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Experience with rough collies and herding?


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I was curious, I never see any rough collies or smooth collies herding, and certainly never hear about them on serious farms.


But rough collie owners and enthusiasts say the breed is a brilliant working dog, that they are not supposed to be high drive, but they all are capable of working.

What is your experience with the breed working?

What about compared to other breeds like aussies, english shepherds, welsh collies, etc?

I also hear similar said about the corgi, that they fully capable of working because xxx uses one on their farm, or xxx has AKC herding titles...

And I have not seen one work so I am interested to hear what you think about the breeds.

Thankls

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I know someone who has collies and trials in AKC with them. I think the attempts at USBCHA type trialing have been abysmal failures. No one has been selecting for herding ability for a very long time, and despite what many conformation aficianados believe, you can't just "put it back in."

 

I have been told by a corgi owner/breeder that she has dogs in Canada working "large farms," but that doesn't really make sense to me because corgis weren't bred for gathering large areas. Maybe they send the dog then go in and get coffee and breakfast while those short little legs get around the large acreages.... ;)

 

That said, there are breed enthusiasts who are trying their best, within AKC and perhaps AHBA frameworks to "preserve" working ability (such as it is) in their herding breed of choice. I think anyone looking for a working dog of one of those other breeds would have to do some serious research to at least be sure they're finding the best available working genetics that are out there.

 

I have seen plenty of good working kelpies, and occasionally a good working aussie (there was one at the 2013 USBCHA finals running in nursery that was quite nice). There most certainly are others (Aussies) out working on ranches that you just don't see because they're not trialing.

 

ETA: I see you are in the UK. The other breed that you'd most likely find with (still) strong working genetics would be the bearded collie, but again you'd need to look for dogs from working lines and not show lines.

 

J.

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Talk is cheap. The proof is in the work. Like Julie, I know someone (likely the same someone) who extols the virtues of his rough or smooth Collies as vastly superior to most working Border Collies. However, that remains to be seen...

 

I've also seen what was considered, in AKC circles, to be an outstanding example of a working Corgi. What I saw was a nippy, grippy, rather out of control, dog that I'd never want working my stock.

 

Perspective? Personal preference? Owner's bias? Breed snobbery?

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I have seen a few working smoothies at AHBA and AKC events in my area, most were generally nice dogs who tried hard but relied a lot on handler interaction. Same with the Cardigans, I went to an AHBA large flock trial and there was a corgi who did a really nice job moving a bunch of ornery, hungry sheep off of grazing.

 

I have seen a few Pembrokes at the same kind of events, but they were not very tuned into the stock at all, mostly running in circles barking.

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I'll basically echo what everyone else has said. :) The "Lassie" type collie was never bred to be a working dog. Whatever its roots, whatever stock it originally came from, the rough collie itself was created in Victorian times specifically to be an ornament and a show dog. I believe breeds such as the Borzoi were even added in to create the signature long muzzle of the rough collie.

Those I've seen in AKC, AHBA or ASCA trials have very little natural talent. Some can be taught to do a little gather and are able to hold sheep together to fetch them around a course, even drive a little. But unless they are constantly instructed and directed, they seemed to have very little natural instinct. The same goes for the one or two smooth varieties I've seen.

That's my take, anyhow. Everyone's mileage may vary. :)

~ Gloria

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I've never trained or handled one, so take this with a grain of salt...

 

My experience with Rough and Smooth Collies has been watching runs at AHBA trials. They are very sweet dogs and seemed to really enjoy the work. They were upright, loose eyed and to a dog lacked any push. Most also lacked stock sense, though I have seen two that did understand the behavior of sheep enough to do some of their own thinking. They could look ok in smaller spaces on broke stock, but the second the sheep ran or challenged the dogs, they fell to pieces and showed a total lack of control (the sheep got away).

 

On the flip side, I've seen some top notching working Kelpies, Bearded Collies, NZ Heading Dogs, Huntaways, Aussies and even a talented Hairy Mouth Cur. I saw a video of a few lovely landrace German tending dogs. I've seen one GSD with good working talent.

 

To date, I've never seen an English Shepherd with any talent. I've never seen a Welsh Sheepdog work at all, so no opinion on them. I've seen some nice enough Catahoulas, but the working style was so radically different that I don't think you could compare them to BCs in any recognizable way.

 

I've seen plenty of Corgis working. They are gamey little dogs and most have a lot of desire to work. Some have excellent confidence. They aren't gathering dogs though, even though some can be taught to do an outrun. Their legs are too short to allow them to catch stock that decides to bolt. They are meant to help drive stock, and I think they could be fine for that purpose.

 

All that said, if I wanted a good working that can gather, drive, help in pens, sort and pretty much do anything, it's a Border Collie for me. If Border Collies ceased to exist, I would get Kelpies.

JMHO

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I've seen a few rough and smooth collies in the western US that could be useful farm dogs. None of them are in any danger of placing in an open class at a sheep dog trial. Or even completing an open class. Or Pro-novice. But I've seen some do a pretty respectable job gathering groups of fairly cooperative sheep out of fields that are maybe 5 hectares/10 acres in size, and doing pretty decent drives up to maybe 75 meters or so away from their handler. They are nice calm workers in smaller spaces and the place where I used to train would routinely use the rough collie to calmly and quietly move stubborn sheep that refused to move for a couple border collies that were trialing at a Pro Novice level out of pens and down alleyways. I watched one handler once casually do what was essentially an international shed to isolate a lame ewe from the rest of the flock with her rough collie. So, for a small farm those rough and smooth collies could have been pretty useful chore dogs.

 

But, those show-line rough/smooth collies have been the rare exception. Many like kind of playing with the sheep and bouncing around them to make them move, but require pretty extensive and very gentle training to be able to move sheep in any sort of controlled fashion, and most end up either losing interest or being pretty mechanical once they are asked to do more than fetch sheep to the handler. They just don't have the speed and athleticism and fine tuned balance to control reactive sheep in wide open spaces.

 

I'm pretty skeptical of the "scotch collie/farm collie" crowd. They talk a good talk about preserving the "old fashioned farm collie" but when you look at what they are selecting for, it's a dog that looks like whatever their memory is of the collies they used to see on farms. They are just as focused on appearance as the show collie folks, they just want a different appearance - less extreme coat, broader head, and a nice big white Lassie blaze on the face is a bonus . An aussie that didn't have its tail docked would fit their criteria. You rarely see any mention of what sort of work these supposed old fashioned farm collies should be able to do, and certainly no evaluation of their ability beyond the breeder's claims that they have great instincts. What little mention farm collie breeders might make of specific abilities often focus more on rodent control and barking at intruders and maybe chasing livestock back to the barn at night than on any sort of controlled movement of stock. I've only seen one "farm collie" at an AHBA test/trial. The owner, who had her own flock of sheep at home, hired a handler to get her dog to move knee knocker sheep along the fence line in a 100 X 200 ft arena to pass its "Junior Herd Dog" test. Kudos to the owner for actually publicly showing what her dog could do I guess, and the dog did do what it was asked to do. But I have a hard time picturing what useful stock work the dog did at home if the owner felt she needed to hire someone else to handler her dog for a very simple test.

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  • 3 years later...
On 6/13/2017 at 11:19 PM, Liz P said:

I've never trained or handled one, so take this with a grain of salt...

 

My experience with Rough and Smooth Collies has been watching runs at AHBA trials. They are very sweet dogs and seemed to really enjoy the work. They were upright, loose eyed and to a dog lacked any push. Most also lacked stock sense, though I have seen two that did understand the behavior of sheep enough to do some of their own thinking. They could look ok in smaller spaces on broke stock, but the second the sheep ran or challenged the dogs, they fell to pieces and showed a total lack of control (the sheep got away).

 

On the flip side, I've seen some top notching working Kelpies, Bearded Collies, NZ Heading Dogs, Huntaways, Aussies and even a talented Hairy Mouth Cur. I saw a video of a few lovely landrace German tending dogs. I've seen one GSD with good working talent.

 

To date, I've never seen an English Shepherd with any talent. I've never seen a Welsh Sheepdog work at all, so no opinion on them. I've seen some nice enough Catahoulas, but the working style was so radically different that I don't think you could compare them to BCs in any recognizable way.

 

I've seen plenty of Corgis working. They are gamey little dogs and most have a lot of desire to work. Some have excellent confidence. They aren't gathering dogs though, even though some can be taught to do an outrun. Their legs are too short to allow them to catch stock that decides to bolt. They are meant to help drive stock, and I think they could be fine for that purpose.

 

All that said, if I wanted a good working that can gather, drive, help in pens, sort and pretty much do anything, it's a Border Collie for me. If Border Collies ceased to exist, I would get Kelpies.

JMHO

 

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