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prosperia

sport/conformation vs. herding ability

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I would hate to lose an opportunity to hear from both sides of the argument. I dont even know how to start this thread exactly, but to say that the result of breeding a border collie for anything other than herding, ie. flyball, conformation, agility ,ect. may produce a fast, fluffy, agile dog, but it wont be a border collie.

A BC should never be bred because its a "great flyball" dog.

We should strive to produce structurally sound, good working dogs. Chances are, that dog will be agile, smart and fast. I dont disagree with having a pet BC, or a dog that is bought for sport, but that dog should not be bred unless it has proven it can work day in and day out and wont break down.

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This thread can be interesting, IF, names are withheld from direct attack. I heard an interesting storyu once about a fisherman (Christian). Will not go into it here, but the moral was is a fisherman a fisherman if he does not fish. Is a Border Collie a Border Collie if it does not herd? Hall Farms has had Border Collies since 1965. We would have disposed of any dog that would not herd stock. Though we did not breed BCs until the 90's, we only acquired pups from working stock. I will never acquire a BC from anyone but working (herding) parents. Yes, not all will herd, but when we breed from non-herding dogs we start to lose what makes a Border Collie a Border Collie. Do you recall the last time a "Lassie" collie herded anything? Do we want the Border Collie to become the same? That is the question and the answer is NO!

 

Is a Border Collie a Border Collie if it does not herd? Definitly NO!

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Personally, I've never been keen on breeding for looks-at all.

As far as sport, the sacrifice to the BC breed is enormous. What is being "created" is no longer a border collie. Eventually genetics will win out, these dogs will lose their herding instinct. I can see intuative reactions becoming slower and these dogs losing some of that intelligence that make this breed so incredible.

 

By breeding for purly flyball, temperment, agility, ect. what is being created will eventually be an entirely new breed. Its not right to call them border collies, because in the long run, they won't be.

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My opinion as humble as it is, is that what makes a BC is not whether or not it herds, but the ability to herd. What makes BC's the best agility, flyball, herding, or even search dogs? It is all the same things that make a good herding dog. The exceptional working ability, and intellegence. My mom's BC is a SAR dog. She does not herd, but she can run circles around other breeds in the search field. She solves problems herself that most handlers have to with their dogs. Give her 30 min, and she is ready to go again. While all the other dogs are done for the day. Is this not what turned everybody in the sport world on the the BC in the first place? Why breed out what makes them good at everything? Then you have just another dog.

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Jim - I do think your idea has some merit. But, the working Border Collie is the "original" and therefore, I say let the working Border Collie (or working-bred Border Collie) have the name.

 

Let others who breed for other characteristics (sport or conformation) call their dogs something else.

 

Just because a working-bred dog is used for another discipline (like SAR) doesn't make it any less a Border Collie. It is still a Border Collie but, unless it's proven itself on stock, it shouldn't be used for breeding.

 

I think the vast majority of Border Collie board members will find consensus with that concept.

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Why can't the ABCA copyright "Border Collie"? I for one don't like any other name. Let the AKC come up with a different name. I think Colin's is a good suggestion. :D

 

I think most on this board are of the same mindset. I doubt the people who signed on just to post to that other thread will stick around and learn anything. Their ways are pretty set as it is. After all, having a fast dog is what it's all about, right? :rolleyes:

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Just wanted to mention the entire flyball community is not like what recently showed up here. For the most part, most of us just want to have fun with our dogs and our teammates and don't have a win-at-all-costs attitude. It's a game, nothing else. Doesn't matter who wins or loses or who's fastest or slowest, at the end of the day it's just a game we play with our dogs.

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I just don't see the point in it (breeding for other things. Mark and I initially competed in UKC agility (with Duncan and Starr). I know this is obnoxiuos, but those two dogs literally kicked butt in agility. The point is though, they weren't bred for anything but herding. We bought both of them as pups from two different breeders (just pointing out that they are not even related)who trialed in USBCHA trials. Then I heard from someone about how expensive these sport bred dogs can be. All I can say to that is people are getting ripped off if that's true.

Renee

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Renee, I think you are right about the cost.

When I was looking for a pup, I went to two different breeders in my area. At the time I was pretty clueless about the difference between the two registries. The AKC bred pup was $200 more expensive, and I believe that is probably the norm for a lot of AKC breeders.

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Renee - I have seen what folks charge (and get) for conformation or performance sport puppies and it is a lot more money than I have seen folks charge for working-bred pups from good parents and good lines.

 

I think you can see where the money is, and it isn't in producing dogs for stock work and trialling. It's in producing pups for the prestige pet and competitive conformation and sports markets.

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Why not just go with what the ISDS calls them: Sheepdogs. Nothing else, nothing more. Of corse then the cattle dog folks may get offended. I still like the idea of copyrighting "Border Collie". Or how about the phrase "Working Border Collie"?

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I agree that what makes the BC excel in all dog sports are the traits that were developed for herding. Quick response, intelligence, high drive, their work ethic, their athleticism.

 

Years back when the bc was first becoming the obedience breed to recon with, a friend of mine bought a bc from 'obedience lines.' Unfortunately, that individual dog had no drive or work ethic and made a miserable obedience dog. In fact, I don't believe the woman ever competed with him. Whether it was this dog's breeding, its individual temperament, or its training, who can say?

 

However, I do know of 'serious' obedience competitors who will only buy puppies from herding stock because of what herding brings to the dog.

 

When I was over the big pond back in 1992, the herding purists over there were appalled at what the breed was becoming. Even as far back as then the breed was truly split; conformation / herding / sport. Then when I was over there in 1999 I saw bcs in conformation & agility - they were very different from each other. I guess the Brits were ahead of us on this trend too. :rolleyes:

 

No doubt as the breed is bred for differing reasons it will be diluted, like has happened to other breeds.

 

As for different names for the different varieties, the English Springer Spaniel community is wrestling with that too. The similarities of the springers bred in England compared to those bred in the US are becoming more and more different and some feel the US springers should be called something like the American Springer Spaniel (hum... but does that cover all of the americas, north & south?). :confused:

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$800-$1000 is not unheard of for a sport-bred pup, especially if the dogs bred are owned by any well-known competitors.

 

I will mention agility has come a long way and increased dramatically in competitiveness. I can't say how competitive UKC used to be before 1997 (when I started), but it's not really considered one of the main agility org's now... UKC is more like agility for obedience people... being fast actually hurts you in UKC.

 

It's easy to get sucked into the sport mentality and think you NEED to get a sport bred BC. A competitor I know well used to be heavily into Aussies and rescues... agility changed that. Now all she wants is sport-bred BC's, b/c that's what she thinks she needs to win :rolleyes: , even after she sees my working-bred dogs doing really well.

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I have heard this before, in discussions related to one of the breeds I currently have. I have a Kelpie, who was not bred for herding, but from non-herding parents (show), who excells WELL beyond my wildest dreams in agility. Kelpies began as herding dogs, and somewhere in the late 1800's early 1900's people thought it would be nice to show them. Now there are two types of Kelpies. Herding and show. The working or herding Kelpies are bred for that, and are also being scapped up all over for agility dogs, and the show Kelpies do anything from herding to flyball to SAR. If I were going to get a herding Kelpie, you bet it would be a herding bred dog. For my purposes, which are not herding, rather, agility, I ended up with a show version who is very very good at agility and frisbee, but is NOT a herding dog. So, you do NOT need herding lines to have a good agility dog. Fwiw, I wish that they hadn't broken into two types, but my guys fit me well.

Julie

 

"My opinion as humble as it is, is that what makes a BC is not whether or not it herds, but the ability to herd. What makes BC's the best agility, flyball, herding, or even search dogs? It is all the same things that make a good herding dog. The exceptional working ability, and intellegence. My mom's BC is a SAR dog. She does not herd, but she can run circles around other breeds in the search field. She solves problems herself that most handlers have to with their dogs. Give her 30 min, and she is ready to go again. While all the other dogs are done for the day. Is this not what turned everybody in the sport world on the the BC in the first place? Why breed out what makes them good at everything? Then you have just another dog.

 

--------------------

Mecca & Reckless"

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Working BC Sounds good to me.

Kelpies are either working Kelpies, or show Kelpies. Both types can work at things like sports, SAR, flyball etc, (and do them equally as well), but in general, a working Kelpie is bred to work stock, and the show more of a jack of all trades. But, following this logic, calling non working BC's show BC's would probably not be acceptable to many!

Julie

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But, following this logic, calling non working BC's show BC's would probably not be acceptable to many!
Actually I believe the name suggested would be Working Border Collies and Barbie Border Collies. But then a trademark battle may happen with barbie and Ken.

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How about "Bobble-head Border Collies"? Sorry, I shouldn't have said that but it's been that kind of day...I just couldn't resist. Should I delete this now?

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I have to agree that many breeds you see today are "ruined". It is not that they don't make excellent pets or sport dogs, but they just do not have the ability to do what they were originally bred to do. When that is gone, part of the breed is gone. The breed is no longer whole, and what it was originally. If what the breed was originally is what made them so popular and well liked-why breed that out of them?

 

Although I do believe many breeds have been changed, altered, or ruined(whatever you wish to call it), I don't believe that *conformation*, necessarily, caused it. WHAT!? You may be thinking. I know, I know.. But, just hold on and try to follow.

 

I come from the thinking that the conformation sport is wonderful thing that is beneficial to dogs. When I came here I was sincerely shocked that someone could hate conformation so much. I am always, and will continue, to read this board, although my opinions may be not be exactly like yours. I am also on many message boards/forums that do have many people that compete in conformation. Because of this, I like to believe that I can hear BOTH people's debates on the issue and maybe be just a bit more understanding of why they do what they do. Soo...

 

I don't believe *conformation*, by itself, has ruined any breed. I beileve the *PEOPLE* that show in conformation have, maybe even blindy/non knowingly, caused this tremendous breed split and the "ruination" of the breed. I believe some conformation breeders are caught up in producing the perfect conformation dog. They think a "conformationally" sound dog is a perfect one. When, in fact, in some breeds what they judge os "conformation" is TOTALLY different than what a working dog would need to have to excell.

 

Most conformation breeders that I have ever talked to also strive to produce healthy, happy, and well tempered dogs. They believe what they are doing is perfectly fine because they do breed for a purpose, for healthy and well tempered dogs, and they select good homes. Most will also sell "pet quality" on spay/nueter contracts as well. I've talked to alot of conformation breeders that do care about all those dogs in rescue, and although they do breed, they want to help stop it.

 

For those reasons, most conformation breeders feel what they are doing is justified.

 

Heck, who am I to judge?

 

But(!), I also believe that what they are doing isn't necessarily "bettering the breed" unless they truly do breed for a versatile dog. One that can herd, is sound, and is one of a good temperment.

 

Breeding for versatility--is it impossible? I don't believe so.

 

I'll use the Vizsla breed as an example.

 

MANY, many vizsla breeders truly do breed for a versatile dog. One that can do well in the show ring, but most impotant -one that can and will hunt. I've been talking to many vizsla breeders, and have visited many websites. (..I *may* be getting one for conformaton..) I've read on multiple websites that a breeder will not breed a dog without hunting instinct. If it cannot hunt, it doesn't get bred. They also breed for soundness and their dogs have good enough conformation to do well in the show ring. Because this breed still has all of its hunting instincts, it isn't always the pefect pet/companion and isn't for everyone. If a breeder were to breed those hunting qualities out for better conformation, or for even a better "pet", it just wouldn't be the same breed. BUT, those instincts also are the reason they really are great dogs that can excell in *anything*, whether it be conformation, hunting, agility, or obedience.

 

I believe that many Vizsla breeders do realize this, and try to keep the breed whole, and what it was originally-a great dog and companion that possesses wonderful hunting instinct.

 

So, is breeding for versatility impossible? Should we automatically assume that just because a breeder shows their dogs that they are horrible? I don't believe so. What I look for is usually in their contract. If in there contract it says that one of their dogs MUST have herding ability and be evaluated by herding instructors/trainers(although they may show in conformation) to be bred--is that truly horrible?

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So, is breeding for versatility impossible? Should we automatically assume that just because a breeder shows their dogs that they are horrible? I don't believe so. What I look for is usually in their contract. If in there contract it says that one of their dogs MUST have herding ability and be evaluated by herding instructors/trainers(although they may show in conformation) to be bred--is that truly horrible?

 

"Horrible?" What does that mean? I'm not going to put a moral spin on this. But let's look at it this way.

 

Working ability, be it hunting or stock work, is not a simple thing to select for. It is not one character. It is a constellation of characters and therefore, harder to select for and to maintain.

 

The more characters you are selecting, narrowly, for at once, the harder your task as a breeder. Do I think it is possible to breed absolutely top working dogs while also selecting for pretty? Theoretically, maybe -- but it would take a lot more dogs, a lot more culling, and much more rigorous testing than I see any of the "versatility" breeders out there doing.

 

What "versatility" breeders do is NOT select for "it all." They compromise. I'll say it again. COMPROMISE.

 

And some of us don't appreciate the compromises that they make, especially when those compromises are made in the name of characters (i.e., prettiness) that a lot of us could really give two craps about. (Besides, how is a dog more "versatile" just because it has a longer coat or squarer outline?) And don't fall into the trap of thinking that conformation showing has anything to do with functional structure. It doesn't. If they cared about function, they'd actually test the function of their dogs, not examine their angles in static positions or solely in the context of the breed ring trot. (This is how American Show Shepherds -- i.e., the bastardized breed ring version of German Shepherd Dogs -- ended up the mess they're in. Selection for the flying trot, or "tremendous reach and drive AKA TRAD.")

 

Versatility breeders don't select for the best working dog. First they select for "can this dog finish a championship." Then, and only then, they move on. In terms of working, they don't select the best, which is what a good working breeder does. They select for "good enough." Their standard of "good enough" is NOT "good enough." There's also the problem that generally you don't get "great" by selecting for "good." You don't even get "good" by selecting for "good," except as the occasional fluke. You get "meh" by selecting for good. I don't want a dog who is "meh" on sheep. I want one that's at least good. I really want one that's great -- and that's not even because I have sheep, since I don't have sheep (even though I do work my dogs). It's because I really, truly, both on principle and through observation believe that when you stop selecting for the work (or settling for "good enough"), you lose the most precious thing about these dogs, and that is their essential Border Collieness.

 

To me, "Border Collie" is not simply a genealogical label, although the kennel club mindset thinks it is. (The kennel club mindset is very strange to me. To be a "breed," dogs have to be part of a closed gene pool. But, if there are essentially closed gene pools within that gene pool -- i.e., show vs. working -- they are still considered the same breed even though they legitimately should be split apart. It makes no sense whatsoever. To me, "versatility" bred "Border Collies" that combine working and fluffbutt lines are essentially mutts. Not that I have anything against mutts, but mutts are not Border Collies.)

 

To me, breeds are defined by two traits. (1) Common ancestry. (2) Consistency of type. The "dog fancy" uses the word "type" to refer only to physical type, ignoring the fact that dogs can be narrowly selected for behavior and be absolutely consistent in that sense without all looking the same. Border Collies are highly variable in appearance, and yet, do you have any problem recognizing characteristic Border Collie behaviors, or Border Collie individuals when they are working sheep? No? I didn't think so.

 

If you take one thing and start breeding for something else, it stands to reason that you no longer have the same thing. Show, "versatile," and sport-bred Border Collies are, to me, not Border Collies. Does it mean they aren't nice dogs? No. They are perfectly nice dogs. I cast no aspersions on the dogs themselves, even though they aren't for me. They simply aren't Border Collies, as they no longer consistently exhibit the cardinal Border Collie characteristics (which cannot be evaluated outside of the context of work), and they should be called something else. (This is why I refer to the show dogs as "Barbie Collies" and the sport dogs as "Sport Collies." I actually consider them to be separate breeds and/or mixes.)

 

I'm not interested in a dog whose breeder has relaxed selection for the traits most important to me. Conformation breeders recognize that when you stop selecting narrowly for traits that you like -- earset, coat texture, what have you -- unless you have a group of dogs totally fixed for those traits, you lose them, and not slowly either. It boggles my mind that "versatility" breeders think they can relax selection for working ability -- which is so much more complex -- and still end up with dogs that work. They don't.

 

In some cases you even end up with what you'd call "character conflict" if it was happening in the wild -- selection for two or more characters that essentially impedes each other. In the wild you might see it if you have sexual selection for big pretty males, but predators selecting against the big males because they are yummier and easier to catch. In dogs you see it because some of the characters, both physical and behavioral, that you see in show dogs are contradictory to the characters you want to see in a good working dog (or for that matter, a healthy dog -- look at Bulldogs if you don't believe me).

 

Personally, I believe -- and have seen -- that "versatility" breeding results in jack-of-all-trades dogs who aren't very good at anything. They can't beat the real breed ring dogs in conformation, and they can't get out of Novice/Novice on the sheepdog trial field. They are perfectly nice dogs, and great pets, and all that kind of good stuff, but most people who love Border Collies are looking more than the average pet owner is. I want more. I'm not going to settle for less. Is versatility breeding "horrible?" I guess not, but I don't see the point -- at all -- and will never buy a dog bred that way. And if in the future, these are the majority of the dogs out there called "Border Collies," I will no longer have Border Collies. If Border Collies become lowest common denominator dogs, there will be no reason for me to have a Border Collie rather than anything else.

 

I hope this makes sense.

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SoloRiver wrote:

 

"And don't fall into the trap of thinking that conformation showing has anything to do with functional structure. "

 

I believe SoloRiver missed my saying:

 

They think a "conformationally" sound dog is a perfect one. When, in fact, in some breeds what they judge as "conformation" is TOTALLY different than what a working dog would need to have to excell.

 

SoloRiver:

The more characters you are selecting, narrowly, for at once, the harder your task as a breeder. Do I think it is possible to breed absolutely top working dogs while also selecting for pretty? Theoretically, maybe -- but it would take a lot more dogs, a lot more culling, and much more rigorous testing than I see any of the "versatility" breeders out there doing.

 

I wasn't talking about "pretty", but more about soundness/conformation. A dog that has good structure--not cowhocked, etc, etc, etc.

 

much more rigorous testing than I see any of the "versatility" breeders out there doing.

 

In border collies, and several other breeds, this may be the case. And if this were the case, I would not consider them a versatile breeder. I'd consider them a conformation breeder TRYING to look as if they were a versatile breeder--politcs, nothing more.

 

As I had said before, I believe many Vizsla breeders are a good example of a versatile breeder. I cannot speak for "versatile" border collie breeders, though.

 

But because many Vizsla breeders are actually able to breed for versatile dogs that do excell in both, it is hard for me to believe that border collies couldn't.

 

There are, of course, many differences between a herding dog and a sporting dog, though. Those differences may or may not be the reason you can't breed a "versatile" border collie. I believe another reason why it is nearly impossible to breed a "versatile" border collie is the conformation politics. Even if you were to breed a sound dog that most importantly had great herding ability, it may not do well in the ring for that one reason-politics. So, maybe it really is impossibly to breed a "versatile" border collie for that reason.

 

The last reason that it may be impossible to breed a "versatile" border collie is that the standard, IMO, may have a bunch of useful junk stated in there.... Such as the earset. Does a working border collies ear set truly matter? Does a tipped ear truly help them in their herding?

 

Going back to the Vizsla- I believe the reason some breeders truly can breed versatile Vizslas is because you don't see, for the most part, ALL those politics in the Vizsla breed. You also don't have colors to choose from...only one color, really-red.

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