Inquiries from those seeking a Border Collie pup are frequent here and for the most part, the inquirer wants a healthy, well nurtured, had all his genetic tests pup primarily as a companion but might do some dog sport even “herding” and the breeder must be within an hour of their home. The innocent inquirer is, I fear, often disappointed. Turns out they’re looking for a will-of-the-wisp or they’ll have to travel half a day to someone who may or may not have pups for sale and the usual advice: “attend local sheepdog trials” must seem odd and over-complicated for someone who can pick through dozens of Border Collie puppies on the internet.
Since the innocent inquirer doesn’t know what a Border Collie Breeder is, nor how one gets to be one, nor why it is so difficult to buy a pup from him/her, nor why said breeder may be indifferent to some/all scientific tests and may be unwilling to take back a pup if it doesn’t turn out - (the innocent does know the identifying marks of :”a responsible breeder”), it might be reduce the confusion to describe in greatly oversimplified form how one becomes a Border Collie Breeder.
Disclaimer: Definition: A Border Collie breeder is someone I might buy a pup from, intended for the highest levels of sheepdog trialing, without my knowing or seeing the sire or the dam - knowing only the breeder.
Border Collie Breeders are rare - no more than a handful in North America and perhaps twice that number in the UK. Selecting the correct sire for a bitch down many generations is an art, not a science and most handlers who regularly win open trials cab’t do it. Most handlers do as I do and breed “good uns” to good uns”, while studying similar matings, previous matings and trying not to double up on faults. Most handlers breed only when they seek a replacement. Hence more than two litters a year is uncommon, more than thirty pups a year lands you on the ABCA list of “High-volume Breeders”. In 35 years we’ve had 4 litters.
In the real world, almost all Border Collie Breeders have a lifetime of complex livestock and stockdog experience and my cursory sketch is written for a person w/o stock experience who’s had a pet Border Collie or two who aspires to become a Border Collie Breeder:
1. In year 1 attend every regional trial within a five hours.. Watch every run. Find a willing mentor.
2. With his/her advice buy two of the best trained trial dogs under 4 years of age. Expect to pay 10-20k for them. Buy 100 sheep and what’s necessary to keep them.
3. Begin attending clinics, coaching sessions and trialing your dogs. Breed so your first litter comes in the winter.
4. Breed your sire as often as you have requests but don’t breed your bitch again until you assess those first pups. At every trial watch every run with your mentor, evaluating dogs. At home, train dogs every day you’re not trialing or busy with sheep duties.
5. After you’ve been trialing for three years, you and your mentor can evaluate those first pups (sold to working/trialing homes) as well as others your dog has sired. If most of your pups, or most of those from your litter have real merit, repeat that breeding and study any grandpups. If your sire’s pups aren’t toppers, sell him, breed your bitch to a different sire and study those pups in year 6. By year 10, you should be winning a few trials and placing regularly. By year 15/20 after you win a big trial (kingston/meeker/National Finals etc) top handlers will ask about your pups.
7. If the grandpups from those early matings are winning trials, by year 20 you may be known as a Border Collie Breeder.