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What many people in the dog sport world seem to fail to understand is that certain dog sports require training and the quality of the results is more the trainer than the dog. Even the AKC acknowledges some sports obedience, Ralley tracking and agility are"Obedience" while things the dog should be born to do are 'performance'.

 

A good trainer can train a dog to do great agility yes the dog needs to have a physical ability to achieve greatness. But it is the training and trainer that makes the difference. Breeding dogs for agility or obedience is NOT what makes for good dogs for these sports. In the case of the Border Collie it is the breeding for working livestock that makes them so suitable for these training centric sports.

 

Yes, stock work involves training, but if the dog does not have the instincts and physical ability it will never be much good. and a dog bred well can go out and with the kick and cuss method of training do whatever is needed on the farm/ranch.

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What many people in the dog sport world seem to fail to understand is that certain dog sports require training and the quality of the results is more the trainer than the dog.

 

That has not been my experience.

 

I have trained for and participated in sports with four dogs now and I can attest to the fact that with practically the same training, the results can be dramatically different, depending on what each individual dog brings into the partnership.

 

Yes, training can practically work miracles at times.

 

But even the best trainer can't give the dog natural abilities that the dog simply does not have. Even in dog sports, there are skills that some dogs simply cannot gain a high level of aptitude for, and other dogs that will more than excel in certain areas with far, far less training.

 

That would be like saying, "the results of the olympic athlete is more the coach than the athlete". And while good coaching is an essential element, certainly, it is the athlete who must have the raw talent and the commitment, and who must do the lion's share of the work.

 

An excellent trainer/handler can do amazing things with a dog with less natural ability than an inexperienced or unskilled handler can. Conversely, an inexperienced or unskilled handler can do quite a lot more with a dog with an unusually high level of natural ability than he or she would with a dog that is challenged in some way.

 

The "top handlers" in Agility do not run Border Collies because they are such excellent trainers that they can train any dog of any breed to be excellent. If that were the case, there would be far less Border Collies in Agility - a lot of these people were not Border Collie people to start with, but switched to Border Collies at some point as part of getting to the top. If it really were more training than the dog, they would not have needed to make that switch.

 

Ralley tracking

 

Interesting concept!!

 

Instead of the signs being numbered, a track could be set between the signs. The dog must sniff out the proper path and, upon finding the correct sign, the handler must have the dog perform it.

 

I could see the Retriever folks going in for that big time! Terrier people, too. :D:D:D

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What many people in the dog sport world seem to fail to understand is that certain dog sports require training and the quality of the results is more the trainer than the dog. Even the AKC acknowledges some sports obedience, Ralley tracking and agility are"Obedience" while things the dog should be born to do are 'performance'.

 

Tracking is considered a form of obedience? Even for breeds traditionally used for tracking (e.g., bloodhounds)? Couldn't one argue that many hounds and hunting dogs were born to track?

 

J.

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Tracking is considered a form of obedience? Even for breeds traditionally used for tracking (e.g., bloodhounds)? Couldn't one argue that many hounds and hunting dogs were born to track?

 

Edited:

 

Apparently AKC defines "performance" as a breed specific activity.

 

So, Agility and tracking would not be considered "performance" simply because they are open to all breeds.

 

That doesn't mean they are a form of Obedience, just that, like Obedience, they are open to all breeds.

 

According to the AKC website, via Google:

 

"Since tracking is a natural ability of all dogs, any breed can compete"

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Tracking in protection sports like schutzhund also falls under obedience.

 

I understand what Pam is saying. Obviously no one can take a dachshund and train it yo win in races against a greyhound. That goes without even saying. I also would not pick a halter bred horse for my next reining prospest. But, take a well bred dog of your chosen breed and compare it to another like animal and all will have their individual challenges. THAT is where the trainer comes in. The ability to take the animal and assist with it's tailored training.

And that is the norm. Are there extremes out there where a specific team can overcome more hurdles than others? Yes. But they should not be used for general discussion. Neither should be teams that have everything but for some reason just do not mesh. That would be the other end of the extreme.

 

I have bred some litters, bought pups and rescued. I have meddled in herding (first love) agility, rally, frisbee, ring, mondio and schutzhund. I sniffed around with s&r, tracking, service dogs and flyball.

What always frustrates me is that if a dog is bred for it's original purpose, there are naturally enough "leftover" pups that will not make the best stockdog, police dog, hunting dog. No matter what anyone does. But even these "leftovers" are still very nice dogs that should easily fill the demands of "other" uses. Now understand, I am not trying to put the "other" uses down. Nor am I calling the "leftovers" bad. Not one bit. But fortunately so many different people desire different traits and personalities in their dogs that good breeding for the original purpose will be able to fill at all times.

I have a tough time putting this in words without offending anyone. I have a set of "leftovers" myself and love them dearly.

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A good Border Collie of working bloodlines can make a useful chore dog despite a total lack of training aside from very basic obedience (name, lie down, here), getting better with nothing but "on the job" experience.

 

The best Border Collie from top sport bloodlines can't go out and run an agility course without being taught a whole host of skills and commands.

 

That is the difference.

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The best Border Collie from top sport bloodlines can't go out and run an agility course without being taught a whole host of skills and commands.

 

Of course, the same would be true of the best Border Collie from top working lines.

 

If Agility were instinctive to working bred Border Collies, but sport bred Border Collies needed training, Agility enthusiasts would be banging down the doors of the working breeders to get these point and shoot ready-to-run puppies.

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I think the overall point here is instinct.

 

It is possible to train non-herding breeds, ie a Golden Retriever, to herd stock, but those dogs do not possess the natural aptitude that working stock dogs, which were bred specifically for that purpose, possess as part of their heritage.

 

However, even that heritage could be suspect if the breeding pair do not produce viable working offspring (and I mean working stock).

 

That being said, it all depends on the traits you value. For an agility dog, the handler might want a focused, fast dog who is not so overly excited in running the course that it blows the contacts. A SAR dog, depending on the area of SAR the handler favors, needs focus, a good nose, caution going over unstable surfaces, and good pacing to get to a person in trouble before it's too late (if you're looking into primarily live rescues and not cadaver searches). And none of this leaves out temperament by any stretch of the imagination.

 

Being toy or food motivated is secondary to a dog with a natural inclination to the type of work. In essence, the work itself is the reward.

 

IMO, border collies are the most versatile breed because they love the work. They love to work for the sake of working. That is a byproduct of their particular heritage: the intelligence and control they possess to problem solve and read the stock to get the stock where it needs to be. If we were to remove that element from the equation, or dilute it, we still have a dog that can do other things well, but we loose that drive, that natural tendency, to read the stock and do what needs to be done with limited to no direction from the handler.

 

Sure, there will be "washouts" and "leftovers" (and I mean these term affectionately), but aren't those in every discipline? Take a service dog washout; one specifically bred for the work, it might not have passed the rigorous tests, but it still makes a fantastic pet. Likewise, I've seen, and trained, shelter dogs to fully functional SDs if they possess the right personality and desire.

 

Point is, if we breed for the original purpose, be it herding, hunting, tracking, sledding, or even companion (the American Eskimo Dog comes to mind), then we will have dogs with the potential to do their traditional work, but can excel in the newer sports we have created.

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Point is, if we breed for the original purpose, be it herding, hunting, tracking, sledding, or even companion (the American Eskimo Dog comes to mind), then we will have dogs with the potential to do their traditional work, but can excel in the newer sports we have created.

 

Of course that is most certainly true.

 

And that's why I'd say the quality of results in sports is every bit as much about the dog as it is about the trainer.

 

Obviously, a good sport partner does not have to have all of the elements that are essential for a Border Collie to be a good stockdog. One probably has a much better shot at finding a near perfect Agility prospect in a shelter than one has at finding a near perfect stockdog in a shelter (although I'm sure some fine stockdogs have been found in shetlers). And yes, one can probably get farther in Agility with a dog that is not naturally suited to it than one can get in stockwork with a dog that is not naturally suited to it. Been there, done that, and it was a great experience.

 

But if I'm going to be totally honest I will admit flat out that working with a dog that is naturally suited to Agility is better in almost every way. No disrespect to my former Agility partner who turned out to be a wonderful partner, although that didn't happen easily.

 

Yes, working with a training partner who is driven to work, learns quickly and easily, wants to keep trying no matter what the setback, and just glows with satisfaction after any sequence or run or whatever, is something indescribably incredible. That doesn't mean it's easy-peasy, but there is a measure of "ease" to it that is not there with a dog that you have to work your rear end off to motivate, train, and make even the smallest progress. And the one with more natural ability is going to get farther than the one I had to work for so long to prepare for even the beginner level.

 

So, although a Border Collie who does Agility does not need all of the same skills and abilities as a Border Collie that does stockwork, those exact traits are, generally speaking, going to produce the dog that excels in sports.

 

As a sport enthusiast, I want those traits in my Border Collies even though my dogs are never going to use them to work stock. Those traits still matter even though it might seem, on the surface, like I don't actually need them to do what I choose to do with my dogs. I might not "need" them in a "basic necessity of life" sense, but those traits make for a better sport partner, which matters a great deal to me, even though that is not the only, nor even the most important, role of my dogs in my life.

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Of course, the same would be true of the best Border Collie from top working lines.

 

If Agility were instinctive to working bred Border Collies, but sport bred Border Collies needed training, Agility enthusiasts would be banging down the doors of the working breeders to get these point and shoot ready-to-run puppies.

I think you may have missed Liz's point entirely - that a well-bred, working-bred dog can be useful and perform some useful stockwork from instinct alone as its natural instinct is to gather and fetch stock to the handler.

 

A sport-bred (or working-bred) dog will not demonstrate "useful" agility work from instinct and won't go out and be jumping jumps, running through tunnels, walking the dogwalk or teeter, naturally and on its own, without being taught, except possibly in a random fashion.

 

The working-bred dog's basic ability is founded on instinct, and training refines and guides instinct. The sport dog's basic ability is founded on training (and being physically suited to that exercise, and mentally suited to the training). Instinct versus training.

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Thank you Sue. I wasn't quite getting how Liz's comments were being misinterpreted, but well, I think yoou summed it up nicely.

 

I'll add that a dog that is naturally suited to agility might be found among many different breeds. The same might not be said of dogs naturally suited to stockwork, which I think was Liz's point in a nutshell.

 

J.

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I think you may have missed Liz's point entirely - that a well-bred, working-bred dog can be useful and perform some useful stockwork from instinct alone as its natural instinct is to gather and fetch stock to the handler.

 

Actually, I did not miss that point, but took it a step further, from the perspective of a Border Collie owner who does sports, not stockwork.

 

And while those exact instincts are not "needed" in Agility, the fact that the Border Collie has those instincts is still an asset to the Border Collie sport partner that sets the Border Collie apart from other breeds, even in disciplines where the Border Collie instincts are utilized outside of their original context.

 

A sport-bred (or working-bred) dog will not demonstrate "useful" agility work from instinct and won't go out and be jumping jumps, running through tunnels, walking the dogwalk or teeter, naturally and on its own, without being taught, except possibly in a random fashion.

 

True. And yet, there is something that a Border Collie brings to Agility that dogs of other breeds do not. That goes beyond training. Labs that have the same training aren't the same. Terriers that have the same training aren't the same.

 

It's hard to explain, but there certainly is a difference - and it's more than physical and more than that the Border Collie is "smart". Otherwise, so many would not go "to the dark side", especially when there is so much peer pressure not to. That difference goes back to that very instinct.

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I get it.

 

I train dogs differently based on both the dog's heritage and own personality. It's a matter of tapping into the dog's natural inclinations and using those forge the partnership. It's all a matter of getting through to the dog.

 

The border collie, and this is something I have not experienced with any other breed, brings a unique type of focus and devotion to the table when you're talking about dog sports. It is a byproduct of their stock working purpose that makes them an absolute joy to partner with, and it can also be very problematic if you don't know what you're doing or have someone to help you.

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I taught Kipp how to find people and alert to them. To climb ladders and go through tunnels. To walk on wobbly surfaces and run from base to base on my direction. It took about 2 years from start to finish. And then I take him out to the sheep and he automatically circles, balances and flanks them. I can shape the former behaviors from a basic set parameters. There is no way I can do that with the later - if they aren't born with it they don't have it.

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Of course that is most certainly true.

 

And that's why I'd say the quality of results in sports is every bit as much about the dog as it is about the trainer.

 

 

I'd go even further, and say that the chemistry between the two partners is essential. The area of endeavor also plays a huge role in whether or not a particular team will be successful.

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Yes, working with a training partner who is driven to work, learns quickly and easily, wants to keep trying no matter what the setback, and just glows with satisfaction after any sequence or run or whatever, is something indescribably incredible. That doesn't mean it's easy-peasy, but there is a measure of "ease" to it that is not there with a dog that you have to work your rear end off to motivate, train, and make even the smallest progress. And the one with more natural ability is going to get farther than the one I had to work for so long to prepare for even the beginner level.

 

 

But IME, and from what I've heard from people selecting performance dogs, it's not too difficult to screen dogs for these traits. A good trainer can select a dog from a myriad of breeds (or mixes) that has great potential to be that "olympic athlete"

 

The desire to work and ability to motivate is certainly not exclusive to the Border Collie breed even though they have that extra measure of bidability.

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Call me crazy, (you wouldn't be the first! :P ) but I think the handler's motivation and reason for selecting a Border Collie bears a little examination here.

 

Why a Border Collie for agility? Answers I might think of are:

 

I just like them and and I like to do agility, so that's what I want.

 

Border Collies have all the qualities that make them the most competitive,

and I want to win titles.

 

Border Collies are the smartest, fastest, etc. so they are easier/more fun

to teach.

 

I have a Border Collie that just loves agility more than anything,

so we do it.

 

I see no problem with any of these reasons, though they might not all be why I would choose to do agility with a Border Collie. I think that the handler who is really vested in winning as a #1 priority will likely choose a Border Collie.

 

For myself, the reason to train any dog to do agility, or any other sport would be to experience being in sync with the dog. To have the dog jazzed about what is was doing and eager to do it well as my partner. (Note that I did not say to please me, although that is nice too.) To be able to communicate with the dog the the joy of doing something together and doing it well.

 

In a way, for me it would be more rewarding to take a dog like a Petite Bassett Griffon Vedeen, or a pit bull, or a rough Collie, and train it to do agility, well and happily. Not because it would have the best chance at ribbons or titles necessarily, but to get it so invested in our partnership that it would give me its personal best. To me, that would be a reward and a challenge worth pursuing. Much more than a title or a boxful of ribbons.

 

"But," you might object, "Why not pick the breed most suited, most talented, to do agility?" My answer would be, because in the big picture it doesn't matter if a Border Collie is good at agility. Agility is something we do because we find it personally rewarding.

 

But it does matter if a Border Collie is good at stock work. For a Border Collie it matters more than just about anything. Because it is their natural work. It is the work that they were developed for, and the work people rely upon them to do, the work that gives them their value and purpose as a breed. The work that puts food on the table for them and their human counterparts.The work that, arguably, no other dog can do as well.

 

From this perspective any dog is a good choice for agility - even though some will be more talented than others. But only one will do for the work of the shepherd.

 

(Apologies to those of you who work Kelpies, Australian Cattle Dogs, Huntaways, etc. All these are valuable dogs in the pursuance of stockwork. But the isn't the "Kelpie Boards", so...)

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The desire to work and ability to motivate is certainly not exclusive to the Border Collie breed even though they have that extra measure of bidability.

 

That desire is certainly not exclusive to the Border Collie.

 

But exactly how that desire to work is manifest in the working partnership in Agility (or whatever sport) is certainly unique to the Border Collie. Part of it is the biddability, but it goes beyond that. There is something about the entire "package" that makes the Border Collie quite different, even from the dogs of other breeds that are motivated and have a good work ethic.

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But exactly how that desire to work is manifest in the working partnership in Agility (or whatever sport) is certainly unique to the Border Collie. Part of it is the biddability, but it goes beyond that. There is something about the entire "package" that makes the Border Collie quite different, even from the dogs of other breeds that are motivated and have a good work ethic.

 

 

I've thought about that too. I've wondered if it is one of many components of working ability, like mental mapping or spatial reasoning.

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In a way, for me it would be more rewarding to take a dog like a Petite Bassett Griffon Vedeen, or a pit bull, or a rough Collie, and train it to do agility, well and happily. Not because it would have the best chance at ribbons or titles necessarily, but to get it so invested in our partnership that it would give me its personal best. To me, that would be a reward and a challenge worth pursuing. Much more than a title or a boxful of ribbons.

 

In a lot of ways, I have found the same thing in sports with Border Collies.

 

In spite of their natural talent and everything that they bring to the table as sport partners, they also present incredible challenges. Like when Dean figured out that when bars fell on the floor in foundation class, they were 20 inch jumps, so he would avoid any and all 20 inch jumps. 20 inch tires were OK, 16 inch jumps were OK, but 20 inch jumps - no way. Took quite a while to convince him otherwise. Or helping Speedy to get his stimulation issues in check so he could dance much more artfully. Took years - literally. The experience of getting there certainly was worth more than his box of ribbons and medals and the titles that he earned along the way (although I certainly appreciate those also!)

 

You can't be caught napping when doing sports with a Border Collie - he or she will think of something in the meantime!!

 

One thing that I really appreciate about doing sports with Border Collies is that I have to maintain a sense of humor!!

 

I love the intensity that they bring. I love the outside the box thinking that they bring. I love the work ethic. I love that special balance of desire to work with the handler and desire to carry out tasks independently. I love having to think and work to figure out how to make it work when the challenges arise. And I love the electric spark of synchronicity when it all comes together!

 

"But," you might object, "Why not pick the breed most suited, most talented, to do agility?" My answer would be, because in the big picture it doesn't matter if a Border Collie is good at agility. Agility is something we do because we find it personally rewarding.

 

You do realize, that others do not share that particular point of view. :D

 

It matters a great deal to me, not so much that my Border Collie is "good" at Agility or Dance or whatever we are doing, but that my Border Collie puts his or her entire heart and being into it. It matters that we enter into that incredible dance together as partners, each of us an individual member of the team, coming together to make it happen.

 

Dog sports aren't just about the handler. If the dog and handler are not a team, it won't work on any level. There must be teamwork, partnership, give and take - and my experience has been that the Border Collie takes a role on the team that I simply don't see in dogs of other breeds - even those who are quite good at what they do.

 

Also, I've watched participation in dog sports play a role in my dog's lives that you would probably not believe. If you really think it's just about finding it personally rewarding (of course that's part of it), then I would say that there are aspects of participation in dog sports that you must not have experienced. But others certainly have.

 

Of course, I am not one who only considers what puts food on my table to be the only things that matter in life, nor - much of the time - even most important. I find life, in general, to be far richer than that.

 

From this perspective any dog is a good choice for agility - even though some will be more talented than others. But only one will do for the work of the shepherd.

 

For me, as a handler, nothing else will do.

 

In fact, if I had to train and perform with another breed, I honestly don't think I could even be bothered. I'd always be missing the Border Collie in the dog!!

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But exactly how that desire to work is manifest in the working partnership in Agility (or whatever sport) is certainly unique to the Border Collie. Part of it is the biddability, but it goes beyond that. There is something about the entire "package" that makes the Border Collie quite different, even from the dogs of other breeds that are motivated and have a good work ethic.

 

Can you expound on this?

 

FWIW, I've heard very similar statements made about GSDs, Malinios, Dutch Shepherds, Labradors, Goldens, Australian Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. All in a sport/working context. People tend to swear by a breed that they have had good success with in their chosen venue.

 

I really don't think that one can say that the partnership they have doing <insert chosen activity here> with a certain breed can't be matched by another breed for another person. (Unless of course one is doing stockwork with a Border Collie :)) It all comes down to what clicks for each person.

 

Personally, I'll stick with my Border Collies :D but I know lots of other people that have great working partnerships with other breeds that seem to feel the same way about their dogs/chosen breed as I do about mine.

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Can you expound on this?

 

How so? I think it was pretty clear. What, exactly, would you like expounded?

 

I really don't think that one can say that the partnership they have doing <insert chosen activity here> with a certain breed can't be matched by another breed. Unless of course one is doing stockwork with a Border Collie :)

 

Really? I absolutely can say, and do mean it.

 

Literally no other breed will do for me. I kind of experienced that with Maddie, although she was half Border Collie. But she was different enough that I got some experience of what it was like to be on the non-Border Collie side. I loved her 100%, but what I loved about her were more her Border Collie traits.

 

We have adopted two dogs since we adopted her. Guess what they both are? Border Collies. Guess what I will go looking for when I go to get my next dog? A Border Collie.

 

Personally, I'll stick with my Border Collies :D but I know lots of other people that have great working partnerships with other breeds that seem to feel the same way about their dogs/chosen breed as I do about mine.

 

Border Collies are certainly not for everyone. Many would be miserable with Border Collies for the exact same reasons that I find them absolutely perfect.

 

Of course, people with dogs of other breeds have great working partnerships with their dogs.

 

But I can say for myself that I would not have that kind of working partnership with any other type of dog.

 

I know quite a lot of Aussies, GSD's, Labs, Goldens, Shelties, etc. I work with many of them, and their handlers, directly in my classes. Some are fellow students in classes I have been in for years. Many of them are smart, friendly, and nice dogs. But that's what they are - nice dogs. They aren't Border Collies. They don't have the same expression in their eyes. Their minds don't work the same way. They don't draw the same conclusions when met with different situations. Those that have a strong bond with their handler - the bond isn't quite the same. That doesn't mean it is somehow "less", but the characteristics of it are different.

 

Honestly, I'm surprised that anyone who lives with, works with, trains, and handles Border Collies doesn't find these differences to be readily evident, even outside of a stockwork context. Certainly those who consider Border Collies "the dark side" see it.

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Hope I can articulate this thought...

 

But in reference to agility vs herding. The lack of "instinct" in agility.

How do you explain the dogs that just "get" agility. Not sure how else to explain... but Cressa understands the concepts of agility to a certain extent. Dont get me wrong I had to "teach" her how to perform the obstacle safely and to convince her that we were a TEAM. But running her in agility she just picks up on the flow of the course(it saved us countless time and has also killed us other). Some border collie has an essence of the flow of the course and other border collies do not and relies solely on the handler for directions. Cant say if its typical of border collies in agility or not but it seems to be in innate ability( :) not sure how you would even teach it?!). But say you were breeding for it(LOL Not sure if its possible?!). In essence wouldn't you be breeding for a border collie to have an innact understand of agility?

 

Dont know how that would translate to working them on sheep/livestock?! Cressa has only been exposed to sheep twice. Stop when I was talking to a trainer and they noted something along the lines of only do herding if your serious about it(Am not serious, I just like seeing her ability start to manifiest itself). That and its only worth while if I had access to livestock(i dont).

 

 

Sidenote: Cressa is spayed! Am just using her as an example.

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SS Cressa,

I personally believe that the intuitiveness you experience when training agility is a direct result of breeding for stock work. A working stockdog has to be able to "read" the sheep and then react appropriately to accomplish a task. This can take place with the handler nowhere in sight. It's this intelligence and decision-making ability that attracts people who want to use dogs for other activities, but it is borne out of the need farmers had for a dog who could anticipate the behavior of a prey species and then make instant decisions to respond to that behavior and maintain control, with or without the input of a human. It's why they're so good at reading their sports handlers' intent--it comes from the ability to read the intent of livestock.

 

J.

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