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Bridging division between Working Border Collie Tradition vs. “Working” Agility Dogs+Other Disciplines


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Dear forumers, it’s been about 3 years since I visited our B.C. Boards. It was a dear friend of mine a MACH (Master Agility Champion) handler who pulled me to the forum. While recouping from a serious surgery, he briefly stopped by and noticed something involving Eluane and notified me. In the past my friend explained that many MACH handlers, including himself, have dropped out of the forum due to frustration with the raging controversy concerning whether agility dogs met the criteria of a working border collie. But 3 years ago, I clearly remember what a fun place the B.C. Boards had been, and on the upside is that since I’ve returned I also gained a wonderful new friend plus it seems there are some very special, wonderful B.C. sheepherding experts- contributors like Maja, SueR and others who can help “teach” non-sheepherding forumers like myself highly detailed specifics about this time-honored tradition! Surely there’s got to be ways to bring together folks, and maybe we can bridge discussions between different ways of “honoring” the working Border Collie tradition….

 

The huge value of the B.C. Boards is to educate people and new owners about Border Collies all of which Eileen Stein took so much dedication, thoughtfulness and expertise on as well as to warn against indiscriminate breeding and breeding done for the wrong reasons. Breeding is a very serious responsibility and it can be a hotbed of controversy. And I want to be sure that I emphasize that a huge majority of very committed B.C. Agility owners take great care not! to breed their dogs and to honor the traditions of the working Border Collie…and if folks here don’t mind, we’d like to have a voice heard about our dogs….

 

There are reasons why I believe dog agility can be an excellent way to honor the traditions of the working American Border Collie. Tons of discipline, time and unrewarded money is exhausted to train our dogs. My club membership alone costs me $600 annually, and it’s actually significantly!!!! more than this if I accidentally miss out on the year’s discount. Some of us travel as much as an hour’s commute weekly to train and unlike sheepherding in which you get rewarded by your dog increasing the profits of your day by helping care for the livestock, we get nothing save for the joy and the passion of working with our dogs. We do videos, buy videos, attend seminars get specialized trainers and coaches the way sheepherding folks do, and travel across the country to compete. Finally, many of our disciplines involve very similar skill sets which sheepherding working Border Collies use.

 

For my dog specifically we use tons of verbal commands and directional directives…Many agility handlers do not use verbals but signaling, positioning and stance to attain performance. I use both because as a ballet person the flow of shoulder movement and decades of arm movement, the ballet turn of the head, balancing can accidentally propel my dog to go the wrong way. Border collies are highly sensitive to every single bodily change that their handlers make. They are that keen and that sensitive. The way agility needs to be properly done is rigid shoulders, stiff back, simple movements to make things very easy to “see” for the dog, all of which I do not wish to do because of the dancer’s pride factors (wanting to move and run with absolute grace) and also because innate dancer’s movements cannot be easily changed when we’ve done decades of dancework. Anyway, I use several callouts to reorient my dog and complexity of verbal combinations. In similar ways, it seems that sheepherders use lots of whistle combinations to command their dogs. Again just like with sheepherding there is distance sendout (when you send your dog out) when you recall and pull them inwards. And even more so there is direct soul-to-soul interaction between us the handler and our dog, an intimate connection when we are out in the “field”- the agility ring. Eluane can completely reverse directions when I’ve made a split-second mistake, which I’ve worked so hard to train her on. Had Eluane not been a border collie, this would be much more difficult to achieve. With the help of my MACH friend, he gives me details and course maps for complex maneuvers, obstacle steering with tricks and traps that challenge a border collie. Speed and split-second decision-making, sudden turns of direction, and control of space and timing to “gather in one’s dog” and sending them with long distance directionals, obstacle recognition and differentiation-- these are all techniques that do indeed honor the border collie tradition, the engagement between owner and dog, intelligence and communication skills.

 

Also these are rapidly changing times! We need strong agility voices like my friend. The internet is a very powerful tool. Being that this is my first dog and first B.C. we need to make this as comfortable a place for those expert specialists and agility champions like him. Also the MORE agility experts who join, the more we can petition the AKC to eliminate alllllll conformation shows on the Border Collie. Tons of us do not!!! want any Border collie to be a show dog a.k.a. conformation dog!!!! It is a terrible, awful practice IMO.

 

AKC gets a huge profit from agility folks so we have to remember every year to bargain and petition that they do not do conformation for BCs. If an office keeps getting flooded every year by AKC Border Collie owners, this can help! For agility folks we need to keep re-reminding them to send a letter to the AKC discussing this issue. AKC will pay attention to a famous handler or a top-ranking Champion Handler, and I suspect until one is a MACH with actual 1st place, 2nd place or 3rd place in the National ranks will they start to pay attention. The other choice is the numbers game. Getting as many AKC handlers to re-remind and re-petition. And maybe on these boards we should organize a set date when we encourage our B.C friends to send a yearly petition.

 

The USDAA which our BC Boards support is a fantastic organization but here is the catch. We agility folks are forced to do AKC. There are only a few scattering of USDAA trials available and you have to go to a different state hundreds of miles away to amass your rank. Tons of folks cannot afford this constant airline travel with our dogs.

 

Finally, there are many Border Collie agility traditionalists like myself who want to strictly control the breeding regarding dog agility breeders— IMHO only top agility experts who’ve got decades of experience and those who’ve got top champion BCs (real MACH titles, real placement ranks, etc.) could breed but only if they’ve got the art of breeding down to a tee and understand all the care that needs to be done to protect the BC line. And this breeding experience/criteria likewise applies to sheepherding dogs. And not all champion agility dogs should be bred. The reason why is because not all have ideal personalities or may be difficult to work with (the BC having lucked out in having a highly skilled owner who matched and suited their temperament perfectly). And not all top agility dogs have the best personalities or smartness in other areas. And I can not emphasize enough how important it is for qualified agility breeders to ideally have one litter per year at the very max, because it is crucial to try to keep tabs on who has their dog and lines and what happens to the pup with its new owners. People are human and can make mistakes or may be tempted to breed or not want to afford all the expensive hip tests which is likewise important in maintaining the line. Signed agreements not to breed are another crucial aspect and carefully communicating with the interested buyer on why they want to get a border collie pup. A devoted breeder also constantly engages the pups to develop motor skills, curiosity, confidence and keenness toward learning and human interactivity.  Too many litters- not enough quality time per pup…

 

I’d also like to open up discussions on other working disciplines that honor the Border Collie tradition. IMHO when a border collie “works” it could possible be extended to other fields like Hollywood Border Collies that have been specifically trained to do multiple tricks and stunts for acting in commercials and movies. Wouldn’t this fully utilize all the strengths, smartness, eagerness to work, and keenness of the border collie? So I’d like to be able to ask what others feel about whether “working ability” can be extended to other fields besides just sheepherding.

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In the past my friend explained that many MACH handlers, including himself, have dropped out of the forum due to frustration with the raging controversy concerning whether agility dogs met the criteria of a working border collie.

 

It's only controversy because they disagree! This forum is clear about where they stand on the breeding of Border Collies. Outside of that they really don't care what you do with your dog as long as you treat it right.

 

The controversy comes with breeding a dog for anything besides stock work. Breed for stock work and you get a dog that can do just about anything. So why breed for any other reason?!?!

 

Finally, many of our disciplines involve very similar skill sets which sheepherding working Border Collies use.

 

So you've done both? And that's why you make the comparison?

 

and if folks here don’t mind, we’d like to have a voice heard about our dogs….

 

:huh: There is a forum here dedicated to agility and several folks here do it quite successfully - discuss away.

 

Also the MORE agility experts who join, the more we can petition the AKC to eliminate alllllll conformation shows on the Border Collie.

 

Ain't gonna happen. Read "The dog wars". They did every sneaky trick to get full registration for Border Collies and the pride and joy of the AKC is the conformation ring. They don't really care about what you think, especially if you won't drop them if they say no...

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A little more as a reread this (I really should be sleeping but oh well...)

 

We agility folks are forced to do AKC. There are only a few scattering of USDAA trials available and you have to go to a different state hundreds of miles away to amass your rank. Tons of folks cannot afford this constant airline travel with our dogs.

 

Umm, how?!?!?

 

If you want do to agility and AKC is the most convenient, that's a choice you chose to make based on your own personal desires/beliefs. But it's hardly forced.

 

FWIW, NADAC Agility seems to be running about 10 events all over the country on any given weekend right now.

 

Tons of discipline, time and unrewarded money is exhausted to train our dogs. My club membership alone costs me $600 annually, and it’s actually significantly!!!! more than this if I accidentally miss out on the year’s discount. Some of us travel as much as an hour’s commute weekly to train and unlike sheepherding in which you get rewarded by your dog increasing the profits of your day by helping care for the livestock, we get nothing save for the joy and the passion of working with our dogs.

 

I don't think anyone ever questioned your dedication.

 

I think we're all pretty dedicated dog owner here that tend to spend a good deal of money on our dogs ;) If we're talking numbers here I drive 70 to 100 miles a week to train with my SAR group. Outdoors. In the dark this time of year. In the heat of the summer and cold of the winter. I get nothing out of it except perhaps the chance to be called out to look for a missing person. It's all volunteer and I pay all of my own/my dog's expenses.

 

I choose to do with my dog and expenses are just part of it like any other activity one chooses to do with their dog.

 

FWIW, a good 3 day sheepdog clinic can easily cost $500 + after you figure in travel expenses.

 

I understand that you're a dedicated person who loves their dog. That is great and I say this in all sincerity. But this post seems to be saying "if you'd just look at it from my perspective you'd agree with me". Have you thought about doing the opposite? Have you tried attending some USBCHA sheepdog trial or actually experienced a good working Border Collie in person? It's amazing. It needs to be preserved.

 

A good working BC can be trained for just about anything you wish to train it for including agility. The same cannot be said of the opposite. With the abundance of dogs already, why would you breed for anything else than the best?

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...............

I’d also like to open up discussions on other working disciplines that honor the Border Collie tradition. IMHO when a border collie “works” it could possible be extended to other fields like Hollywood Border Collies that have been specifically trained to do multiple tricks and stunts for acting in commercials and movies. Wouldn’t this fully utilize all the strengths, smartness, eagerness to work, and keenness of the border collie? So I’d like to be able to ask what others feel about whether “working ability” can be extended to other fields besides just sheepherding.

 

 

Of course border collies can do other work besides sheep herding, and they do so brilliantly. But in my humble opinion, the "working ability" that defines the border collie is that for which he was formed: working livestock.

 

I guess I'm not sure what you're asking. If you're saying you wish breeders and handlers of working border collies would acknowledge all the other things BCs are capable of doing ... I think they already do. They know that border collies hold down jobs as varied as SAR and tracking, service and assistance, cadaver location and bomb/drug sniffing, and keeping geese off air strips. Plenty of breeders of working lines willingly sell their pups to non-sheepdogging and pet homes, because not every border collie has to be a sheepdog.

 

But if you're asking a USBCHA handler or a working sheep farmer to acknowledge that running a dog in agility is work, in the same way that sheepdogging is work ... I suspect you'll get a mixed response. Of course agility, freestyle obedience and rally all require high levels of training. But is sport considered work when it has no basis in the work the dog was originally bred to do? Granted, finding cocaine in a suitcase or alerting when their owner's blood sugar is crashing isn't what the BC is bred to do, either. But I don't think anyone is out there selectively breeding lines of sniffer or service border collies.

 

The prickliness of the debate arises, I think, in concern over how keenly the sporting world can or will police its own breeding practices, to assure that their dogs come from working lines, rather than 3 or 4 generations of sporting dogs who've never been tried on sheep. Because if that true working ability is not carefully nurtured and preserved ... it ebbs away in surprisingly short order. Then all we have left is a clever black-and-white dog who has been shorn from the roots of his origins.

 

Again, I'm not sure what you wish to see addressed in this discussion, so I'll lurk and see what others have to say. :)

Regards,

 

Gloria

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My view may not be in line with the general view on your side of Atlantic. But here it goes. I breed working border collies. They are not stellar to stellar, but I see it as a destination not as a starting point. Next year I would like to breed my Bonnie to a really fantastic dog in Britain. But it may not happen because so far I have only one person interested in this litter. From my previous litter I sold only one puppy that was bought because it was from working parents. She will do agility. So perhaps it will all end up with me switching over to border terriers :).

 

Explaining why stockwork is what makes a BC a BC to a person with sheep is easy. But people who don't plan to herd with BCs understandably are less interested in the stockwork as a breeding criterion. One can say that stockwork shows that a dog is a natural jumper, runner, flanker - basically a self-made master of fitness. Nobody teaches the dog how to run efficiently, jump ditches, make sudden, tight turns, feints, etc. So why not breed in a different way, e.g. according to agility standards where all the same things can be tested in a dog?

 

So here is my answer why not:

To me the unique thing about the border collies is their relationship with humans, called biddability. This biddability is a feature that allows the dog to hear and listen to their boss in spite of their tremendous work drive based in a primeval instinct. Derek Scrimegour wrote, that there is no reason "why would he do anything for you in the first place". It is something really big that makes a dog overcome its desires out of its own free will, when she makes the choice to listen to the voice of her boss. To me, this is what makes a border collie a border collie. Not being stockwork savvy alone, but having the unique ability to overcome this tremendous desire in order to work with a human as a team.

 

This feature is present in very few herding breeds. I have seen many non-bcs working stock and it wasn't the lack of skill that struck me as negative, but the lack of biddability coupled with low work drive, which seems to be the norm. In practice, the handler has to balance between an out of control, disobedient dog, and a dog that just walks way. But tht's a non-border collie.

 

This feature of border collie's character is only testable with livestock and is only reliably tested in the presence of high work drive. A champion in obedience ring can blow off the handler with a dedication worthy of a much better cause. I have seen it many times - dogs that have a low drive to herd sheep and yet, and yet their handler has to always go into the ring armed with an arsenal of scaring tools and over and over and over leaves the training area hoarse.

 

In my opinion, the loss of this feature - the desire to work with a human in the face of (almost) overwhelming desire to work - will in time translate into a different dog also away from the sheep.

 

When I was raising my Bonnie, lots of people just couldn't believe I was training her without treats, and many prophesied a great training disaster for us. I am not against training with treats, I am just saying that many people don't really realize what these dogs are like, and and many dogs indeed are not like that anymore.

 

Maja

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I think the problem is that most people (myself included) have no idea of the grave importance of breeding for stockwork ability, before they actually used a dog to work stock.

 

By the way am I the only one that smiled at this quote from Maralynn: "It's only controversy because they disagree!" :lol:

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The USDAA which our BC Boards support is a fantastic organization but here is the catch. We agility folks are forced to do AKC. There are only a few scattering of USDAA trials available and you have to go to a different state hundreds of miles away to amass your rank. Tons of folks cannot afford this constant airline travel with our dogs.

 

 

 

Ugh. No one is ever "forced" to do AKC anything. I have never given the AKC a dime, and I have owned dogs since 1987 and been working them in agility since 1993 (in the halcyon days before the greedy b@stards at AKC recognized agility). I loathe the AKC for so many reasons I won't bother to list them here and I will never, ever, ever give one iota of support to an organization that does as much harm to dogs as the AKC does.

 

So I have titled my dogs in NADAC and UKC agility, I have shown some in USDAA, and I am now registering my BC in CPE in preparation for trialing in that venue. No, I won't get anything like the MACH that the AKC offers, but frankly, I don't care. No ranking or placement is important enough to me to justify giving money to the AKC, which turns a blind eye to puppy mills and insists 'oh, we're just a registry' when called to account for their moral shortcomings.

 

Sorry, the AKC is a big hot-button of mine. I believe it helped ruin the Shetland Sheepdog, and I am a longtime Sheltie rescuer, and what it has done to the Border Collie -- well, that's not news on this board, I'm sure. :(

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Baseball is a game, a sport, a passtime. Baseball is not work or a job just because people spend a lot of time, money and effort to play it. It is not work in the same way that farming is work just because a tiny percentage of people who play the sport get paid for it.

 

No one is saying that athletes don't invest a great deal financially, physically or emotionally, but it is still a sport.

 

Sheepdog trials are a sport meant to test real work. Breeding for trials alone is just as wrong as breeding for agility, but very few do that. Those who do quickly find that their dogs are lacking (endurance, courage, health or a myriad of other key traits).

 

I've trained dogs for agility, flyball, dog sledding and stock work. You can not compare stock work to any sport, and you can not begin to understand the difference until you have immersed yourself in both work and sports.

 

No one here is saying you can't have fun doing agility, that you don't take it seriously or that you don't put as much effort into agility trials as we put into stock dog trials. What we are saying is that if you breed for agility you will produce dogs that look like Border Collies, but in each generation you are drifting farther away and producing a different breed altogether.

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I had never heard of breeding for sport until I read about it on this board.

 

When I worked at an animal shelter, we had a woman come by and test dogs for SAR work. That is the primary method her group used to find SAR dogs.

 

I don't know. I guess it seems to me that there is a lot of rationalization about breeding in general.

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many MACH handlers, including himself, have dropped out of the forum due to frustration with the raging controversy concerning whether agility dogs met the criteria of a working border collie...

Wouldn’t this fully utilize all the strengths, smartness, eagerness to work, and keenness of the border collie? So I’d like to be able to ask what others feel about whether “working ability” can be extended to other fields besides just sheepherding.

 

Reading these boards I've never got the impression that anyone doesn't consider SAR etc to be 'not work', or dog sports not to be challenging, or that people who do this stuff with their dogs are somehow lesser owners. The philosophy's simply that you should breed for herding, because if you breed for that you'll get good agility, obedience, SAR etc dogs whereas if you breed say for agility you won't get consistently good herding dogs out of it. It's simply about what tests those abilities best for breeding purposes. So I guess I don't really see what the division is, or what you're trying to say.

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A well bred working dog will excel at anything asked of it. I have learned this all the hard way and from being a long time lurker on these boards. My AKC sport bred border collie has absolutely no desire to work stock or even to interact with them at all. When brought into a pen with sheep, he will casually glance their way before moving to the corner and laying down. Even when bringing my working bred dog into teh ring to try to get him interested, nothing. I bought my working bred boy for agility after learning much with my sport bred agility dog and from these boards. I would never look back. But he has also opened the doors for me to working stock and though I don't have any stock of my own, it is still amazing to watch him and I hope to enter in trials at some point.

 

A dog bred purely for agility is not up to the breeding standards that this board stands for or what a dog should be bred for. My sprot bred dog, specifically for flyball and agility, can't touch my working bred dog on the agility course. And as far as agility goes, I never run AKC, I refuse to dual register by ABCA dogs and will not ever hand over another penny to AKC in my life. I get chastised a lot from my sporting friends, but I know that I am right and that they are wrong, though they refuse to see it that way. We run USDAA, NADAC, and CPE. AKC is much more common in my area, but I'm not going to do it. They ruin more than just border collies. Look at GSDs for example. AKC should get nothing from anybody!

 

We can all play and get along. I do "hobby herding" with my dogs, and run agility with them. Nobody cares that this is their lives, they care only that they are getting a loving fullfilling life and that they aren't being bred for being agility dogs. And that I don't throw more money to an entity that ruins good dogs of all breeds. Nobody cares who does agility and it is often said that those agility dogs should be good working lines. That should be where they come from. My red boy was sold from the ranch because he was a red boy, works great for me as an agility dog and is a kick ass dog (in my opinion) on stock as well. He's been on sheep, goats, calves, and he excels at everything asked of him. But, he is working bred from parents who work on a cattle farm and not sporting bred like my "dud".

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Serena, what did your agility friends say when you went on their forum and asked them to bridge the division by only purchasing puppies/dogs from proven working dogs? Don't you think that would get the AKC's attention?

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A well bred working dog will excel at anything asked of it. I have learned this all the hard way and from being a long time lurker on these boards. My AKC sport bred border collie has absolutely no desire to work stock or even to interact with them at all. When brought into a pen with sheep, he will casually glance their way before moving to the corner and laying down. Even when bringing my working bred dog into teh ring to try to get him interested, nothing. I bought my working bred boy for agility after learning much with my sport bred agility dog and from these boards. I would never look back. But he has also opened the doors for me to working stock and though I don't have any stock of my own, it is still amazing to watch him and I hope to enter in trials at some point.

 

 

 

Not to hijack this thread, but I hope you do trial him and I hope you both enjoy it! Almost two years ago I got a BC, my first, because my youngest Sheltie had to retire from agility (age and arthritis) and I love doing agility. I got R from a local rescue, and I'll be, he has very good potential as a stock-dog! So now we do agility and rally-o and work sheep when we can get out there, we live on the edge of a city and we don't have stock and likely never will. But my dog, who came to the rescue from a little county shelter out in rural Illinois, appears to be a BC who comes from working dogs. And I am fumbling along trying to learn stock work but yes, my dog amazes me! Also, he is the absolute best agility dog I have ever had in 17+ years of training my dogs in the sport. He's a natural athlete, he's biddable as a dream, and he doesn't have any reactivity to other dogs or anything that makes him a nut on the agility course. (Sheep, now ... well, let's say that maturity will be very welcome when it does happen!)

 

When I was looking for a BC, I was offered male pick from a litter of a local sport BC breeder. However, when I mentioned that to RDM, she made such awful threats -- er, I mean she made such convincing and reasonable arguments -- that I never seriously considered paying $1500 for the sport-bred BC and instead, I got the funny-looking crazed puppy (tri-color smooth-coat with ears like radar dishes!) from the rescue. I'd never do anything differently. :)

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Some of us travel as much as an hour’s commute weekly to train and unlike sheepherding in which you get rewarded by your dog increasing the profits of your day by helping care for the livestock, we get nothing save for the joy and the passion of working with our dogs.

 

I'm sorry to have to say this, but you've made it pretty clear with your statements that you don't really understand what goes in to raising livestock. The comparison you make above doesn't even make much sense to me. The fact is that with rising feed costs many small farmers are barely breaking even or, worse, *losing* money. Read the thread on hay shortages in the SW in the livestock management section of this forum. The farmers who can run enough stock to make a profit rarely have time to do a lot of trialing, if any. In the past I could give lessons and cover feed costs mostly. Not so any more, unless I were maybe giving lessons full time or taking in a bunch of dogs for training. I'm buying hay as I go this year, but the last time I bought it in bulk, I spent $800 just on round bales to last the main flock from November through March. I also bought square bales for the rams, at anywhere from $3-7/bale to cover that same time period. That number doesn't take into account any additional feed or mineral costs. Compare that to your agility club fees, and that's just one small part of the expense of farming.

 

And of course if I want to go to clinics or trials, I need to *pay* someone to stay on my farm and look after the livestock. Oh, and lets not forget the livestock guardians, who have to be fed and vetted. And the cost of fencing and fence repairs, vaccines, deworming, shearing, lambing supplies. And the property taxes on the land. Perhaps there's even the expense of farm equipment (I can't claim that because I have no tractor, etc.; I do everything by hand). I could go on, but you probably get the picture. The dogs make my work much easier, but I also have to take care of that livestock EVERY day, rain or shine, hot or cold, in the dark, through the mud, and whether or not I actually feel physically up to it. Unlike agility equipment, sheep, cattle, goats, and poultry don't just sit around without needs during the times when I don't have the time, energy, or money to participate in my chosen activity. Livestock needs care, sometimes more care and sometimes less, but care all the same. The dogs help tremendousely with that and I get a great deal of satisfaction from our partnership and the jobs that are made easy with their help, but forgive me for having little sympathy for the drives you make and the money and time you spend when I am spending money and time caring for my livestock 365 days a year.

 

Raising sheep is rewarding, true, and I raise sheep because I like sheep and I like producing food for myself and in that sense raising livestock is indeed a passion for me.

 

My reward is the passion and joy I get from raising animals naturally and well. My heartbreak is losing them to things beyond my control or having to sell them off because I can't afford to feed or pasture them.

 

I'm sorry, but I really don't see how that compares to participating in dog sports. You would have done better to have compared people who don't own livestock and thus have to travel an hour or more (when I first started working my dogs, I traveled 3 hours round trip, 4-5 days a week in order to work my dogs--I guess that qualifies as a passion, huh? And for those who don't own livestock, it's not as if they can set up home made livestock in their back yard and practice there during tough financial times or when work interferes with training time). Back then I didn't make money off sheep--I didn't own any. I paid for lessons and for the use of someone else's sheep. I travelled easily 3, 4, or 5 hours (or more) on weekends to go to sheepdog trials, and I participated no matter what the weather, because you know stockdog trials are held outside so you take what you get from Mother Nature.

 

I don't doubt for a minute that top sports competitors put a lot of time, effort, heart, soul, and money into becoming the best in their chosen sport. But those things apply across any sport discipline, including stockdog trials. The difference is that stockdog people who also happen to own livestock have the extra work of caring for their livestock on top of all the other stuff. And when we're talking livestock, it's not enough to just be a good dog trainer and to put a ton of time and money in--you also have to take the time and make to effort to learn to understand livestock--what motivates them, what scares them, how they move and why, and so on. Only when you understand livestock can you become a top competitor in the *sport* of stock dog trialing. And the only way to gain that understanding is to spend time with them--going for a lesson once a week won't cut it. So there's really no comparison.

 

As others have already said, I don't really care what people do with their border collies. If they're doing something with them, then they're being good dog owners in a world where there are plenty of bad dog owners. But if your real question is about breeding, then others have answered that well enough.

 

And I would add this to Brenda's question: Did you also encourage your agility friends to go out and help on the farms of the folks you know who raise livestock and use dogs? Did you encourage them to go to stockdog trials and see these dogs in action? Nothing helps one to better understand something than to actually go and observe and perhaps participate.

 

J.

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Not to hijack this thread, but I hope you do trial him and I hope you both enjoy it! Almost two years ago I got a BC, my first, because my youngest Sheltie had to retire from agility (age and arthritis) and I love doing agility. I got R from a local rescue, and I'll be, he has very good potential as a stock-dog! So now we do agility and rally-o and work sheep when we can get out there, we live on the edge of a city and we don't have stock and likely never will. But my dog, who came to the rescue from a little county shelter out in rural Illinois, appears to be a BC who comes from working dogs. And I am fumbling along trying to learn stock work but yes, my dog amazes me! Also, he is the absolute best agility dog I have ever had in 17+ years of training my dogs in the sport. He's a natural athlete, he's biddable as a dream, and he doesn't have any reactivity to other dogs or anything that makes him a nut on the agility course. (Sheep, now ... well, let's say that maturity will be very welcome when it does happen!)

 

When I was looking for a BC, I was offered male pick from a litter of a local sport BC breeder. However, when I mentioned that to RDM, she made such awful threats -- er, I mean she made such convincing and reasonable arguments -- that I never seriously considered paying $1500 for the sport-bred BC and instead, I got the funny-looking crazed puppy (tri-color smooth-coat with ears like radar dishes!) from the rescue. I'd never do anything differently. :)

 

 

My two rescues are not fit for stock work, one because of his very poor health (he is a double merle with severe HD) and the other is just too scared of everything, including stock. I had hoped that it would open up his world for him, but alas, he is happy being and active house dog. My sport bred dog has to be taught everything and doesn't really think for himself which is a bit tougher in training and especially in trialing in agility.

 

I certainly hope to be able to trial some day, but Fury is just about a year old and and not ready to trial in anything just yet. I am dreaming of the day when he is mature with stock, but it will come in time and a bit slower because I am also very new to herding. It is great fun and amazing and I love to watch dogs and handlers who realy know what they are doing. My agility/flyball friends almost always get their dogs from sport breeders and I have had no luck changing their minds. At this point we just agree to disagree, but when Fury is finally able to trial and hopefully kicking their butts (I know, optimism) then maybe they'll see it my way. I'm so lucky to have found this forum and have learned so much, I may have made the same mistake in getting another sport bred dog and not had my eyes opened up to what a "real" border collie actually is like.

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What I don't understand is how people that participate in dog sports like agility, obedience, and flyball can keep defending the practice of breeding Border Collies for that "work."

 

It isn't work. It's play. No matter how expensive it is, or how many hours you put in on training, it's play. Nothing is risked if your dog does badly at it. Except possibly your ego or some gas money.

 

If a stockdog is a dud, the flock and the shepherd suffer. The animals can die if they aren't moved from a place that has become unsuitable to them for lack of proper forage or some other reason, or if the shepherd cannot get to them to administer medicine or other necessary care. Good stockdogs make this possible. The shepherd's livelihood and the well-being of the stock is in danger if he/she does not have good dogs.

 

If a working bred dog is not top-notch for stock, it can be nearly always used for sport with good results. The opposite is almost never true. The one priority for breeding Border Collies is and must be stock working ability. Versatility is a by-product of that - not a primary goal.

 

If the Border Collie as a whole is not preserved and bred for its livestock working traits the breed as a whole suffers. The gene pool of useful stockdogs shrinks, and the breed is diminished by dogs that are useless for what the breed was created for.

Whatever a person does for the recreation of their dogs and themselves is fine with me. Have at it. But leave the breeding to those who will breed for stock working ability and carry through with the job by proofing the pups they produce in ranch, farm and trial settings. There is no excuse for anyone else to breed Border Collies.

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I'm not a pessimist by nature. In fact, quite the opposite. But I concluded long ago that this is a division that is highly unlikely to be bridged. Emotions run too high on both sides of the divide and bridging the gap would require that both sides set those emotions aside and consider both similarities and differences in point of view an objective manner. Personally, I don't see it happening on either side.

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Ok. Folks, I have to spend a post every few days answering everyone's questions and debates. Give me a couple of weeks, lol!

 

Let me start with Root Beer because she has the most realistic view versus my ultimate HOPE which is for agility folks to band together, continue petitioning AKC. Without some sort of unity and voice NOTHING GETS CHANGED...and I do wish for AKC to stop those dang conformation shows.

 

However, Root Beer is a realist:

 

Root Beer wrote: Emotions run too high on both sides of the divide and bridging the gap would require that both sides set those emotions aside and consider both similarities and differences in point of view an objective manner. Personally, I don't see it happening on either side.

 

But just like with the hotbed of American politics, we have to form some sort of shared understanding and support to get our goals accomplished. And by now you all know me as someone who won't give up and is dang tenacious. My goal is to change the AKC attitude and try to get the gene pool of the "ideal border collie" continued from what the sheepherding community tried so hard for centuries to develop. Please note, to me one of the prime characteristics besides "biddability" is incredible keenness and intelligence and willingness to work. The amount of multiple vocabulary, directional commands, learning new tricks and tasks (how many repetitions it takes for a dog to immediately catch-on") these are the qualities that make the border collie, the supreme border collie. Sheepherding is the primary and best means to distill the ideal qualities, but it is not the only measure of that discipline I maintain, because then what does one do with the changing times? More and more farmlands will be replaced by conglomerates, land buyouts. In Kansas itself we are losing tons of farmlands, every highway system and suburban sprawl eats away at the landscape.

 

My next reply will be to Todd's Mom who has some great points in a way that I can identify with too...But it's gonna take me time because I have to take in everyone's responses and make sure I've got a good read on everyone. I am very busy with my friends in England and with training Eluane, and I am in the midst of some intense questions and guidance from them on how to better our performance. Plus we've got Thanksgiving holiday coming right around the corner P.S. Debates aside, let Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving with wonderful family times, and may everyone's travels to meet family members be safe and cozy! :D

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Serena,

You have some lofty goals and I wish you well, but I think you'll find yourself feeling like Don Quixote before it's all over. I am on an e-mail list of people who do AKC herding and the like. Just recently, AKC made changes to the herding program regarding new titles. They did this without any input from the folks who actually participate in the program. The discussion on that list in response to those changes has been rather interesting. This is a group of very vocal people who care very much about their program (herding) within the AKC. And yet time and again, they can't even get their voices heard and they certainly don't ever seem to make headway even when AKC does ask for their input, which is pretty seldom. So while I think your desire is admirable, I suspect you'd be better off spending your time more productively--like training and trialing your dog!

 

As for your comments about the times a'changing, that comes up all the time in these sorts of discussions. Consider, though, that as more people choose to support their local farmers by buying locally, they might actually inderectly help to increase the use of working dogs on small family farms.

 

J.

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In the past my friend explained that many MACH handlers, including himself, have dropped out of the forum due to frustration with the raging controversy concerning whether agility dogs met the criteria of a working border collie.

 

Whether agility dogs meet the description "working border collies" is a subject that comes up very occasionally -- so seldom that I'm very surprised to hear that someone would drop out of the forum over it.

 

There are reasons why I believe dog agility can be an excellent way to honor the traditions of the working American Border Collie. Tons of discipline, time and unrewarded money is exhausted to train our dogs. My club membership alone costs me $600 annually, and it’s actually significantly!!!! more than this if I accidentally miss out on the year’s discount. Some of us travel as much as an hour’s commute weekly to train and unlike sheepherding in which you get rewarded by your dog increasing the profits of your day by helping care for the livestock, we get nothing save for the joy and the passion of working with our dogs. We do videos, buy videos, attend seminars get specialized trainers and coaches the way sheepherding folks do, and travel across the country to compete. Finally, many of our disciplines involve very similar skill sets which sheepherding working Border Collies use.

 

I don't really understand in what way enjoying and putting a lot of dedicated effort into training and competing in agility with your border collie "honors the border collie tradition." Yes, border collies generally are agile, smart and biddable, and yes, these traits are valuable in agility competition as well as in stock work, but how does it honor the border collie tradition to make use of these traits for this purpose? Are all border collie owners who train and compete with their dogs in agility honoring the border collie tradition, or only those who consciously think they are doing that? Are Sheltie owners who train and compete with their dogs in agility honoring the Sheltie tradition, or Papillon owners honoring the Papillon tradition? I'm honestly trying to understand what you mean, but I'm not getting it.

 

Also these are rapidly changing times! We need strong agility voices like my friend. The internet is a very powerful tool. Being that this is my first dog and first B.C. we need to make this as comfortable a place for those expert specialists and agility champions like him.

 

WHY do we need to do this?

 

Also the MORE agility experts who join, the more we can petition the AKC to eliminate alllllll conformation shows on the Border Collie. Tons of us do not!!! want any Border collie to be a show dog a.k.a. conformation dog!!!! It is a terrible, awful practice IMO.

 

But AKC thinks it's a good practice. Their whole philosophy and raison d'etre is based on it. Surely you know that the AKC isn't going to eliminate conformation showing of border collies, no matter if everyone who's ever put a MACH on a dog asked them to. No matter what.

 

AKC gets a huge profit from agility folks so we have to remember every year to bargain and petition that they do not do conformation for BCs. If an office keeps getting flooded every year by AKC Border Collie owners, this can help! For agility folks we need to keep re-reminding them to send a letter to the AKC discussing this issue. AKC will pay attention to a famous handler or a top-ranking Champion Handler, and I suspect until one is a MACH with actual 1st place, 2nd place or 3rd place in the National ranks will they start to pay attention. The other choice is the numbers game. Getting as many AKC handlers to re-remind and re-petition. And maybe on these boards we should organize a set date when we encourage our B.C friends to send a yearly petition.

 

I don't know what to say, Serena. AKC dropping conformation showing for border collies in response to petitions is just something that could not conceivably ever happen.

 

We agility folks are forced to do AKC.

 

At gunpoint? On pain of death or severe bodily harm? By law?

 

Finally, there are many Border Collie agility traditionalists like myself who want to strictly control the breeding regarding dog agility breeders— IMHO only top agility experts who’ve got decades of experience and those who’ve got top champion BCs (real MACH titles, real placement ranks, etc.) could breed but only if they’ve got the art of breeding down to a tee and understand all the care that needs to be done to protect the BC line.

 

How would they assess whether the dog has balance, stock sense, power, courage, stamina, to name only a few of the many traits that have been bred into the border collie to make it a valuable partner in the management of livestock? Or do you think border collies can be bred having no regard to those things, without the essence of the breed being lost in their descendants?

 

ETA: And best wishes to you for a Happy Thanksgiving as well, and thank you for your kind words.

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Personally, I don't see it happening on either side.

I hope the working stock dog people stick to their guns. The first time I went to Rural Hill was back in the 90's. I had a sheltie so I was interested in seeing a sheltie work. I was so disappointed and saddened. I didn't know what kind of dogs were working but I knew none of them were shelties. At the time, I didn't understand why. After all, I had a dog that was classified as a herding breed so why wasn't I seeing any work? The sheltie's working ability is now lost. I hope and pray that never happens with the border collie. I, for one, am proud of their history.

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Sheepherding is the primary and best means to distill the ideal qualities, but it is not the only measure of that discipline I maintain, because then what does one do with the changing times? More and more farmlands will be replaced by conglomerates, land buyouts. In Kansas itself we are losing tons of farmlands, every highway system and suburban sprawl eats away at the landscape.

 

Well, I don't think that the country is going vegetarian any time soon ;)

 

Actually a working Border Collie fits in very well for those who are looking for locally raised food that is rasied in a humane manner. And judging by the farmers markets around here the demand for locally/humanely raised meat is increasing.

 

Are you familiar with the farm culture? With the art of handling livestock? I think a good understanding of a farm culture might help you better understand the point we are trying to make.

 

My goal is to change the AKC attitude and try to get the gene pool of the "ideal border collie" continued from what the sheepherding community tried so hard for centuries to develop.

 

This is a lofty and admirable goal. But you've got about the same chance of changing the AKC as you do winning a football game when you're down by 45 points with 5 minutes remaining the 4th quarter. The AKC has demonstrated time and time again that they are fueled by money and internal politics with little regard for dogs. If you're interested I wrote a paper on it for a class last year and I'd be happy to email a copy to you.

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Serena+Eluane B.C., on 20 November 2011 - 07:23 PM, said:

 

Sheepherding is the primary and best means to distill the ideal qualities, but it is not the only measure of that discipline I maintain, because then what does one do with the changing times? More and more farmlands will be replaced by conglomerates, land buyouts. In Kansas itself we are losing tons of farmlands, every highway system and suburban sprawl eats away at the landscape.

 

>>>

 

Although I prefer most farming and ranching be family operations, it's true that more and more are held by large companies or other entities. However, those operations are still managed by families in many cases. I got the chance to help on a commercial flock that is part of a major central Nevada operation. It's not owned by a agricultural company, but another organization that bought the land for water rights but made an agreement with the county to maintain the land as a traditional working ranch.

 

The herders use dogs. Today I counted about seven border collies and four guardian dogs - those were just with the two bands of sheep I saw, about half of what the ranch holds. The ranch manager has plans to increase the current 4500 to 7700 head of sheep. That will mean more jobs for dogs. If anything, big-business farming means more livestock, not less!

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I'm sorry to have to say this, but you've made it pretty clear with your statements that you don't really understand what goes in to raising livestock. The comparison you make above doesn't even make much sense to me. The fact is that with rising feed costs many small farmers are barely breaking even or, worse, *losing* money. Read the thread on hay shortages in the SW in the livestock management section of this forum. The farmers who can run enough stock to make a profit rarely have time to do a lot of trialing, if any. In the past I could give lessons and cover feed costs mostly. Not so any more, unless I were maybe giving lessons full time or taking in a bunch of dogs for training. I'm buying hay as I go this year, but the last time I bought it in bulk, I spent $800 just on round bales to last the main flock from November through March. I also bought square bales for the rams, at anywhere from $3-7/bale to cover that same time period. That number doesn't take into account any additional feed or mineral costs. Compare that to your agility club fees, and that's just one small part of the expense of farming.

 

And of course if I want to go to clinics or trials, I need to *pay* someone to stay on my farm and look after the livestock. Oh, and lets not forget the livestock guardians, who have to be fed and vetted. And the cost of fencing and fence repairs, vaccines, deworming, shearing, lambing supplies. And the property taxes on the land. Perhaps there's even the expense of farm equipment (I can't claim that because I have no tractor, etc.; I do everything by hand). I could go on, but you probably get the picture. The dogs make my work much easier, but I also have to take care of that livestock EVERY day, rain or shine, hot or cold, in the dark, through the mud, and whether or not I actually feel physically up to it. Unlike agility equipment, sheep, cattle, goats, and poultry don't just sit around without needs during the times when I don't have the time, energy, or money to participate in my chosen activity. Livestock needs care, sometimes more care and sometimes less, but care all the same. The dogs help tremendousely with that and I get a great deal of satisfaction from our partnership and the jobs that are made easy with their help, but forgive me for having little sympathy for the drives you make and the money and time you spend when I am spending money and time caring for my livestock 365 days a year.

 

Raising sheep is rewarding, true, and I raise sheep because I like sheep and I like producing food for myself and in that sense raising livestock is indeed a passion for me.

 

My reward is the passion and joy I get from raising animals naturally and well. My heartbreak is losing them to things beyond my control or having to sell them off because I can't afford to feed or pasture them.

 

I'm sorry, but I really don't see how that compares to participating in dog sports. You would have done better to have compared people who don't own livestock and thus have to travel an hour or more (when I first started working my dogs, I traveled 3 hours round trip, 4-5 days a week in order to work my dogs--I guess that qualifies as a passion, huh? And for those who don't own livestock, it's not as if they can set up home made livestock in their back yard and practice there during tough financial times or when work interferes with training time). Back then I didn't make money off sheep--I didn't own any. I paid for lessons and for the use of someone else's sheep. I travelled easily 3, 4, or 5 hours (or more) on weekends to go to sheepdog trials, and I participated no matter what the weather, because you know stockdog trials are held outside so you take what you get from Mother Nature.

 

I don't doubt for a minute that top sports competitors put a lot of time, effort, heart, soul, and money into becoming the best in their chosen sport. But those things apply across any sport discipline, including stockdog trials. The difference is that stockdog people who also happen to own livestock have the extra work of caring for their livestock on top of all the other stuff. And when we're talking livestock, it's not enough to just be a good dog trainer and to put a ton of time and money in--you also have to take the time and make to effort to learn to understand livestock--what motivates them, what scares them, how they move and why, and so on. Only when you understand livestock can you become a top competitor in the *sport* of stock dog trialing. And the only way to gain that understanding is to spend time with them--going for a lesson once a week won't cut it. So there's really no comparison.

 

J.

 

I think this whole post should be a sticky...

 

I couldn't agree more with this as far as a response to agility/sport people's views of trying to compare play and work.

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So I’d like to be able to ask what others feel about whether “working ability” can be extended to other fields besides just sheepherding.

 

No, but then I don't class "hobby herding" as a serious activity either. It could lead on to the real deal and a life change for the student but I'm guessing that for most it doesn't.

If it doesn't put bread on the table it isn't work to me.

You need to move here to the UK if you want to find somewhere that all special BC related interests manage to get along without coming to blows and where there is a fair amount of overlap.

I'd be concerned if I thought that the show type was becoming dominant here but I really don't see it atm. Could be something to do with the fact that our KC allows any dog to participate in its activities (except Field Trials).

You get all shades of opinion here and most of us just agree to differ. Personally I don't condone the breeding of any dog (BC or not) for the purposes of fulfilling human ambition. There are too many unwanted dogs needing homes as it is. People are weak and many will go for the latest flavour of the month line and perpetuate the myth that you need a deliberately sport bred dog for success, thereby depriving dogs of similar potential of a home, or even life itself.

But most people I know are a mixture; they may buy purpose bred sport dogs or even breed themselves, but many do find room to fit in a rescue or two as well. They keep an open mind.

And all the while the real working world is getting on with its own business.

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