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"A Football Field of Dogs"

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So I saw and love this article, it says what so many people I know "in dogs" just don't seem to get: trying to breed the "best only to the best" will narrow your gene pool until you have problems. Genetic diversity is your friend.

 

It is of course, not about working dogs. And in working dogs things are different.

 

But I leads me to wonder about the effects of only breeding the best workers. Do we see a narrowing that's dangerous, or do you more knowledgeable people believe selecting for work alone removes some of that worry?

 

 

 

 

https://rufflyspeaking.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/a-football-field-of-dogs-health-testingyeah-you-know-im-going-to-stir-this-pot/

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Denise Wall's "bulls-eye" explanation points out that it's not just breeding "the best to the best" but using the gene pool wisely to maintain a healthy genetic diversity. Maybe she will chime in and explain it.

 

I think it's important in a forum like this to stress breeding top quality because there is too much opportunity for people to misunderstand and think that what is mediocre breeding is good breeding.

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Breeding for "the work" involves breeding for the whole suite of characteristics that that imvolves.

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Denise Wall's "bulls-eye" explanation points out that it's not just breeding "the best to the best" but using the gene pool wisely to maintain a healthy genetic diversity. Maybe she will chime in and explain it.

 

I think it's important in a forum like this to stress breeding top quality because there is too much opportunity for people to misunderstand and think that what is mediocre breeding is good breeding.

I know her bull´s eye theory from my early days on the forum, and imo it has a fatal flaw, those "non bull´s eye dogs" (think they were in the yellow or orange zone in the analogy), that go to pet or sport homes are in principle the same as culls. Their genes are lost for the working dog gene pool.

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I could be wrong, but I don't think those genes are "lost", but rather selected out. If they were so "top-1%" they would have likely been sold to working/trialing homes. And what about their litter-mates who do have "the right stuff"? They will likely have a chance to pass along those qualities.

 

I would be more concerned about the "popular sire effect", although (knock wood) it doesn't seem to be the problem with working dogs that it is with their show (or even sport-bred) brethren.

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You will never find out if they have "the right stuff", because these littermates will never be trained on sheep. And therefor a serious breeder would not use those dogs in their breeding program.

 

Which was my point, the real working dog population is just the dogs that actually get trained and used for stockwork (feeling a bit capt. Obvious here, ;) ).

 

Here in Iceland the popular sire effect is pretty strong under working dogs btw.

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Which was my point, the real working dog population is just the dogs that actually get trained and used for stockwork (feeling a bit capt. Obvious here, ;) ).

 

Well, 'scuse me, but for the sake of this discussion, I was operating on the assumption that only the dogs in a tested litter that didn't make the cut would be sold to sport/pet homes. The pups being exposed to stock sufficiently to at least weed out the talent-less ones. Of course, not every breeder does this, but I would think that people who are breeding for working ability would test out their dogs.

 

I would think the popular sire effect would be more noticeable in a small population of dogs, such as you would find in Iceland. To avoid it, you would have to import dogs from another country, which can be expensive and a lot of trouble.

 

In a larger country, with a larger population of quality dogs to choose from, the effect is probably less. Though, if one asserts, as I have heard some do, that only big trial winners are being used to the extent that they produce a worrisome number of pups. People mention Wiston Cap in this context, but how about a dog like Patrick Shanahan's (sp?) Riggs? I have no idea how many pups that dog has produced, but I can see that his progeny might be sought after.

 

Personally, I would be more worried about a lot of pups on the ground from some huge winner in agility. Chances are none of that dog's pups are being tested for working ability. They probably want to sell them when they're little. But then, no one looking for a working prospect would buy such a pup. But that sire could be putting wash-out working-bred pups out of the running for pet or sport homes, and working breeders may be more cautious about putting two likely working dogs together for fear of finding good homes for their dogs if they don't pan out as workers. Added to which, most sport homes want a baby. They want to start training them their way from puppyhood. It may make sense from a competition point of view, but I feel that it is counter-productive to breeding all Border Collies for working traits first. It seems selfish to me that a sports person will not "settle for" a working-bred dog that has some maturity - having been grown out sufficiently to test its ability - to get a "clean slate" pup to play games with.

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Well, 'scuse me, but for the sake of this discussion, I was operating on the assumption that only the dogs in a tested litter that didn't make the cut would be sold to sport/pet homes. The pups being exposed to stock sufficiently to at least weed out the talent-less ones. Of course, not every breeder does this, but I would think that people who are breeding for working ability would test out their dogs.

 

Yeah, but how many breeders of true working bred pups keep all the pups in the litters long enough to truly assess their ability? Considering that can take well over a year and there are lots of working bred puppies available (maybe not as many as sport bred, but still plenty -- having recently looked into it I can verify this is true), I can't agree that most breeders are "testing out" most of their pups before they're being sold. In the short time I was making inquiries, I was offered several 8 - 10 week old puppies that were already on the ground or from planned litters from working breeders (and, yes, I know how to sort out the true working breeders from those who are merely giving lip service), and I wasn't even offering a livestock working home anymore.

 

As for the popular sire effect, I'm sure others will have more recent experience than I, but I've seen plenty of it both in Britain and here in my time in working dogs.

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I try to keep most of the pups I breed in working homes where they will be evaluated to see if they are of good quality. I will sell a pup or two from each litter to a sport home. They are generally loving, devoted owners and are no less deserving of a nice pup. No, I don't keep an entire litter long enough to evaluate them all. I can't. I work full time and could never do justice to an entire litter for the 1 to 2 years it would take to find out if they all turned out the way I wanted. Because I sell most from a litter as pups, I can't know if the nicest working dog actually ended up in the hands of a sport home.

Without selecting for the work at every single generation, you lose the essence of the breed. Take two sport pups whose parents were themselves excellent working dogs and some of those resulting pups could be nice. Next generation your odds go down, and so on. Even if you start with excellent genetics, without selection pressure for solid work you will lose the needed traits.

 

The COI of Border Collies has crept up, well beyond the relatedness of first cousins at this time. It's getting harder and harder to find isolated bloodlines for "outcrosses." (A true outcross would be a Border Collie bred to another breed.) If you really study pedigrees, they are all related to one degree or another. Sometimes people miss the relationship because they only look vertically (parents, grandparents, etc) vs also looking laterally (siblings, half sibs, ets).

 

I bred to a popular sire several years ago. I had been watching many, many different closely related dogs and was seeing traits I wanted to add to my bitch. When Mr. Popular himself came to the USA for a visit I did go ahead and use him. However, when I went to breed another litter, I decided on a stud not related to the first. I was seriously tempted. I love my pup sired by Mr. Popular and a stud of equal quality who is closely related is standing in the USA right now. However, I did not want to back myself in a corner genetically speaking.

Now, if I want to take my pup sired by Mr. Popular and breed him, it's going to be a lot harder to find a mate for him that is not related. There is a big disadvantage of having a popular line of dogs. It's no different in sheep lines or cattle lines. Each has their own famous studs that everyone wants in the pedigree.

 

I think the biggest issue when breeding working dogs is deciding which ones really are in the red, orange, yellow or white zone. Do enough people really work them hard enough to know? I agree that we can't just breed the best to the best, but we should at least know if a dog is top notch, excellent, good, ok or a biscuit eater. Breeding the lower tier dogs to one another is more likely to result in useless pups than breeding a lower tier dog to a higher tier dog.

 

Really, I think any Border Collie that is bred needs to be trained to an open standard. This doesn't mean it would make a winning open dog, but that it was given all the training and opportunity to make it that far. It should be able to outrun at least a few hundred yards, drive, shed, pen and work in confined spaces. It should have been exposed to light stock and heavy stock, mamas with new babies and mature, intact males, fair weather and foul. If you do this you can decide what strengths and weaknesses a dog has, therefore helping you select the best mates.

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If you talk to old time breeders/shepherds they will mention dogs and bitches who were/are good *producers* although they may not be the *best* workers/trial dogs. Of course it takes deep knowledge of lines and individual dogs--as well as a willingness to test one's ideas--to make these sorts of breeding decisions, but it is an example of a standard practice that does NOT involve breeding the best to the best. And I don't think it's all that rare.

 

J.

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Yes, but in those cases I think the people who are successful doing that are intimately familiar with the dog's lines, experienced in training and evaluating working stock dogs and capable of being truly objective. They likely trained the dog to a level where they can at least spot the faults but realize the dog has some highly desirable traits that they don't want to lose from the gene pool. IOW, a novice has no business doing that.

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And I think that's why people here stress breeding top quality to top quality, because there are only a few here that are really qualified to breed at all.

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Liz,

That's why I said it takes deep knowledge (and mentioned shepherds, rather than trialers). I don't think anyone else would interpret what I wrote as meaning I was including any sort of novice breeder.

 

J.

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Oh, I think there are based on the litters I see advertised on FB all the time. They don't know enough to realize they don't know enough.

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Oh, I think there are based on the litters I see advertised on FB all the time. They don't know enough to realize they don't know enough.

And who buys from them? Sporters? Pet homes? Certainly not anyone who intends to breed bull's-eye quality working dogs. Mostly people who find it "too hard", "such a disappointment", and maybe a very few who will eventually realize their own ignorance and get those critters neutered.

 

Of course there are those who are breeding for a fast buck in the pet market and don't give a damn what a dog can do on stock. But unfortunately those will probably always be with us... Working breeders with higher standards like Liz must do the best they can to be sure they aren't selling a dog or pup to them. (And I'm sure she/they does/do.) :)

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Pet people, yes, but also sport people (especially if they have colors) and even a fair number of farmers who lack the experience or a mentor to help them pick out a dog. The farmer who doesn't know just how precise and useful these dogs can be might think their Border Collie that chases some cattle in at night is a good dog. They just honestly don't know any better in some cases. Other times, it's novices who sell thinking they have a great pairing when they don't.

 

One friend bought a farm and a dairy goat herd. I offered to help her find a pup. She found one and was so proud it was from trial winning parents. Turns out the dam was from purely imported NZ show lines and had won some started AKC trials. Pup never worked out for her.

 

One farmer I know bought a pup from trial winning parents who also worked on a farm. Farm was a few acres and light hair sheep. Trials were novice arena and AKC. Never could get that dog to work his stock.

 

A farmer locally wants to breed their Border Collie but didn't even realize they were supposed to fetch the sheep. How is that farmer supposed to really asses the quality of the dog or choose a good mate? Oh, but the dog works a farm full time, so the pups would appear to be of good quality to naive buyers.

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

Ms. Liz P writes, "The COI of Border Collies has crept up, well beyond the relatedness of first cousins at this time."

 

Citation please.

 

Donald McCaig

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Too many first-time potential livestock dog users are fooled by an ad about pups from "working" parents. Without knowing what good abilities are and what really good work is, how to train (and be trained), and so on, they often wind up with useless or next to useless (or even worse) dogs that will sour them on the idea of a working dog as something other than a pet, a pest, or a chore time companion.

 

The future handler needs training as much as the dog needs abilities and training. A naturally-gifted dog can be very helpful with little training, especially in easier and smaller jobs, but it is a waste of that dog could be if trained and utilized to its potential.

 

So while many who are fooled may be pet and sport people, there are still too many who are fooled who could honestly use a good dog on their small-holding, farm, or ranch. They are dis-served by those who sell poorly-bred and falsely-promoted pups, too. And I think it's often worse than misleading a pet or sport owner, because these people are hoping to depend on these dogs to help manage their flock or herd.

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I have to think that you are not just breeding individual dogs but breeding to the entire litter/line. The more I expect of my dogs and the more time I have spent working with them allows for a more comprehensive view. While 1 individual may be out in the world where it is seen it seems to me that if most pups from the litter are good working dogs that would speak even better to there being breeding potential - as opposed to the other pups in that litter no working well.

 

That is part of the reason I like to start more than 1 pup from a litter - to see if those pupS have it and the breeding might be worth repeating or not. Sometimes you cross two dogs that are your best working dogs and those pups fall short, just can not predict results unfortunately

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But I leads me to wonder about the effects of only breeding the best workers. Do we see a narrowing that's dangerous, or do you more knowledgeable people believe selecting for work alone removes some of that worry?

 

 

 

 

https://rufflyspeaking.wordpress.com/2009/02/14/a-football-field-of-dogs-health-testingyeah-you-know-im-going-to-stir-this-pot/

"Selecting for work alone" is huge.

 

It encompasses the natural abilities, temperament, physical stamina and soundness. Most also pay attention to genetic diseases when making breeding choices.

 

I can't think of any other criteria to even consider when breeding working border collies. What would they even be?

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I know her bull´s eye theory from my early days on the forum, and imo it has a fatal flaw, those "non bull´s eye dogs" (think they were in the yellow or orange zone in the analogy), that go to pet or sport homes are in principle the same as culls. Their genes are lost for the working dog gene pool.

 

If they are not good workers, why do we want their genes in the pool?

 

In the US, there is a whole category of breeders, "SPORT" breeders. They are actively breeding those "non bulls eye" dogs you are talking about and marketing them as agility, or other sport, dogs (especially if they're colored). Those who buy them may participate in "herding" and compete in AKC type trials. If a real working or trial home wanted to buy these dogs, they are still available for purchase. Their genes are not lost. Personally it disturbs me when somebody buys one, though. IMO a dog sport person can find the physical type of border collie they prefer to do their sport with from a person who actually selects for working ability and the sound mind and body that come with it - rather than getting virtual culls from a big name "agility breeder."

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"Selecting for work alone" is huge.

 

It encompasses the natural abilities, temperament, physical stamina and soundness. Most also pay attention to genetic diseases when making breeding choices.

 

I can't think of any other criteria to even consider when breeding working border collies. What would they even be?

 

Genetic diversity would be the point of the article. If the most ideal match was a dog with similar bloodlines, and a less ideal but still good match was unrelated for multiple generations, would you select the former before the latter? If you have a great working dog, would you consider breeding litter mates each once (assuming they have working ability) vs breeding the initial dog multiple times. Do you take that kind of thing into consideration? If no, do you have any concerns about COI over time?

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The general recommendation is, if starting with a well bred litter to begin with, to breed 1/3 of the resulting pups. The other 2/3 of the litter would be eliminated due to health or lack of working ability. This would provide the ideal balance of positive selection pressure for desired traits while also preserving genetic diversity (which in turn helps with the overall health of the breed).

 

In reality, I don't think we come anywhere close to this. Everyone wants to breed to or get pups out of the famous one in the litter.

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