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A deal breaker


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#1 Maja

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 11:03 AM

http://owceimanowce....er-for-you.html

I wrote this post on my blog, and I am copying it here:

 

 

Among the English-speaking working border collie people (I know that’s a heck of a long noun phrase), I often hear or read that there are some things about a dog that are considered “a deal breaker.” It may be the dog quitting on the handler, a dog running too wide, a dog with a vicious and/or dirty grip, or a dog that cannot be useful on the farm.  When the deal breaker occurs, the dog is often passed on to a new home. I understand that. I really do. There are practical considerations that one has to take into account when you have a working dog that is essential on the farm in its working capacity.  And I would be the last to pass negative judgement on people who find good homes to dogs that didn’t make the grade as a sheep dog.   


But,

 

I find this expression very interesting linguistically. Why is it a “deal breaker” and who is breaking the deal?  The dog?  The handler? And who made the deal in the first place? 

 

My third border collie was very hard to train (and that an understatement), and she still has quirks and wrinkles in the way she works.  But my biggest problem with her is that she may jump up at  people she considers strangers, which means everybody but me and my husband. And no, licking is not her object.

 

At some point, I shipped Darinka to a trusted dog trainer to try and improve on this problem for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, her season started just then and in that very multi-dog household it was not feasible to keep her long enough to accomplish anything. So we cut her stay short and went to pick her up.  She showed moderate enthusiasm upon seeing us.  She showed moderate enthusiasm upon arriving at home. Life went on.

 

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A few weeks later, I called her and told her to get into the car,  since we were going to our field the long way by the road with a bunch of stuff for sheepdog training.  She refused.  I insisted.  She insisted back.  Being in the habit of out-insisting my dogs, I picked her up and put her inside.  Knowing it was a lost battle, she climbed underneath the passenger seat. The entire 15 kilo of her.

 

Once in the field, I opened the door and called her out. Nope. She wasn’t coming.  I wasn’t having it. I took her out. She jumped back in.  I took her out again, and closed the door and went on about my business. Sort of. 

 

Because Darinka was everywhere. If I stopped, she sat on my feet. If I bent down, she was there in my face. When I was tying down the tent on my hands and knees, she was there - her body under my torso and her head between my arm and neck.  Needless to say, the task took longer than I had expected.   

 

When I was done, Darinka jumped into the car immediately, and we went home without a mishap.  It was later that evening that I realized this had been our first car trip, since I had sent her to the trainer’s.  She was scared I would take her away and leave her somewhere.  Forever.

 

And that would have been a real deal-breaker.  Not the patience I was so very short of in her training, not the needless pressure, not the breaks in training for weeks on end as a result of "a series of most unfortunate circumstances." 


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The only deal that a dog makes with us -- without thinking it through, or planning, or looking at our pedigree -- is to be our dog.  We yank them out from among their siblings, take them away from their mother to a new, strange place, and they only want to be our dog and us to be their people.  That’s the deal they make.  

 

 


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#2 GentleLake

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 03:36 PM

Once again, I'm feeling very strongly the lack of a like button.


"People in your life always come and go all the time; the dogs are always there for me. Always." ~Samantha Valle


#3 Tea

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 03:42 PM

Yes, I like your post too. Because some of my 'deal breaker' dogs are here with me still. Because they chose me and I honor that. If I find the perfect home for them, I might let them go if they are younger. And they still work....but often they have specific jobs that are suited to them.

 

But

 

I do not breed them.





#4 dawnhill

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 05:55 PM

I'm with Gentle Lake.



#5 Tommy Coyote

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 06:23 PM

I'm glad you wrote that. It is an important concept.

#6 dogfish6

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Posted 31 March 2017 - 12:04 AM

Maja - I don't just "like" this post, I love it.

 

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#7 Maja

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Posted 31 March 2017 - 02:20 AM

Thank you for all the positive comments. I was a little afraid that I might be misunderstood. 


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#8 rufftie

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Posted 31 March 2017 - 05:25 AM

I have one of those "deal breaker" dogs. he was sold to a man for herding purposes but after 2yrs, the man thought he was too soft and sent him back to the breeder. the breeder worked with him and offered him out again on a limited basis. they thought with his speed and agileness, he would make a good sport dog. I was looking for a sport dog at the time and had sent out feelers to friends. I was told about the dog now known as Hobbs. went to see him, fell in love, took him home. he excels at agility.....until you get in the ring. then he gets anxious. he is too soft for corrections and will shut down. I am currently at my dog limit (3) and know I will not be getting another agility prospect for hopefully many years. my husband has said, move him on, get some other dog you can work with. but that is not the deal. it is not the deal I make with my dogs and it is not the deal they make with me. he loves hangin on the couch and being a love. that's how he'll spend his life. you hit the nail on the head Maja, thanks.



#9 gcv-border

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Posted 01 April 2017 - 06:27 AM

Like button needed here too.


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#10 geonni banner

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 01:46 PM

I had one of those "deal- breaker" dogs for awhile.  Maid  was slated to be shot by her owner for being a wash-out at stock work.  She came through a couple of sets of hands and parked herself on my feet one day and wouldn't leave. (literally - she had to be dragged away.)  She was being "test walked" by a man who was looking for a pet.  (He didn't take her) So I bailed her out of a rescue where she was being offered. 

 

The deal I have with dogs is this:  You show me who you are, what's important to you, and if I can't give you that I'll do my best to get you to someone who can.  I took Maid for a couple of sessions with a herding trainer.  Her evaluation was that the dog had talent and drive. A couple of months later I found a home for her.  She's taking care of 40 goats now.  She's happy.  She's useful.  And I'm out a swell dog.  Does that make me a deal-breaker? Her?

 

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I really liked that dog.  She was wonderful.  But I could see that she needed something I couldn't offer her.  So I found some one who could - someone who needed the dog's skills as much as the dog needed to exercise her abilities.  Could Maid have been happy running agility courses?  Maybe.  But she was a working dog at heart.  To keep her from that would have been a real deal-breaker.

 

YMMV

 

PS.  I recently had a Chihuahua foster dog.  I didn't want a Chihuahua, but there he was.  He needed help in a big way.  I thought he would be great for my dog-walker, who was down to one dog.  But my dog-walker said no.  So, since he got along well with my other pets, I decided to give him a home. Two months later, my collie's infatuation with him wore off.  His Chihuahua-ness began to wear on my nerves. 

 

Then the doGs smiled on us.  I got sick.  My dog-walker took him to take care of until I got well. During that week he (the dog-walker)  decided the Chihuahua was all that after all.  So he kept him.  He loves teeny dogs.  So who's the deal-breaker in this scenario? 

 

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To me it's a case of things will go right if you let them.  The trick is to pay attention and eschew guilt.  Guilt is about as useful as a sneaker full of puppy poo.

 

Again, YMMV



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#11 D'Elle

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 06:27 PM

Many years ago, I had a life partner I adored, and who one day came home with an injured border collie picked up on the highway. I paid for the vet. Less than a month later, my partner abandoned both me and the dog and left very suddenly to be with someone else. I kept the dog. She was a good dog, smart and biddable and friendly and beautiful, but I found that try as I might I could not love her. I liked her a lot, but I couldn't seem to bond with her. It worried me a good deal. I wondered if maybe I had been so damaged by my partner's leaving me that I couldn't bond with anyone any more, not even a perfectly good dog.

 

A year and a half later I was living in a very remote place alone with the dog. A man broke in to the house one night and the dog never barked. I needed to have a dog who would alert me if something like that happened. And I still did not feel bonded to the dog. So, I offered her to a couple the dog and I had met while living in Mexico, who had fallen in love with her and told me that any time I decided to give her up they would want her. I drove her down to California to be with them and she lived out her life being adored and pampered and going hiking in the mountains and swimming at the beach.

 

It all turned out well and later I got Jester and we bonded just fine and I loved him a lot and had a great time with him until he died last summer. Sometimes, I think, a dog will come to you in order to get to someone else. Cheyenne would never have met the couple who adored her for the majority of her life if she had not first come to me.


D'Elle

and family.

Left to right: Kit, Jester, Boo, Digger

 

 

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"You gonna throw that?" --Jester:  2001 - June 24 2016. Remembered with much love.
"I'm grouchier than you are" --Kit

"I love everyone!" -- Boo

(Boing! Boing! Boing!)--Digger

And not pictured, Benjamin the cat, who thinks he is a small border collie with superpowers.

 

 

 


#12 Maja

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 02:27 AM

.  Does that make me a deal-breaker? Her?

 

I offered her to a couple the dog and I had met while living in Mexico, who had fallen in love with her

 

In my post,  I wrote, "I would be the last to pass negative judgement on people who find good homes to dogs that didn’t make the grade as a sheep dog" and later I added "or for some other important reason" - to clarify.

 

And I really mean it. And while I understand the need to give away a dog that is not a good sheepdog, I also think that sometimes you should give the dog away.

 

I think that when they do make the deal with us, it is as I said -  "I'll be your dog, and you will be my people". 

 

But they are living beings, they understand a lot, and sometimes they see you can't make that deal with them, or sometimes they can't make that deal. And making that deal takes time too.  Particularly dogs that are rescued, they don't take it for granted that this is to be their home.  Life is a complicated matter, and the most important thing is to try and truly see what is best for the dog -  within what's in our power to do - truly look at that. 

 

I think doing the right thing does not always give the nice fuzzy feeling, sometimes it hurts. 

 

The reason I wrote this post is that the "deal breaker" semantics seems to indicate that the dog is somehow partly responsible for the situation, when in fact usually, we alone decide to take a dog, buy it, train it, and things fall apart sometimes.  And then, I think we owe that dog a real honest think-through. 


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#13 GentleLake

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 09:56 AM

^^ Another big thumbs up.


"People in your life always come and go all the time; the dogs are always there for me. Always." ~Samantha Valle


#14 Maja

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 10:01 AM

Thank you! :wub:


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#15 dawnhill

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 01:17 PM

What I see here in all the posts really warms my heart. Everyone is talking about it being a two-way relationship instead of one-way. It's about taking the dog's feelings and needs as seriously as our own, whether the result is that we keep a dog that might not be easy to train or even workable but that we love, or we let a dog go through our hands to a home where its needs will be met by a human looking for exactly that kind of dog. I love the "aha" moment of the first story, where the light goes on that the dog was not wanting to be sent away again -- the awareness that the dog has a take on what happens to it, that it's not just the human who has preferences or feelings. And all the other stories, no matter the outcome, seem to be about the same kind of respect for the dog's side of the equation. In addition, everyone has written about their experiences so movingly that it's literally beautiful to read. I also really appreciate that nowhere here was the issue of financial expediency raised as a "bottom line" reason for making decisions -- one that replaces compassion and relationship. In no post was a dog a commodity. I know this adds nothing new to the conversation. I just felt moved by your posts and wanted to say so, and say why, and say "thank you."



#16 Laura Vishoot

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 05:44 PM

When I was starting out with these dogs, I read "A Way of Life."  In it, Glynn Jones wrote about moving dogs on if they didn't work out, and how it could be better for the dog to be someplace where it was the right fit rather than where it was not.  I thought, "what a cop out."  Now, I'm there.

 

I actually think that it's more like an apprenticeship than a solid deal when I start working as a team with a dog.  I think it's my responsibility to do everything I can to FAIRLY teach the dog what I need from it and give it opportunities to fulfill that role.  That is my part of the deal.  The dog also has its end of the deal.  

 

There are some traits that are "deal breakers" for me.  These are things about the way a dog works or learns that are a bad fit for me.  I used to try harder, and longer, with these dogs.  As time wears on, I've learned to let go of a dog sooner, when I know for sure that we don't match up well.  These dogs can definitely go on to be successful with a person who does not have the same needs and preferences that I do.  Also, working endlessly on changing an innate quality in a dog can saddle that dog with a lot of needless baggage.  Somebody is not going to give a hoot about that sorry outrun or predatory approach to baby lambs.  

 

Generally, though, a dog moves on from me NOT because of a working trait (like too much eye, bad flanks, no natural outrun, etc.) but because I have come to the conclusion that it does not want to try to be on the team with me.  If a dog is eternally working for itself and consistently failing to care about my input, I will ultimately let that dog go.  

 

Often, a threshold is crossed where a dog will never go away from here no matter what. For me, it has to do with a shared history, a special bond formed by working through some difficulties, or simply an emotional attachment.  There are dogs here right now (on the couch, in fact) that do nothing for me except be who and what they are. We are permanent members of the same tribe.  This is not a "deal" that I make with a dog when I get started with it, though.  It develops, or it doesn't.  

 

All of that said, I start out with a level of commitment.  I believe that dogs can sense when we  are not committed and often respond by giving less.  



#17 geonni banner

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 05:48 PM

Good on you Maja.  Interesting and rewarding thread.  I tend to think that those who have working dogs tend to have a different perspective.  They know that a stock dog, no matter how good, has a working life that is often a good bit shorter than it's life span.  Some, like Julie P. and others, keep their retirees - using them for work a little, and just letting them hang out with their family otherwise.  Some find them pet homes.  Some put a bullet behind their ear.  I do not presume to quarrel with any of them. ( I can even see that for some dogs, the bullet would be preferable to growing fat on a sofa.)

 

The dogs I worry about are those who have been purchased or adopted by humans who have bought into some gospel about "how a dog should live." 

 

Dogs are all different.  It takes effort to step outside the clamor of one's own political correctness and hear what the dog is telling you.  Or just to admit that you don't have real love for a given dog.  If you find yourself in a space of "if only he were X, Y, or Z,"  There's a good chance that dog would be better off with someone else.  Does that make you a bad person?  Only if the dog is trapped in a place where it knows it doesn't belong. 



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#18 Maja

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 03:01 AM

The dog also has its end of the deal.  

My question is when did the dog make that deal? And the honest answer in my opinion is "it didn't".

 

The deal is made by us with ourselves, not with the dog: "If this dog does not work out, it will have to move on,"  as per agreement between me, myself, and I ;) .  The dog  was not there to agree to it or not.  I am fine with this deal, and I understand how this works, but let's not kid ourselves - the dog is not the deal breaker, because he was not the deal maker

 

It does not mean that I think everybody should hang on to every dog the buy/get for dear life, definitely not. I just think seeing this deal as one-sided as it is, is more fair to the dog.  But I would not want anyone trapped in the concept that  "I bought/got  the dog, I made this deal, so I have to now be stuck with it forever".  And what you wrote about the dog not wanting to be  part of the team - this is very important, because it is up to the dog somehow, in the "I'll be your dog, and you will be my person" part.

 

Geonni banner, you  touched on a different topic concerning  dogs that have kept that deal - however one-sided - and have been a darn good working sheep dog  and now there is time for them to retire. And selling these dogs, I do have a problem with.

 

These are not young dogs that are just forming their bonds with the handler and the packs, these are dogs have grown into the farm, the pack, and the handler  and with great devotion and loyalty earned their keep trying their darnest. To me this is a different thing. In Poland, where KC bitches have to be retired from breeding by the age of 8, there are some breeders that sell them on retiring.  At the very least, I see it as bad business practice. It's like firing a worker two days before due retirement. 

 

Dogs are all different.  It takes effort to step outside the clamor of one's own political correctness and hear what the dog is telling you.  Or just to admit that you don't have real love for a given dog.  If you find yourself in a space of "if only he were X, Y, or Z,"  There's a good chance that dog would be better off with someone else.  Does that make you a bad person?  Only if the dog is trapped in a place where it knows it doesn't belong.

I absolutely agree with this.

 

All of that said, I start out with a level of commitment.  I believe that dogs can sense when we  are not committed and often respond by giving less.

Very true.

 

And Laura, you wrote  that now you tend to let go of the dog sooner. I think this is when you free yourself from the guilty conscience and look at things for what they are and thus give the dog a better chance overall.


"Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds" - Prov. 27-23


#19 Donald McCaig

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 07:27 AM

Dear Ms. Maja,

Although I don't sell my trial dogs upon retirement there are good reasons to do so.

 

1. The look on the retired dogs face when I'm loading up to leave without him.

 

2. The education such a dog can provide for a novice handler.

 

3. The love and attention and importance that dog will have as he ages.

 

Donald McCaig



#20 GentleLake

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 08:23 AM

My question is when did the dog make that deal? And the honest answer in my opinion is "it didn't".

 

The deal is made by us with ourselves, not with the dog: "If this dog does not work out, it will have to move on,"  as per agreement between me, myself, and I ;) .  The dog  was not there to agree to it or not.  I am fine with this deal, and I understand how this works, but let's not kid ourselves - the dog is not the deal breaker, because he was not the deal maker.

 

Yeah, this. How often is the dog consulted about whether or not it wants to come and live (and work) with us?

 

Only one of my dogs ever really chose me. And I know there's the occasional dog who shows up on someone's doorstep and refuses to leave. But how often does that happen in the context of this conversation about working dogs?

 

The truth of the matter is, as Maja so penetratingly understands, is that we rarely, if ever, ask the dog if she or he wished to join in this deal together.

 

What astounds me is that so very many of them choose to do so willingly and wholeheartedly without ever having been asked. They deserve to have us live up to our side of the bargain and do our vry best by them . . . always.


"People in your life always come and go all the time; the dogs are always there for me. Always." ~Samantha Valle



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