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The AKC border collie

Tommy Coyote

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This is just to go along with the other topic of breeding for pets.


I have not been around very many
AKC "border collies." But I am taking care of two of them right now. And I got wondering just how different they are from my working bred dogs.


These two little dogs are long coated black and white. They are both small. They both have pretty short legs.


These two dogs are just as cute as they can be. They go everywhere together. They love to play frisbee and chase balls. They are very sweet. And they know lots of cute little tricks. And they make wonderful pets for the family. The family that owns them are wonderful people and they treat their dogs really well - and their 3 rescue cats. They love their little dogs a whole lot. They have done show ring, agility, and obedience. And they have done some stock work, too.


So what is the problem here. Well, there is no problem as far as their owners are concerned. These dogs make great pets.


But these little dogs are really a lot different than my dogs. They don't have the keeness that my dogs have. My dogs are really smart. I don't think these dogs are smart in the same way. They are good with tricks. But I don't think they have much ability to think things out and work things out for themselves like my working bred dogs do.


Basically, they are just missing the heart and soul and just plain ole smarts that my dogs have. They really are a whole different dog. They are much better pets than my dogs. Really, they are perfect at everything except what they were originally bred for.


Would I ever buy one of those dogs? Never. I really like having smart dogs even they can be a real pain in the patootie.


Well, and Ican take my dogs out and they can work stock.

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Have you never met a dumb working bred collie? I have. And I have met enthusiastic and intelligent conformation dogs. Also both types of sport bred dog.


It would be a grave error to pigeon hole dogs as conformation/ dim - working/ intelligent.


I can only speak for the UK but a show dog doesn't necessarily mean show only. There are conformation/sports breeders who produce dogs that do very well in various activities, despite being bred with an eye to appearance. Quite likely they will have a dash of working line too. (They don't find their way back into the working gene pool though.)


I find the majority of show dogs rather ugly since, as you mention, they often tend to be somewhat disproportionate in leg length, or rather lack of it, and with over large heads.


We train agility in a rural area and get almost no conformation dogs through our doors, or sport bred for that matter. Most are farm bred and/or rescues. I do see some conformation bred dogs in the agility world though and they aren't all to be written off by any means.


Could they work stock? Almost certainly no, but that doesn't automatically make them short on smarts.

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I really don't say anything to these people about the dogs. They would not understand what I was talking about.


I do encourage people to try and get out where they can actually watch the dogs working stock. Not just someplace where there is a round pen with the dogs and sheep going in circles. There is where you can really see the difference. And that is where people can begin to understand what these dogs are really all about. And hopefully they will see why it is so important to preserve this breed.


We just all have to make a very concerted effort to make sure that there are good working dogs being bred.

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I come to this group and to stockdog culture definately from the dog sport culture, having started both my dogs on agility and flyball. So most of the border collies I first came into contact with are/were AKC dogs. As the OP stated they are lovely, capable, well mannered dogs. They are among the best performers in both agility and flyball. Some of thier owners have some minor experience with, or exposure to, working border collies.


My border collie Cowboy came from a farm breeding, no particular pedigree's on either, but I have observed the mother working stock, and most of his litter mates are now on farms working either sheep or cattle. My wife and I deliberately picked Cowboy for being one of the smaller and quieter pups in the litter.


My "BC" owning agility and flyball friends say they 'see' a lot of working border collie in Cowboy. They cite things such as his real high drive, his senstitivity to space and motion, and IMO his annoying instinct to flank around and circle the agility equipment when I do not give the verbal/physical cues to him quick enough. I have had him on sheep for only about 10 lessons so far. I can only observe thus far that he actually seems calmer and more biddable around stock then he does in an agility ring. (Granted we are still in gather/fetch stage have not yet done driving or any real distance run-outs.)


I have no idea and like the OP I am curious to spend more time around herding trials to observe working border collies in more detail. I see little difference between my Cowboy and his AKC BC teammates and partners, perhaps a touch more intense at times, but then at other times, softer and more responsive to calmer, quieter commands and corrections. Cowboy is a bit smaller than most of the other border collies I see at agility and flyball. I went to an AHBA trial a few months back and was happy to observe some border collies working that were Cowboy's size.


Can't wait to attend some VBCA/USBCHA trials this spring!


I enjoy him greatly, but would love for my next border collie to come from a more proven, working sire and dam. I would want to do all the same sports/activities with him/her, perhaps more and earlier focus on stockwork. Although that would be for trialing more so than actual farm work. And in the end all of my dogs are pets, they will live in the home and sleep in their crates.


I totally support the mission of preserving the border collie as the working stockdog they have so well become over centuries of careful breeding. Even coming from the pet/sport side of things, I see the value in keeping the breed as they were meant to be. I grew up in northern New Hampshire and saw and participated in sled-dogging. Your eyes can see the difference between working sled dogs and the Siberian Husky's and Malamutes as they have largly become today. (I was supprised how much smaller true sled dogs are!)


Hopefully, in a few years when the time comes, there will still be large numbers of fine working border collies. Looking forward to attending more trials and participating in clinics here in the mid-atlantic with my Cowboy, and hopefully meeting more of you all!

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I'm currently reading the book "Chaser", and the book has made me think a lot about Border collies, breeding, and intelligence. Chaser is the border collie who can identify over 1000 objects by name. There have been several other dogs who can also do this (Ricco and Betsy come to mind). So far all documented dogs have been border collies. Chaser's owner intentionally purchased from working lines.


I'm not sure what you mean by AKC border collies, but do you mean conformation bred?

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She's using conformatuon- and AKC-bred interchangeably here.


My experience with conformation-bred border collies has been with introduction to stock work. I haven't yet encountered a conformation-bred dog that had any real talent for stockwork. Most seemed to have a real lack of keenness and innate ability. Just my experience....



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I haven’t spent much time with conformation Border Collies. I’ve seen a few in obedience but didn’t really get to know them. I haven’t spent much time with working bred dogs, other than seeing them work sheep which is very impressive. All the Border Collies I’ve known have been sports bred. They’ve all been very smart and other than a couple, had good off switches and excellent focus on tasks such as obedience and agility. They have all been very intense about fetch and Frisbee.

I think Quinn is really smart, but I honestly think all my dogs are smart. :lol: However, I can’t imagine Quinn learning the names for 1,000 items. Then again, I can’t imagine me remembering a whole lot of names for various toys, which no doubt speaks to my own intelligence. :)


I do see Quinn “put together” things that none of my other dogs do. He follows conversational comments way better than any of my dogs. He looks for what is “different” or out of place when I tell him to pick up something that isn’t a name I’ve taught him. He does things like listen to me talk to a friend about how someone’s dog took Christmas ornaments off the tree and placed them in a row on the sofa and us laughing about how funny that was. Then a few minutes later, when we were discussing some other topic, Quinn went to my tree and pulled an ornament off. It was a soft one, but I was still puzzled since he doesn’t bother the tree. I took it from him and moved it up higher thinking he must have viewed it as a toy. I no sooner had it out of reach than he pulled another ornament off. Then a third. He had a light in his eyes, like he was thinking “Isn’t that funny, Liz?”


He does stuff like that a little too frequently for it to just be coincidence. Anyway, I only know sports Border Collies. I did see a big difference in how working bred dogs worked compared to the sports dog, the little we did sheep lessons

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I've run into several people with conformation-bred border collies. They all love their dog because the dog is cute, sweet, smart, and mellow. They love the absence of drive and the absence of a distinct personality. Every family has told me how they make such wonderful pets unlike other, non-conformation border collies they've had in the past. Ocassionally I run into some conformation border collies taking herding lessons. What the owners call herding and think is working is quite different from what my dog does. One of the owners actually asked me what type of dog Loki was. I guess they couldn't understand how a crouching, intense dog could be called the same breed. I understand that confusion as every time I run into a show border collie I assume it's a show aussie. I have learned not to tell owners what a beautiful coat their aussie has before checking for a tail.

If I were asked if the show border collie was the same breed as a working border collie I'd have to say no. Although I'm sure they exist, I have yet to meet a show border collie with a personality, border collie mentality, or working instinct. They are sweet, cute, fluffy, and undeniably different. I would honestly be bored by a dog that makes the perfect pet. I'd rather have my sheep-obsessed, owner focused, and overly intelligent hairballs. After all, they are mine right? ;)

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If I remember well enough, the dog genome (?) study that Melanie Chang (Soloriver) was involved with indicated there was enough genetic difference between the working-bred population and the show-bred population as to constitute two different breeds.

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