviously stockdog-ish. Very, very few of my students or colleagues have any idea about these kinds of things and their eyes glaze over if I talk about it in terms of agriculture generally or in terms of some of the specifics of handling.

 

When I talk to them about it as heart-soaring and beautiful, they perk up. I'm working with first-year students this year and we all went around on the first day of class and mentioned something about ourselves that made us interesting. I mentioned some random thing about my academic work (thinking that was the appropriate sort of thing to mention). Later, I off-handedly mentioned stockdog work and how it was poetry for me.

 

The reaction was electric--and totally unexpected. They started firing questions at me; sat mesmerized as I showed them that lovely video advertising Soldier Hollow; wanted to know more and more.

 

There's a trial being held near the university in a couple of weeks. I think at least some of the students might come to watch.

 

LIke Kristi said above, small steps can really work, particularly when taken alongside the big steps.

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Sadly, that's the hardest part. The people most in need of illumination, regarding all things agrarian, are usually those most physically and socially removed. But ... we keep trying.

 

Gloria

 

Yup.

 

ETA: However, maybe I'm wrong, but I do think the word is spreading more. Lots more PR and that type of stuff about the big trials, right? Not enough, but more, at least?

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The trial on the island will have maybe 1000 spectators. And a wool mill demonstrating wool processing, a sheep to shawl, blade shearing, selling of USDA Lamb, taste testing USDA Lamb

 

Wonderful trial.

 

 

 

And we get tours from the trial to see our ag program where it is explained anout local/slow food.

 

 

The person that puts on this trial does a great job including everyone and doing PR

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

But many hosts, even those who run big important trials, do little or nothing to promote their trials and at the trial they don't explain what's going on to spectators who do happen in.

Donald McCaig

 

Yes, YEs, YES. (Boldface is mine.) Even I, who know a little bit about sheepdog trials, find the experience so much more interesting when a commentator can add some flavor - particularly if it is targeted to the first-time attendee. I love hearing about what the course is, what, how & why is the dog doing what we see, what is the handler trying to get the dog to do, what are the sheep doing/thinking, information about the handler (where from, how long running sheepdogs, do they own a farm and run sheep/cattle, etc.), information about the dog (age, experience, comments from the handler about the dog's personality), etc. etc. All of that information can be woven into the commentary while the dog is herding.

 

I used to live near Albany, NY and always attended the Altamont Fair which included the NY State Sheepdog Championships (in the early 90s). The commentator was great. By directing most of his comments towards the audience, most of whom were probably seeing the herding for the 1st or 2nd time, he really captured their attention. While 99.99% of the audience will not go out and start raising sheep and using a border collie to herd them, it is a matter of educating people and making it interesting enough so they return the next year to support the trial.

 

Jovi

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Except that's not true. I started a sheepdog trial six years ago. This year will be the fifth year it is held. People email me wanting to know the dates. They put it on their calendar for next year. We'll probably get between 500 and 1500 people come and watch the trial this year.

 

Soldier Hollow attracts 20,000 people over the weekend.

 

Meeker does well too.

 

 

Pearse

 

 

 

I can give 2 examples of the public's reaction to sheepdogs working. Two years ago I was lucky enough to get to go to Soldier Hollow, as my dog was being handled there by my teacher and her trainer Suzy Applegate. Being the only non exhibitor connected with the trial through my dog I spent a lot of time in the stands . I spoke with numerous folks and asked them questions and they asked me some as well. I found that many many of these folks are returning spectators drawn back because of the work these dogs can do. Year after year they were in awe and learned what was good work pretty quickly. These were "city" folk , many coming from Salt Lake City.

 

This Labor Day I went to Pleasanton CA for the 146th Scottish Games and entered their arena trial. The spectators filled the stands and standing room around the end of the arena. After the close of the trial I took a walk through the Games and had my dog Lyn with me. I was stopped time and time again by people asking about the Border Collies , the sheep, etc. I gave out the web address of the USBCHA so that these folks could watch the Finals on line. But mostly the overwhelming reaction was one of awe for these wonderful dogs. These people may not have been educated on work dogs, but many got a pretty good take on them by watching. I also found that upon explaining the difference between these working Border Collies and show ones they got it.

 

So education can take place with every day a chance for us to explain our dogs and what they do. Heck I do it daily at work with my Bet( Proudly the dam of Buzz and Dot , 2 of this yrs natl's finalists) as she is a wonderful example of what a Border Collie can be.

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Having a good announcer is really helpful and draws the spectators into the action. Ray Crabtree does Soldier Hollow every year and did the Sheepdog Finals this year and last, and he is excellent. His commentary educates people about what's going on out on that field.

 

Here's a thought: this year the webcast continuously had commentators drawn from the top handlers present at the trial, including Alasdair Macrae (I eavesdropped a bit, and wow, he could have a second career as a sportscaster), Amanda Milliken, Jack Knox, Patrick Shannahan, and many more. Even though I was at the trial, I am probably going to buy the DVDs just to listen to all the running commentary. I wonder if it would be possible using that commentary to cut and paste and make an absolutely awesome little video that introduced the trial with a lot of educational as well as entertainment value?

 

A reporter from the Denver Post came out on one of the afternoons of prelims and spent a couple hours taking video and interviewing some of the handlers (thanks to Press Chairman Laura Esterman for that). Turns out she's a talented videographer, and the next day she posted this:

 

Sheepdogs, tough, range yearling sheep, and a $40,000 purse

 

Isn't that a nice little two-minute plug!

 

And btw, Carolyn should be extremely proud! Buzz and Dot were awesome, both making it back to the double lift finals, which is to say they were in the top 17 of the 150 dogs who qualified for the Finals.

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Yup.

 

ETA: However, maybe I'm wrong, but I do think the word is spreading more. Lots more PR and that type of stuff about the big trials, right? Not enough, but more, at least?

 

 

I think you're right. It's a slow process, and maybe we wish the word would spread further, faster, sooner. As Mr McCaig points out, the AKC's PR machine has us under its wheels and always will. Still, what we have to offer really IS something magical that AKC can never emulate, and that John Q Public is always astounded to see.

 

Just this Sunday past, me and some other gals did our yearly sheepdog demos at the local Basque festival. It's nothing much, just moving sheep around a little fenced area on the park lawn. But we set up a pen and a few obstacles, and the sheep are always light as kites from all the noise and people. Thus, the dogs actually have to work to do the simple things we do - and people are impressed! They flock to the fence and applaud every time the dogs get the sheep to or through an obstacle, and have tons of questions for the handlers sitting with their dogs outside. My dogs are the only two on whistles, since the other ladies are mainly arena trialers, so folks really get enthused over that.

 

It's just a wee little event in a wee little place, but people love it, and their minds are filled with questions and a desire to know, simply from seeing us out there.

 

So ... bit by bit, we're getting the word out. And I think more advertising is probably something people overlook. I've been to a number of very nice trials, but a number of them don't seem to advertise to the public, much. Maybe it's a matter of liability to some: they don't want the general public on their farm, where someone could get hurt and hit them with a lawsuit. But where it can be made more public ... it behooves us, as the sheepdogging community, to reach out wherever we can.

 

~ Gloria

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<Devil's Advocate persona> Pearse. You are in rural America, believe it or not. Try getting folks in South Central LA to understand the nuances of sheepdog trialing, or anything about the relationship of handler, sheep and dog. Or better yet, folks in Orange County, CA, where I'm sure there are hundreds of AKC folk "trialing" with their Barbie Collies. They don't have a clue either, nor do they wish to have a clue.

 

We've come so far from our agrarian roots, I wonder if we can possibly re-educate people about them.

 

Amy

 

Okay. Amy - you busted me. I am in Orange County California. To my knowledge there are two of us residing in this very populated county trialing our dogs in USBCHA trials. One of us just took two dogs to Carbondale for the Nationals (guess I needed to be clear which nationals in THIS thread). BTW - it was not me. You have seen us run and you know why it was not me - yet anyway.

 

But you are right -there are probably not "hundreds" but there are certainly dozens of AKC folk "trialing" in Orange County. And the only training available in Orange County itself is from one AKC trainer who - although not someone I would train with - has a very devoted following. That is why I make the weekly trek toi San Diego county to train with Jennifer Ewers.

 

But I have in the past assisted in demos at Scottish Fairs in Orange County and they are always very well attended - even to the point where the Highland Games athletes get a little put out that the sheepdogs attract more attention than the athletic games. So the general public can be interested if they are exposed to actually sheepdog work

 

Pat Grannan

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.......

 

This Labor Day I went to Pleasanton CA for the 146th Scottish Games and entered their arena trial. The spectators filled the stands and standing room around the end of the arena. After the close of the trial I took a walk through the Games and had my dog Lyn with me. I was stopped time and time again by people asking about the Border Collies , the sheep, etc. I gave out the web address of the USBCHA so that these folks could watch the Finals on line. But mostly the overwhelming reaction was one of awe for these wonderful dogs. These people may not have been educated on work dogs, but many got a pretty good take on them by watching. I also found that upon explaining the difference between these working Border Collies and show ones they got it.

 

So education can take place with every day a chance for us to explain our dogs and what they do. Heck I do it daily at work with my Bet( Proudly the dam of Buzz and Dot , 2 of this yrs natl's finalists) as she is a wonderful example of what a Border Collie can be.

 

 

What Carolyn said! :) That was a great event for reaching out to people, and for getting some very urban folks a good look at what working dogs can do. We had our own MC doing the announcing - thanks, Jennifer! - and that really added a lot. :)

 

Meanwhile, I'm sure proud of Bet's children, and their handler! :)

 

~ Gloria

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I have a hard time understanding how a trial can call itself the "Nationals" when it is first come first entered with no qualifying - includes instinct testing and started classes as well as their own top class and gets 8 dogs entered for the advanced class on their "B" course (the AKC field course). By contrast there were 6 dogs entered in Intermediate and 22 dogs entered for Started. How can your "Nationals" have more dogs entered in your lowest class than all other classes combined.

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Trying to understand, it is Okay to register a dog with AKC and do Obedience, Rally or any other AKC venue as long as it is not Conf. or Herding? Would that not support AKC?

 

 

I don't think anyone wants to answer this due to the implications....draw your own conclusions but understand they (ideals) change with the wind and or handler/breeder.

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Whole lot of Redtop dogs kickin' b*tt at the top obedience levels.

 

Liz S

 

 

Trying to understand, it is Okay to register a dog with AKC and do Obedience, Rally or any other AKC venue as long as it is not Conf. or Herding? Would that not support AKC?

 

I don't run with that crowd so I have to ask, are they breeding those kick butt Redtop obedience dogs or going back to Redtop for their next dogs?

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Trying to understand, it is Okay to register a dog with AKC and do Obedience, Rally or any other AKC venue as long as it is not Conf. or Herding? Would that not support AKC?

 

I can only tell you what I decided, and why.

 

I don't give the AKC one thin dime. Because I abhor the fact that they make hundreds of thousand dollars on registration of the puppies that are factory-made in appalling conditions in puppy mills. And they pay megabucks to lobbyists and public-image campaigns to keep those puppy mills operational - despite their claims to deplore the conditions the dogs endure in some of them. <_<

 

Because they encourage people to breed dogs for all the wrong reasons, and are responsible for upholding breeding practices that do horrendous harm to extreme, and not-so-extreme breeds of dogs - narrowing their gene-pool and rewarding owners of sick and crippled dogs with high-sounding titles.

 

And because for the love of money they have chosen to disregard the stated wishes of those who work tirelessly to keep the Border Collie the premier stock working dog in the world, and they threaten the breed as a whole with their arbitrary insanity about breeding the usefulness out of them to make them conform to an appearance standard. :angry:

 

I have heard it said by some that they have to embrace the AKC in order to pursue their chosen dog-related activities, because there is nothing else in their area. I am not in their shoes, but I believe if I were, I would set about creating alternatives in my area, or either move, or do something else with my dogs. Dogs aren't hard to please - as long as you engage them, they'll be happy. But that's me - I'm a child of the sixties. For me it's "Hell no, I won't go." But then, I don't shop at Walmart either. Thank doG, I have agreeable alternatives.

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Going back to the discussion of different approaches that promote a working standard for border collies rather than the silliness exemplified by the originally posted event....

 

I have high hopes that the documentary film Away To Me will communicate this --

 

Away To Me

 

-- and be promoted enough that many people will see it. There are a LOT of people of the male persuasion who will go to see any sports movie. Furthermore, there are lots of people of both persuations who will go to see any dog movie. So I'm optimistic. I love the trailers that are posted on the site. I met the filmmakers, and they are doing good work.

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