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


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Anyway, in the UK you will also get far more sheepherding folks involved with agility because distance traveled is much shorter, there are tons of opportunities for sheepherding folks and agility folks to interact amongst each other and to rub elbows and be “neighbors” and trade information. You don’t get this in the U.S….

 

Serena, you are stating as a fact something you have heard but do not know. Although I'm always wary of drawing conclusions about how things are in other countries, from what I have actually seen in the UK, this is simply not true. Yes, there are some working border collie people who do agility, but they are pretty few and much fewer than you are suggesting. It's quite true that geographical distances are shorter in the UK, but geographical distance is not what keeps sheepherding folks from getting involved in agility. Mostly, it's lack of interest and lack of time. A British sheepdogger is much more likely to take advantage of the distance factor by going to another sheepdog trial than by taking up an unrelated, time-consuming sport and dividing his/her trialing time between the two.

 

Also, you seem to be under the impression that if a dog is introduced at Crufts as "a working sheepdog," that means the dog actually works livestock. Not so. "Working sheepdog" is simply the term the Kennel Club uses to designate a border collie who is not a KC-pedigreed Border Collie. Border Collie Rescue (UK) puts it this way: "As far as the KC is concerned only dogs from their registered bloodlines can be described as Border Collies - the rest they call 'working sheepdogs' and can be registered for competition as such." The dog may never have seen a sheep in its life.

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Serena, you are stating as a fact something you have heard but do not know.

This also is true for what Serena quoted as part of a discussion she's having with some people in the UK. Those statements astound me, considering they come from someone who has already admitted that she knows little to nothing about working dogs. And yet you presume, Serena, to tell other people what working dogs and farmers do. Can you see how that makes it virtually impossible for people to take your arguments seriously? When you make assertions about things with which you have no experience, how can you expect people to believe you?

 

I don't expect that you'll actually answer these questions, but I'm hoping you'll understand how it will be impossible for you to ever build any bridge when you're in the habit of making assumptions that are so often wrong, and perhaps even offensive to the very people you claim to be speaking for.

 

J.

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I'm amazed that this thread is still being perpetuated. Also kicking myself for not resisting replying to this.

 

Nowhere did I suggest that Serena isn't capable of taking part in a discussion. My beef is with people who don't recognise that people can be different from them - not inferior, just different.

 

My apologies if I misunderstood you. Like I said, I made sure to get a second and third opinion before I replied (without prompting of course), so I was trying to avoid misunderstanding. I appreciate that your intentions were good. I thought I'd taken that into account in my replies- they seem to read as a bit harsher than I intended them?

 

Of course on the topic of disabilities everyone tends to get sensitive, and it's hard to know what the right thing to say is.

 

 

I feel like I'm labouring under a disability on here sometimes because I speak a different language - English English - and we often express ourselves differently.

 

Irish English here, surrounded by English English speakers.

 

I do have a tendency to wade in in defence of anyone I think is being treated unfairly whether I agree with them or not.

 

That makes two of us, obviously. :P

 

A dangerous habit to get in to! :D

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I repeat - there is no such thing. And with the increase in people taking part in Agility the likelihood of any dog surpassing the skills of the rest by a significant degree diminishes. You get dogs with potential paired with handlers with whom they are a perfect fit, that's all.

 

I love Agility and all it entails - it takes up a huge part of my life - but I'm realistic and have seen enough dogs from different origins do extremely well over the last 14 years to recognise that there is nothing special about breeding for Agility. Agility is very important to me but it's still a sideshow in the grand scheme of things - a hobby, not the centre of the universe. People having fun with their dogs - no more than that.

 

 

Yes, what Pam said.

 

 

Agility is just as much a HUMAN sport as it is a dog sport. It's just extra fun for us humans that our dogs get to come play the game with us.The human has to come up with the strategy for how to communicate the course to the dog, and then actually carry it out, time it all just as planned, and physically be able to get to the correct locations to make the correct cues at the right time to make it work. Microseconds of timing differences, spatial location, and choice of handling strategy on a particular course can be all the difference between winning and not even making the placings. Minor differences in training can make all the difference as well. Top competitors spend a lot of time training, are meticulous about their foundation training all the way up through maintenance training, and practice a lot for themselves for the skills they need to be absolutely focused and precise and consistent in their own movements and timing, because the dog can only be as good as his handler allows him to be, since the dog has no idea where the course goes. Mental management for the human half of the team has become quite an important thing in the sport as well, and you even see articles about physical drills for the person, exercises, etc to help the human half of the team move more efficiently and therefore cue the dog better. The average competitor doesn't typically take it all as far as the top competitor (that's why they're the top) so the fact that the top competitor's dog looks really good is not necessarily all about the dog.

 

 

You do need a certain minimum level of skills from the dog in order to maximize what the dog brings to it - a dog who plods through the course won't win and I doubt we'll ever see a bull mastiff or basset hound on the World Team, and even border collies at the size or 'body bulk' extremes may be at a disadvantage. There are a lot of breeds where it might make sense to breed for agility because the base package of dogs in the breed may fall short (motivation levels are a common problem I see with dogs of other breeds, and something that breeding could improve upon). Even in border collies, extremely independent, frenzied, fearful, or laid back type of border collies may not do very well. But your average working line body-type border collie with a good work ethic and half way decent temperament has what it takes without breeding for it. We are already at a point of diminishing returns as far as producing a better agility dog - and that's even with dogs not purpose bred for agility, so just using what was there already. Once you get that minimum level of dog with a decent package of skills and mentality, additional is really wasted. It becomes all about how choices are weighed in both training and handling, and then how they're communicated, and not so much about the dog's abilities. A faster dog than what we have now won't be able to use that speed (too many turns for more ground speed to be beneficial). And we already have dogs who can turn so tight that any tighter is either going to start bringing bars down or start eating more time (due to deceleration) than the saved yardage gains them.

 

 

Now I know you can say stock dog trialing is also somewhat of a human sport. The human makes the handling strategies and spends a lot of time training and has to be mentally in the right frame of mind to carry out a really good run and you do tend to see a lot of the same handlers winning with different dogs. The difference is that the base package of skills required of the dog is so much larger than that required of an agility dog, that even the top stock dog handler/trainer is going to have dogs who they judge just aren't up to their standards and will sell them and seek out better ones. Whereas I see top agility handlers take pretty much every dog they get and crank out top dogs. And then you have the added component in the stock dog world of REAL WORK that simply does not exist for the agility dog. There are real life farmers who need a dog that can be useful without a lot of expensive expert training. The dog MUST bring a lot of skills to the table to fit the needs of the real stock owner, who may not be a great trainer or a great handler, but still needs a dog who can do great work.

 

 

I still think breeding for agility is rather pointless and is harmful to working ability - even if it's two working dogs bred together but for the wrong reason. I bought my last border collie purely based on potential for stock work. I had no idea how she'd be as an agility dog and I didn't really care as that wasn't my priority. It turns out with no agility dogs in her pedigree EVER, she's an awesome agility dog, very fast, agile, tight turning, etc. She is not uncommon, I see great dogs from 'non agility' lines all the time. But how often do you see a great stockdog crop up in lines that haven't been used or evaluated for stock work in several generations, or maybe even never? It just doesn't seem to happen. That right there tells me you must breed for stockwork, but there is no need to breed for agility.

 

 

Serena, you're trying to come up with all sorts of complicated requirements for certain people to breed agility dogs. I have a very simple list of requirements that would work just fine. The agility breeder can breed two dogs together for agility if both dogs have won Open USBHCA trials. Then if the offspring show they can also win Open trials, the breeding would be allowed to be repeated and the original offspring could be bred (otherwise all offspring should be spayed/neutered and not bred). You probably won't find any top level agility people who could meet that requirement. Maybe ABCA needs to deregister offspring of world team agility dogs unless they prove themselves in Open trials, to avoid the possible devastating effects of a popular agility sire on the ABCA gene pool.

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The main fallacy that has run thru this amazingly long thread is the idea Serena has that working stockdog people would actually agree to "replenish" agility lines with their open level stockdogs in the first place. While I think most of us who work stockdogs would probably agree that a pup who is without a working home could have an excellent, involved home with an agility competitor, I cannot imagine many that would agree to use their dog to "replenish" agility lines because someone thinks it needs to be done. And I would imagine that most well bred stockdog pups who go to agility homes probably go to them on a spay/neuter contract anyway. So, "replenishing" just isn't going to happen.

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A British sheepdogger is much more likely to take advantage of the distance factor by going to another sheepdog trial than by taking up an unrelated, time-consuming sport and dividing his/her trialing time between the two.

 

Aren't you rather assuming that everyone who works their dog is interested in sheepdog trials? Maybe that's because you only come into contact with those who trial here?

Does the term "sheepdogger" to you only apply to those who have the time and interest to compete in trials?

There are trials held 5 mins from where I live and checking the number of entries and considering the number of farms with sheep and dogs within easy travelling distance it is quite clear that there is a disparity.

I've already said to Serena that she is mistaken in that not many people who work their dogs with sheep also do agility in the UK, but those who do don't generally trial. I have known one who would trial in the morning and arrive late at an Agility show for the afternoon.

 

"As far as the KC is concerned only dogs from their registered bloodlines can be described as Border Collies - the rest they call 'working sheepdogs' and can be registered for competition as such.

 

Not entirely true though, is it? At best it's misleading since an ISDS dog can be registered as a BC with the KC. What are KC registered bloodlines? To me that implies bred according to the KC breed standard which ISDS dogs aren't.

And who cares what the KC thinks on the subject anyway? I imagine the ISDS will continue to call their dogs BCs whether dual registered or not.

The truth is that the terms Border Collie or Working Sheepdog carry no implication as to likely working ability in themselves.

Most of us just call them collies anyway.

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Aren't you rather assuming that everyone who works their dog is interested in sheepdog trials? Maybe that's because you only come into contact with those who trial here?

 

Not at all. I'm assuming that most of those who work their dogs and are interested in entering dog competitions are interested in sheepdog trials. The sheepdog folks I know in the UK who don't trial do not participate in dog sports.

 

I've already said to Serena that she is mistaken in that not many people who work their dogs with sheep also do agility in the UK,

 

Yes, that was my point too.

 

 

"As far as the KC is concerned only dogs from their registered bloodlines can be described as Border Collies - the rest they call 'working sheepdogs' and can be registered for competition as such."

 

Not entirely true though, is it? At best it's misleading since an ISDS dog can be registered as a BC with the KC. What are KC registered bloodlines? To me that implies bred according to the KC breed standard which ISDS dogs aren't.

And who cares what the KC thinks on the subject anyway? I imagine the ISDS will continue to call their dogs BCs whether dual registered or not.

The truth is that the terms Border Collie or Working Sheepdog carry no implication as to likely working ability in themselves.

 

Yes, that was my point. I made it because Serena said several times that lots of the border collies at Crufts were actual working sheepdogs -- the announcer actually announced that they were -- and how wonderful it was that they worked sheep AND competed at such a high level in agility. She obviously misinterpreted the meaning of the term "working sheepdog" as used by the KC, and I thought I should point that out. I see nothing "not entirely true" or misleading about the sentence I quoted from the Border Collie Rescue website as regards this point. The truth is -- and I feel sure you will agree with me on this -- that the fact that a dog is described as a "working sheepdog" by the announcer at Crufts is no reason whatsoever to conclude that the dog has actually worked sheep. That was my point.

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Serena, you're trying to come up with all sorts of complicated requirements for certain people to breed agility dogs. I have a very simple list of requirements that would work just fine. The agility breeder can breed two dogs together for agility if both dogs have won Open USBHCA trials. Then if the offspring show they can also win Open trials, the breeding would be allowed to be repeated and the original offspring could be bred (otherwise all offspring should be spayed/neutered and not bred). You probably won't find any top level agility people who could meet that requirement. Maybe ABCA needs to deregister offspring of world team agility dogs unless they prove themselves in Open trials, to avoid the possible devastating effects of a popular agility sire on the ABCA gene pool.

 

This is brilliant. I think it covers it all.

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The agility breeder can breed two dogs together for agility if both dogs have won Open USBHCA trials. Then if the offspring show they can also win Open trials, the breeding would be allowed to be repeated and the original offspring could be bred (otherwise all offspring should be spayed/neutered and not bred). You probably won't find any top level agility people who could meet that requirement.

If this requirement could be met, it would still be breeding for agility NOT for livestock work. The cross would be selected based upon performance in agility with the goal of producing excellent agility dogs NOT with the goal of producing excellent livestock working dogs. The breeding goals would not be for the improvement of the working Border Collie gene pool.

 

 

 

 

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If this requirement could be met, it would still be breeding for agility NOT for livestock work. The cross would be selected based upon performance in agility with the goal of producing excellent agility dogs NOT with the goal of producing excellent livestock working dogs. The breeding goals would not be for the improvement of the working Border Collie gene pool.

 

Well, okay, I wasn't entirely being serious as I don't really seeing anyone as being able to accomplish even the first part of it. But in theory, (assuming I was serious about it) the second part that the offspring would need to prove themselves in stockwork, would cover it. Because even if the intent was to produce an agility dog (which I think we most all agree is not THAT hard to do without even hardly trying) the cross would still need to prove itself on the USBCHA trial field otherwise it would be a dead-end with all offspring spayed or neutered. Basically you'd be requiring the breeder to breed for both things, and since breeding a winning USBCHA trial dog is more difficult than breeding a winning agility dog, they'd have to put a lot more focus on selecting for working traits to pull it off. Because just producing a dog that sort of works wouldn't meet the requirement - it would need to be a dog that worked really really well and could prove itself able to hold its own against the best of the 'working only' bred dogs, and that would need to proven every single generation. Which is why I don't see it has ever happening in reality.

 

 

Now the TRUE reality - people will continue to do as they please for whatever reasons suit them and no one is really in control of what breedings happen. Which makes the whole discussion sort of pointless really, except for whatever (possibly minimal) value it may have in educating the people who are making these decisions.

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In my mind when you breed you should be doing more than just trying to get a dog that could win in open; you should be trying to improve the gene pool. Since open trials vary greatly in difficulty (sheep and field) and competition (number and qulity of handler/dog teams), winning one in open shoudn't be the goal of adding to the gene pool. We should be aiming higher.

 

 

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In my mind when you breed you should be doing more than just trying to get a dog that could win in open; you should be trying to improve the gene pool. Since open trials vary greatly in difficulty (sheep and field) and competition (number and qulity of handler/dog teams), winning one in open shoudn't be the goal of adding to the gene pool. We should be aiming higher.

Of course you are right, but wouldn't such a measure help to deflect the pernicious influence of breeding top-winning agility dogs with no proven ability at stock work?

I am thinking especially of the devastating effect that a "Seabiscuit" type winner in agility. Such a dog would have agility people clamoring for matings to him, and if he was owned by someone who was unconcerned with the creating of large numbers of pups, let alone pups without stock working ability, the effects could be disastrous.

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In my mind when you breed you should be doing more than just trying to get a dog that could win in open; you should be trying to improve the gene pool. Since open trials vary greatly in difficulty (sheep and field) and competition (number and qulity of handler/dog teams), winning one in open shoudn't be the goal of adding to the gene pool. We should be aiming higher.

 

I agree - everyone should be always looking for that next outstanding dog. I've seen dogs win Open trials (even large ones) that I wouldn't care for a pup out of. You have to use your own judgement and not just trial results. But as objective documentable criteria go, winning Open trials (especially the big ones) is about as high as it goes. The exception would be winning the National Finals, which while an admirable accomplishment, is a distinction given to so few dogs that you'd be seriously limiting your gene pool to use that as a sole breeding criteria. So then it comes down to a judgement call from the people who are familiar with the dog personally if it's a better dog than even mere trial results indicate. And the truth is there are a lot of dogs bred for work who are just 'good' or even 'very good' who are more likely to maintain the current status quo than to pull the breed up another notch. I'm thinking of dogs like Wiston Cap, they don't come around that often so if you didn't breed anything up to that standard you'd have a very limited gene pool. It goes back to that analogy posted a while back about the red circle dogs vs orange circle dogs.

 

 

So no, not ideal that anyone does a breeding with the intent to produce a bunch of dogs for agility homes, but at the very least requirements of Open trial accomplishments help ensure that it's not a step back, even if it's not really a step forward either. At the very least it would limit the number of people doing it. And if nothing else, if someone ever actually tried it, they'd see for themselves how easy the agility part was and how hard the stock work part was and then they'd be in a much better position to understand what the working people have been trying to tell them. And maybe they'd drop the whole thing and take the easier route of just buying from working dog breeders instead of trying to breed their own agility dogs.

 

 

It's all a moot point anyway as no one is forcing agility breeders to do anything to assess stock working ability in their dogs, and it's a hard enough thing to do that I really don't see anyone at the top levels of agility ever attempting it of their own free will.

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Breed for livestock work.

This does not include breeding for agility but only with dogs that can also work livestock.

 

Can you not see the difference?

 

Selection criteria for breeding should not have livestock work as a secondary consideration. The selection of crosses should be made to maximize the possibility of getting outstanding stockdogs not outstanding agility dogs that can also work stock. This starts sounding like the versatile border collie where livestock work is second to agility.

 

 

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Breed for livestock work.

This does not include breeding for agility but only with dogs that can also work livestock.

 

Can you not see the difference?

 

Selection criteria for breeding should not have livestock work as a secondary consideration. The selection of crosses should be made to maximize the possibility of getting outstanding stockdogs not outstanding agility dogs that can also work stock. This starts sounding like the versatile border collie where livestock work is second to agility.

 

I do see the difference. Really, my original suggestion was sort of tongue-in-cheek. Basically saying the only way you could let an 'agility breeder' breed would be set requirements so high you'd be forcing them to actually breed for stock work as the primary consideration after all. Because you aren't going to produce a high probability of open trial winners by putting the stock work talents as a secondary consideration. I don't see any top level agility person as being able to have the time or expertise to pull that off. So it's pretty much an impossible requirement. Meaning if you could actually force people to follow a requirement like that, you'd pretty much put an end to agility breeding.

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OK, you guys, play nice. :P

 

You both want the same thing. I think what Diana is saying is that there already are agility breeders, whether we want them or not, so if we could make a registration policy so stiff that they would not be able to register their puppies, they might throw up their hands and just do what they ought to have been doing all along – buying their dogs from people whose overriding priority is the best quality stock work.

 

We’ve lost the battle with the AKC, and really, we have no use for the dogs they have the temerity to call Border Collies. They don’t think they need what we have either. (For the most part.) But the agility breeders think they do; when what they really need is simply to get out of the breeding business altogether. Working breeders have the dogs agility homes need already, and the beautiful thing is, the dogs that working breeders would be willing to part with to agility homes are perfect for in those homes and virtually useless (from a breeding perspective) for the working breeder.

 

Diana’s proposals may have been made tongue-in-cheek, but which is likely to work better, lamenting and decrying the foolish practice of breeding for anything but stock work, or to suggest strategies that would make it prohibitively difficult for them to do so?

 

If thirty-some pages of eloquent posts by some of the best-informed people on the subject* can’t convince one idealistic but poorly informed person (who claims to look up to them) that Border Collies should NEVER be bred for anything but stock working ability, we have a problem. Maybe it’s time to put the carrot in the back pocket and get out the stick. But what will that stick be? Registration criteria?

 

Personally I’d like to see every Border Collie that was not bred for stock working ability (AND bound for a home which will utilize and prove that stock working ability) spayed or neutered. But I think we know how likely that is.

So what can be done? Education? Spay/neuter contracts? Non-breeding registration papers?

 

Some of you positive-only trainers - put your minds to work on how to “get this dog on the bus!” I’m an old Koehler trainer, and I’ll just get in trouble if I pop ‘em with a choke-chain.

 

*No, I do not count myself among them.

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642 posts later, I see a lot of criticism of the agility community for wanting to breed for agility. I don't see any critism of the working community for allowing this to happen. Well-bred working dogs are being sold to the sports community without spay neuter agreements--without looking hard I'm am personally aware of some examples. There are two sides to this story and the other side involves policing your own as someone finally alluded to above.

 

My guess is that some working dog folks are no more willing to hear the message than some agility folks.

 

Carry on.

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Some of you positive-only trainers - put your minds to work on how to "get this dog on the bus!" I'm an old Koehler trainer, and I'll just get in trouble if I pop 'em with a choke-chain.

 

ROTF :lol:

 

I would love to see that!!

 

 

Thing is, human motivations are often contrary to learning theory. They like autonomy... That's why I have dogs and not kids.

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642 posts later, I see a lot of criticism of the agility community for wanting to breed for agility. I don't see any critism of the working community for allowing this to happen. Well-bred working dogs are being sold to the sports community without spay neuter agreements--without looking hard I'm am personally aware of some examples. There are two sides to this story and the other side involves policing your own as someone finally alluded to above.

 

My guess is that some working dog folks are no more willing to hear the message than some agility folks.

 

Carry on.

 

The contracts really aren't worth much if it is to a dishonorable person. We run into trouble with that in the past in rescue. The only way to ensure no breeding of those dogs is to spay/neuter before they are sold.

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Serena, you are stating as a fact something you have heard but do not know.

I won't go back and count how many times in this thread that I have made a similar comment, but never once has the OP addressed that. I know I'm not the only one who has questioned this aspect of her argument.

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642 posts later, I see a lot of criticism of the agility community for wanting to breed for agility. I don't see any critism of the working community for allowing this to happen. Well-bred working dogs are being sold to the sports community without spay neuter agreements--without looking hard I'm am personally aware of some examples. There are two sides to this story and the other side involves policing your own as someone finally alluded to above.

 

My guess is that some working dog folks are no more willing to hear the message than some agility folks.

 

Carry on.

 

Wait.

 

Does that mean that if I don't turn in my neighbor for cheating on his taxes that I'm a criminal?

 

And anyway, how can you say that the working community is "allowing this to happen"? I think there have been a number of people here on the boards who breed (and for the right reason) that have come out strongly against selling pups to non-working homes that want to breed them.

 

What else should they do? Stand outside each other's gates and throw a net over any vehicle carrying a puppy that doesn't have sheep poop in the tire treads?

 

Sure, there are working breeders who sell intact pups without a spay/neuter agreement to non-working homes. But there are also those who don't, and are vocal about why. Right here.

 

There's probably a number of agility folk out there who might otherwise breed, but don't for the reason(s) espoused here on the Boards. But there are some that do breed, because they think it's no one's effing business to tell them why to breed, and there are those who, as Kelliepup mentioned acquire their pups under "false pretenses" and don't honor the spay/neuter agreement.

 

Taking a breeder to task by name for failing to live up to certain standards on the Boards is not within the rules of conduct here, as I understand them. But I'll bet the PMs fly at times.

 

What would you suggest that working breeders do to discourage their peers from selling intact dogs to non-working homes without a spay/neuter contract?

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When there are people who are very interested in breeding border collies for agility, they will.

I may not like it (well I hate it), but in the end, there is nothing illegal about it , just like breeding for confirmation.

So in my opinion the only thing the working stockdog community can do is keep on breeding good working dogs for the working stockdog community.

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If you know your subject matter and speak/write with clarity, people will respect you and regard you as an expert

 

If you know nothing your subject matter but speak/write with facts and willing to learn, people will/may respect you but at least you are making an effort to learn.

 

If you know nothing your subject matter but speak/write WITHOUT actual facts but wiht assumptions, people will not respect you. In fact, you may come off looking like a fool.

 

 

As for breeding for working ability knowledge, which of the above do you fit in?

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