To your vast surprise, you discover that Border Collie people are not the least bit welcoming to your good intentions. They start to blather on about hip dysplasia, rescue, conformation, herding instincts, and the ruination of the breed. Ruination of the breed? You just want one little pupper to play with the kids!
You start to talk about how you don't want a show dog to win titles, you just want a pet and can't someone just point you to someone who breeds pets or dogs with less instinct? That's like gasoline on the fire, however - it's like you proposed feeding babies to zoo animals - you don't even understand what all the fuss is about. That pet store puppy is looking better every minute!
What happened? Where's the open arms to newbies?
The fact is, that the Border Collie is a unique breed - there are a few breeds that are bred in the same way around the world but none readily available in the US, and none with specific working abilities as refined as the Border Collie. In addition, the Border Collie stands at a crucial junction in its American existance.
Conformation people are trying to convince Americans that the Border Collie is "just another dog" which can be produced the same way chihuahuas (God bless 'em) are - with attention to superficial health issues and standardized appearance, appropriateness as a pet, and NOTHING ELSE.
The people who have maintained this breed the way it was created, however, stand on the other side trying to point out that the Border Collie will NOT be the same breed unless it is bred EXCLUSIVELY for working livestock, at the very least.
Where does that leave the puppy buyer? Between a rock and a hard place, frankly. In conformation breeds, it's relatively easy to find a quality breeder. The AKC displays the results of the conformation events (and other events) where anyone can access them. One can quickly research the top "performers", ask around about them, find a local breeder who goes back to those lines and makes sure their own dogs achieve that standard also. The breed clubs publish a Breeder Code of Ethics which anyone can see and compare the practices of the breeder they are working with.
What about a dog with a WORKING standard, however? The answer is not simple at this time, unfortunately. Working breeders don't currently have a Breeder Code of Ethics. There's no central place to look up trial dog winnings and that's not the be all end all anyway - some very nice dogs never trial formally (though they meet the working standard in their work).
What's a puppy buyer to do at this time? All I can suggest is
- Immersion - read these Boards. Go to ISDS style trials and volunteer to work (no previous experience needed). Volunteer with rescue.
- Mentor - befriend people. Learn about their dogs. Learn about other people's dogs.
- Observe - find dogs you like and try to figure out the common denominator. Ask about breeding and identify lines and names that keep coming up in dogs you like. The Border Collie world isn't that big and the differences between major lines isn't so subtle it takes an expert to see them.