Jump to content
BC Boards

Herding instinct/working lines and sports?


Recommended Posts

Here is something I have been thinking about.

 

Say you happened to have a HTCh dog (of any breed), who has great herding ability.

 

Would this dog also be a dog that would do well in other sports such as flyball, obedience and agility?

 

Or say for example, you had a strong line of talented working dogs. Would this pup have a higher disposition to do well in sports than the average border collie? (I wouldn't know what to class as "average")

 

I met a dog who was from strong working lines, and it was great at agility. It had a ton of instinct, practically herded the jumps, and looked weightless when running.

 

This made me think, does a dog bred for work have a higher tendency to be good for sports? Do they really go hand in hand?

 

If someone bred a dog for agility or flyball, and another person bred a dog for herding, would the dog bred for work have a similar ability for other sports?


Or say, if someone bred an active dog which could enjoy all types of activities (with nothing in particular aimed for), and another bred a dog for work, would they have (on average) different potential?

 

Does a dog bred for work/have working ability have a direct correlation with drive and ability in other sports?

What qualities make a good working/herding dog?

______________________

 

This is just a curious question, please don't assume anything of me for asking this, im just wondering what others think

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have a lot of time ATM, but I'm sure you'll get more comprehensive answers from others.

 

The short answer is that border collies excel at dogs sports because of their having been bred for excellence in herding ability. All the characteristics necessary for a good sports dog are inherent in breeding an excellent herding dog, though the reverse is most definitely not true. This is why it's so important to focus on breeding for working ability first and foremost to the exclusion of other criteria.

 

Another way of saying it is that working bred border collies can excel at sports but that the sports bred dogs (what we often refer to as sporter collies) often can't do the work.

 

As for HTCh, I believe that's an AHBA title, no? Maybe ACK? We're not ABHA nor ACK here and the border collie trial organization is the United States Border Collie Handlers Association (USBCHA) and in Great Britain the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS). They don't award titles in the way that those groups do (I'm sure someone will explain the difference.). Generally speaking, USBCHA Open trials and definitely the more advanced Nationals are a more rigorous evaluation of border collies' herding abilities than trial offered by other organizations and so a more realistic gauge of dogs' abilities. In fact, we believe that many of the HTCh dogs aren't really all that talented.

 

BTW, we here consider the "average" border collie to be a working bred dog, the one you seem to be singling out as somehow not the "average" border collie. True, indiscriminate breeding in the past 30-40 years has resulted in dogs who are far below the potential of their working bred brethren, but it's those working bred dogs who should be considered the norm, not the watered down versions. ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

The combination of high drive and biddability which help a dog do well in stock work also help them be good at dog sports. So if a dog has what it takes to get a simple HTCh then it most likely would be better at dog sports-and a line that consistently produces HTCh should indeed be better

 

That said, a HTCh, especially done in arenas as most are does NOT mean the dog is a capable stock dog. It simply means the dog has drive and trainability and MIGHT (but not necessarily) have stock working ability.

 

As far as those abilities which make up a good working/herding dog, well that may depend on who you talk to :). There are inbred traits in the best dogs, an uncanny ability to understand how to make stock move with the least effort on their part and the least stress on the stock. there is a 'feel' for the stock, knowing where to be to get the maximum affect. There is a willingness to be part of a team and learn what a 'job' is and many more things, often hard to describe.

Link to post
Share on other sites

With the HTCh, I was just using that as an example, I am not to familiar with the different titles or abilities when it comes to this area, so sorry for my lack of knowledge there.

Well, I generally mean a good quality working dog, or a dog which has shown its ability to work. I don't know to well.

 

"BTW, we here consider the "average" border collie to be a working bred dog, the one you seem to be singling out as somehow not the "average" border collie."

Oops! Sorry! Ok, I guess I mean the border collies bred for companionship (I guess, kinda) instead of herding work or showing?

Sorry, my knowledge on this type of thing is very bad,

Link to post
Share on other sites

The only true way to test a dog's abilities is to see it work under a different variety of situations. Dogs bred for companionship and showing are NOT (in the general opinion of this group) Border Collies-as here it is defined as a dog selected for working attributes-where work is stock work. so it could be argued that those dogs called"Border Collies" but bred for different purposes are NOT Border Collies, but something else(imposters?)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I know what you mean by "average", it's the "their great-great-grandparents worked sheep and these puppies would be great at agility because they're super smart" bred dogs.

 

I think you are one the right track, it is my belief that a working bred dog will be bred to have all the things that make a great sports dog, without breeding for sport. A working dog must be biddable, supremely athletic, and gritty when times get tough. These traits absolutely carry over into the sport world.

 

The trait I see missing is almost all sport bred dogs I see is impulse control. A working dog with no impulse control can find themselves in very literal life or death situations, so self control is very high up in breeding priorities. You can certainly train impulse control in sport dogs, but it's not nearly as innate as is working bred dogs. You'll see sport bred dogs who are shaking and squeaking in the warm up areas, and dragging their handlers to and fro. A working dog who is employed for 10 hours a day must know when to be at work and when to sit back and conserve energy. High level agility handlers ask for a LOT of drive and focus in their dogs, so instead of cultivating that from a working dog they've chosen to breed dogs who are always "on" for when the handlers need them, but they never turn off.

 

I don't think its wrong to say that someone may have to do a little bit of digging in the working dog world to find their ideal sport prospect, just because border collies can be extremely varied. A sport person might be interested in a higher drive dog, and will seek out working dogs with a little more spark. I know quite a few well-bred working bred dogs who are wonderfully balanced dogs in temperament, but I would probably be interested in a little more drive in my dog. Some people also may prefer a lighter build compared to some of the large, heavier built cattle-bred dogs. But regardless of small personal preferences, the vast majority of working bred dogs would make excellent sport prospects who can match or surpass the abilities of a sport bred dog. There are a lot of people here who do sports with their working bred dogs, with some dogs (like mine) being rock solid beginner dogs, and some being speed demons who will leave you in the dust if you're not with them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe that breeding for the work gives you the best total package - the "real deal" Border Collie. Breeding for the work created a dog that can do it all. So that's what is going to preserve it. The more you get away from breeding for the work, the more you start to loose pieces of the intricate Border Collie puzzle and those "lost pieces" can start to add up quick in a couple of generations.

 

Now, you tend to need a few less pieces of the puzzle for doing sports, so they could be equal (you can find great sport dogs in a variety of breeds and mixes from unknown parentage in rescue). But I believe that if you want the best "total package" in a Border Collie you're going to figure out what you like in an individual dog (I had a list!) and contact working breeders with that list in mind.

Link to post
Share on other sites

All I can say is this.

 

My young boy is a really well bred Border Collie from working parents, and his brothers are all doing remarkably well with their stockwork.

 

He and I are still laying foundations in our sport training, but he is a complete and utter DREAM of a training and performance partner so far. Not point and shoot. He doesn't read minds. ('Cause neither of those things are real, actually). But he is smart and sensitive without being too smart or sensitive for his own good. He has a natural off switch. He has drive, but a wonderful ability to control his stimulation levels. His potential just boggles my mind. He has a natural ability to connect with an audience. He radiates joy. And . . . oh he is fun to build a working partnership in dog sports with.

 

Time will tell where it all goes, but I am extremely optimistic. I do not aspire to prestige and I don't do AKC sports, but I truly believe that he has the potential to go as far as I would want to go in whichever sports we decide to pursue seriously.

Ask me in 5 - 7 years . . . .

 

But right now I am convinced.

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're interested in a sport dog, the best bet is to go to working bred lines that other people have purchased sport dogs from. They'll have all the best traits of the working dog (especially impulse control as noted above, and biddability) but having some relatives doing sports will give you an idea of what type of sport dog they are and if they meet your preferences. I'd say any of them would be great fun agility dogs, but someone with Nationals or World Team aspirations may be pickier as far as things like jumping and turning ability and a particular body type that suits their handling preferences. One thing I see more and more in the sport bred dogs is they seem to often be very soft-tempered and get stressed or over-stimulated easily, or to quit too easily if they can't figure something out. I also know some that have no 'off switch', which would drive me crazy to have around the house.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is something I have been thinking about.

 

Say you happened to have a HTCh dog (of any breed), who has great herding ability.

 

Would this dog also be a dog that would do well in other sports such as flyball, obedience and agility?

 

Or say for example, you had a strong line of talented working dogs. Would this pup have a higher disposition to do well in sports than the average border collie? (I wouldn't know what to class as "average")

 

I met a dog who was from strong working lines, and it was great at agility. It had a ton of instinct, practically herded the jumps, and looked weightless when running.

 

This made me think, does a dog bred for work have a higher tendency to be good for sports? Do they really go hand in hand?

 

If someone bred a dog for agility or flyball, and another person bred a dog for herding, would the dog bred for work have a similar ability for other sports?

 

Or say, if someone bred an active dog which could enjoy all types of activities (with nothing in particular aimed for), and another bred a dog for work, would they have (on average) different potential?

 

Does a dog bred for work/have working ability have a direct correlation with drive and ability in other sports?

What qualities make a good working/herding dog?

______________________

 

This is just a curious question, please don't assume anything of me for asking this, im just wondering what others think

 

 

Just FYI, in sanctioned Open and Nursery field trials there are no titles. Unless one wins the National Finals or International or something, in which case one gets to be called "champion." ;) But that's about it. HTCh is an AHBA arena/ranch trial title that isn't super difficult to get with a reasonably talented working dog, so it's not really a measure.

 

Anyhow, as others have said, the very reason border collies have become so popular for sports, search and rescue and other endeavors is because of the qualities intrinsic in the working border collie breed. Athleticism, intelligence, reasoning ability, willingness to partner up, bidability - all those things make a good working dog and are what first attracted sports people to the border collie.

 

That said, though, border collies do have to be approached as individuals. There's no such thing as "herding" obstacles because they don't move and don't respond to pressure, so a dog that's great on sheep may or may not have the drive to do sports. I think sports dogs have to have a certain sense of fun and play about them that not every border collie would want to apply. For example, I am pretty sure my silly, happy girl Gael would have done great at agility. But my big, serious, wide-moving boy probably would have been offended if I even tried. ;)

 

But all that said, back to my original thought: it's the qualities intrinsic to the working dog that first attracted sports people to them. So yes, it's entirely possible and even probable that a sports-bred border collie and a working-bred border collie would show identical aptitudes for activities other than herding, such as sports or SAR or freestyle obedience, etc. It's what's in their clever minds along with their native athleticism that makes it work. That's the direct correlation. Would the working-bred dog show a higher aptitude for sports than a sports-bred or pet-bred border collie? I believe that would depend entirely on the individual dog.

 

As for the qualities that make a good working dog, as the saying goes, breeding will out. While a working dog may make a fabulous sports dog, it's far less likely that a sports-bred dog would make a fabulous working dog. So, the qualities that make a good working dog include a family tree of working dogs and the instinct for the work. Couple that will good training and unless the dog just doesn't have the instinct, he should make a useful dog. Not every working dog is a world-shaker and trial winner, any more than every Thoroughbred is California Chrome. But a useful working dog comes from a family of useful working dogs.

 

That's my two cents, anyhow. :)

 

~ Gloria

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am very shortly going to get a very well bred working dog, if he takes after his father he is going to be a little stockier than I would like for agility but I am hoping the bitch's much lighter build will balance out. But I wanted a sheep dog, not just a black and white dog and that is what I am getting.

I was talking to a friend the other day about what makes a world class agility dog, and realistically there are a handful of names who consistently compete on a world level and do well, others have one great dog and are never heard from again. So personally I think that an average dog + great training + great handling, will take you to the top, you need a decent dog but it is the skill of the trainer/handler that really makes the difference.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Doggers,

 

From the Dog Genome Initiative, many years ago, I concluded that the various genetic capabilities of a working bred sheepdog were fairly far apart on the genome and could be separately inherited - which would - I'd think make it less likely than the entire genetic package would be inherited which does NOT seem to be the case: viz. if you breed two well bred sheepdogs almost all their pups will become useful farmdogs - well over 90%.

 

And there's the animal breeder's maxim: you get what you breed for (if you're lucky).

 

I don't know how long Border Collies bred for an artifical, non-real-world-connected sport will be as good at that sport as dogs bred from sheepdogs. I think it is probable that such dogs will, within a few generations, be useless as sheepdogs.

 

Donald McCaig

Link to post
Share on other sites

So personally I think that an average dog + great training + great handling, will take you to the top, you need a decent dog but it is the skill of the trainer/handler that really makes the difference.

alligande -

This is exactly what I was thinking as I read this thread. Thank you for typing it for me.

 

I have seen many examples of dogs (border collies and other breeds) who are top agility contenders mainly because of their wonderful trainers/handlers. And I am talking some dogs that were definitely not suited to agility because of personality or behavioral characteristics, but they were trained (with positive methods) to love agility.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a friend who can turn the most unpromising dog into a real contender.

 

Her latest was a terrified failed sheepdog rescue that would hide rather than have to interact with people.

 

A ton of patience and reintroducing him to sheep has given him some confidence to do agility and he is turning out to be really good. He'll never be the world's best sheepdog though. Whether he never had what it takes or whether it was beaten out of him we'll never know.

Link to post
Share on other sites

First to answer the question: I do agree that a really good, solid, working bred dog is going to be the best possible dog for agility.


That said, I have to agree with others. It's mostly handler and training skills. I feel like every time I see someone determined to get the fastest, the best, the most AWESOME POSSIBLE 'agility dog' - but they've never actually done agility themselves - it's over before they start.

I really think there is a tendency for people to underestimate the skills needed by the *person* in agility - not just in dog training, though there's obviously that, but to be able to learn the skills they need, and then to be able to read and strategize a course effectively, get where they need to be, know what works for them and their dog really well, just a dozen things that aren't really about the DOG at all but make all the difference.

 

And the tendency is very often to think 'This isn't going well, clearly I need a better dog'. Instead of: "You need tighter lines and turns, more efficient crosses, to better be able to strategize a course, to proof weaves or whatever'.

Yeah, you need a dog who can go but a lot of things are flat out handler skill.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yup, Yup, Yup ^^^^^ (to CptJack's post)

 

And to add (similar to mum24dog's post), being able to tailor the training to the behavioral strengths and weaknesses of a dog works wonders too.

 

I know someone (top agility handler and clinician) who had a tiny Sheltie that would literally be sick (throwing up) when attending agility trials. If it were me, I probably would have not subjected that dog to agility any more, but she persevered (possibly the dog loved agility at home, but not at trials? I don't know.) and now that dog LOVES trialing and is usually one of the top finishers in her class.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know - I can't agree with that. I have to say it's both. Even the big name Agility handlers couldn't make a star out of a dog with a severe enough temperament or physical limitation.

 

And having gotten started with special needs dogs, I have to say that working with a dog who doesn't have those kinds of issues makes me realize how extra-difficult it was.

 

Add a goodly amount of natural ability in with a good trainer/handler, and you have a great package. A great trainer/handler will be limited by serious enough issues in the dog. It can be an awesome experience to train and handle such a dog. But you will always be limited to some extent.

 

Speedy was too overstimulated to ever do Agility, and then he was diagnosed with the arthritis very young. Maddie had so little drive that I spent a long time, as I was starting to learn the game myself, convincing her that it was worth her bother. Then I got Dean . . . !!! CRASH. BOOM. Done. We tried for years, but it was pretty much done before we started. With Tessa I finally had the temperament, but we had to un-do a lot of her past. It was do-able, but she will simply never be fast. That's OK - it's her. I think she's perfect. Someone who aspired to the world team would not.


Seriously, working with Bandit is like working with a different kind of animal altogether. He brings certain things to the table that I simply don't have to spend time or training attempting to put into him. That makes an enormous difference. It is true that if I had no idea what I was doing, I would be making mistakes that would slow us down and make it harder than it needs to be. That said, I am not having to spend time on anything other than actually teaching him Agility.

 

What a concept!

 

I will absolutely rescue another fearful dog someday and play sports with him (or, likely, her). I love that, but I love it for the satisfaction of overcoming the obstacle, not for the sport itself.

 

Having an opportunity to play with a dog who has natural abilities that no other dog I've ever worked with has had . . . PRICELESS!!!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I do believe that natural ability in the dog help, and I absolutely think there are some dogs who are never going to be great at agility - or even suitable at all - based on physical or temperamental problems.


But the absence of a physical or temperamental issue is not the same as a 'top of the line best dog ever', either. Equally true, you are going to have to work harder to get anywhere with a beagle or coonhound than your typical BC (again barring physical or temperamental issues in either), but that isn't the same as 'BEST DOG EVER!!!' ONE IN A MILLION FAST AS BLAZES LOTS OF DRIVE PERFECT FORM AND ENDLESSLY BIDDABLE, either, and frankly I dont' think those exist, I think they're created from decent, stable, healthy dogs with good handlers.


You're not going anywhere without handling skills, either. You can have the best dog in the world and if YOUR skills, both at training and handling an agility course aren't there, you're going nowhere. Dogs don't compensate for us that much and there is a reason 'it's your fault, not the dog' is the standard.

 

Because it's not the dog, 9 times out of 10. It's the handler. Barring physical limitations, mental limitations, real special needs, or being a breed who's drives are contrary to working with a handler, it's what the handler does with the dog they have, not some magical perfect dog that makes them successful.

 

It's the handler.

 

And too many people are looking for the magical dog that will take them to the top instead of working on their own skills, both as trainers and on the course, frankly, and that's doing no dogs any favors.

Link to post
Share on other sites

But the absence of a physical or temperamental issue is not the same as a 'top of the line best dog ever', either. Equally true, you are going to have to work harder to get anywhere with a beagle or coonhound than your typical BC (again barring physical or temperamental issues in either), but that isn't the same as 'BEST DOG EVER!!!' ONE IN A MILLION FAST AS BLAZES LOTS OF DRIVE PERFECT FORM AND ENDLESSLY BIDDABLE, either, and frankly I dont' think those exist, I think they're created from decent, stable, healthy dogs with good handlers.

 

I would definitely agree with that. I don't believe those exist, either. In fact, that dog is going to need near perfect handling, where a more moderate paced dog is going to be able to compensate for a lot more handler mistakes.

 

Because it's not the dog, 9 times out of 10. It's the handler. Barring physical limitations, mental limitations, real special needs, or being a breed who's drives are contrary to working with a handler, it's what the handler does with the dog they have, not some magical perfect dog that makes them successful.

 

That's the thing, though. I would say, based on my experience, that a well bred and sound Border Collie is going to be more likely (not guaranteed, but more likely) to fall into the physically sound, mentally capable, dog whose drives are well suited to the sport under competent training and handling.

 

What I was seeing in the sport bred Border Collies not so many years ago was too much "go, go, go" and lack of ability to control stimulation. Now they are starting to seem to be more in their right minds. Why? Many of the sport breeders are breeding in working bred dogs. I know two people who are very serious about Agility who have gotten puppies from breedings like that in recent years. They are still sport breedings, but at least one parent was an actual working bred dog.

 

To me that further testifies to the fact that breeding away from the actual working parentage is not producing what the people seeking sport bred Border Collies are actually looking for.

 

(I am not supporting such breeding, just commenting on what I am seeing and hearing. Obviously, I did not purchase my puppy from a sport breeder).

 

Maybe the conformation lines and Obedience lines will maintain a preference from breeding away from the actual working parentage, but I think the sport breeders are almost going to have to continue to incorporate actual working bred dogs into their breeding to produce what their clientele are expecting from their dogs.

 

And if that's the case . . . what does that say about working bred Border Collies? To me it says that is what I am actually looking for in a Border Collie.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Once upon a time, I did horses. There was a saying that any horse can do dressage. The reality is that any sound horse can do first to second level dressage, but thereafter one needed a suitable horse, that is a horse with the conformation and temperament for collection. I rode with a woman, who was a superb rider, and she did the most amazing, beautiful things with her very average, very downhill backyard Thoroughbreds. But, the reality was that she had no competitive aspirations and if she did, those horses would have likely broken as they moved up the levels and even if they did not break, she would not have been competitive against the purpose bred horses.

 

Same goes for agility.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Most people are not going to world's.


Most people in the US in particular have no need of a dog who is not average. None. Doesn't impact how far they're going at all - remember, here, you don't need to be any better than anyone else. You need to finish the course clean and under course time. Even if you want to be faster/need to be faster, about 90% of what I see is better accomplished at most levels of competition by clean lines, tight turns, a really confident dog, and an efficient course than by the dog physically running faster.


Most people - and by most I mean 99% of people - are going to go for their MACH, NATCH, ADCH, C-ATCH or whatever, and they're going to be perfectly happy with that - more than. That's the ultimate goal. Even going to nationals for most US organizations require a number of Qs - not being better than a number of other dogs.


So no. I don't at all think it's the same thing with dogs.


I absolutely do believe that it's a good excuse for a lot of bad, mediocre, and even pretty decent but not great handlers to avoid getting any better and looking at their own abilities on the course and in training ,though!

 

Most people don't need a better dog to do better. They need better skills, as a trainer or handler to do better.

 

But sure. Let's blame the dog not being cream of the crop best natural agility dog ever.


They'd TOTALLY GET THERE IF THEY HAD A BETTER DOG, YOU GUYS. Even though their current dog is perfectly fast, enjoys the game, has decent focus and attention, and is physically and mentally sound.


Totally.


(THAT is why I hate that attitude. I mean besides just flat out not believing it most of the time and in particularly not buying it at ALL for any country where your advancement is not dependent upon you beating out percentages of other dogs, or level of competition which is not limited to certain percentages (ie: ACK nationals) which we've gone over before).

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

And actually, thinking about this, even within the UK and the big, huge, world's competition and top of the heap/top of the mountain pile -


Those dogs are running amongst their contemporaries and the determining factor is still, very often, in really smart handling decisions. Or risky ones that pay off (or lost by riskier ones that don't).


Are the dogs there going to be best of the best?

Yep.


But that dog isn't going anywhere with a handler who isn't *danged* smart and good - with, let's be real, someone who has a lot of money to throw at the travel and entry fees to do a LOT of trials. They're just. They're not.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You are doing a lot of speaking for other people.

 

As we have discussed before, agility is a sport. To be competitive, one must be clean and fast, not clean and just squeaking by.

 

Everyone that I know with fast, potentially competitive dogs (myself included) work very hard to improve their skills.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I personally think Silvia Trkman is a good example of training vs the dogs "talent"

http://silvia.trkman.net/steps.htm

 

She's a trainer I respect a lot!

(And not because I'm aiming to be like her and reach worlds, gosh no, but her general outlook when it comes to dog training is great, and she made it really far with this mentality as well)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...