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


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Yeah, but that's a straw man.

 

No, it really isn't.

 

From my perspective as someone who does Agility with Border Collies, it is simply reality, and it plays a big part in the way that I train and handle my Border Collies in Agility.

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She had no previous experience with anything that I set out to train her. Blank slate.

 

 

And a herding washout is pretty much the same way minus the fear issues.

 

Just because you have a different preference in choosing a dog does not negate that fact that they are essentially the same type of dog, except that you actually know the background on a dog coming from the breeder.

 

And, theoretically, since you don't *know* her full background, she might have very well had some basic foundation work done as a puppy before being abandoned on the streets. It's just an unknown factor in her case.

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So, do you really think that implies in some way that your untrained dog is leaving all of his instincts outside the ring when he goes in to do Agility?

 

Nope. He brings his instinct into the arena, and that instinct tells him to lift his leg on those obstacles as a way of marking new territory. And oddly enough, this instinct has nothing to do with the fact that he's a Border Collie. It has everything to do with the fact that ... he's a dog.

 

To me that is simply nonsense.

 

So you're saying that a completely untrained dog brings his instinct into the agility arena ... and what? What happens? What do "all of his instincts" tell him to do with those agility obstacles?

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And a herding washout is pretty much the same way minus the fear issues.

 

Plus training.

 

It is the training that I don't want in a dog that I purchase from a breeder.

 

Therefore, if I were going to a breeder, I would opt for a puppy.

 

Just because you have a different preference in choosing a dog does not negate that fact that they are essentially the same type of dog, except that you actually know the background on a dog coming from the breeder.

 

From my perspective, as a potential purchaser from a breeder, it is a factor.

 

And, theoretically, since you don't *know* her full background, she might have very well had some basic foundation work done as a puppy before being abandoned on the streets. It's just an unknown factor in her case.

 

Theoretically, sure.

 

Based on the changes I've seen in her through learning, I seriously doubt it.

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And a herding washout is pretty much the same way minus the fear issues.

 

Just because you have a different preference in choosing a dog does not negate that fact that they are essentially the same type of dog, except that you actually know the background on a dog coming from the breeder.

 

And, theoretically, since you don't *know* her full background, she might have very well had some basic foundation work done as a puppy before being abandoned on the streets. It's just an unknown factor in her case.

 

I have rehomed 2 dogs that haven't made it as working dogs, neither to agility homes; One went for goose work as she was adequate but nothing spectacular, and the other went as a pet. the herding washout had quite a bit of training on her but I sold her for a very reasonable price. Would she have made a good agility dog, I don't know.

 

My agility friends, and I have several, really want a puppy; Two of the last litter i had went to an agility home the rest to working homes. My take on the agility home is that they want to shape the behaviours very early and build toy drive. And I can say that there is no toy drive built with my working puppies. not that they dont' want to play with a ball or pick up a sock and play tug...but I would not encourage that...not for one second.

 

I'm sure herding washouts could make good agility dogs, they've been socialized, they know how to be quiet in their crates or kennels, can be tied out without acting like morons, know their name, have a recall, know a down...But other than that, I put almost nothing on my pups until they are about 10-12 months old. They know far far less than their agility littermates at that age but I would considered them more focused and far more mature. I know my herding washouts make really good pets; They may need to learn a few things about living in a city, like more concrete and not to freak out at the transvestite..but overall they are very level headed. We breed to make a level headed thinking dog

 

This set of posts has had some great information and I hope Newbees will take the time to read it. I saw the links to agility and the only one that made me tear up is the dog in the wheelchair. the other runs were good but i've seen lots of good runs; It doesn't take my breath away. That does not make it any less great a sport. I'm sure some agility people watch the national finals tapes and wonder what all the hoopla is about.

 

But what makes these dogs great is that we breed them for working, that's it, nothing else; i'm not likely to help build the bridge to continue putting working lines in sports; I will sell to agility homes and to pet homes. They make great homes. But if someone came and asked to breed to my bitch or my dog because they wanted to add the lines to their agilty dog I would say no. That doesn't make agility (or add your favourite pasttime) bad.

 

Recently one of my friends wants to have her dog used as a stud for the second time. I hate what came out of the first litter (ok maybe strong...both of the dogs, now 4 are working, one at the open level, one at NN) but I wouldn't breed that male again. She wants to because she LOVES him. he was running at the PN level and absolutely running oveer his handler. She wants another Kippy...bluch... My point, we can be breeding the wrong thing in the working world too...but the dogs are still working dogs; I've tried to talk her out of it, at least she doesn't have a bitch of her own she can breed.

 

Breed for work, only!

 

cynthia

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No, it really isn't.

 

From my perspective as someone who does Agility with Border Collies, it is simply reality, and it plays a big part in the way that I train and handle my Border Collies in Agility.

 

No, it really is a straw man Kristine. Of course agility has some element of utilizing a dog's natural abilities or if you will "instinct" to run, climb, jump and interact with its environment. We wouldn't be playing it if it didn't, as dogs would be unable to engage in it. Agility is based on (mostly) things dogs do naturally, with artifice built in to make it competition. That's why agility is agility as opposed to Dogs Making Award Winning Wines. The sport is simply using what dogs can already do, and seem to like doing, in a highly stylized fashion. But it does not mean that the sport of agility is instinctual - it means that agility exploits the natural function of (most) dogs. This is why dogs like border collies who are athletic, responsive and biddable tend to be better at it than shih tzus who are lazy, unresponsive and snotty (apologies to all shih tzu owners) little couch potatoes.

 

In time, do some dogs seem to "get" the idea of the sport more than others? Sure they do - I often quip that Tweed reads the course maps before we go into the ring. Does that also mean that some dogs have an agility instinct? Of course it does not.

 

When I bring fosters into class, they engage with the equipment on their own - of course they do, it's there in their environment and it's new and interesting. Sometimes they do, indeed, climb an A-Frame or something. They may also piss on it. Calling either scenario an example of a dog who does or does not have an "agility instinct" is simply fallacy.

 

We had a foster dog once who went out into the yard and of her own accord did 6 weave poles. I guess I could have assumed the dog had an "instinct for agility" but it certainly made a lot more sense that prior to being abandoned, someone did some agility with her. But when I had a foster dog who went into the round pen and brought me the sheep, I assumed it was because he was a border collie, not because someone had 'taught' the dog to work stock. There's the difference.

 

RDM

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In fact, what the dog brings into the sport in the way of instinct particular to the dog's breed, can be incredibly significant.

Where this is a disconnect for me is that in its most fundamental form what makes a border collie a stockdog (what makes a border collie a border collie) is the genetics that enable it to read the intent of livestock and use that information to control those animals. Without that most basic characteristic a border collie will never be capable of being an adequate stock dog. I don't see how that most fundamental characteristic relates to agility at all. From that POV, working stock is about instinct and being successful at agility is about training. With little or no training, a well-bred working border collie can do the basic tasks a farmer needs. There are plenty such border collies out there, working on farms every day largely on instinct and with little or no input from the farmer (except perhaps for some cussing when things go wrong).

 

Although a border collie set loose in an agility arena might choose to engage with some of the obstacles, either appropriately or inappropriately (e.g., going partway into a tunnel and then backing out), I don't think anyone can argue that a dog can complete an agility course (and certainly not with the skills necessary to compete) on instinct alone. Therefore training is required.

 

That's not to say that one doesn't need to train a stockdog, just that with no training the dog will be able to perform certain basic, generally useful tasks that can make its presence helpful to the farmer. An agility dog can certainly jump, climb, walk across things with little or no training, but putting those into something that enables to dog to even complete a very simple course requires training.

 

And now we can get into the minutae of what training means....

 

ETA: I see that RDM said it a lot better than I did.

 

J.

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Oi. Just a few points:

 

First, anxiety, while it can be a brain chemistry problem, is not necessarily so. Certain anxieties can be caused be life experiences, and can therefore be worked with through a behavior modification regime. Otherwise, every dog that gets anxious would be on medication with no hope of anything. That's not to say there aren't some dogs with brain chemistry problems, I would just hate for someone reading this to think that's always the case and immediately put their dog on puppy prozac.

 

Noise phobias can be attributed to genetics, and it can also be caused by too harsh of training. Point of reference, Cosmo, a Vizsla, never had any problem with gun shots or birds, in fact, he was very promising, until a certain "trainer" I know of in the business of training hunting dogs ruined him. Now, he's anxious when he sees a bird and panics every time a shot is fired. Likewise, it is possible for a dog with noise phobias to overcome that phobia to a certain extent. Not every dog, sure, but it is possible.

 

On these points, arguments can be made for both sides and backed by research. However, it all comes down to the individual dog. I will say this though, very rarely in the course of my behavior modification work do I have to recommend consultations with a vet for anxiety medications.

 

 

Some aspects of agility might be natural to dogs, but they are not instinctual. There is a difference in the terms here. A border collie's instinct is to gather the sheep and fetch them. Just as a well bred beagle's instinct is to chase down a fox. Jumping fences, climbing trees, crossing logs, etc. is just a way to get from point A to point B. Natural, yes, but not instinctual.

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Nope. He brings his instinct into the arena, and that instinct tells him to lift his leg on those obstacles as a way of marking new territory. And oddly enough, this instinct has nothing to do with the fact that he's a Border Collie. It has everything to do with the fact that ... he's a dog.

 

If your Border Collies are exactly like every other kind of dog in every way, then your Border Collies would bring nothing unique the Border Collie into a performance training partnership.

 

I haven't met any Border Collies like that, myself.

 

So you're saying that a completely untrained dog brings his instinct into the agility arena ... and what?

 

No. I'm saying that the Border Collie, regardless of training, does not learn and run Agility somehow independent of the instincts that he has because he's a Border Collie - not a Lab or a Golden or a toy Poodle.

 

Border Collies do not somehow morph into "all other kinds of dogs" when they step into an Agility ring. They remain Border Collies and so bring the instincts that the possess as Border Collies into their Agility.

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Regarding blank slates: Unless you know a dog has had no interaction with humans then I don't think you can classify the dog as a blank slate when it comes to training. Although the dog may appear not to know stuff, it doesn't necessarily follow that someone didn't attempt to train something or that a dog didn't learn something, intended or otherwise.

 

J.

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No, it really isn't.

 

From my perspective as someone who does Agility with Border Collies, it is simply reality, and it plays a big part in the way that I train and handle my Border Collies in Agility.

 

It's a straw man not because what you say is untrue, but because its a misrepresentation/oversimplification of what many here were saying about the relative importance of training in agility.

 

ETA whoops, RDM already addressed this. Should have refreshed the thread before responding.

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Oi. Just a few points:

 

First, anxiety, while it can be a brain chemistry problem, is not necessarily so.

 

I'm going to go with the professional diagnosis of Dean's vet on the matter.

 

Certain anxieties can be caused be life experiences, and can therefore be worked with through a behavior modification regime.

 

Sure, certain anxieties can.

 

The generalized anxiety that Dean has is not caused by life experience.

 

Behavior modification and medication helps him to cope. Neither will ever "cure" it. He will live with it throughout his life and a big part of my work with him will always be helping him to do that more and more.

 

Otherwise, every dog that gets anxious would be on medication with no hope of anything.

 

There is a significant difference between "getting anxious" and an anxiety disorder.

 

That's not to say there aren't some dogs with brain chemistry problems, I would just hate for someone reading this to think that's always the case and immediately put their dog on puppy prozac.

 

No, I would not want anyone to do that, either.

 

Seeking treatment for Dean was a decision that I took very seriously and one that I acted upon only after careful consideration, observation, and trying many of the helps for anxiety that will often do the job when a dog "gets anxious".

 

Noise phobias can be attributed to genetics, and it can also be caused by too harsh of training.

 

In this case, the dog in question never experienced harsh training.

 

In his case, an involuntary biochemical response to certain noise triggers is at the root of the problem.

 

I deal on a regular basis with people who don't know any better and think that I caused Dean's noise phobia and anxiety. We do live in a "blame the handler" culture. I realize that they don't realize that they don't have the information that they would need in order to know that his condition is not a "training problem", but instead one that is beyond either of our control.

 

I know it. His vet knows it. The people who work with us at the training center know it. And that's really all that matters.

 

I think it's good, though, for people to know that there are aspects of any dog's temperament that are actually not caused by the handler. While training can certainly have a great influence (and over the years good training has helped Dean a lot), there are some things that were neither caused by training, nor can they be trained away.

 

Of course, I've made some mistakes with him. But none that caused a severe and incurable phobia. :D

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If your Border Collies are exactly like every other kind of dog in every way, then your Border Collies would bring nothing unique the Border Collie into a performance training partnership.

 

You know full well that's not even close to what I said. Let's stick with the topic, Kristine, k?

 

Let me see if I can simplify this.

 

You said:

 

So, do you really think that implies in some way that your untrained dog is leaving all of his instincts outside the ring when he goes in to do Agility? To me that is simply nonsense.

 

Please explain what you mean in detail. Someone walks their dog up to the arena, opens the gate, lets the dog in, closes the gate behind the dog, and stands there and observes. What do you contend the person is going to see? My contention is that the dog will go up and piss on the equipment. You say that's "simply nonsense" ... and implied that he's packing "all of his instincts" with him. So what happens next? What are all of those instincts going to tell him to do?

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Regarding blank slates: Unless you know a dog has had no interaction with humans then I don't think you can classify the dog as a blank slate when it comes to training. Although the dog may appear not to know stuff, it doesn't necessarily follow that someone didn't attempt to train something or that a dog didn't learn something, intended or otherwise.

 

I'd leave that up to the person training the dog, myself.

 

The bottom line is that when adding an adult dog to my household, I prefer as little training as possible to have been done ahead of time, so I would be very unlikely to purchase a dog that I knew had been trained to some extent.

 

That a rescue dog may have unintentionally learned something that someone didn't mean to train is irrelevant.

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Please explain what you mean in detail. Someone walks their dog up to the arena, opens the gate, lets the dog in, closes the gate behind the dog, and stands there and observes. What do you contend the person is going to see? My contention is that the dog will go up and piss on the equipment. You say that's "simply nonsense" ... and implied that he's packing "all of his instincts" with him. So what happens next? What are all of those instincts going to tell him to do?

 

Actually, the way that you frame your questions does not lead me to believe that you really care to understand how the Border Collie instincts come into play in a Border Collie in an Agility context, so I am not going to get into it with you.

 

I know what I've experienced with my own Border Collies in Agility, vs. my own dog who was not a Border Collie, and in comparison to dogs of other breeds that I watch run week in and week out at classes.

 

Honestly, there is a lot about it that I can't really explain in words, but there is a difference, and that difference is in the fact that the dog is a Border Collie - not a Lab, Golden, Poodle, etc. And what sets the Border Collie apart, is the "instinct package", if you will. The Border Collie does not abandon that part of himself in the Agility ring.

 

If you are really interested in learning more about how it works, Jodi, you might want to meet with some people who run Border Collies in Agility and learn more about it. I would say that it really is something that you have to experience firsthand to really understand.

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Kristine, all I was saying is that it is not the norm. Dean's issues are not the norm. They exist yes, and it's not always the handler's fault, but it often can be.

 

I'm glad you took the time to research and help Dean. That's great!

 

Let's not discount other owners who just want a quick fix. I also know several vets who will recommend medications for dogs that don't need it. IMHO, behavior issues are best diagnosed by Veterinary Behavior Technicians. Lacking that, a good behaviorist/behavior consultant in conjunction with a vet.

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I'd leave that up to the person training the dog, myself.

This is an important point. You are using the term "blank slate" as defined solely by you and related only to your experience with dogs. That makes perfect sense. It's clear from the comments posted that most other people have a different idea of what "blank slate" means, but at least you've clarified that you're referring to your own perception of what blank slate means WRT the dogs in front of you.

 

That a rescue dog may have unintentionally learned something that someone didn't mean to train is irrelevant.

 

The point you're choosing to ignore, of course, is that someone might have intentionally trained to dog to do stuff. The dog might or might not offer those trained behaviors *to you*, but if it does not, that doesn't mean that the dog was never trained. Choosing to believe they were untrained, doesn't make it so, just as choosing to believe that whatever the dog does must have been learned inadvertently doesn't make that so either.

 

J.

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Let's not discount other owners who just want a quick fix. I also know several vets who will recommend medications for dogs that don't need it. IMHO, behavior issues are best diagnosed by Veterinary Behavior Technicians. Lacking that, a good behaviorist/behavior consultant in conjunction with a vet.

 

I'm all for thorough diagnosis.

 

I'm very much against blaming the handler for things that are not actually caused by the handler. And I see far too much of that on a regular basis. I'm probably a lot more sensitive to it because I see it so often and it is a peeve of mine. :) And, of course, I deal with it in response to Dean's noise phobia and anxiety. People who don't know just don't know, but it is still confounding when it happens.

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Root Beer -

"The very skills that Agility uses - except for weaving - are instinctive to many dogs, and, in a unique way, particularly natural to the typical Border Collie.

 

Take an off leash walk in the woods with your dog sometime. You may get to observe him or her jumping over tree limbs, crossing fallen logs across creeks, even arcing and turning and doing many of the things that dogs do on the Agility course, climbing up and over and down, etc. Not according to Agility rules, of course. But racing through a series of "obstacles" - yes, I have seen dogs that are not trained to do this, do it without training."

 

I've never owned a dog of any breed that didn't do most of those things. My cat does them too. He also gallops up ramps and does a credible job of scaling walls. And I've seen horses do everything listed here but cross streams on log bridges. Although I've seen deer and raccoons do it. (A gypsy Cob standing on top of a trailer in the middle of a pasture is a sight to see!)

 

Play is universal to most species, and it often takes the form of negotiating obstacles at speed. Watch leopards or bears. But don't show them your sheep. You may see more natural instinct that you want to. :P

 

OK, seriously. Yes, the Border Collie brings instinctual components that make him ideal for agility, but he also brings things that have no bearing on it. And I think saying he has an instinct for agility is stretching a point. I've had a couple of dogs that were eager and intuitive learners too. They almost seemed to know what I wanted before I asked for it, but none of them were Border Collies, they were simply exceptional dogs.

 

Re: blank slates. I don't believe such a thing exists. Regardless of whether or not you are teaching, a dog is learning. Some come with a little baggage, some with a lot. Some of the baggage may advance your training, some may retard it. But no pup, especially of an active, intelligent and curious breed like the Border Collie is a blank slate. By the time it's old enough to take away from its mother, a dog will have learned things, and have corresponding responses to/about what it has learned.

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Re: blank slates. I don't believe such a thing exists. Regardless of whether or not you are teaching, a dog is learning. Some come with a little baggage, some with a lot. Some of the baggage may advance your training, some may retard it. But no pup, especially of an active, intelligent and curious breed like the Border Collie is a blank slate. By the time it's old enough to take away from its mother, a dog will have learned things, and have corresponding responses to/about what it has learned.

 

Good grief, forget "blank slate".

 

How about "Untrained by a human, at least mostly, unless someone unintentionally taught the dog something, but then nobody knows because it wasn't intentional, but nobody meant to train the dog although he or she has learned things through life experience but still nobody meant to train the dog"?

 

That works for me. Blank slate is easier, but I'm not married to the term.

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You're absolutely right, Kristine! The answer is "nothing." I knew you'd come up with it!

 

Nice way to put words in my mouth that I never said or intended.

 

But if you want to believe that's what I meant, go for it. :D After all, you know far more about running Border Collies in a sport that you do not actually participate in than I do. (Yes, sarcasm)

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Didn't you retire Speedy from "live" competition because he had "arthritis" or problems focusing/etc.???

 

Yes, he has arthritis. Not sure why you put that in quotes. It's an actual physical joint condition.

 

He was getting stiff when he had to spend a lot of time in the car going to and from live competitions, so yes, I did retire him from live competition. There is absolutely no good reason to have him get stiff in the car at live events when I can do Freestyle with him by video. He enjoys it just as much and, from a physical standpoint, it is much better for him. The decision was made for his physical well being.

 

And no, it was not because of a focus issue. The issue is physical. And no, training did not cause his arthritis.

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