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


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Must. Not. Let. Thread. Die.

So, we’ve now had 25 pages of discussion on the whether the border collie’s unique ability to excel in agility is in part due to instinct, and if so, is it acceptable to people on this board to breed for that unique instinctive agility ability. I think we’ve established that no, it is not ok with the people on this board (with the exception of the OP) to breed border collies for anything other than excellence as stockdogs. There is still some debate though about whether the border collie’s unique talents in agility are at least partly instinctive, with much of the debate at this point centering around how one defines instinctive.

 

At any rate, this 25 page debate centers on the premise that border collies as a breed are uniquely suited to agility. With any luck at all we can now have a couple dozen pages devoted to defining “unique” but I will start by stating that in my opinion in order say that border collies are uniquely talented at agililty, they should be the most successful breed at the upper levels of agility competition. And not just barely more successful, but crushingly more successful. Well, say what you will about AKC (and I trust y’all will), but they are very good at keeping records of the results of dog competitions, and a lot of those records are available on their website. One might even say that AKC is uniquely talented at making doggy competition records available, although I’ve not decided how much of that is instinctive and how much has been trained.

 

So, in 2010 there were 129 border collies that earned their first MACH. The next closest breed was Shetland sheepdogs with 125 newly anointed MACH’s. Ok, so border collies “win”, but I’d hardly call that crushinly or uniquely superiority. But wait, there’s more. AKC continues to award MACH2, MACH3, etc to dogs that complete the MACH requirements for a second, third, …tenth… ad nauseaum time. If you count all the MACH’s awarded in 2010, there were 272 MACH’s awarded to border collies, including a MACH19. Yowza. I’ll bet those barky little shelties got crushed when one looks at the number of repeat MACH’s. Yup. In fact the little yappers were awarded 301 MACH’s including a MACH22. Oops.

 

Ah, but 2010 is probably an anomaly. If so, 2007, 2008, and 2009 are also anomalies, because the details vary but the trend is the same for those three years as well. Besides the one 2010 MACH19 border collie, there was a MACH16 awarded to a border collie in 2009 (probably the same dog?). Are there other breeds that have earned MACH 16’s or higher, you ask? Why yes, as a matter of fact, in addition to border collies and shelties, a MACH16 or better has been earned by a papillon, a Welsh terrier, a cairn terrier, and a (wait for it)….. beagle since 2007. In the four years that I looked at records the highest MACH awarded was a MACH28 , earned by a papillon. That would be 9 MACH’s higher than the highest MACH earned by a border collie in the same 4 year period. None of this is meant to be the least bit deprecating to the border collie, which I totally agree is the awesomest stockdog in the galaxy. But that stockdog awesomeness doesn’t appear to make them any more uniquely talented at agility than are dogs bred to bark or bay incessantly, chase bunnies, kill mice, or look adorable sitting in your lap.

 

To summarize: select for awesome beagle or papillon or cairn terrier agility dogs if you must, but leave agility out of breeding decisions for border collies.

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To be fair, you need to look at how people are defining 'success' in agility. The MACH title was set up to be an all breed title, so requirements were set such that pretty much any breed would be able to attain it. The dog needs to be at least moderately speedy and moderately consistent, but does not need to be outstanding and does not need to win (or even place in the top 4) to get points. So those who can show 'moderate or better' ability over and over again will get multiple MACHs relatively easily. It becomes more a matter of how often the person shows (and indirectly therefore how much money and time they have to spend on agility). It doesn't necessarily mean the dog is an agility genius.

 

 

Most fast dogs up in the border collie speed range typically have WAY more points than they need for a MACH and it's the double Q requirement that's the limiting factor. You need to qualify in both standard and jumpers classes on the same day to get a double Q, so there's a consistency requirement in addition to speed. One little error on one course that day and no double Q. To put it briefly, 'speed kills'. The faster and more responsive the dog, the easier it is to make a split second error in communication.The more quickly the dog reacts, the less time you have to fix it before it becomes a fatal mistake. A fast moving dog on a course with a lot of turns also has more potential to drop bars and have a nonqualifying run. Potential off-course 'traps' are also way more enticing to a fast moving big-strided dog with a lot of obstacle focus (i.e. typical border collie) - they are often mentally engaging that 'wrong' obstacle while still on their way to the preceding one, and it takes a very good handler to time it correctly and communicate to take the correct one but not the wrong one that follows it. A less driven dog thinks one obstacle at a time and may not even see that wrong obstacle as an option. A smaller dog has so many strides to get even close to the wrong obstacle that the handler has a huge window to communicate the turn. With a border collie you have to simultaneously communicate 'take that jump but shorten your stride and prepare to turn right immediately after it', whereas with a slower or smaller dog you can say 'take that jump' then after they land you can say 'now turn'. So I'm not at all surprised that some of the more moderate speed (but not slow) breeds could easily be more successful than a border collie at getting a lot of MACH titles for the average moderately-skilled handler/trainer. Not only is all that agility brilliance wasted on mere MACH titles, but in a lot of cases it actually becomes a detriment.

 

 

But if you look at the dogs who have been on the large dog World Team from the US (and many other countries) for the past several years, you'll see almost exclusively border collies (some countries I also see quite a few Belgians). If you look at USDAA agility stats for dogs WINNING classes (not number of titles) you'll see a very high percentage of border collies. If you look at the top winners at AKC and USDAA Nationals (20" and 22" classes) you'll see all or mostly all border collies. Even in AKC, look at the Excellent B 20" class (the height class that most border collies fall into) from just about any well-attended trial and class after class it's not at all uncommon to see the top four placings all going to border collies. So people who want to WIN, especially at the very top levels (like World Team or Nationals) are at a competitive disadvantage with any other breed. Now there are RARE individuals from other breeds who can compete with the top border collies. But someone looking to win and buying a puppy and wanting as much of a sure thing as they can get is most likely going to be looking at a border collie. They are uniquely suited to the brilliance required to win at the top competitions.

 

 

I still think the 'average' agility competitor doesn't really need (and couldn't handle) the true agility genius. What I see is a lot of handlers get into agility and then become attracted to border collies not necessarily because they have a better chance to win, but because they are so driven and so fun to work with and easy to motivate. Many of these people are coming from breeds where they had to work at getting the dog to see them and the activity as more valuable than the interesting smelling dirt on the floor or the interesting people sitting around the ring. Also there is something exhilarating about trying to handle at those speeds and with a dog so responsive. I know I would be supremely bored running a slower dog and having worked with a border collie I would not have the patience for a dog who had to be 'tricked' into following my plan or thinking it was fun.

 

 

I still don't think they should be bred for agility. They seem to have done pretty well at it without breeding for it specifically. And most people don't need that level of dog anyway. Why risk ruining the breed for the sake of a handful of agility competitors at the top levels, when the average competitor is getting exactly what they need from what the working breedings already produce?

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But if you look at the dogs who have been on the large dog World Team from the US (and many other countries) for the past several years, you'll see almost exclusively border collies (some countries I also see quite a few Belgians). If you look at USDAA agility stats for dogs WINNING classes (not number of titles) you'll see a very high percentage of border collies. If you look at the top winners at AKC and USDAA Nationals (20" and 22" classes) you'll see all or mostly all border collies. Even in AKC, look at the Excellent B 20" class (the height class that most border collies fall into) from just about any well-attended trial and class after class it's not at all uncommon to see the top four placings all going to border collies. So people who want to WIN, especially at the very top levels (like World Team or Nationals) are at a competitive disadvantage with any other breed. Now there are RARE individuals from other breeds who can compete with the top border collies. But someone looking to win and buying a puppy and wanting as much of a sure thing as they can get is most likely going to be looking at a border collie. They are uniquely suited to the brilliance required to win at the top competitions.

 

Very, very nicely put, Diana!! Like, like, and like!! :)

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Found this site, listing world teams from the US since 1996: http://usagilityteam.com/teams/

 

Small dogs are almost exclusively shelties with the occasional papillon thrown in, until you get way back the first couple years when things were less competitive and then there was a beagle and a cocker a few times. Medium dogs were almost all shelties, with a pyr shepherd and large papillon in now and again. Large dogs were 100 % border collies all the way back to 2004. Then 2003 and back you see all BCs and one particular Aussie (Suni) who was an oustanding and unusual example of her breed, with a body type more suggestive of a working type aussie (I do not know her breeding for sure, but I've seen her run many times and if she had a tail I would have thought she was a border collie). Go way back to 1998 through 1996 (when the US first started running World Team) and you do see a malinois and a golden in there along with the border collies. So in the early days other breeds could compare but the border collies were still more than 50% of the team. In later years as things get tighter and more competitive, the other breeds just couldn't rise to the task and border collies completely shut them out.

 

For Large Dog Teams:

 

2011 - All border collie

2010 - All border collie

2009 - All border collie

2008 - All border collie

2007 - All border collie

2006 - All border collie

2005 - All border collie

2004 - All border collie

2003 - Border collies and one aussie (Suni)

2002 - Border collies and one aussie (Suni)

2001 - Border collies and one aussie (Suni)

2000 - Border collies and one aussie (Suni)

1999 - Border collies and one aussie (Suni)

1998 - Three border collies and one golden

1997 - Two border collies, one golden, one belgian malinois

1996 - Two border collies, one golden, one belgian malinois

 

Border collies absolutely crush the other breeds at the very top levels.

 

That still doesn't mean you should breed for agility. It just goes to show how amazing of a dog has been created by breeding for work.

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It would be interesting to see how many of the top agility dogs are bred by working breeders and how many are bred by sporter collie breeders, and if breeding for agility is actually producing the super agility dogs the sporter collie community dreams of.

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This has been one of the most exasperating and bizarre threads I have encountered in my 2 years on the Border Collie Boards.

 

It's also been one of the most interesting, informative, thought-provoking and entertaining ones.

 

Party on, Bill & Ted!

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Thanks for looking up the details Diana, I was composing a post, but you hunted down the stats. For those not involved in the sport it is important to remember that AKC agility is intended to be inclusive of all breeds, to get an ADCH in usdaa you have to beat other dogs, to get A MACH you have to get cleans runs winning does not get you extra points, or win you money. USDAA trials are like a convention of border collies and shelties, with other athletic breeds mixed in. In the uk where you have to win to move up a class (in the US in all flavors of agility you move up class through clean runs) border collies dominate, and there are ABC classes (Anything But Collies)

I have only played agility with border collies, so have nothing to compare it to, but the rush of running my blazing fast athletic young dog is amazing. My older dog was not turned on by the sport (or at least with me, he is my husbands dog) so this is new to me, and I am on a huge learning curve to learn to drive my Ferrari. In class I have the only Border Collie, and the difference is very striking, focus, handler focus, speed and agility. For me the dog that was created to work the moors has all the characteristics needed for agility, but why would you breed for anything other than working ability as it would be so easy to loose the very things we want in our agility partners.

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I have only played agility with border collies, so have nothing to compare it to, but the rush of running my blazing fast athletic young dog is amazing.

 

It's worth taking dogs of other breeds for a spin if you have Agility friends who enjoy swapping dogs. I always come away from it, even when the dog is very well trained and I enjoy the run, appreciating what my Border Collies bring to the working partnership, whether that be in Agility or another discipline.

 

The only way that I can describe it is that there is a certain "spark" missing.

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Hmmm... I'm not so sure of all of that. And all here that follows is based on my personal experience.

 

The only "spark" I ever feel is when I'm working my own dogs. Maverick running a course because he loves it brings me to tears sometimes because I know if we did any serious agility training, he would be in almost constant pain. He's slower than KZ, but he puts his whole heart into it and needs great timing on directions from me to make the obstacles or else we lose even more time. I could get him to go faster, but then we would be inviting injury because of his back legs, and winning first, or even placing, doesn't mean that much to me to cause my dog pain. He runs for fun on the equipment I've made, and that's enough. Before I figured out the thing with his legs, I pushed him, and he gave me his all and more.

 

Kellie was fast and kept me on my toes because she seemed to think three obstacles ahead, and would do them in the manner she desired unless I told her otherwise far enough in advance. I still felt a connection because she was my dog... and my heart dog at that. KZ is working her way. We'll see how she is on the course since I just started her on some of the obstacles.

 

Meanwhile, Rogue, my niece's aussie, can match KZ for speed and agility and focus, and actually jumps higher than KZ. But, Rogue is my niece's dog, and I don't feel any spark when I run her. It's the same with my niece when she runs any dog other than Rogue. And again, the same thing with my other niece when she runs Max. Max will pour his heart into the agility run for his owner, but no one else, and when he does that, he is fast. Oh yeah, Max is an All American Heinz 57 dog and he regularly beats border collies in agility, obedience, and rally. He and my niece have more first places than I can count in the venues he's allowed to run in. Even if we put the adult divisions in on the same course, Max still wins with a perfect score and the fastest time. Like Maverick, Max is so completely devoted to his owner that he gives his all and more. We'll never see him in any world championships though because he isn't purebred.

 

I think that special spark has more to do with the dog/handler relationship than just the dog. As a person, border collies appeal to me because I too am a thinker and I like mental puzzles; however, there are other breeds I can see similar intelligence in and I might consider owning when I'm rich, retired, and have a lot more time. There are other dogs and dog breeds that I personally think are dumb as rocks... and that sentence just might be insulting to rocks.

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The only "spark" I ever feel is when I'm working my own dogs . . .

 

I think that special spark has more to do with the dog/handler relationship than just the dog.

 

There is definitely something special about working with one's own dog. Of course that has pride of place when it comes to the most meaningful work that I do with dogs. Nothing compares (for me), especially when extreme challenges have been overcome and every accomplishment is a milestone.

 

That kind of "spark" is certainly going to be there be there between a dog and handler with the right chemistry, regardless of the dog's breed.

 

But the "spark" to which I referred is something different, something that I find to be there even when I'm working with, or running, someone else's Border Collie. It's not the same as running my own dog, but I find that there is definitely something there that is not there with dogs of other breeds - not even Shelties. And it's not really about the dog's intelligence or level of drive or Agility skills or training or, it is that "Border Collie-ness" that I've never come across in a dog of any other breed.

 

Like you, I can only speak to my own experience, but I have found that it is consistent.

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Perhaps then it's that most of the border collies in the training places I've been have been bred for either sport or show, which would just further prove the point not to breed for anything other than stock work.

 

I just don't see that special something you're talking about when I've run other borders, and with KZ, it's still too early for me to make any suppositions, but maybe someone with more experience in other dog breeds can expand upon it.

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Thanks KelliePup - that was very well put. I agree that there is something amazing about the BC as a breed and they bring unique and amazing attributes to the table. But I know others who have felt the same type of spark with their dog of another breed that I have with my BCs - I can see it watching them work. Who am I to tell them that the bond they have with their dog is lacking something because it isn't a BC?

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But I know others who have felt the same type of spark with their dog of another breed that I have with my BCs - I can see it watching them work. Who am I to tell them that the bond they have with their dog is lacking something because it isn't a BC?

 

I believe I was very clear that I was not speaking about the bond between dog and handler, but about my own personal observation of different dogs that I have run or worked with. I am talking about the dogs themselves, not about any dog's relationship with his or her person.

 

Please refer to what I actually said: (bold added for emphasis)

 

But the "spark" to which I referred is something different, something that I find to be there even when I'm working with, or running, someone else's Border Collie.

 

Is that clear to you now?

 

I really find it surprising that anyone who owns, lives with, and/or trains Border Collies really does not observe quite a few very obvious characteristic distinctions between Border Collies dogs of other breeds.

 

I certainly do, and I know other Border Collie owners who do, and I even know quite a few people who don't own Border Collies who do. But if you don't, you don't.

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I still have to wonder if it's not the fact that certain breeds appeal to people. I've two friends that talk the exact same way about their dachshunds, and others who will say the same of labs, goldens, corgis, weims, and a whole host of others. It might have more to do with a person's mentality and personal preference.

 

Take my bf. Mav, Lily and Roxie (especially Roxie) appeal to him because of their personalities. KZ, on the other hand, he failed miserably with because there was no connection between him and border collies. He's better with chows and I've heard the same speech from him about how special chows are, that they're different and have a special spark about them that he can't explain.

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So many great posts!!! I actually typed this up earlier today and have been going back and forth about posting it. Anyway, here it goes.

 

My house has seen a fair amount of dogs come and go. I have had the great honor of having dogs that I bred 5 generations back. I can tell you all about them. I have bought dogs (pups as well as adults) and rescued (pups and adults as well). I have snooped around training in enough different areas to be just dangerous enough. Over the years I have learned what my personality clicks with best. And yet I get surprises all the time. As with my current new boy that I purchased at 3 years old with more training than any of my dogs ever. I bought him for a purpose and he is going so far beyond that. :blink:

 

Add to that fact that I have had Mals, Aussies, Kelpies, Heelers come through here (most of them rescues or rehomes)and of course my two most favorite breeds, with the Border Collies being my first love and my Germans running a close second. B) All of those dogs have one thing in common though - they are all herding breeds!!! B)

 

So having said that, one of the dogs here that can kick a.. in agility (not the sport) and speed is NOT a Border Collie but a mutt. No Border Collie anywhere in her and mentally a fruitcake that would not do well outside of home for the most part. My west/east/czech/french bred German Shepherd has EVERY trait my favorite Border Collie has PLUS her own. Just as my favorite Border Collie has every trait the German has and her own as well. And I LOVE that fact! I am getting a bit fed up with the idea that only Border Collies are special. They are not. And they are not! For us they are sure enough! They ARE the premier stockdog as a breed but individually they are just the same as any other breed. With dogs that are truly outstanding for their breed as well as dogs that are a true mishap of their breed. But I certainly know that not every Border Collie I have ever had here would be welcome back with open arms. The ones that are, not because they are Border Collies. But because they are a dog I liked.

One handler may prefer the Border Collie in S&R for his experience. Maybe the dog he had before that was not his strong suit. Who knows. I have the kind of dog that has to have its nose up my rear all the time and the ones that don't - in both breeds that live with me. So what! Based on my personal preferences, I will never consider a lab or a dalmation for my house. Not happening. Just as much as one of my best friends who runs a lab rescue here would never take in a Border Collie to her home.

 

Any agile, fast, biddable dog that enjoys interactions with the handler plus the handlers ability to time commands, to lead, to show and to read his/her dog well properly can make a great agility team. The HANDLER/DOG combo is the reason why many great dogs never get to the level they could and others do. When that magic cross comes along it is pure pleasure to watch! To me, a dog does not even have to be the brightest to do well in the play based sports. As long as the dog has good nerves (i.e. good with different surfaces and environments etc.), has toy or food drive (to motivate sharp turns etc.), has a good awareness of its body and the desire to work with its handler, AND it has the right handler, it has all it needs to do well. Problem solving ability may or may not be as important depending on how dog and handler use it in a game. And yes, I know that sound inflammatory but I really don't mean it in a bad sense. Of course we all think our dogs are the smartest and of course they are! :D And of course we are in love with our Border Collies for the reason that so many fit those criteria. But not all do either!

 

geonni banner wrote:

Play is universal to most species, and it often takes the form of negotiating obstacles at speed.

To me personally that quote right there strikes a cord. It is the very core of the game of agility. It is fun! It is hard work! It builds strong bonds!

 

 

Training is solely based on motivation. And this is obviously true for the agility dogs as well. If a dog understands that by taking the shortest, physically possible route while still remaining on course (they don't know the course but understand that don't follow the leader then no reward - follow the leader - reward) it will get them the desired reward quicker (be that a toy or treat or simple pat) it will make them as fast as their physical ability will allow them. Mind and body combo!

 

To me this holds true for many breeds. Not just the Border collie.I will consider the thought that maybe a breed that is closer to still being a true working dog can maybe use the mind it has a bit better and quicker. Therefore being a bit tighter in its response. But one thing I also wonder is the fact that agility is run in different divisions. Sorted by size. I have seen some kicka.. runs by Pappillions, Terriers and other breeds. Sure, the large dog divisions that include the Border Collies seem to be the most desirable to win but still....

 

The motivations for the dogs working sheep are not that clear cut to me. Because they are genetic. The motivation for dogs to work sheep properly for a human is a bit more understandable to me. It is genetics shaped by humans for the humans purpose of working stock. Shaped by use in the field, on the hill. Selected on the job - for the job - by the person doing the job.

 

I also believe in my heart, that if we ever get to the point where the Border Collie will be bred only by selection at standardized trials (as it has happened largely for the German Shepherd for example), the breed will change as well. And not for the better. Which is why it is so important to me to see dogs actually work on ranches and farms. Sports call out trainers that train for sports and breed for sports. And based on many examples in other sports, even other species, this is not always the best. As the sport of herding gains popularity (as it is undoubtedly) it worries me just a bit!

 

As always, only my 0.02 cents!

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I still have to wonder if it's not the fact that certain breeds appeal to people.

 

Of course, certain breeds appeal to people. There are definitely people who out and out dislike Border Collies, so obviously what appeals to me (and others) in the Border Collie completely turns some other people off.

 

I'm not really talking about personal preference, though. I am talking about the dogs themselves. Those who do not like Border Collies can observe the same characteristics, although they usually express those observations in a more negative way. :P Like "we want an anything but a Border Collie division" and "can someone please post a routine performed by something other than a brilliant Border Collie?" and "you don't really know how to train a dog to (insert behavior) because you've only trained Border Collies to do it". Those people actually see the same thing that I see in these particular dogs in spite of the fact that they decidedly do not prefer them.

 

Obviously, however, I cannot express what I am trying to describe in words. I am grateful, though, that even if I can't describe it, I have the been blessed with the gift of three Border Collies that bring the whole package of what they are as Border Collies into our work together each day.

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It's late, I should be asleep and I was replying on my phone. I suppose that that might lead to a lack of clarity on my part ;) So I'll try this once more on a computer

 

I believe I was very clear that I was not speaking about the bond between dog and handler, but about my own personal observation of different dogs that I have run or worked with. I am talking about the dogs themselves, not about any dog's relationship with his or her person.

 

Please refer to what I actually said: (bold added for emphasis)

 

Actually I was referring to what KelliePup said, but it's kinda hard to directly quote from a 4 y/o phone. I though she made a good point.

 

But I'll reply to your idea now - Yes, I have seen other dogs, and worked with a couple, that emitted a spark like I have felt with my Border Collies. They want to learn, they want to work, they want to figure out a puzzle, they are in tune to a person. They bring something to the table that isn't quite there in other dogs. I have heard others describe their dogs and it sure sounds similar. But I haven't directly felt it in the cases I've only heard described.

 

I've also seen people who have trained a few dogs than trained a BC go back to a previous breed after the BC. Obviously they didn't quite feel that many here feel about Border Collies.

 

And people make the same type "spark" comments about other breeds too. They feel that their breed brings something to the table that is just not there in other breeds. And they'd never try a different breed because of it. It's a difference in opinion based on personal experience.

 

I really find it surprising that anyone who owns, lives with, and/or trains Border Collies really does not observe quite a few very obvious characteristic distinctions between Border Collies dogs of other breeds.

 

I do some obvious characteristic differences, but I do not see things quite the same way you do and have stated as much. I don't see a spark exclusive to the breed on an across the board. It's a difference in opinion based on my experiences. I'm not sure why that would be surprising :huh:

 

I'll also go on to say that out of three Border Collies, I've felt differences in what they bring to the table so to speak. Missy seemed practically human. My other two not so much. I used to say that Missy was just good and the other two, well, they were dogs. After having Missy I couldn't understand how anyone would want another breed. But I haven't felt that same level of connection with Kipp and Kenzi. I love them, they're fun to train and work with, I wouldn't trade them for anything, but it still feels like there's something missing with them that I felt with Missy. Is it them or is it my perspective? I don't know.

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Of course, certain breeds appeal to people. There are definitely people who out and out dislike Border Collies, so obviously what appeals to me (and others) in the Border Collie completely turns some other people off.

 

I'm not really talking about personal preference, though. I am talking about the dogs themselves. Those who do not like Border Collies can observe the same characteristics, although they usually express those observations in a more negative way. :P Like "we want an anything but a Border Collie division" and "can someone please post a routine performed by something other than a brilliant Border Collie?" and "you don't really know how to train a dog to (insert behavior) because you've only trained Border Collies to do it". Those people actually see the same thing that I see in these particular dogs in spite of the fact that they decidedly do not prefer them.

 

How can we then be so sure that they're not talking about the speed with which a border collie just flies through the course? Or the apparent ease that borders have in learning with the right handler? Or maybe it's not really the breed, but the "smug arrogance" of border collie owners (my apologies, only repeating what I have heard)?

 

I'll admit, there are some breeds that it takes me a while to train, but I've seen those same breeds learn something very quickly with a different trainer who understands that breed and knows their motivations. You can be sure that dog it giving its all, but might not be as physically capable of some of the same maneuvers.

 

I belong to an all breed club. I'll hear things like "wow, she's fast!" and "you've really been working with him/her." Specific breeds really don't come into the mix. We're encouraging and supportive of all, and never, not once, does anyone say this breed is better than that breed. Every unique dog is special because of their backgrounds, because they are loved, and because they give everything they have and more to their owners and vis versa. Through this club, I'm learning even more how to train and react with other breeds by utilizing their natural attributes and motivations. That's partly why I say I see sparks in all of them, not just borders. For many of them at the higher levels, the difference I see has more to do with physical capabilities than anything else.

 

 

ETA: Wow, this thread certainly has taken several interesting turns!

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I re-post Gloria’s video link which explains why from Square One I’ve always said that sheepherding is the most beautiful, the most awesome of all and is the only true “work”. This is undeniable.

 

 

These educational videos which Gloria posted are what speak a thousand words and what this thread needs…and any other videos that people can help provide to demonstrate the art and techniques of a working stock dog. That is a major part of the “bridge”. Just like Geonni wrote very thoughtfully and carefully and tried to break down the clay analogy of why agility fails and has certain issues involved in that genetic process. And Diana just posted an absolutely brilliant response to agility "talents" and what it is composed of. Folks go back to page 23 and re-read every single one of Diane's lines if you are curious about what a talented border collie is like with agility versus sheepherding instincts

 

But I just say once-in-a-blue moon a very special agility Border Collie will come along....You see Will Rolfe's dog is very uncommon for an agility Border Collie. What there is if people have patience and really look super carefully, watch the eyes, and body movements of the dog, and where it is landing when it takes those jumps and compare it with the other border collies, When it is taking the dogwalk and the teeter, watch and listen to how it is trying to spread the pacing of its feet before it reaches its contact zone. The other border collies are striding with as long and as powerfully of a line as they can and the rhythm of the footwork is a bit different.(page 20) There are a few border collies that are using the pushing drive on the dogwalk so you can see strong elements that indeed these are border collies and no other dog running. NO OTHER DOG CAN PUSH AND GLIDE AND CREATE ITS OWN DISTANCE CALCULATIONS THE WAY A BORDER COLLIE IS ABLE TO DO!!! Back to Rolfe's Border Collie, it almost seems to be listening for the pattern of its own feet, watch the carriage of the ears and how close the head is slunk downwards. Note especially the teeter. You really have to watch super close. Then watch the lean and tilt as it jumps and how close and tight it lands. Look at the handler who is further apart than the other handlers, and it's when the handler holds back versus the other handlers-- other handlers have a more panicked movement because indeed running with a border collie is like trying to steer a Ferrari (as someone else described) in a James Bond movie (if it's a champion dog). Will Rolfe's dog preserves the closest (in superficial appearance) to the working genes than the other border collies. Note I said "appears" just from an artist's comparison of how it is moving. Only border collies can flex-accelerate as well, and all the border collies, not just Rolfe's display this unique acceleration point and cutting turns and crossovers. NO OTHER BREED IS CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING HOW TO DO THIS. Watch any other agility breed running - absolutely no other dog can run the same style, the same intensity and accuracy that a border colllie agility dog will, no breed knows how to calculate the distance so effectively and so brilliantly. More critically, the agility B.C. is incapable of excelling without those original Border Collie working genes. And in every champion agility dog there is that spark, that fire in their eyes. They love being with their handler. You take them and isolate them away from their handler, and give them their favorite agility equipment, they will immediately flop on the ground and wait, border collie fashion, staring and waiting for their handler to tell them what to do next. Only then does the magic return back to their eyes when they are rejoined by their handler.

 

I look at Amelia's link here:

 

and I can see all the lean, the genetic movement. What I don't see with the agility border collies is all the working sheep dog's complexity, the full deepness, the range of brainwork being utilized...It's the genre which fails the border collie. Without the working sheep genre, this special heritage, the border collie will become less keen, less sensitive, less intelligent, less perceptive (the Russian Fox experiment). But agility does indeed work components of the border collies' brains, but it's only a faint shadow, that's its failings. That's why, for a city-slicker, you have to actively engage other parts of training besides agility and never go outside the working lines. To go outside of the working lines can indeed destroy us....But to compare us with conformation is extremely hurtful and painful to us serious agility folks. For heaven's sakes, conformation doesn't utilize any brains, any intelligence, any drive, nothing! a big fat zero! To group us in that same category is hurtful to us. We are not Barbie Border Collies! We are not breeding for looks or physical characteristics. We want the intelligence, the biddability, the keenness, the grace, the power and the heart of the Border Collie. The only physical characteristics we ever are concerned about is hip dysplasia and vision problems because of safety and suffering factors, and hip dysplasia and vision problems should be likewise as strong of a concern to the sheepherding community too. Physical problems give suffering to our dogs. They will continue to lay their lives down for us, and sometimes we do not realize how much suffering they've endured until often too late!

 

Serena wrote: Maralynn, the reason why I chose the border collie is because they are the mirror of the best of ourselves....the drive, the dedication, the unfailing courage, I love the border collie for its brilliance- the brilliance and work ethic yes even the workaholism-all of which I identify with, the tenacity, the never-give-up attitude no matter the odds (rain-sleet-snow-blazing heat, fatigue, fighting out the headachey sheep, and the beautiful precision of coralling the sheep, tireless, committed--- all those extremely challenging duties), the persistence of the border collie, just like I work so hard to be the best artist I could be...A border collie will lay its life down, it tries soooo hard. It has such a tremendous heart, this dog....and I cherish the breed for this reason first and foremost. The second very minor reason is that deep physical connection, they move as [one with us].

 

What got lost in the translation is that I still love agility and I love the special people in agility hundreds, yes even thousands of miles away who brought joy into my life so that I could be the best handler I could be in spite of all the learning disabilities. These are personal stories, just like the AKC agility dog with cancer in the wheelchair on page 22, trialing for the love of its handler. You can read all of the devotion in the Border Collie's eyes. There are personal stories of struggles, heartache, as well as overcoming all odds. What must continue is the protection of the border collie breed. The common bridge is humanity, making mistakes, trying to undo mistakes, the whole works, folks! Just like I urge whenever possible that people do things the Eileen, Gloria way and to know that us agility folks should not breed. Only in extremely rare, extremely difficult to attain circumstances would agility breeding be possible, but as Geonni has started to note, this is near impossible to reach and therefore agility breeding would be near non-existent under those standards that I had outlined. The border collie is a very precious gift that was given to us agility folks, a treasure in our lives that we must honor and respect and love! We must never take this for granted or abuse what has been given to us. That is why I’m the black-and-white zebra over here. Indeed there are some agility people who will not tolerate a zebra who has never bred nor will ever breed in her lifetime telling them what to do about their lines. But there are many who can indeed understand the Boards’ stance too! Do not! give up on us!!!

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I believe I was very clear that I was not speaking about the bond between dog and handler, but about my own personal observation of different dogs that I have run or worked with. I am talking about the dogs themselves, not about any dog's relationship with his or her person.

 

Please refer to what I actually said: (bold added for emphasis)

 

 

 

Is that clear to you now?

 

I really find it surprising that anyone who owns, lives with, and/or trains Border Collies really does not observe quite a few very obvious characteristic distinctions between Border Collies dogs of other breeds.

 

I certainly do, and I know other Border Collie owners who do, and I even know quite a few people who don't own Border Collies who do. But if you don't, you don't.

 

 

I am an Aussie person not the breed ring Aussies the real ones

Anyway long as I have had them none have compared to the BC I now have 1 BC

I will have many more during my life if I am able

I cannot express the joy he gives me with his can do personality also game for anything hes just a joy

to play with,train or just observe.

I dearly hope that with people on this board involved that breed will be maintained for its agift to have such a wonderful animal.

 

My BC is working stock not show bred I have friends with Barbie Collies there is a difference.

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And people make the same type "spark" comments about other breeds too. They feel that their breed brings something to the table that is just not there in other breeds. And they'd never try a different breed because of it. It's a difference in opinion based on personal experience.

This is a good expression of what I have been trying to put into words in my mind. Or, stated otherwise, is it the dog/breed, or is it the person/people who make the difference?

 

Every breed or type, every dog, brings something unique into the partnership, just like every person or every activity does. On the other hand, every breed or type, every dog, every person, every activity tends to supply some commonalities.

 

Border Collies may be gifted in their qualities that allow many to be outstanding, and those gifts are a result of breeding for the work - speed, stamina, biddability, intelligence, soundness, athleticism, intuitiveness ("reading" stock and people and situations), and so on.

 

I'm not sure where the current discussion is going - maybe it can be summed up in "your mileage may vary".

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...But I just say once-in-a-blue moon a very special agility Border Collie will come along....You see Will Rolfe's dog is very uncommon for an agility Border Collie...Just like I urge whenever possible that people do things the Eileen, Gloria way and to know that us agility folks should not breed. Only in extremely rare, extremely difficult to attain circumstances would agility breeding be possible, but as Geonni has started to note, this is near impossible to reach and therefore agility breeding would be near non-existent under those standards that I had outlined...

But no matter what else you say, you always come back to "the exception to the rule" (my variation on your bold type) - and that's where we will continue to disagree. To breed responsibly, there should be no exception to the rule, and the rule is "to breed for the work", and agility prowess is not "the work".

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How can we then be so sure that they're not talking about the speed with which a border collie just flies through the course? Or the apparent ease that borders have in learning with the right handler? Or maybe it's not really the breed, but the "smug arrogance" of border collie owners (my apologies, only repeating what I have heard)?

 

When I put together what I see and experience for myself, based on work I've done with my own Border Collies and non-Border Collies, and with other people's Border Collies and non-Border Collies, and the vast extent of the comments, such as I've referenced, all I can say is that I know what I've observed, experienced, and learned.

 

If I ever experience, firsthand, a dog of another breed that has the exact "Border Collie-ness" (for lack of a better descriptor) that I'm talking about, then I'll change my position, but that hasn't happened and honestly, I don't expect it to.

 

I'll admit, there are some breeds that it takes me a while to train, but I've seen those same breeds learn something very quickly with a different trainer who understands that breed and knows their motivations. You can be sure that dog it giving its all, but might not be as physically capable of some of the same maneuvers.

 

I'm not really talking about trainability or motivation. That is part of the package of most Border Collies, but it is not exactly what I'm talking about. It is more what the Border Collie brings into the picture than what the trainer brings. Of course, some trainers can bring out the best in any dog more readily than others. Yet the dog still remains, essentially, what he or she is.

 

I belong to an all breed club. I'll hear things like "wow, she's fast!" and "you've really been working with him/her." Specific breeds really don't come into the mix. We're encouraging and supportive of all, and never, not once, does anyone say this breed is better than that breed.

 

And that's not really what I'm talking about, either. To say that the Border Collie is distinct, in many ways, from dogs of other breeds is not saying that the Border Collie is "better".

 

Yes, I consider the Border Collie to be "better". If I didn't think so, I would own whatever I considered to be "better". And I would fully expect that a Sheltie enthusiast would consider the Sheltie to be in some way "better" and the Terrier person to consider the Terrier to be in some way "better", even while we all enjoy many dogs of other breeds, also. Yet, what I'm talking about would still be true of the Border Collie. It's not a matter of "better".

 

It's not preference, it is what the Border Collie is. Again, some love them, some hate them, some are indifferent.

 

Every unique dog is special because of their backgrounds, because they are loved, and because they give everything they have and more to their owners and vis versa.

 

And every individual dog is also special because of who he or she is and what the dog brings into the partnership. That is not really what I am talking about, either. It's not "specialness" in that regard.

 

I get the impression that you think I am talking about a value judgment, and I'm not. "Different", "unique", "bringing something different to the table" - those terms simply express a distinction. And while my personal preference is for Border Collies, my preferences do not make the Border Collie what it is.

 

Through this club, I'm learning even more how to train and react with other breeds by utilizing their natural attributes and motivations. That's partly why I say I see sparks in all of them, not just borders. For many of them at the higher levels, the difference I see has more to do with physical capabilities than anything else.

 

So, our experience has been different. My work and observation of many dogs of other breeds has led me to conclude that Border Collies are quite different in ways that go beyond physical capabilities, or trainability, or motivation, etc.

 

I totally understand that you have drawn a different conclusion, and I hope that sharing opposite perspectives has been helpful to both of us in some way.

 

ETA: Wow, this thread certainly has taken several interesting turns!

 

It really has!! :)

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So, our experience has been different. My work and observation of many dogs of other breeds has led me to conclude that Border Collies are quite different in ways that go beyond physical capabilities, or trainability, or motivation, etc.

 

I wonder if this is simply because of all the dogs you have observed, the Border Collies retained the most working instincts as compared to the amount of working instincts retained by the other breeds of dogs you have observed. I wonder if you would also see something unique in working bred dogs of other breeds.

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