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apparently involving independent distance work such as dogs working the fells here would need.Maybe you don't get the small field set ups that we have in some parts of the UK where a dog is working at much closer quarters.

 

No, we certainly have big farms (some are 20,000+ acres), but we also have many small farms set up with small pens and very small paddocks. Some of these farms are as small as 1 acre in size. Even the larger farms can have sorting systems that require a dog to work in confined spaces. The same dog that I send 800 yards to gather the flock can do sorting in a pen system, and I don't consider him a rare dog in the breed. Again, it's a matter of taking a good dog and giving that dog a wide variety of experiences. There are absolutely dogs out there who fail at big outruns despite good training but do very well on small farms. Those dogs, IMHO, should not be adding to the Border Collie gene pool.

 

I live on the coast where the sheep graze the salt marshes or in enclosed fields. 20 miles away we have the Pennines and the Lakeland fells where the sheep are free to roam. Could you take a dog from the coast and expect it to work the fells? Maybe in an ideal world but in practice from the dogs I know from both locations I don't think it's a given.

 

You don't know how a dog will do until you try. Certainly there would be a period of adjustment for any dog, but the breeding quality dogs should be able to adapt to the change.

 

An adolescent bitch was taken to the vet a few months ago to be put to sleep because she was said to have no outrun. She was rehomed on another farm and settled into working as that farmer wanted straight away. Hearsay on my part, of course, but I have no reason to doubt the source who was personally involved. So many "failures" rehomed elsewhere to work.

 

Dogs "fail" all the time due to poor training and handling. They also fail in once place but succeed in another because they lack the genetic skill set to complete certain tasks. Dogs with no outrun can be useful on a small farm, but should not be bred as Border Collies.

 

Your definition of "poor quality" would not be universal, I'm sure. Your "poor" may be someone else's "perfectly adequate for purpose".

 

Very true. But I also have different standards for working quality vs breeding quality. I've had many dogs over the years who I considered great for work but not worth breeding.

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When I get the opportunity to talk to people in the business I check out the opinions of those on here determined to preserve the "perfect" border collie and so far I haven't found anyone involved in working a dog with stock who is concerned with anything more than having a dog to do the job at hand - that's why so many pick up a dog at the local auction or get one from the next farm's litter if they

like their dog. If you are striving for perfection you will deplore that way of doing things, I'm sure, but it's what happens in real life here more often than going to Skipton and paying £1000s for a dog. I expect in the rarified world of trials it would be different - I will try and find out. I had to miss the Worlds in September (but not the mud) but am hopeful of getting to the English Nationals this year that are being held within walking distance of my house.

 

There is no perfect Border Collie. The important thing to remember is that even if you breed only the top 30% of dogs, each litter will (generally) contain a range of quality in the pups. Some will be worth breeding, some will not be worth breeding but will be useful work dogs and some may be total washouts from work (so also not worth breeding). However, the average quality level of that litter will be much higher than if you bred together 2 dogs that were just ok. In turn, your odds of getting a decent working dog will be higher.

 

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the impression I get is that you "generic you" want to preserve a type of dog that came to you more or less as it is now. Perhaps I see it differently as I look around me and consider how the dog you now see was developed in the first place and why. Needs are still changing here so it doesn't concern me over much that the process of manipulating a type of dog to fit those needs should continue. I think it's inevitable that there should be a divergence in function since nothing in life is static.

 

I am trying to preserve the type of dog that I need and want. The people I know in the USA and the UK still need a high quality, versatile dog. (Versatile meaning able to handle a wide variety of tasks while working stock).

 

Perhaps the major difference between us is that I'm not breedist about the BC or anything else. I don't have an emotional involvement with them over and above any other type of dog. I'm sure I would feel differently if I worked them with stock, but that could hold true if I went shooting with a lab or a spaniel, or took my JR rabbiting. I'm just as interested in how other working breeds came about and where they are going. I have an interest in the BC because of my location and the fact that they comprise the majority of dogs with which I am most familiar. I'm not sure whether owning one makes me more interested, but possibly not.

 

I think that you are showing a common (to the general public) lack of understanding of genetics and breeding. Constant selection pressure is needed just to maintain a breed. Without constant selection pressure, the dogs produced slowly return to a "wild type" dog that lacks the specialized skills needed for the job.

 

You have also been exposed to the myths that the same dog that works in confined spaces can't be just as good working in big open spaces. Certain groups love to perpetuate this myth as some sort of justification for why their own dogs can't do both.

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Julie, you want to know why there's so many people who trial on cattle that don't participate in USBCHA stuff? Probably for the same reason I haven't visited this forum in years.

 

Just to be clear, this forum has no affiliation with the USBCHA. It is sponsored by a different organization, the USBCC. While a certain number of those who post here are members of the USBCHA, most are not. The people who post here are simply the people who choose to post here.

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Good points Eileen, and it also says "all about Border Collies" at the top of the forum.

 

While i understand we can all post and read here,i always wonder about posters who want to come to a collie board and make claims, spout beliefs, about how other breeds do "it" better.

 

Most of us posting do not go other breed boards and say how super UN nifty we find shock collars, and dogs hanging on faces and tails.

 

Lords knows all the collie folks don't even agree on much, but add anther breed and it usually starts the "did not did to did not did to!"

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Liz P wrote:

 

"Very true. But I also have different standards for working quality vs breeding quality. I've had many dogs over the years who I considered great for work but not worth breeding."

 

I'm curious about this statement. Maybe Liz P. would elaborate? Just looking at your website which is listed in your signature block. Have you trialed the dogs you talk about breeding beyond the accomplishments you list on your site? By what combination of factors did you assess their breed worthiness?

 

Lori Cunningham

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Yes Sue, collars are no good when used poorly. Same as any other tool. Really this isn't the place to be having this discussion.

You brought this trial up as an example of a non-USBCHA-sanctioned trial, apparently because you felt it was a good example of a quality trial. If you post about something, you can expect there may be feedback, positive or negative.

 

As for comparing payback, I don't know many people who run consistently enough to be able to count on payback as being the reason they trial - I think payback for most is the icing on the cake, or a bonus for doing well. The reason for trialing is proving the dogs, being able to socialize with friends, and working dogs in a different location or on different stock in a competition setting. At least that's my experience in talking to friends who trial, some of whom trial quite a lot.

 

I guess we will just have to realize that we disagree on some things.

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Re the variability in dogs' ability to work cattle and/or sheep in varying conditions and in large or small areas: I wonder if this seeming inability in a dog that is very good in some situations is simply a lack of exposure to different types of stock, and stock being held in different sizes of operations?

 

Would you expect a dog to read and work at the proper distance from cattle if his whole training took place on sheep? (Or vice-versa?) Would a dog who had been trained and worked only on small, flat paddocks be expected to somehow know what to do when sent to gather widely scattered animals on a large craggy acreage?

 

Not having experience of my own, I would guess that a dog would need some guidance or time to work things out, or at least to work with a dog that already knew all about the task at hand. I understand that much of what a Border Collie does with stock is hard-wired, but just as a dog sometimes needs to be taught not to grip unnecessarily, would it not need some help in a new situation that it had no experience of? Especially if it's day-to-day work, and the whole of its training had been geared toward one set of circumstances and one kind of stock.

 

I like the idea of a dog that can gently gather lambs or poultry and also be able to control a big, grumpy bull. But does a good stockdog automatically know how to "change gears" like that without guidance, the example of another knowing dog, or at least repeated exposure?

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I like the idea of a dog that can gently gather lambs or poultry and also be able to control a big, grumpy bull. But does a good stockdog automatically know how to "change gears" like that without guidance, the example of another knowing dog, or at least repeated exposure?

A dog that can "read" stock and respond appropriately is a very good dog indeed. Some dogs just seem more suited to one job (or one type of stock) than another, or have limits of one sort or another. And some have just never had the chance to be exposed to certain situations.

 

I think it was Jack Knox who said that a good dog could read and work whatever stock appropriately. Some people call it "feeling" the stock, I think. Either way, it's a beautiful thing to see.

 

My Celt is very good on pairs but not good when there's lot of pressure (like moving cattle into a pen or other situation where there is confinement ahead of them). He also can gather a field nicely but he is not talented on the drive at all, too much anxiety.

 

Dan and Bute, on the other hand, are very good in tight spots (like a pen, or getting between stock and a panel), lousy at gathering (unless the stock are moving), and don't (didn't) feel stock well enough (yet) to work pairs nicely.

 

I'm rambling here...

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I've heard the "don't need a big outrun" stories before. In one particular case, the woman always said how her dogs (not Border collies) did not need a big outrun because her farm didn't have large fields and her dogs didn't need to run out far to gather her sheep. Same woman brought her sheep to a trial and when the sheep escaped up the hill her dogs could not gather them. A Border Collie had to be brought out that could do the outrun. I don't need a large outrun for my small setup and few sheep. But I will be making sure that my dog can do that outrun in case my sheep ever escape my small farm and need to be brought back.

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A dog that can "read" stock and respond appropriately is a very good dog indeed. Some dogs just seem more suited to one job (or one type of stock) than another, or have limits of one sort or another. And some have just never had the chance to be exposed to certain situations.

 

I think it was Jack Knox who said that a good dog could read and work whatever stock appropriately. Some people call it "feeling" the stock, I think. Either way, it's a beautiful thing to see.

 

My Celt is very good on pairs but not good when there's lot of pressure (like moving cattle into a pen or other situation where there is confinement ahead of them). He also can gather a field nicely but he is not talented on the drive at all, too much anxiety.

 

Dan and Bute, on the other hand, are very good in tight spots (like a pen, or getting between stock and a panel), lousy at gathering (unless the stock are moving), and don't (didn't) feel stock well enough (yet) to work pairs nicely.

 

I'm rambling here...

 

 

 

 

You are just pointing out the strengths of the various dogs...on any given day, my pups' mother might work sheep, chickens, goats, geese, and now the occasional cow. Sure, she knows these animals and is familiar with their styles, but she had to learn at some point, the difference in the species and remember what style works with which animal. When she came to assist with the delivery of my Shetland lambs, she handled them perfectly. My own dogs, who are still beginners have even in my tiny flock have three different breeds of sheep, each with differing personalities and varying degrees of "lightness", if that's the right word to describe their comfort distance from a dog. It's very interesting to watch their interactions with the different sheep. The two Shetlands even act differently - one flocks very easily, the other doesn't. All are ridiculously tame with humans but their relationship with the dogs is very different. One scoots to the barn faster than the others and must be outwitted while not losing track of the others including one who is very onry and will challenge the dogs, so they've learned how to handle a balky aggressive sheep, and so forth. I'm sure the information the dogs are "gathering" along with the sheep is being stored away and will be handy with other sheep.

 

You know, I've never raised a BC from a pup - we've always had rescues. I am amazed every day at Robin and Brodie's adaptability and the ease in which they learn something new both in the house and at the barn and I'm sure my two are not outstandingly smart but merely examples of what to expect from the breed.

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I remember Celt's first clinic (and mine, too), when he was just 13 months of age. We went into a large round pen with a few 500# calves. He rushed them first thing with head and tail up and a woof - and then dropped his head and tail, and began to seek balance and control. He worked with them a few sessions, and then we took him out to a large arena, and sent him to fetch a few big, wool sheep. He went around them a bit apprehensively, one did the popcorn-sheep thing - boing, into the air - which Celt mirrored with his own, surprised reaction ("The calves didn't do anything like that!"), and then he dropped his head and tail and fetched them to me. A little roughly but not bad for a first go.

 

The first time I saw a few dogs ever see ducks, some were sent by the handler and just went out there like they'd worked ducks forever. Some went looking for sheep but didn't find them and, when the ducks moved off their unintended pressure, turned right on to them. One dog never did "see" the ducks, but tried to dig a hole under the fence (it was a solid wood fence around a small arena) to get to where he could smell that sheep or goats had been penned.

 

Even a good dog has to figure things out the first time (or two) around, doesn't he? They never cease to amaze me but then, they are bred for this, and I was not.

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but she had to learn at some point, the difference in the species and remember what style works with which animal

 

Actually, I don't know that she does, if she responds based on what works and what doesn't and makes the proper adjustment based on what she understands is suppose to be done it should not matter what species she works, even something that she had never dealt with before. Yes, there may be a moment of surprise when something she has never dealt with responds differently then expected, but I would love to believe that a dog could have the ability to just roll with the changes and adjust.

 

To a degree I have to wonder if the dog really recongnizes different species but instead just reconizes different reactions to their presence, sometimes wonder if species identification as we understand it is more of a human thing.

 

Kinda stuff that I ponder, call me crazy.

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My experience has been that good all-around dogs are able to figure out stock. Does that mean they'll work everything new they encounter perfectly from the start? Of course not, but give them a little time (and maybe some help) figuring the new type of critter out and they'll get it. You see this phenomenon at trials often enough. A dog that's used to working sheep in one part of the country goes to a trial in another part of the country and sees a different type of sheep. The first day you might not get a stellar performance while the dog works out the differences, but generally by the second go the dog has it figured out. Twist had worked cattle before I needed to help my neighbors with theirs, but she had never worked horned cattle who were willing to use those horns. There was a short adjustment period while she figured out how to make her point while avoiding that sideways sweep of the horns, but she did it (and that's not the sort of thing a handler can really help with).

 

That said, some dogs just don't like some stock. It took me a while to get Pip to recognize that poultry was something a dog could/should work, whereas Lark pretty much worked them from day one. Kat doesn't think cattle exist, even if they're right in front of her. Some of these issues aren't really issues for many people because they don't need a dog to work every species of farm animal there is, but I think it's safe to say that a good dog should certainly be able to adjust itself for different types of stock within the same species.

 

@Debbie,

I don't think the look at them all the same simply because of my experience with various dogs who don't seem to "see" some species but are perfectly willing to work others....

 

J.

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Even if they don't see them as different species, but I do think they do, they definitely work the different stock differently. My old dog will work anything. He works chickens differently than he works guineas. He works goats differently than he does sheep. He knows the names of the different stock. If I say get the chickens, he will ignore all others and bring me chickens. I can tell him, goats only and he will bring me the goats out of the flock of goats and sheep. My young dog on the other hand does not see birds at all. He has had the guineas fly down right on top of him and he does not acknowledge them. I've been trying to get him to see the goats but he only likes sheep. He is really focused but only on the sheep. I put him in the pen with my 2 goats the other day and at first he would not look at them at all. I was going to post a video, but the file is too large. Crue at first would not even look at the goats. At my insistence he eventually kinda half-heartedly worked them. Always looking wistfully down towards the field where he knew the sheep were. I think with time he will learn to work them and will be helpful, but I doubt he will ever have much motivation for it. But we'll see.

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Lori, I am not going to get into the "only trial dogs are worthy of breeding" debate. I've seen and worked with many a priceless farm dog that will never grace the trial field. If we take all those dogs out of the gene pool we will be in big trouble (lose some excellent genes and have a genetic bottleneck). I trial when I can get away from work, but for me it is a fun weekend and not how I determine "breed worthiness." It is how the dog performs over a long period of time in a wide variety of situations that ultimately leads me to either neuter or breed it.

 

I breed a dog if I think it will produce a useful working dog and I need/want another pup for myself to train. I look for the natural ability to read stock, the desire to partner up with the handler (biddable) and a good work ethic. I also look to see how the total package fits together. Any dog that has a fatal flaw, one that prevents it from being a dependable work partner, is not bred.

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:):):)

 

Should a man be a carpenter or a plumber (and feel free to substitute woman for man where ever you see it)?

 

All things being equal, a man blessed with average intelligence, could be either. Some, either by talent or by inclination will make better plumbers, some better carpenters. Most men, given a bit of training in both, can do both.

 

I guess what I'm saying is it's a false dichotomy. A stockdog is a stockdog is a stockdog. A good one will pretty much work anything that could be classified as stock, and our job is to keep and breed the good ones.

 

All of this other crap has nothing to do with the dogs. It's human politics and human ego. A Border Collie DOES NOT CARE ONE IOTA if it ever runs in a sheepdog trial or a cattle dog trial be they sponsored by USBCHA, NCA, AKC, AHBA, or the Lord God Almighty. Put it in a field with a bunch of something with four legs and a tail, ask it to work, and it is happy as the day is long.

 

From a practical perspective, there are 5 million sheep in the US and 100 million cattle. Even accounting for a good proportion of those cattle being raised in feedlots, there's a lot of cattle out there for stock dogs to work. We need stock dogs that can work both.

 

Why is sheepdog trailing more popular? Easier for hobby herders with the time and money to spend to get into it (most farmers and ranchers can't afford the time or money to travel 500 miles and spend a whole weekend trailing most of the year), cheaper to run a sheep trial than a cattle trial, less skilled help needed to put on a sheep trial (try sending a novice hand up to help move cattle through the set out pens - you need cowboys for a cattle trial).

 

The sheep dog or cattle dog is a futile an argument as the trial dog or ranch dog one. The argument is good dog or mediocre dog. Stick to the former and all the other arguments become moot.

 

Pearse

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"Lori, I am not going to get into the "only trial dogs are worthy of breeding" debate. I've seen and worked with many a priceless farm dog that will never grace the trial field. If we take all those dogs out of the gene pool we will be in big trouble (lose some excellent genes and have a genetic bottleneck). I trial when I can get away from work, but for me it is a fun weekend and not how I determine "breed worthiness." It is how the dog performs over a long period of time in a wide variety of situations that ultimately leads me to either neuter or breed it."

 

Liz P.-

 

Right. That debate wasn't at issue. Nor was taking non trial dogs out of the genepool. I don't know you, or anything about you with regard to your experience to train, handle or assess the breeding quality of working dogs outside of what you portray in your frequent posts here. However, when you list your website in every signature block, you must expect people might read its content. If you choose to highlight very minor novice trial (and clinic?) accomplishments and refer to one of your breeders as a future "dog to beat on the trial field" and another as your "future nursery dog", one might assume those novice trial references had some meaning to you. Perhaps you chose to put those comments on your website for other reasons. I don't know.

 

Regardless, good luck with your dogs, and as you invite on your website, I'll look forward to seeing your dogs "on the field."

 

Lori Cunningham

Milton, PA

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