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Dear Doggers,

 

I don't think there's any moral difference bewteen sheepdoggers and dog fanciers although we wear better hats and bigger belt buckles. That said, there are cultural differences which manifest in some – not all - individuals.

 

Sheepdog culture is an amalgam of british shepherding and rodeo culture: hence the lingo and the notion that “real” sheepdogging occurs best on the range with wily range ewes. Sheepdogs are a specialized form of livestock and many/most breeders won’t take back a pup and/or sold dog after 60 days. The words “cute”, “noble”, “handsome” and “typey” are rarely heard. The culture is politically libertarian, rule averse and democratic. Status is earned either by achievements on the trial field or years of dedication to the breed and/or sport.

 

It is a friendly culture but it will take years to join in the Big Hats’ conversations. Often Sheepdoggers are reticent about their non-dog activities. You may never learn another’s occupation, income or marital status.

 

The proof is in the work the handler and his/her dog can achieve.

 

Carping about judging is muted and rare unless the judging (usually British interestingly enough) outrages the community. It is assumed that judges do their best and don’t play favorites although known top handlers probably get the benefit of the doubt. Judges occasionally make mistakes which may help as well as hurt. When point spreads between first and third are so narrow (a) the best dog that day may not have won but (B) the winner should be congratulated.

 

Country courtesy is expected. One congratulates the brute who just laid down a great run. One avoids unecessary disagreement. One says “Good morning” to those destined for Hell.

 

The Dog Fancy is an authoritarian relic of the gilded age and deference to great wealth is expected (See Westminster Kennel Club). Knowledge of dogs is not required for status. At the Top Show Dogs banquet I attended (cost, maybe 100K) one of the honorees was the Japanese representative of the consortium that owned the Top Dog.(No dogs were present).

 

While the various AKC performance cultures have their own nuances, they exist within a broader culture where the Dog Savviest individual has less status than someone with non-dog power – be he/she the AKC rep, the Westminster KC Director or the billionaire with a new found avocation.

 

To an outsider, this powerlessness seems to make competent adults act like children and accept that they will be treated like children. If conformation show ringsiders are to be believed, all judges are corrupt and “the fix is in”, the non-Dog Fancy hate Dog Fanciers and are in cahoots with PETA determined to take Fanciers’ dogs away from them.

 

Rules must be written for every possible eventuality and enforced by officials or self appointed volunteers.

 

Dogs must be on leashes unless performing because dogs cannot be trusted and their owners/children are incompetent.

 

 

Donald McCaig

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While the various AKC performance cultures have their own nuances, they exist within a broader culture where the Dog Savviest individual has less status than someone with non-dog power – be he/she the AKC rep, the Westminster KC Director or the billionaire with a new found avocation.

 

That pretty much sums it up. Thank you.

 

 

 

ETA: Not that the pursuit of status is a worthy goal for any other reason than to lay low and keep the pack from going for the belly

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Sheepdogs are a specialized form of livestock and many/most breeders won’t take back a pup and/or sold dog after 60 days.

 

I didn't realize this was a common practice. The breeders I've bought dogs from stood behind their dogs and had no problem taking them back after months or years, rehabilitating them if necessary, and re-homing them. In fact, they'd frequently look after dogs bred by other, less responsible people, and help them too.

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I didn't realize this was a common practice. The breeders I've bought dogs from stood behind their dogs and had no problem taking them back after months or years, rehabilitating them if necessary, and re-homing them. In fact, they'd frequently look after dogs bred by other, less responsible people, and help them too.

 

This is my experience as well, Grizel. I also personally know breeders who put a first right of refusal clause in their contracts because they want to know where their kennel's progeny ends up.

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Having said that...

 

One of the reasons I support the working Border Collie people is that the whole idea of the breed ring and the paper standard is ostensibly to preserve these breeds according to the function for which they were (historically) selectively bred. If you're not going to preserve a breed according this ideal, or if you're only preserving a sort of replica, why not say so? Don't keep up the pretense of judging for function.

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I don't know where Donald gets the idea that working breeders don't take their puppies back after 60 days ... He can speak for himself but not the working community.

 

I absolutely want my puppies back at any time in their lives. I do reserve right of first refusal at puppy price until 10 mo in my puppy contract.

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I didn't realize this was a common practice. The breeders I've bought dogs from stood behind their dogs and had no problem taking them back after months or years, rehabilitating them if necessary, and re-homing them. In fact, they'd frequently look after dogs bred by other, less responsible people, and help them too.

Seriously, they take back their dogs years after they are sold.

I assume (hope...) this is without a refund...

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I imagine by now the safest thing to say in these matters is "in my experience" so as not to raise any hackles. I guess the validity of such statements is borne out by the size of the sample to which each commenter has been exposed, which would be facilitated by a number of years of involvement and more frequent exposure to other breeders.

 

Those breeders like workindog who are both breeding for stockwork and taking responsibility for their dogs are exactly the folks who should be breeding to maintain the Border Collie (in my little corner of the ethics world).

 

Just as an aside, according to this website http://www.bcrescue.org/bcwarning.html, about a quarter of the Border Collies ending up in rescue are dogs rejected for work. Of the other 75% (assuming this statistic is valid), who knows how many dogs were purchased from stock folks and later relinquished by pet owners. Still, it would be safe to suspect that breeders who are not preserving the Border Collie as he should be preserved are contributing the most to the overpopulation problem.

 

My two cents.

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Mr. Working Dog wonders,

 

"I don't know where Donald gets the idea that working breeders don't take their puppies back after 60 days ... He can speak for himself but not the working community."

 

I have taken back pups from my infrequent breedings but I am sentimental. But, as I wrote: many/most top breeders here and in the Uk are not and will not rehome a failed pup. If you are breeding for working ability, two or three litters a year (and if you are a serious breeder those are typical numbers) that's 8-21 pups a year. If some dope has taken a pup and spent six months teaching it to nip children's heels, refuse to come when called and attack other dogs, why would you want it back? What would you do with it?

 

The key here, I think, isn't kindness or sentimentality nor the "responsible breeder" mantra the dog fancy proclaims. The key is time - how much time have you for each of your dogs. How much work for them? How much training time? If you take a ruined dog back just to leave it in the kennel, what favors are you doing it? If you take it back to retrain it, it's likely to be suitable only as a pet. Fine - which of your young dogs won't be getting the work or training they need while you produce that pet? What about your high-maintenance old timers - the dogs you owe? How much less time will you have for them?

 

Sheepdogs take time and time is inelastic. WhenI consider buying a dog I don't ask myself if I can feed it or care for it or walk it - I can do all those things. I ask: do I have the time?

 

That sheepdogs like horses are traditionally seen as a specialized form of livestock makes me uneasy. As I said, I am sentimental and there are others, including some top handlers, who are sentimental too. Many others including some of the best won't take back pups or trained dogs unless they have a ready market for them.

 

Donald McCaig

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The key here, I think, isn't kindness or sentimentality nor the "responsible breeder" mantra the dog fancy proclaims. The key is time - how much time have you for each of your dogs. How much work for them? How much training time? If you take a ruined dog back just to leave it in the kennel, what favors are you doing it? If you take it back to retrain it, it's likely to be suitable only as a pet. Fine - which of your young dogs won't be getting the work or training they need while you produce that pet? What about your high-maintenance old timers - the dogs you owe? How much less time will you have for them?

 

Donald McCaig

 

IMHO, the dog fancy is not unique in promoting or practicing "responsible breeding". The key IS time - if you don't have the time to deal with the fallout from your breeding decisions, then perhaps you shouldn't breed. I think there is more to breeding than making sure that 2 working dogs are a good match and produce good, promising offspring. Other responsibilities include proper puppy vet care and socializing, due diligence in choosing puppy purchasers to increase the probability of good homes and yes, accepting the pup or young dog or adult back when the placement has not worked out (poor training, neglect, divorce, death, career changes, etc.). One should be prepared for this contingency and have a strategy for retraining, re-homing (or whatever) failed puppy placements.

 

Just my 2 pence.

 

Jovi

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I have taken back pups from my infrequent breedings but I am sentimental.

What's wrong with sentiment?

 

I am not prepared to argue that sentimentality gives us a necessary evolutionary advantage, but I do consider if sentiment has been or should be factored into the development of our ethics.

 

I don't think sentiment is a silly or bad thing unless a person becomes an irrational, maudlin mess with it (which I've probably done once or twice).

I hear words like "usefulness" in connection with sheep herding, but I also hear words like "poetry". That smacks of a sentiment. Don't get me wrong, I share the herding/poetry sentiment, but I don'tthink I could successfully argue that it is on any higher plane than the animal welfare sentiment.

 

 

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I think what folks might be missing in Donald's comments are the fact that there wasn't much sentimentality in the past when it came to breeding border collies. That's why he mentions that they were seen as another form of livestock. Most breeders of livestock don't sell an animal and then take it back later if the new owner can't keep it.

 

As border collies have entered mainstream society and breeders thereof also come from those same ranks (mainstream society), mores have changed and most people who consider themselves responsible breeders (myself included) *would* take a pup back. But the origins of the breed are in terms of livestock, and as such I don't think Donald is completely off the mark when he states that some breeders won't take such dogs back. I'm guessing these breeders are the old timers whose breeding and bloodlines--if not their lack of responsibility (from our POV)--we all appreciate today.

 

J.

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I think what folks might be missing in Donald's comments are the fact that there wasn't much sentimentality in the past when it came to breeding border collies. J.

 

My visceral reaction to the word "sentimental" is that it is mildly disparaging. But I guess I'm just not bright enough to figure out for myself that he is either using it as a literary device or in its most innocuous sense. Damn I hate it when I miss stuff :angry:

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I've found that on forums and e-mail lists it's best to take people's comments at face value and not assume some underlying trickery of usage meant to belittle or offend others. Giving the benefit of the doubt is always a good policy, IMO, and it would go a long way toward saving people hurt feelings and knee-jerk reactions to what other people write. As a professional writer and editor, I try to be careful about what I say so that it won't be misinterpreted, but there's always the chance someone will do just that....

 

JMO.

 

J.

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I've found that on forums and e-mail lists it's best to take people's comments at face value and not assume some underlying trickery of usage meant to belittle or offend others. Giving the benefit of the doubt is always a good policy, IMO, and it would go a long way toward saving people hurt feelings and knee-jerk reactions to what other people write. As a professional writer and editor, I try to be careful about what I say so that it won't be misinterpreted, but there's always the chance someone will do just that....

 

JMO.

 

J.

 

 

Completely agree!!

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My visceral reaction to the word "sentimental" is that it is mildly disparaging. But I guess I'm just not bright enough to figure out for myself that he is either using it as a literary device or in its most innocuous sense. Damn I hate it when I miss stuff :angry:

 

I was not clear here (I'm obviously not a writer)... I do not think anyone was using the word "sentimental" to disparage others. I probably should have used "self-deprecating" rather than disparaging. Sorry about that.

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The key here, I think, isn't kindness or sentimentality nor the "responsible breeder" mantra the dog fancy proclaims. The key is time - how much time have you for each of your dogs. How much work for them? How much training time? If you take a ruined dog back just to leave it in the kennel, what favors are you doing it? If you take it back to retrain it, it's likely to be suitable only as a pet. Fine - which of your young dogs won't be getting the work or training they need while you produce that pet? What about your high-maintenance old timers - the dogs you owe? How much less time will you have for them?

 

Donald McCaig

 

I'm glad this wasn't my dog's breeder's philosophy. I got him at nine months, when he was returned. His owners admitted that the only reason that they were taking him back to the person they got him from was because of the contact they'd signed. They had been considering taking him to the shelter.

 

He'd been through a couple bad experiences, and he may have appeared ruined to the naked eye. However, a large number of people in the working and performance border collie community have experience with such dogs, and they swung into action to help us. Asking for very little from me, they rehabbed him as a pet and performance dog.

 

The only reason they didn't succeed in making him into a working dog is me. He's way more dog than I can handle (for stockwork). However, an insane number of people have offered to buy him, including well known handlers whose names you would recognize. After a few months of training, the breeder also told me he would like to buy him back because he needed a strong, talented dog to help him with his sheep/cattle operations.

 

I'm not saying all this to brag because, Lord knows, I was the weak link in the stockdog chain. However, I do want to say that people in border collie community know how to rehab all kinds of dogs, for all kinds of purposes, including stockwork. In my experience, they were more than willing to do so.

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I don't think the word "sentimental" was used in a disparaging sense. I think it was used to assert that those working breeders (including Donald) who take back pups or dogs they've sold do it out of sentiment (i.e., love for the dogs and personal discomfort with the idea of their being unwanted or homeless) rather than out of duty (i.e., a belief that it's a requirement of being a "responsible breeder").

 

I agree with that. Although I would take back any pup or dog I've placed at any time, and I make that clear to the new owner, I don't feel that there is or should be any obligation, legal or moral, to do so. For someone to be a good breeder, IMO, s/he must breed conscientiously and competently with paramount concern for both the good of the breed and the good of the individual dogs/pups s/he owns. S/he must place the pups with care, but once they are placed and ownership has changed hands, I cannot for the life of me understand why s/he has a continuing responsibility for them. They are then the new owner's responsibility.

 

I would not judge that someone was any less a good breeder (or "responsible breeder") because s/he did not take back the pups s/he had bred and sold. I have personally taken in dogs that a breeder was not willing or able to take back, and I have never felt that the breeder was in any way to blame in those situations. I doubt that most breeders within working dog culture who do take back their pups judge other breeders who don't do so as irresponsible. They judge them by the criteria above, especially the quality of the pups they produce and the quality of the care they give to the dogs they own, or have living with them.

 

As for how many good working breeders do take back their pups, I think Donald is underestimating the percentage, probably because he is going by how things were when he first came into sheepdogging, and I think there has been a definite shift toward taking back pups since then. A growth in sentimentality, if you will. :)

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I don't think the word "sentimental" was used in a disparaging sense. I think it was used to assert that those working breeders (including Donald) who take back pups or dogs they've sold do it out of sentiment (i.e., love for the dogs and personal discomfort with the idea of their being unwanted or homeless) rather than out of duty (i.e., a belief that it's a requirement of being a "responsible breeder").

 

Yeah, I totally missed that. Sorry Donald. But, in my defense, at least I "get" his books (I swear!)

 

(laughing at self)

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I don't feel that there is or should be any obligation, legal or moral, to do so.

 

If I were ever puppy buyer, there would be an appeal to dealing with a breeder who didn't mind what happened next. It would certainly provide a lot of autonomy, especially if I were buying a puppy for a specific activity that I was determined to succeed in.

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