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


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I'd like to especially emphasize my words that the breeder who maintains friendships and seeks advice from sheepherding experts on this board and with ABCA...To me a sports agility person who has all the agility top accomplishments, the years of champion performance and experience, and who keeps in contact with the working sheepherding community out there, this makes an excellent agility breeder.

 

 

Last night I spent at least 45 minutes typing up a heartfelt, thoughtful post ... only to hit the wrong key and close the darned window. *sighh* But your post as quoted re-inspires me.

 

Frankly, I am still confused about what you want. An agility person who "keeps contact with" the working sheepdog community is no more qualified (or less qualified) to breed border collies than someone who does freestyle or competes with Frisbees or has taught their dog to use a Ouija board. What does "keep contact with" mean, anyhow? Either a person is breeding working border collies - the purpose for which and through which border collies evolved - or they're not. And if someone breeds 3 generations of agility dog and every 4th generation goes back and includes a dollop of Dryden Joe or Dewy Tweed ... they are NOT breeding to preserve the border collie for what it is. They're just breeding agility dogs and throwing in a little extra spice once in a while, so's to look good on paper.

 

Look, any sporting endeavor that can seriously discuss something as weird and frivolous as "early take-off syndrome" as a factor to consider in breeding is NOT keeping the true nature of the border collie in mind.

 

The true measure of a border collie is on the hills and out in the fields where sheep graze and shepherds work. Not every border collie needs to work sheep. Far from it! But it's a purely human conceit to look at agility or any other sport as a measure from which to draw the best of the border collie breed. The benchmark of a border collie comes from its working blood. The end. The beauty of the border collie is that his working blood is also amendable to training as agility dogs, obedience dogs, freestyle, rally, SAR, service dogs and cutesy television commercials. But those other jobs and skills come as an "also" to the working heritage. Anything else is just breeding to arbitrary human standards that do not hold the working heritage of the border collie as the foremost and most precious consideration.

 

You came here seeming to ask if the sheepdogging community would embrace AKC agility as part of the "working heritage" of the border collie. Now it looks like you're just trying to draw out any MACH agility handlers here to come join you in your crusade.

 

Said crusade being even more baffling to me, because it seems that you want to justify your embracing AKC agility trialing by launching a petition campaign to .... what? Get AKC to stop having border collie conformation? Are you serious? Do you really think AKC will drop conformation for one, single, very precious breed of dog, from among all the scores of breeds on its books?

 

Why on earth would it? Conformation is a huge moneymaker for AKC. Not to mention that the conformation show people themselves will lobby just as hard to keep their Barbie collies in the ring.

 

The border collie is not such a special flower that AKC will make a historically earth-shaking concession to that breed's champions. Nor, for that matter, will AKC pay the slightest bit of attention to some online petition, of which its officers may be only remotely aware.

 

The best the working border collie can hope for is a complete separation of the show and working lines. It's already almost to that point with the Australian Shepherd.

 

In conclusion, I feel that "infusing" working lines into agility-bred dogs is a fallacy. If people want to breed agility border collies, I guess they'll just do it. But don't think that adding a little Wiston Cap every few generations does anything to preserve the true, working heritage of the border collie. In fact, breeding for any other purpose does little but dilute that working heritage, and thin out the gene pool that preserves all those subtle, intrinsic things that preserve the border collie as it's meant to be.

 

Serena, I wish you could have been at the trial with me this past Monday. I wish you could have seen my Nick, just over 3 years old, out there laying down possibly the most beautiful run of his young life. I was the director, sure. But he was 200 yards or more away, further when on his outrun, and I could see the generations of good hill dogs in every stride, every subtle shift of position, every intuitive movement that kept those sheep going in directions they would never have chosen, of their own accord.

 

That's the difference between agility or any other sport training, and the job for which the border collie is born. Nick is doing what his heritage tells him to do, and I'm simply the conductor of the symphony nature planted in his brain. If ever you saw that, if ever you witnessed and understood that marvelous magnificence in action ... you would know of which I speak. And you might grasp why all the agility championships in the world don't hold much weight with us, when it comes to what constitutes breeding for the betterment of the breed.

 

~ Gloria

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A good working stock dog has to be born that way. He is refined by training, but most of what he is, he is because of good genetics. Those genetics are incredibly complex when you consider the number of different traits (power, balance, stock sense, biddability, intelligence, self control, keenness, etc) that have to come together in the right proportions to make a great dog. You have to see and evaluate the outcome of that balance of traits to make good breeding decisions. You cannot do that by looking at what a dog does in agility or by just dabbling in stock work. Those may show you some of the traits, but they won't show you the whole dog. Breeding without looking at the whole picture is breeding blind. Breeding blind will eventually degrade those qualities not being selected for.

 

A good working agility dog is made mostly through training. With today's training methods, which emphasize reward and very much a 'what's in it for the dog' thought process, the dog doesn't even need to be terribly biddable to be a great agility dog. He does need to be athletic, which is one trait (ONLY one) of a good stock dog. But agility will never measure the myriad of other traits that are necessary for a true border collie to possess to be worthy of breeding.

 

Remember the artice fox experiment? Where they bred for one trait (docile behavior) and ended up changing a lot of other traits (markings, vocalization, mannerisms, ear set, etc). There is a lot we don't understand about genetics and traits, especially behavioral traits. Tweak one little thing that doesn't seem like a big deal, and you may be surprised at what else changes. Those changes may be invisible at first, and by the time you see what's happening, the gene pool has shifted so much that you won't get back to what you started with. That, to me, makes it too dangerous to mess with by trying something different than what has worked for hundreds of years to produce a great dog, and having the nerve to think we're improving it somehow when in reality we don't have any idea what changes it may cause. It is not okay to 'mess it up' and then think we can fix it by throwing in some of the original line of working genetics now and then. That will never get you something as good as what you would have had if you'd just stuck with the original line and breeding criteria to begin with. That isn't responsible breeding - it's damage control, and probably not very effective damage control.

 

All I know is that breeding for stock work made the border collie what it is today. Which is just about as close to the perfect dog as you're ever going to see (in my opinion). So why mess with what works? The risk is too great.

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A good working stock dog has to be born that way. He is refined by training, but most of what he is, he is because of good genetics. Those genetics are incredibly complex when you consider the number of different traits (power, balance, stock sense, biddability, intelligence, self control, keenness, etc) <snip>

 

This is an incredibly well thought out, informative, rational post. The only thing I'd add is that, while engaging in damage control, 'culls' are no doubt being added to the already overwhelming numbers in shelters and rescues.

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The HUGE, NO GINORMOUS, ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is that even the most experienced and dedicated stockdog person can't look at an agility champion and tell anyone jacksh*t about the dog's abilities as a working dog. The only way to do that is to train the dog. So either your proposal means that all champion agility dogs must also be trained to a high level of stockwork so they can be evaluated for that before breeding or you live in some fantasy world where an experienced stockdog person can advise an agility person on suitable breeding strategies without actually have a single clue about the stock working ability of the dog(s) in question.

Serena, in other words, no responsible stockdog breeder would EVER tell anyone which dogs to breed unless the dog has been trained/worked stock for months/years and they have seen that dog's skill in person. So like Julie said, you either live in a fantasy world or someone fed you a bunch of BS and you fell for it hook, line and sinker. And if said stockdog breeder has seen the dogs in person, then it sounds like you live close enough to put your own dog on stock. If so, give it a try. Maybe then you will begin to understand the philosophy of the boards.

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Though the OP seems sincere, be it in my opinion(and this appears to be a consensus) misguided, I do get a feeling this topic has turned into (force)feeding the troll.

 

I don't think Serena is a troll. I think she is naiive, misguided, proposing a pretty useless and hypocritical stance with regards to the AKC, and apparently so far unable to understand or at least resistant to understanding what all of us are saying. But IMO she seems earnest.

 

I also feel like what she keeps proposing as being a good way to breed agility dogs is a fairly good description of how the top AKC-registered sport breeders already DO do it. So I wonder who she has been talking to as a mentor IRL who has shaped her opinions.

 

Serena, you say we don't read your posts carefully, but has ANY of this about breeding for stockwork made any sense to you? Are you able to absorb any of it?

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No, it shouldn't, in my opinion; there are countless BCs in rescues all over the country who are potential MACH dogs. Rescue a dog and save its life. Or take a BC from working lines who doesn't make the cut working stock. It's hugely immoral to pay $$$$$ to the breeders of 'sport' BCs even if every single dog in the pedigree is a MACH.

 

"Champion agility lines" -- good grief, it's a meaningless concept! My BC of completely unknown lineage, who was tossed into the intake pen of a county shelter when he was 6-7 months old, could be a MACH dog but for the fact that his owner won't spend the time or the money to trial him in AKC agility, so he will never amass the points and the title.

 

This should be the anthem of ALL agility, flyball, sports, pet BC owners. Both Evea and Kaida are herding washouts.. Our flyball/agility trainer herself only uses washouts and rescues. She encourages anyone interested in getting a bc to get a rescue or wait till she does a washout run( a rancher she knows lets her get his washouts). So as far as I am concerned that is what ANY bc sports handler should encourage. That way the breed is kept intact and the sports peeps still get quality, healthy dogs.

 

Herding is a job..anything else is fun..trying to compare them as equals is like saying a football player works as hard as a rancher.. If so why aren't ranchers paid thousands or millions a year and earn millions more in advertising endorsements... The two sides aren't the same..

 

meh...all I know is that I really don't want bc's to go down same road as German shepherds or labs...people need to get a brain and use it for change and stop being akc sheep =p

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Serena, I wish you could have been at the trial with me this past Monday. I wish you could have seen my Nick, just over 3 years old, out there laying down possibly the most beautiful run of his young life. I was the director, sure. But he was 200 yards or more away, further when on his outrun, and I could see the generations of good hill dogs in every stride, every subtle shift of position, every intuitive movement that kept those sheep going in directions they would never have chosen, of their own accord.

 

 

This is the point that so few will ever understand until they experience it for themselves. Although we are far from laying down good runs (serious stopping problem! ARGH!!), I experienced it this past weekend when we were asked to help move 1400 plus fiesty, fat yearlings on a commercial range operation. Jet has never worked more than thirty sheep and it's usually more like 5-10. Aside from a pace issue at first, it was amazing to watch her "get" the different balance point, they way she needed to tuck in the ends and check waayyyyy over on the other side to make sure those sheep were with the program. Any sheep that turned on her got a firm "hey, what do you think you're doing" look and before long, we had gone probably a mile with VERY few commands at all. It wasn't fancy trial work but it was something she hadn't been trained for but took to as naturally as a duck to water. And was about as ecstatic as a dog could be to boot.

 

I had a very natural cow dog that won her first (novice) cow dog trial class on the VERY FIRST TIME she worked cattle. I was very lucky to have that dog, I had no one local to learn from, but she taught me more about stock sense and livestock handling than anyone could have. I've had to wing it for years in a sheepdog wasteland and the dogs have always been the best teachers anyone could ask for.

 

You cannot test natural working ability at an agility trial. There is no shared point of reference. No testing of ability, pace, thought and grit. On this day of Thanksgiving, I'm extremely grateful to the breeders, shepherds and sometimes cowboys ;) that are responsible for the dogs I have owned and own today. Thank DOG none of them came from an agility breeder.

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All I know is that breeding for stock work made the border collie what it is today. Which is just about as close to the perfect dog as you're ever going to see (in my opinion). So why mess with what works? The risk is too great.

 

This makes sense to me, especially when you consider the enormous variation within the border collie as a breed, even when breeding strictly for working ability.

 

Serenna

Do you have a Mach title?

 

That is a good question, and I have one of my own. Serenna, could you give some background on this thread? Did you start it because someone you know tried to arrange some sort of agility/stock dog cross breeding, and couldn’t find an appropriate stock dog handler who would agree to participate?

 

I’m just wondering how much of this is real, and how much is purely theory.

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Diana, that was beautifully put. Thank you. :)

 

Also:

 

meh...all I know is that I really don't want bc's to go down same road as German shepherds or labs...people need to get a brain and use it for change and stop being akc sheep =p

 

Agreed. I don't want to see the border collie go down the same road as its closer cousin, the Australian shepherd. I own a young working Aussie and from what I can see, the number of true, working Aussie lines that are still maintained today can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I find that just scary. The big thing that the BC still has going for him is the number of people still out there breeding solid working dogs. We need to keep it that way.

 

~ Gloria

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Maja,I hedge on this because Service Dogs do engender that biddability...They listen, they follow specific instructions, absolute calmness, discernment is very important with Service Border Collies, and it involves a very deep human connection. As for agility too, the top agility trainers do have that same deep commitment to the dog and there are very specific techniques in which the Border Collie uses instant judgment, hold-back methods, verbals

Serena,

In my opinion, other breeds can do as well as BCs as service dogs, they lack nothing in that respect in comparison with border collies. The same applies to agility training. As I said, what makes a border collie to me is the set of character traits that cannot be tested in other conditions than stock work. A BC without it can be still an obedient affectionate dog, as many other breed are.

 

I understand that these traits that I cherish, someone else does not. That a border collie with these characteristics (so important to me) in a diminished or nonexistent form is what other people want in a service dog or an agility dog. I cherish what sports people think of as superfluous. I treat as superfluous what they cherish. So there isn't much room for bridging, I am afraid.

 

Maja

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Everything you said, Jaime. :)

 

I actually envy you the chance to let your dog do "real work," as I think it offers natural learning experiences that otherwise can't be duplicated. After all, that's how the border collie evolved! :)

 

And the natural ways of your cowdog BC is yet another testament to the precious subtleties that make up the border collie, and how important it is to maintain that heritage and ability.

 

~ Gloria

 

 

This is the point that so few will ever understand until they experience it for themselves. Although we are far from laying down good runs (serious stopping problem! ARGH!!), I experienced it this past weekend when we were asked to help move 1400 plus fiesty, fat yearlings on a commercial range operation. Jet has never worked more than thirty sheep and it's usually more like 5-10. Aside from a pace issue at first, it was amazing to watch her "get" the different balance point, they way she needed to tuck in the ends and check waayyyyy over on the other side to make sure those sheep were with the program. Any sheep that turned on her got a firm "hey, what do you think you're doing" look and before long, we had gone probably a mile with VERY few commands at all. It wasn't fancy trial work but it was something she hadn't been trained for but took to as naturally as a duck to water. And was about as ecstatic as a dog could be to boot.

 

I had a very natural cow dog that won her first (novice) cow dog trial class on the VERY FIRST TIME she worked cattle. I was very lucky to have that dog, I had no one local to learn from, but she taught me more about stock sense and livestock handling than anyone could have. I've had to wing it for years in a sheepdog wasteland and the dogs have always been the best teachers anyone could ask for.

 

You cannot test natural working ability at an agility trial. There is no shared point of reference. No testing of ability, pace, thought and grit. On this day of Thanksgiving, I'm extremely grateful to the breeders, shepherds and sometimes cowboys ;) that are responsible for the dogs I have owned and own today. Thank DOG none of them came from an agility breeder.

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. . . other breeds can do as well as BCs . . . The same applies to agility training.

 

With this I would have to disagree. There are very good reasons why there is a contingency of Agility participants who are lobbying for "Anything but a Border Collie" classes.

 

While there are other breeds that are known to be good at Agility - Shelties, for instance - I have never once heard anyone say that there should be "Anything but a Basset Hound" classes, or "Anything but a German Shepherd" classes, or "Anything but a Whippet" classes.

 

Yes, a healthy dog of any breed with some level of drive can be trained to do Agility, and may even do well.

 

But the breed known to be the best - the breed that people are accused of going to the "Dark Side" for obtaining - is the Border Collie,

 

I'd be the first to say that not all Border Collies have what it takes to be good at Agility, and that training them can be far more challenging than it looks. But by and large, the breed known to be among the best naturally suited to Agility is the Border Collie.

 

That does not mean that I think Border Collies should be bred for Agility, by any means. Simply that many breeds, as a whole, cannot do Agility as well as Border Collies.

 

There is a difference.

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Root Beer, (and any other agility people out there that would care to chime in)

 

I can see why the Border Collie would be the quintessential agility dog, and I had heard long ago (in the '90s that agility competitions were already divided between Border Collies and everything else. Apparently I was misinformed. What I'm wondering is, well, 2 things...

 

Do you think bred-for-sport Border Collies have a competitive edge over working-bred Border Collies? (And not just in ease of acquisition - I have heard the complaint that working breeders don't want to sell to agility homes) But in ability - performance - how do the two "types" compare?

 

Also, it would seem to me that there are several other breeds that should be very competitive, based on drive, speed, size, etc. How about working-bred Malinois? Or Lurchers? Various terriers, such as Jack Russells? And why is the Shetland Sheepdog considered less ideal that the Border Collie for agility? Length of stride due to sheer size difference? Flexibility?

 

Are there "agility lines/breeders" in these other breeds?

 

One last thing - how do breeders of "agility-bred" Border Collies imagine that they can improve upon the working-bred Border Collie for purposes of agility? I suspect the whole agility breeding scene is just a racket to separate fanatical ribbon-chasers from their money. If I'm wrong about that, please explain how.

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

 

I would like to thank the poster for this recommendation. My copy just arrived today, and it is proving to be a very interesting read. I remember the change in AKC rules for recognition and found them pretty bizarre at the time, given the historical focus on the venerated stud book. The Dog Wars gives that odd move some context.

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. . . I had heard long ago (in the '90s that agility competitions were already divided between Border Collies and everything else. Apparently I was misinformed.

 

I haven't heard of any venue that has already divided the Border Collie out. The people that I know of who are pushing for "Anything but a Border Collie" are USDAA and AKC folks, so I'm positive that those venues don't do so. And I know from firsthand experience that NADAC and CPE do not.

 

Do you think bred-for-sport Border Collies have a competitive edge over working-bred Border Collies? (And not just in ease of acquisition - I have heard the complaint that working breeders don't want to sell to agility homes) But in ability - performance - how do the two "types" compare?

 

Honestly, I don't know. I don't think there are enough top level teams running strictly working bred Border Collies to really compare. I personally don't know of any, although I can't say that I know for certain that there aren't any.

 

And among the typical Agility participant who runs Border Collies, there is a vast mish mosh of sources that the dogs have come from. Most of the Border Collie folks that I know in Agility have rescues whose origin is unknown to me. I know a handful with dogs from sport breedings and I can't say that any of those have set the Agility world on fire. I can't say I know anyone other than myself who runs a working bred Border Collie (and he is also a rescue, and his exact breeding is not known to me, although I know for a fact that both of his parents did work on an actual commercial sheep farm), although someone may and I might not know it. I know people with Border Collies from backyard breeders, certainly, and farm bred Border Collies whose parents didn't actually work stock.

 

And those Border Collies, from such a vast array of sources, vary greatly in athletic ability, temperament, etc. I know a couple of the sport bred Border Collies who are crazy, have no off switch, and really struggle with stimulation issues (and not from lack of training or poor handling, but because there are serious temperament flaws). But some do seem to be everything I would personally want in a sport partner (that doesn't mean I'm getting one - just giving an example). I've met rescue Border Collies of unknown origin who will probably never have what it takes to be successful in sports and then others who are fantastic sport partners who can do anything their person wants.

 

So, I couldn't say. Of my own dogs, the one that I think is going to be the best Agility dog is the one who was found living on the streets. Where she came from, I will never know . . .

 

I'd love to try my hand at raising a working bred puppy someday, as a sport partner. And maybe I will. But until then, I honestly don't know.

 

It is my opinion that a well bred working Border Collie with a solid temperament could absolutely compete with the best of the sport bred Border Collies (also among those with solid temperament) if trained and handled by someone who knows what he or she is doing.

 

Also, it would seem to me that there are several other breeds that should be very competitive, based on drive, speed, size, etc. How about working-bred Malinois?

 

Can't say I've run into too many people who run Malinois, although I know a couple. Of course, there are people who do, but no, they have not broken out as a breed known to be great at Agility. People who are just getting into the sport and suddenly find they want an "Agility breed" aren't getting Malinois.

 

Or Lurchers?

 

I saw a Lurcher recently. Can't remember what I was doing where I saw a Lurcher but I was really interested in seeing the Lurcher.

 

That says it all right there. I don't see many Lurchers. Definitely not known as an "Agility breed".

 

Various terriers, such as Jack Russells?

 

I see a good many terriers at trails, although there are always a lot of different types of terriers, not a majority of one type of another.

 

I don't know why Jack Russels, which are so popular as Flyball dogs, haven't become more popular among Agility folks.

 

But they haven't. Not like Border Collies

 

And why is the Shetland Sheepdog considered less ideal that the Border Collie for agility? Length of stride due to sheer size difference? Flexibility?

 

I couldn't say. In fact, I'd say I know a lot more people who run Shelties than Border Collies. They are certainly considered to be ideal by many. They are the only breed that strikes me as right up there with Border Collies as a highly popular "Agility breed"

 

I don't know why I don't hear people lobbying for "Anything but a Sheltie" divisions. Maybe the other types of dogs in their height class tend to be more competitive than the other types of dogs in the typical Border Collie height classes? Or maybe there is such talk. If it's out there for Border Collies, it certainly ought to be for Shelties.

 

Like Border Collies, they can be a nightmare, but they usually are very driven Agility dogs who do quite well.

 

Are there "agility lines/breeders" in these other breeds?

 

Can't say for all of them, but for some, yes. Definitely for Shelties.

 

One last thing - how do breeders of "agility-bred" Border Collies imagine that they can improve upon the working-bred Border Collie for purposes of agility?

 

Because they are simply not thinking in those terms. The OP actually gives a great example of the completely different mindset that someone who is approaching breeding in terms of dog sports would have from someone who is approaching breeding in terms of stockwork.

 

I know this is probably nearly impossible to see, but a person whose frame of reference is completely different is often going to draw a very different conclusion.

 

I suspect the whole agility breeding scene is just a racket to separate fanatical ribbon-chasers from their money. If I'm wrong about that, please explain how.

 

For some, yes that is probably the case. For others, though, they are actually trying to create better Agility dogs. Now why would they want to do that? Yes, some are in it for the money and prestige. But others love the sport and want a dog that is better suited to it than the one they have now.

 

Really, it is the same reason why I went to rescue several years ago and tried to find "this, this, this, and this" in my new sport partner. I wanted a better sport partner than the one I started with. (That is not a put down of my then-sport partner, with whom I still dance and appreciate way more than I did back then!)

 

Some are going to seek "this, this, this, and this" from rescue. Some will seek those things from a breeder. Others will seek those things by trying to breed it for themselves.

 

I don't say all of this to say that I agree with them. I don't. But honestly - I do understand why they do it, even though it is not my choice. They don't think in terms of stockwork because stockwork is not on their radar (even if they are aware of it to some degree) in the way it is on the radar of someone who is actually involved with stockwork.

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Do you think bred-for-sport Border Collies have a competitive edge over working-bred Border Collies?... . But in ability - performance - how do the two "types" compare?

 

I'm an agility peep and I am in the market for a new dog...

 

Honestly, I don't know how the two "types" of dogs compare. Everyone who I know either has a sports-bred dog, a conformation-bred dog, or a rescue of unknown breeding. The interesting thing is that some people will tell you that their dogs are "all herding" bred, but when you examine the pedigrees, the parents are AKC or AKC/ABC...

 

Also, it would seem to me that there are several other breeds that should be very competitive, based on drive, speed, size, etc. How about working-bred Malinois? Or Lurchers? Various terriers, such as Jack Russells? And why is the Shetland Sheepdog considered less ideal that the Border Collie for agility? Length of stride due to sheer size difference? Flexibility??

 

Personally, I think that the Malinois are too big. I would never in a million years try to do agility with a sighthound. As for terriers, I ran a pitbull for many years...biddability was an issue.

 

Are there "agility lines/breeders" in these other breeds??

Yes, for the Shelties and I imagine for some of the other smaller breeds like Papillions

 

 

One last thing - how do breeders of "agility-bred" Border Collies imagine that they can improve upon the working-bred Border Collie for purposes of agility? I suspect the whole agility breeding scene is just a racket to separate fanatical ribbon-chasers from their money. If I'm wrong about that, please explain how.

 

Actually, from the people who I have spoken to, it isn't really a matter of improvement as there is a matter of maximizing the odds. Basically, person A has a dog that is good in sport (ie has titles, is fast, and has "good structure") and person B has a dog that is also good, so they decide to breed the two dogs in the hope that the offspring will have "good structure", speed, and drive. And, yes, the health testing is done, which is a biggie.

 

Because I travel in sports circles, I tend to hear about these sports breedings more than the working breedings. So, accessability is an issue. Also, logic would dictate that the offspring of 2 parents who like and perform well in agility would be more of a sure thing as a sports dog than the offspring of 2 dogs who were breed for working ability.

 

I'll be honest in that the small number of planned sports breedings that I have heard of, temperment is not a priority and some issues are being overlooked or excused away in my opinion.

 

I think that it is interesting and paradoxical that the BC, which has been bred for generations to work with man, is the chosen breed for agility and yet the sports community goes to great lengths to convince their dogs that the handlers are the most fun, most interesting thing on the planet. I can certainly see the neccasity for increasing the drive for the game, but I'm talking about also increasing the drive for the HANDLER. Why should we have to go to such excessive lengths in a breed that has been bred for generations to follow "command over instinct"?

 

I have to conclude that the dog has changed.

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I think that it is interesting and paradoxical that the BC, which has been bred for generations to work with man, is the chosen breed for agility and yet the sports community goes to great lengths to convince their dogs that the handlers are the most fun, most interesting thing on the planet. I can certainly see the neccasity for increasing the drive for the game, but I'm talking about also increasing the drive for the HANDLER. Why should we have to go to such excessive lengths in a breed that has been bred for generations to follow "command over instinct"?

 

I have to conclude that the dog has changed.

 

Depending on where you get it from, AKC conformation lines, sport-bred-dogs, or puppy-mill pets, the dog undoubtedly has changed - and not for the better.

 

But my understanding as a wanna-be sheepdogger is that the dog doesn't necessarily follow command over instinct. As I understand it, the really fine stockdog knows, (like a top-notch seeing-eye dog) when to blow off the handler in order to better perform the work that his instincts fit him for. Yes, a good stockdog should be biddable; but it should also have the stock-sense and intelligence to know when to ignore a command to better accomplish the task that he and the handler are undertaking together.

 

To me the difference is that the good stock dog has an intrinsic desire to work stock. He takes direction from the handler because he respects him and because he learns that it will help him do what he wants to do - what his instincts are crying out for him to do.

 

A working-bred Border Collie does not have in instinctual desire to run agility courses. He does not tremble with excitement at the first glimpse of a set of weave-poles. He will, because he is an active, biddable creature that wants to do things in tandem with a handler, learn to get excited about running a course. But the good sheepdog pup commonly falls into a crouch and seeks a balance point when first presented with sheep at the age of 12 weeks or so. He wants to work stock. Not for a tug-toy, not for a liver treat, and certainly not for a ribbon. Because it is in his blood - what he was bred and born to do.

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Do you think bred-for-sport Border Collies have a competitive edge over working-bred Border Collies? (And not just in ease of acquisition - I have heard the complaint that working breeders don't want to sell to agility homes) But in ability - performance - how do the two "types" compare?

 

Are there "agility lines/breeders" in these other breeds?

 

 

In my experience, they are similar. Both types of breedings will have dogs with athleticism and drive. I have known both sport bred and working bred dogs with iffy temperaments and serious health issues, so neither issue resides with one or the other. However, the working breedings seem to have the whole biddability thing in greater numbers than sport breedings. Its not that all sport breedings don't have it...the most biddable dog I ever knew was a several generations back performance AKC dog...but I think that working dogs as a whole are more biddable.

 

Also, it would seem to me that there are several other breeds that should be very competitive, based on drive, speed, size, etc. How about working-bred Malinois? Or Lurchers? Various terriers, such as Jack Russells? And why is the Shetland Sheepdog considered less ideal that the Border Collie for agility? Length of stride due to sheer size difference? Flexibility?

 

Working Mals are generally dogs bred for police work/Schutzhund work, not agility. Lurchers are mixed breeds generally not bred for anything in the US. JRTs come in performance/working terrier type and show ring type and I don't know enough to say which is better suited for agility.

 

Shelties and Papillons can excel at agility, and are very popular, and there are performance lines in Shelties and maybe a few breeders who specialize in performance Paps. They of course run in smaller jump heights. But as good as these guys are at the sport they don't come close to Border Collies. If all else is equal, a order Collie will outperform almost any breed 95% of the time. There's something about the size, flexibility, flat speed, turning ability and desire to be engaged that just makes the breed the ideal agility dog.

 

 

One last thing - how do breeders of "agility-bred" Border Collies imagine that they can improve upon the working-bred Border Collie for purposes of agility? I suspect the whole agility breeding scene is just a racket to separate fanatical ribbon-chasers from their money. If I'm wrong about that, please explain how.

 

I don't think most breeders honestly are trying to rip people off. Most breeders of performance dogs are not bad people, they want to breed responsibly and produce dogs that people will want to do well in the sport. The problem is, they have such a vastly different mindset about breeding than the folks here do. In their world they are putting high performing dogs together to produce high performing dogs, they believe this is the best way to produce dogs that will excel at agility. They think that they can create the better Border Collie y selecting for the traits that they think make a good agility dog. They don't see the problems with that.

 

There are of course breeders who are not so noble...think about the people you knew in Collies, GB. Most were decent people who believed in what they were doing, right?

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Shelties and Papillons can excel at agility, and are very popular, and there are performance lines in Shelties and maybe a few breeders who specialize in performance Paps. They of course run in smaller jump heights. But as good as these guys are at the sport they don't come close to Border Collies. If all else is equal, a order Collie will outperform almost any breed 95% of the time. There's something about the size, flexibility, flat speed, turning ability and desire to be engaged that just makes the breed the ideal agility dog.

 

 

I've owned Shelties for 20+ years and when I looked for my next agility dog, two years ago when my youngest Sheltie had to retire due to arthritis in an elbow, I found almost no breeders in my area who could produce a structually sound dog with the temperament and the organic health to complement it. In my area, the Sheltie breeders all tend to flock to the same breedings, which is a problem -- the sire of one of my dogs, who is from a show/conformation breeder, was diagnosed with dermatomyositis (an autoimmune disease that is nasty and hereditary) when he was 6 years old, AFTER he had been the stud dog of choice and sired more than 60 litters. To me, that's overuse of a dog, even leaving out the health condition; but that's not uncommon in Shelties where I am. (Probably not surprisingly, my dog from that sire has CHD and has had a bout with cancer; he is 13 now and I'm happy that he's still around, but he is the result of a breeding that should never have been, and although his breeder is a big deal in AKC circles, she has probably done more harm than good to the breed.)

 

There are two or three Sheltie breeders in my area who are breeding for structure and working ability; one even produces Shelties who go to herding homes and do very well in herding trials. But the vast majority of Sheltie breeders that I know, and I know of quite a few, are breeding for AKC conformation, which is about a certain 'type' and not at all about soundness of temperament or even structure. It's really sad. I now do agility with a rescue BC, and I adopt senior rescue Shelties because I love the breed, but I don't expect them to be able to do much, frankly.

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Gloria, a big huge thanks for writing a very beautiful post. I am so sorry folks for entering here just once a day. Trying to juggle the freelance to get enough food on the table and also Eluane’s agility training (it now takes us 3 hours every night we go out to train) because my MACH friend is now training us by videotape. Setting up the camera, resetting up the entire room equipment, compiling the video in Adobe Premiere, and hefting around the equipment all by myself (no, my boyfriend does not! support my agility efforts- he says we have no frivolous money to be monkeying around and spending all these endless hours on agility) – so when I go out to the agility club it’s all a one-person effort. So please bear with me….

 

Everyone has such wonderful posts but it also gets me a bit sad because there are some wonderful agility people like Root Beer who are trying to get a balanced agility voice about our dogs. Folks, please be sure to re-read Root Beer several times over, because she covers several important points about the agility.

 

I also forgot to thank SS Cressa for correcting me about accidentally calling the British Kennel Club AKC, ugh! My British friends in the UK would have a giggle at this (they are very sweet people) but I’m mortified by this whoppin’ error. It was late at night, I was trying to rush and multitask, and my brains got caught in a scramble. However, I do have to disagree about a MACH handler, Cressa, if you take the term literally. A handler is one who runs their dog. They are running their MACH dog. So I hold my case, and please remember I am trying to shortcut words so I will be amiss here or there. Cressa, and for anyone who is asking about me, here is what I wrote regarding myself:

 

What Serena wrote: Kristin I did want to differentiate those handlers who "work" their dog in agility goals versus the hobbyist handler. I consider myself a hobbyist handler who desperately wishes she was a "worker MACH handler" and will keep fighting for those levels in spite of the "impossibility”
.

 

I will explain my background more when I return.

 

Kellypup wrote:

In Agility, the dog is given explicit directions on which obstacles to tackle... how does that prove to expand the breed's intelligence and problem solving abilities versus a dog you tell "bring in the sheep" and the dog does it on his own?

 

Agility courses are, what, two to three minutes at high speed? Maybe a little longer depending on the course? How would that burst assist breeders in knowing a dog's stamina and whether the dog could work for 12 hours? Or even three hours?

 

What about balance and stock sense? There is no way to see that in Agility.

 

Courage? Not even close to the same level.

 

And control. Without a doubt, it does take a decent amount of handler control to handle your dog in an Agility ring; however, that's not the type of control I'm talking about. There needs to be strong self control for a dog to not get distracted when working sometimes out of sight of the shepherd... and to not get overly excited grip/kill stock.

 

Kelly and BCnew2, it’s wonderful hearing about all the skills and the wonderful judgement and brain power that the working border collie has. But please remember that no one is saying that agility is superior to a working dog or that they even share the same ranking system. A MACH handler with placement rosettes and top national ranks has achieved the highest they can achieve. It is our only means to measure how outstanding our dogs and our skills really are for those doing AKC agility. People like me are only hobbyists and pet owners, but what we wish to do is help petition AKC against conformation shows of Border Collies and yes, the puppy mill issue. All of which I was not aware of until several people here notified me about this…And we would like to have the top Border Collie MACH handlers be involved in our forum too, because we all deeply love our dogs and have concerns for the breed too!!!

 

Oh, crap I’ve got to leave again….I will be back! I want to write about Gloria's very special, beautiful post too....Thank you Gloria!

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There are of course breeders who are not so noble...think about the people you knew in Collies, GB. Most were decent people who believed in what they were doing, right?

 

Yes, they were. Or at least, they believed in what they were doing. But since when has that been a guarantee of enlightened, correct or even rational thinking? I'm sure that the doctors who prescribed thalidomide in the '60s, did so thinking it was for the betterment of the human condition. But it turns out that it wasn't. Was thalidomide insufficiently tested? Probably.

 

My Collie breeding circle were all - each and every one of them - afflicted to some degree with "ribbon-itus." And while many of them were excellent puppy-raisers who conscientiously screened prospective homes, tested their breeding stock, and charged very reasonable prices for their puppies, their breeding goals led them to unwittingly produce dogs increasingly subject to the evils of line-breeding, inbreeding and pursuing a cosmetic standard. Even those which started out vowing they would never breed a Collie that wasn't normal-eyed would eventually be heard to say, "Sure, he's a grade 2 - but he throws such great rears and ear-sets!" With few exceptions, their dogs became increasingly useless for anything requiring fitness - mental or physical, to the point that putting a CGC on a dog was considered a major accomplishment. (Which is why I now own a Border Collie of uncertain pedigree, rather that a Rough Collie.)

 

I can envision the sport-breeders producing a type of Border Collie that is not only useless as a stock dog, but useless as even a family pet - a dog so amped up mentally that it will never settle down and will be a liability anywhere outside a competition ring. (And maybe sometimes even in the competition ring!)

 

No, it all boils down to one thing. No one has any business breeding Border Collies but the serious stockman/woman. Knowledgeable, experienced people who will proof their breeding output on stock and guard the health, sanity and stock working ability of the breed.

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Yes, they were. Or at least, they believed in what they were doing. But since when has that been a guarantee of enlightened, correct or even rational thinking? I'm sure that the doctors who prescribed thalidomide in the '60s, did so thinking it was for the betterment of the human condition. But it turns out that it wasn't. Was thalidomide insufficiently tested? Probably.

 

My Collie breeding circle were all - each and every one of them - afflicted to some degree with "ribbon-itus."

 

Of course they are...they were conformation breeders! The whole point of their breeding program is to get dogs that win, right? I'm not saying that this is the right thing to do, because I agree that its not. But most breeders have a goal, some do so to breed dogs that win something or can do something...if not they are probably the kind of people we call backyard breeders or puppy millers, yes?

 

I can envision the sport-breeders producing a type of Border Collie that is not only useless as a stock dog, but useless as even a family pet - a dog so amped up mentally that it will never settle down and will be a liability anywhere outside a competition ring. (And maybe sometimes even in the competition ring!)

 

Oh, some do. I do think that many of the people who see sporty Border Collies as out of control idiots are basing that on seeing them amped up at an agility trial handled by people who believe that asking for self control will negatively affect their performance. I have owned both sport bred and working bred and the sporty dogs were just as well behaved and in control...because I trained for an expected it. I do think there was a something missing that the working bred dogs had...but they were not out of control. Thats a training issue.

 

'Agility is a whole different culture from stockdog work.

 

No, it all boils down to one thing. No one has any business breeding Border Collies but the serious stockman/woman. Knowledgeable, experienced people who will proof their breeding output on stock and guard the health, sanity and stock working ability of the breed.

 

I think most people here will agree with that. There are sport/performance breeders who do preserve health and consider the dogs temperament...but they don't understand the idea that its the whole picture that makes the breed, not a few selected traits that make a dog run fast at agility. I just don't think it helps to be accusatory and call sport breeders bad people out to gyp people (I don't really recall your exact words, sorry). Most are not. They do come at the breeding of dogs from a completely different paradigm and it will take time and effort to educate the people who are educable (is that a word? lol). Some are not interested in considering something different, but there are some who are...you were, I was. I think the OP has a sliver of sense when she talks about the idea that building bridges will help save the Border Collie. We just all agree that her answer is not the right one.

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