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merle explosion?

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I agree. But "selection" begins in the whelping box. And if a "top contender" is selecting a pup, would he take a chance on an odd color- or stick with what he "likes".

 

Of course he will, and since there have always been a majority of black dogs in the breed, it is likely that he will have choices the include the same color again.

 

If tradition had anything to do with it, maybe some of the potentially great merles (and reds) never got a chance to prove it. By being "left over puppies" and sold to pet homes or "small farms" in the UK rather than being chosen by the "big hats" who would train and trial their dog up to its potential. Just something to think about...

I have a variety of colors, and my merle is my "go to" dog in any tough situation. She may be a bit crude and I have to raise my voice to get her attention, but her guts and determination are worth their weight in gold. She may never be a top trial dog, but she's had to put up with, compensate for, and forgive a lot of mistakes on my part; and she still wants nothing more than to work for me.

Laurie

 

 

First you can't compare the recessive red with the merle gene. It's totally different

 

There have always been the occassional "pop up" of the recessive red, and I know few handlers who even care when they select. If that red is good enough for breeding, it is likely that it will be bred to black - because within the genepool their are greater numbers of black dogs. The red then dissappears, and may pop up again later. You don't have to maintain a red parent in each generation to get a red later. Hence....it won't go away, just come and go naturally as a recessive should. (unlike "color" breeders lines, who will do their best to fix the recessive in the line...breeding red to red, even when the better cross is many times a red to a black)

 

Merle however, is a dominent gene and *only* stays in the line if you deliberately select a pup in each generation that is merle. That means in each litter, you must select that dominent gene first and foremost, above or at least equal to working ability. One generation where the merle is not bred on, and the color is out of the line forever...unless, they seek another merle (most likely, again, selecting color above working genetics because the greater chance is the suitable mate is solid colored) to breed to that solid pup to bring it back.

 

When you see a merle "line" you see a whole line where color has been a top priority for each generation. By simple statistics this cuts the chances that working genes have had proper attention. With breeding like that, you might get a wonder pup, or a dud with a pretty color. No one could blame a handler seeking top work for avoiding a breeder with such methods. An uneducated farmer or pet home may accept such odds but a professional shepherd or trialer rarely will.

 

Years ago we had a red merle, a neat little female whom our first BC was whelped from (we bought the dam after the pup). As lovely as she was, the best pup in her litter turned out to be solid colored, a red. In one generation selection of the best *individual* working pup (not the prettiest) we lost the merle. In 2 generations of selecting the best working pup we had no more red either. It's not a slur on either color, just simple population genetics.

 

I wonder how that process would have gone if I'd selected the merle pups just based on the whim that they were pretty? And yes, I do think they are lovely to look at.

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I agree. But "selection" begins in the whelping box.

 

Actually, no, selection is based upon the dog's work. I was thinking of those that purchase dogs that they can win with. Many wouldn't take a chance with a pup.

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Interesting how someone said from Oklahoma. I've been seeing a lot of what look like blue merles around here. But, I also see a lot of BC's in general. I don't, however - in this area at least - see people advertising for BC's for sale or anything. I wonder if it's just an interesting carry over from stock dogs in the southwest? Thoughts on North Texas, SW Oklahoma?

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Interesting how someone said from Oklahoma. I've been seeing a lot of what look like blue merles around here. But, I also see a lot of BC's in general. I don't, however - in this area at least - see people advertising for BC's for sale or anything. I wonder if it's just an interesting carry over from stock dogs in the southwest? Thoughts on North Texas, SW Oklahoma?

 

There are some high volume breeders of BCs in OK who have discovered how quickly merle pups sell to unsuspecting buyers. :rolleyes: They are bred for the color/pet/sport market yet the breeders claim that working ability is key. I doubt they advertise in newspapers, though they certainly advertise online and have very flashy web pages.

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There are some high volume breeders of BCs in OK who have discovered how quickly merle pups sell to unsuspecting buyers. :rolleyes: They are bred for the color/pet/sport market yet the breeders claim that working ability is key. I doubt they advertise in newspapers, though they certainly advertise online and have very flashy web pages.

 

Oh dear goodness that would explain all the people I see with what I think are Merles. Certainly not seemingly for working or sport dogs...either way. Just regular folks with their dogs...and one I saw that appeared to be with a homeless or very very low income family walking with it's owner/s--very well behaved not surprisingly. I would assume there are more than a few abandoned BC's in my neck of the woods. Especially since gorgeous Sophie showed up at my doorstep. She's no Merle from what I can tell, though.

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But selecting for a good worker could work just as well for keeping merles, let's say you have a litter of pups, and after training the merle pup is the best, then you breed him/her. There is another generation. It is just as easy to keep merles as it to breed them out. We are assuming that the black and white pups are going to be better, but color is just that some physical trait. I still don't see how it is going to effect working ability. From that hypothetical litter all those pups have basically the same genes, the same chance to be as good or better than any other pup in the litter.

 

I think there has been an explosion of border collies in general. Used to I never really saw them that much, but now evey time I go down town someone has their bc out walking with them or at a bar or resturaunt. You also see them on tv tons. It seems like they have become popular with so many different types of homes that they are everywhere. I mean herding, agility, flyball, frisbee homes want them, and now there are more conformation bc's being bred and shipped in (sigh), plus all the regular people who think they would make a good pet because they saw them on tv or a friend of a friend has one. No wonder we see them everywhere.

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But selecting for a good worker could work just as well for keeping merles, let's say you have a litter of pups, and after training the merle pup is the best, then you breed him/her. There is another generation. It is just as easy to keep merles as it to breed them out. We are assuming that the black and white pups are going to be better, but color is just that some physical trait. I still don't see how it is going to effect working ability. From that hypothetical litter all those pups have basically the same genes, the same chance to be as good or better than any other pup in the litter.

 

 

From what I understand, it isn't so much the working ability as it is how the sheep view and respect the different colors. Is the contrast of the black and white dog easier for the sheep to see and therefore respect?

 

Can anyone tell me if sheep see colors or if they just see in black and white??

 

Kathy

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"But selecting for a good worker could work just as well for keeping merles, let's say you have a litter of pups, and after training the merle pup is the best, then you breed him/her. There is another generation. "

 

Not necessarily true. If Eileen and everyone else have only seen two merles working well and consistently in Open trials in the USA, where would you go to breed this breed worthy merle you own? Statistically speaking, you would breed to a b/w border collie-simple population genetics- there are just MORE b/w border collies working at the top levels of competition, so there is more choice. Choosing to breed a female entails not just glancing at pedigrees, but it entails watching lots of dogs work, evaluating their and your own dogs faults and trying to choose a male that will nick well with your female and produce some talented puppies down the line. To choose another merle, you would be defaulting to color, because the choice is just not there. You couldn't spend hours agonizing over which male would be your best choice, because there simply isn't a lot of merles working at the top levels.

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Selection begins...

 

when you select which whelping box to actually look into.

 

If you are looking for strong working genetics, coupled with strong, actually working (not just "she would be great if I had time, or experience, or skill...<insert your excuse here>, etc.) it is *highly* unlikely you will be looking at litter with a merle in it.

 

It had nothing to do with disliking the color, this is simple a game of numbers. The overwhelming majority of the proven working dogs, with working genetics of quality behind them, are not merle.

 

But selecting for a good worker could work just as well for keeping merles, let's say you have a litter of pups, and after training the merle pup is the best, then you breed him/her. There is another generation. It is just as easy to keep merles as it to breed them out. We are assuming that the black and white pups are going to be better, but color is just that some physical trait. I still don't see how it is going to effect working ability.

 

Ok, to borrow from Don McCaig you are creating the worlds best basketball team. But not only do you want a team, you want a *red* haired team. So you go out into the world, selecting on that criteria.

 

At the same time, another person is also planning to create the world's best basketball team. They however, only select the best players, regardless of hair color.

 

Who do you think will end up with the best team? When those players have kids (really stetching this here...sorry) and the selection process for the next generation teams is the same....who will have the best team in several generations?

 

Without a doubt the red team will have red haired players, but at what cost to the team?

 

No one assumes black and white pups will be better, simply that they are dominent in the gene pool and *if you are a quality working breeder selecting only for work* you dogs will more than likely reflect that dominent coat pattern. Presence of geneartions of merle means in every generation that a merle above all the pups in the litter was the best worker, OR that merle was held equal or higher to working in the selection to breed the next generation.

 

In 99% of cases it is the latter. That sadly, has been proven over and over again.

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Just regular folks with their dogs...and one I saw that appeared to be with a homeless or very very low income family walking with it's owner/s--very well behaved not surprisingly.

 

Not sure where the pup with the very low income family would have come from, but probably not from the OK high volume breeders. Their prices are as "cute" as their puppies. You've got to pay a ton of money to make sure your 7 week old puppy knows how to wave to a clicker early on, so it can go on to be a good clicker herder like its parents.

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If Eileen and everyone else have only seen two merles working well and consistently in Open trials in the USA, where would you go to breed this breed worthy merle you own?

You would certainly NOT breed it to another merle!! The merle trait is dominant. If you breed a merle to a solid dog, on average half of the pups will be merles. If you breed a merle to another merle, on average, half of the pups will be merles, one-fourth will be solids, and one-fourth will be double merles, meaning they carry two copies of the merle gene. Double merles can be blind and deaf -- check out the first pages of this thread to see what some Aussie breeders do with double merle puppies ("Lethal Whites").

 

The point was made earlier that for the merle trait to persist, it must be present continuously, since it is dominant. If a puppy isn't merle, it doesn't carry the merle trait. If breedings are made purely on ability, the trait is likely to die out. Lenajo explained it very clearly:

Merle however, is a dominent gene and *only* stays in the line if you deliberately select a pup in each generation that is merle. That means in each litter, you must select that dominent gene first and foremost, above or at least equal to working ability. One generation where the merle is not bred on, and the color is out of the line forever...unless, they seek another merle (most likely, again, selecting color above working genetics because the greater chance is the suitable mate is solid colored) to breed to that solid pup to bring it back.

 

ETA -- oops, cross-posted with Lenajo! Who's absolutely right, of course!

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If you wanted to breed generations of merles and do it the right way you would have to start out with a merle parent worthy of breeding, produce at least one litter (most likely more) and keep all the merle pups to raise and train. You would only breed the next generation of merles *IF* they were worth breeding. It might take a lot of litters to find that pup, or you may never get it.

 

Take a look at the bloodlines of well respect breeders. Read the pedigrees. You will often notice that there is a break of one of more generations during which time the breeder didn't own a dog in the pedigree. Here is an example... Breeder produces a litter and got 6 pups, sold 5 of them and kept 1. The best pup in the litter was not the one he kept, but a female purchased by a friend of his. So he buys a pup from his friend out of that female. There were 6 pups in that litter, but the best pup from that litter was actually a female purchased by another friend. So, the original breeder and first friend buy a puppy out of that dog. The pup that the original breeder got out of the granddaughter of his great working bitch is worthy of breeding so he finally has the bloodlines back in his kennel. He breeds that bitch and the cycle continues.

 

Another scenario you see is breeders keeping multiple pups from a litter to ensure that they keep the bloodline within their kennel. If you really want to breed the best working BCs you can't just chose a pup from each litter and keep on breeding generation after generation. It's been said over and over that "puppies are a crap shoot." You can't at 8 weeks decide which pup in the litter is worthy of breeding based on working ability. You might raise an entire litter and decide that NONE of them are worth breeding, that it was a bad cross.

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I cannot comprehend a 600 yard outrun- seriously. Well, I can theoretically comprehend it, but wow. Are the results up, and just how did everyone do? 600 yards.... It's just a lot of ground to cover is all... and I would most definitely need a hay bale, and good binoculars

 

I put a link to some video of Edgeworth runs (Denise Wall & Mick, Bev Lambert & Pippa) up at http://www.bordercollie.org/boards/index.php?showtopic=15339 . Doesn't really give a great idea of the size of the course, but better than nothing.

 

As for the sheep not respecting lighter-colored dogs, based on what I've observed I have never believed that. I think the prejudice against lighter-colored dogs arose purely because they are harder to see at great distances on the hill (and harder to distinguish from sheep at those distances, according to Jack Knox). I think it is somewhat self-perpetuating among trialists because sheep who have never seen a white or light merle dog before will be curious about it and slower to move away from it the first time they do see one, and big hats tend not to want to risk losing a point or two off their lift because of that. And so it continues. If a light-colored dog doesn't have much heart or push, the hesitation of trial sheep to move away from him might take away from his power over time, but those light-colored dogs who do have a lot of forward impulsion seem to take that in stride. Color isn't a factor at home, IMO -- the sheep get used to seeing the dog and their reaction to him is not based at all on color.

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Quite a while ago, in the midst of researching my dog's lines (he's merle), I could swear I either read something or was talking to a big hat who told me that merles were used largely in Wales because their coat color would camaflauge in with the color of the rocky bluffs, and the sheep wouldn't see the dog coming until he was already behind them ready to lift them.

 

I can't, for the life of me, figure out where I heard/saw it to recreate it. So what does this post do for this thread? Not much. LOL.

 

J

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Unfortunatly IMO the proverbial pandora's box has been opened on this matter of the explosion of merles on the ground at the present time.

This was the very reason that brought me to these boards in the first place a few years back.

At the time I really didn't even know that there was such a critter as a merle BC, I had only known of black/whites and red/whites, then I was exposed to my first Merle.

Of course I thought the dog was beautiful and listening to the "breeder" spiel you would of thought the dog was everything plus a box of cracker jacks as far as what a border collie should be.

In the process of creating a website for this "breeder" I began to educate myself more throughly and discovered the pitfalls of breeding for color.

The end result of course was I shut the website down and did what I could to shut this puppymiller down (however as far as I know she still is an ABCA breeder and still is producing dogs) Those of you who know the backstory on the Awesome Border Collie event know who I am talking about.

During the few months that I was evaluating my own opinion about what to do with this whole deal I was amazed at how fast the merle puppies were being bought up through the website,,with no serious concideration at all to working ability.

In fact the "breeder" was advertising them as potential future breeding stock capable of producing a wide assortment of "desirable" various colorations combinations.

They sold within just a day or two of being listed and not for small change,these pups were bringing anywhere from $1000 to as much as $2800.

Now this was just one "breeder" who had just gotten to the point where she could consistently put merles on the ground.

Her merle lines came directly from the Swafford and Brown lines.

Although she at the time knew better then to breed merle to merle she made NO effort to educate anyone buying her pups as to the pitfalls of doing such.

It was all about the almighty dollar.

People want these dogs and the bottom line is as long as the demand is there then merles are going be produced in large numbers.

My dealing were with just one "breeder' who had approximatly 20 breeding bitchs with 2 merle studs.Now how many others are out there with as many or more I don't have a clue but I am sure the numbers are pretty high.

As far as how well the Border Collie world will weather this influx only time will tell,but it is my opinion that outside of the working class the numbers of merles has not even close to peaked yet.

Do I have merles?

Yes I do,fortunatly they are healthy dogs which I believe is a result of the linage of the dame which goes back to the Knox line.

The reason I have the dogs was to at least remove them from the potential breeding frenzy of merles which is going on.In the process of attempting to shut down this "puppymill" I took into my possession 3 female merles, one I kept (Jasmine) who is a wonderful dog but has no interest in being anything but a great companion and clown, the other 2 were spayed and placed in homes of people I know very well,one does a little work with cattle but nothing to jump up and down about,the other is a pet.

Jasmine goes practically everywhere with me and if I had a nickle for everytime I have had people ask if I planned on breeding her I would probably slip into a higher tax bracket.

Had I not educated myself due to these very boards and had dollar signs in my eyes it would of been quite easy for me to at this time be in a position of pumping out ALOT of merle puppies and selling them as fast as I could advertise them.

I am sure there are plenty out there that are doing just that as unfortunate as it is.

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however as far as I know she still is an ABCA breeder and still is producing dogs

 

She may well still be producing dogs, but to the best of my knowledge she is not registering with the ABCA.

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She may well still be producing dogs, but to the best of my knowledge she is not registering with the ABCA.

 

Well that is good to know.

Perhaps her business was curtailed more then I am aware due to the Awesome event,however she may be using a registry that I won't bother to mention here.

I recall Jodi stating in a thread somewhere that she was still breeding and selling dogs.

She still is a life time member of the ABCA in good standing though,unless I missed something.

Anyway thanks for that info Eileen it does make me feel that my actions had a more lasting effect to the positive.

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Not sure where the pup with the very low income family would have come from, but probably not from the OK high volume breeders. Their prices are as "cute" as their puppies. You've got to pay a ton of money to make sure your 7 week old puppy knows how to wave to a clicker early on, so it can go on to be a good clicker herder like its parents.

 

I would assume they were abandoned pups taken in by whomever found them. Or that they're mixed breed. They don't look it, though. Not that I'm an expert or anything - ha!

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Wow, look at how much goes on when I leave for a few days for trialing! I've read this entire thread, and I agree with Melanie that there certainly has been an explosion of merle dogs. It's a cool color, and in a world where people want to make fashion statements with their dogs, what better color than a merle? (Full disclosure: My first dog was blue merle border collie x aussie. He was a rescue.) And why not take it a step further and get yourself a tri merle, perhaps in red? Sadly, whenever I see a merle step out onto the trial field, I can't help but wonder at the motivation of its buyer (although perhaps by getting into trialing they will one day see what's wrong with breeding for color). I agree with Wendy V. and others who have said that the trial field will weed out merles. They may do well at the lower levels where they're largely working dog broke sheep and obedience can get a dog through a course, but only when you need to step to the plate in open do the owners start crowing about how wonderful their dog *would be* if only the handler was better, had more time, more money to trial and train, etc. You know, the standard excuse refrain.

 

It's already been stated, but my belief regarding working merles today is that merles are not present in statistically significant numbers in the working dog population, for whatever the reason. We can speculate that old time shepherds and farmers never gave any merle pups a chance, and maybe there were lots of merle pups with tons of potential who were simply overlooked (which sounds to me like the sorts of "histories" Or "just so" stories manufactured for other herding breeds by a well-known registry--create the story that fits the fantasy and go from there....), but the fact remains that merles are not represented in large numbers in the working population of dogs, especially not at the top levels. If they aren't there, they can't be bred from, and the color won't be perpetuated. As others have noted, any time you make a choice based on color you are choosing *against* something else. For example, if I wanted to breed my red tri bitch and really wanted to make sure I got a red puppy, I'd breed her to a red male. By deliberately limiting my choices to red dogs, I have limited my options for choosing the best working dog whose working traits complement hers to hopefully create pups that are better than either parent. Some may say that's just a small thing, and perhaps in *one* litter it is. But it won't take long for such a mindset to ruin the working ability of an entire breed. And since my goal is to have a pup that's even better than its dam, I'd be crazy not to look at and study *all* male dogs and make my selection based on working traits and not on color.

 

In something of a parallel discussion on another list (one devoted to other herding venues and populated largely by AKC breeders), someone asked about structure and why dogs in the show ring don't seem to be built like their working counterparts. This list consists mostly of people who do show their dogs in conformation but who also try to title their dogs for working ability (and who are trying to work within the system to make sure their breeds retain/regain working ability). These folks universally stated in this discussion that the breed standards for whatever their breed of dog is is written such that a working dog, even though it doesn't *look like* a show dog, actually meets the standard. The problem is the way the standard is being applied. These same people also universally commented that when you start breeding *for* a certain look (the one that wins best in show) you are also automatically breeding *against* other characteristics, like perhaps a good working structure (or even good working ability or instinct). I'm probably not making my point very well here, but it's just that if people who actually work within an organization that has ruined the working ability of so many breeds by selecting just for looks (and isn't picking a particular fancy color simply selecting for looks?) can recognize the detriment created by breeding for a particular look, why can't we?

 

I have color preferences, coat preferences, and ear preferences, and all other things being equal in a well-bred litter, I would choose based on those preferences. But if a litter were bred specifically to meet those looks preferences, I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole because in so doing, the breeder has acknowledged that the main selection criterion for that litter was not the working ability of the parents and how the two might complement one another, but some superficial criterion based on appearance.

 

Those of you who have merles need not defend your choice of color in a dog. I would just hope that you'd recognize the arguments presented here as to why "candy colored" dogs aren't generally considered desirable--and that's because breeding for looks of any sort is breeding against the important things like working ability.

 

J.

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Well said, Julie!

A

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So when I'm out in public with my " supposedly fashion statement" merle, do I do the BC breed a disservice by saying she's a purebred BC (if asked what she is), or should I say "I dunno, she's just a mutt"? :rolleyes:

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Genetics is a fascinating subject whatever it pertains to. Here's an interesting article regarding the famous Quarter Horse stud "Impressive", who sired over two thousand foals. It was discovered he had a potentially fatal genetic flaw that he passed on.

 

http://www.foundationhorses.com/impressive_syndrom.htm

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I won't defend my merle boy. In fact, I was a fool when I chose him. I fell into the catagory of someone who had done no research before I got him. He was from a bad BYB and I picked him only on color. I can say now that I have learned more, I made a huge mistake. I still love his color, but I have learned so much from this board and elsewhere that I know what I did was a mistake. I think Julie said it very well. I have personal preference as far as looks, but the part that is the most important is the dog, looks second. Knowing what I do now, I would have picked Timber even if he was a simple black dog. He is everything in a dog's personality I could ever want. My next dog will be chosen strickly on drive and heart first then looks.

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Those of you who have merles need not defend your choice of color in a dog.

 

That's right, we don't! :rolleyes:

 

After all, unless one knows where I acquired each of my dogs and why, it would be very foolish to pass judgment on any of them, or my choice to acquire them, based on their color.

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That's right, we don't! :rolleyes:

 

After all, unless one knows where I acquired each of my dogs and why, it would be very foolish to pass judgment on any of them, or my choice to acquire them, based on their color.

 

That's for sure. We all love our dogs here! It's just a real interesting topic.

 

(I for one got Daisy without any reason at all! When she showed up homeless, I just kinda said, "Well, maybe she could stay on for a week or so while we help her find a home ... we'll see .... waffledy, waffledy..." Having her has opened up a whole new border collie world, so I can't say I regret it!)

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