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Mark Billadeau

Pet Homes vs. Working Homes

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A recent thread on sheepdog-l got me thinking about a statement that is often made.

 

"I'm all for breeding for livestock work".

 

That's a great stand to take, but are pet/sport owners really ready to "put their money where their mouth is" so to speak? If they are all for breeding for livestock work are they willing to pass up a pup for an older "herding flunky"?

 

 

 

 

Here's my dilemma. How does a working breeder evaluate their breeding selection unless a significant number of the litter is evaluated for working livestock?

 

For discussion take this hypothetical example. Two litters of working pups were bred from two different crosses; both produced 8 pups.

 

Litter 1:

2 pups were sold to working homes, were trained up, and work livestock

6 pups were sold to pet homes and were never introduced to livestock

 

Litter 2:

8 pups were sold to working homes

2 pups were trained up and work livestock

6 pups did not have enough talent (herding flunkies)

 

In both cases 2 pups were added to the working gene pool and 6 pups were added to the non-working gene pool.

 

Which working cross was the better breeding selection?

 

IMO there is no one answer for all breeders or litters. I offer this as a starting point for discussion.

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In both cases 2 pups were added to the working gene pool and 6 pups were added to the non-working gene pool.

 

I don't have much to offer on this, since all of my dogs are rescues and I have no intention of purchasing a puppy from anyone now or in the future. But, I do have an issue with the above statement. I would hope that those dogs that were sold to pet homes were sold on spay/neuter contracts and so would not be contributing to the non-working gene pool.

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I think I have to ask why the breeder bred 2 litters to begin with w/o working homes lined up. Then I agree with Mary as to S/N on the pet homes. I'm qualifying pet homes though as homes that "will not" take the pup to stock. I placed a requirement on my last litter on a few of them as to where they would go to be started on stock (120 days of training). All but 2 owners have stock, and the 2 that don't have easy access. They were my pups before they were bought.

 

Which working cross was the better breeding selection?

 

No way to tell since the first litter has 6 unknowns. And how did the workers turn out?

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That's a great stand to take, but are pet/sport owners really ready to "put their money where their mouth is" so to speak? If they are all for breeding for livestock work are they willing to pass up a pup for an older "herding flunky"?

Here's my dilemma. How does a working breeder evaluate their breeding selection unless a significant number of the litter is evaluated for working livestock?

 

It's something that I would personally consider.

 

What is the typical timeframe that is required to adequately make such an evaluation?

 

For sport purposes, I doubt I would consider a dog that is older than 2, and that is pushing my personal preference. I prefer starting foundation training with a dog that is closer to a year old.

 

So, if the evaluation can be made with the dog that young (adolescent - 2 years old), it is an option that would probably appeal to me on many levels. If the dog needs to be older than that, then I would probably favor checking into adolescent rescues.

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I would think that litter 1 is probably better because the chances of you getting the only two working prospects in the working homes and flunkies in the pet homes would be somewhat unlikely due completely to chance (I'm assuming that the pups were young, and it was difficult to screen them when they were placed). But that's just speaking statistically . . . I understand the point you're making. Obviously, Litter 2 provides more clarity.

 

Kim

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I think I have to ask why the breeder bred 2 litters to begin with w/o working homes lined up.
These are provided as hypothetical examples for discussion of the issue of pet/sport puppy buyers saying they support breeding for livestock work but get upset when working breeders are reluctant to sell their pups to pet/sport homes.

 

How can a working cross be evaluated if a sufficient number of the litter is not trained on livestock long enough to evaluate the outcome of the cross?

 

I probably should have said working and non-working population instead of gene pool.

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BTW our first Border Collie was purchased as a pet. Even at that time I supported breeding working dogs for work and we were turned away from a working breeder.

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I see what you are saying, and in an intellectual way it makes sense, but you also have to consider the needs of a pet or sport home.

 

If you breed a litter and have the time and inclination to do a good job bringing up those pups in a home environment, socializing them appropriately for them to be great pets and sport dogs and can offer a sport or pet home a happy, well-adjusted social dog who simply isn't a good enough sheepdog, then you will likely not have a hard time placing the adult dogs.

 

If, however they are kept in a kennel, socialized to ranch life and have never seen a city street, don't know how to walk on a lead and would freak out walking on strange surfaces, they won't be a good candidate for a world class agility dog or a good family pet.

 

Are you prepared to raise a whole litter well?

 

Which is a worse scenario: keeping all the dogs and ending up with 2 dogs you can't place because they are adults but knowing you got to see the herding potential of the whole litter, or having 2 dogs go to homes where they are not worked and never bred so the potential for a great working dog slips through your fingers?

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I would give serious consideration to a "herding flunkie". I like knowing what I am getting. I think a 2 year old dog would be perfect. By the time they are old enough to flunk working livestock,you can probably tell alot about their temperament, and they are probably old enough to get their hips xrayed. If they came already spayed or neutered, I would consider it a definite plus. I would expect it to be physically able to do obedience and not be socially backward. It would have to get along with other dogs. I would also expect to have to pay at least a puppy price for him. I would not mind if the dog were sold to me w/o papers. If the dog has been altered, registration papers do not matter.

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Maybe it's a superficial answer, but the first breeding ended up with 100% of the pups that were given the opportunity demonstrating working ability. (As someone else noted, "how much ability" in either breeding is a very good question). In the second hypothetical breeding, only 25% ended up with proven working ability.

 

I'll assume in the first breeding that the six pet homes were happy with their dogs. Can we assume that the six working homes in the second example (the ones who ended up with "working flunkies") were as happy?

 

So, I'd rather see the first scenario. Plus - consider the possibility that some of those "pet homes" might just get hooked on working sheep.

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Which is a worse scenario: keeping all the dogs and ending up with 2 dogs you can't place because they are adults but knowing you got to see the herding potential of the whole litter, or having 2 dogs go to homes where they are not worked and never bred so the potential for a great working dog slips through your fingers?
Doesn't that upon if your looking at the problem from just the point of view of the individual dog or from the point of view of the breed?

 

Should a working breeder be producing pups to fulfull the needs of the pet/sport home or try to improve the working ability of the breed (by breeding as good or better working dogs)?

 

I also do not believe the entire litter needs to be evaluated on stock to get a sense of how good the cross was; but IMHO the majority of the litter should.

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These are provided as hypothetical examples for discussion of the issue of pet/sport puppy buyers saying they support breeding for livestock work but get upset when working breeders are reluctant to sell their pups to pet/sport homes.

 

How can a working cross be evaluated if a sufficient number of the litter is not trained on livestock long enough to evaluate the outcome of the cross?

 

I probably should have said working and non-working population instead of gene pool.

 

 

OK, in that case I would have to say that neither litter was the better breeding selection. Only 25% of the first saw stock and only 25% of the 2nd worked..

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Doesn't that upon if your looking at the problem from just the point of view of the individual dog or from the point of view of the breed?

 

Should a working breeder be producing pups to fulfull the needs of the pet/sport home or try to improve the working ability of the breed (by breeding as good or better working dogs)?

 

I also do not believe the entire litter needs to be evaluated on stock to get a sense of how good the cross was; but IMHO the majority of the litter should.

 

 

A working breeder should be producing dogs that improve the working quality of the breed, absolutely. As most of us in this forum agree, the reasons they are great working dogs are the reasons they are great pets and sport dogs.

 

That doesn't change the fact that a dog living in a non-rual society has needs and unless you can fill those needs you are doing the dogs, and in addition, the breed a disservice.

 

My current Border Collie is a "herding washout." No one will pretend he came from a great and responsible breeder, but he spent the 1st 2 years of his life in an outdoor run with a barrel doghouse and got worked on stock 3-4 times a week. He went through 3 homes before he came to me, and he had real trouble adjusting to an urban world. Hes done very well, but he is still terrified of cameras, most men (including my husband when he is vertical, Alan is only safe when he is horizontal) and flatware. He is 12 now and we love him and hes a good dog, but his life would likely have been a much better one if he had been helped with the life skills an urban dog needs.

 

Sadly, many of my "sport collie" friends point to him as an example of "those awful working breeders" because he had been given so few life skills and a reason why they wouldn't consider a dog from a working background.

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Coming from the perspective of a pet owner, I would say that I would love to take my dog to sheep and develop her (possible) talent as much as possible, but I simply can't afford lessons. But...

 

Making the assumption that a breeder of working Border Collies would own sufficient livestock to properly evaluate his puppies' working ability, why not sell pups with an agreement that the youngsters would be brought for stock working lessons, free of charge until talent was firmly established. The breeder can then evaluate all his dogs' progeny, and set the pet/sport owner on the road to possible trialing. Said breeder would not incur the cost of growing out his pups, but would be able to assess the ability of all of them.

 

The owner of such pups would not have to decide immediately if the dog would be dedicated to one discipline (sport or trialing) and would be able to have the dog well started in both without undue financial burden.

 

Such contracts are common in the show dog world. Many breeders will only sell extremely promising pups to homes that agree to campaign the dog to a championship. Sometimes these contracts also include a breeding clause stating that the breeder reserves the right to use a successful male pup for a set number of breedings, choose a suitable male for a bitch pup and retain the litter in the case of a successful female, after which the animal in question is neutered. In the case of males, semen can be collected and frozen, and the dog neutered after.

 

I would think that a system like this would allow the breeder to carefully evaluate all the pups they produced, enabling them to make good breeding choices. It would also ease the financial burden of growing out entire litters and then having to find homes for older animals. Breeding contracts could widen his selection options for future litters, as a stellar pup could be used under the terms of the contract and then neutered. The pups would benefit as well, being able to go as youngsters into homes where they could be socialized to the life of a family dog.

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My current Border Collie is a "herding washout." ... and he had real trouble adjusting to an urban world.

While I don't dispute your story, I would like to give the other side. Both Lou and Rex were raised in a rural environment, kennelled when not working, etc. Lou came to live with me (in a condo in the heart of Vancouver) when he was 3. He took to it like the proverbial duck to water, and after a few days, accepted that buses make odd hissing noises, some motorcycles are very loud, and not all dogs are black and white with white tips on their tails.

 

Rex came to live with me in December. At just over two, he had only known life on a farm. Within a week, he had adjusted to living in a house, to walking nicely on a leash, and to sleeping on furniture. :D

 

All three of my dogs have no problem walking through Yaletown (very urban section of downtown Vancouver) through crowds, sitting at Starbucks and meeting dogs/people/strollers, or running at off-leash dog parks. We just spent two consecutive weekends at agility trials where the herding dogs' job was to hold down the ex pen, and they slept most of the day away.

 

Lou never had any fear of wobbly surfaces, unusual noises, or the commotion associated with agility trials/classes. Rex has just started agility, and he appears equally unfazed. He can balance on a Bosu ball just as well as any sport pup, he has excellent rear-end awareness, and he thinks running across a low tippy board is awesome because he gets cookies.

 

I think if a dog has a stable temperament, they will adapt quite quickly to changes in their environment. In fact, it makes me sad when I see how readily Lou and Rex accept new stimuli that turns Wick into a quivering mess. I'd like to think that if she were raised properly and exposed to all kinds of things as a pup, that she would be as easy-going as the boys, but I suspect it wouldn't have mattered much because her temperament just isn't as stable as other dogs. :rolleyes:

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For me personally, I would take the herding flunky. My home is a pet home. My late Sara was out of working dogs and was a very versatile dog - loved herding, but also excelled in agility and frisbee; Meg loved to herd but otherwise thought the couch was a great place. I always felt guilty about having the dogs as "just" pets and thought I'd always go through rescue for my next dog. It's been almost a year since Sara died and I have started looking for another bc - my rescue bc mix has very little in the way of bc characteristics although she's a truly sweet dog. Having seen a lot of bc's, I think I will want a bc out of working lines in order to obtain the instincts/temperament that I enjoy so much. And it definitely doesn't have to a be a pup or even an adolescent - and I think there are other pet owners who feel the same way. (and this is not a slam against rescue dogs - I'll probably always have one or two; I currently have 3!)

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Making the assumption that a breeder of working Border Collies would own sufficient livestock to properly evaluate his puppies' working ability, why not sell pups with an agreement that the youngsters would be brought for stock working lessons, free of charge until talent was firmly established.
As a pet owner, would you be willing to drive your pup to a farm 5 days a week for 5-15 min of work on stock for 6-12 months starting at 8-10 months of age?

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As a pet owner, would you be willing to drive your pup to a farm 5 days a week for 5-15 min of work on stock for 6-12 months starting at 8-10 months of age?

Willing, but not able - I'm agoraphobic. But not so many people have that. I would if I could!

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I think if a dog has a stable temperament, they will adapt quite quickly to changes in their environment. In fact, it makes me sad when I see how readily Lou and Rex accept new stimuli that turns Wick into a quivering mess. I'd like to think that if she were raised properly and exposed to all kinds of things as a pup, that she would be as easy-going as the boys, but I suspect it wouldn't have mattered much because her temperament just isn't as stable as other dogs. :rolleyes:

 

 

Aw, poor Wick. She sure is a cutie! I agree you are right that a dog with a sound temperment is a dog with a sound temperment.

 

That said, better socialization would have likely helped her overcome some of her less than perfect temperment. Socilaization can't make a bad temperment good but it can help quite a bit.

 

I have no doubt that Ross came wired too tightly. In fact, that is likely what made him a "wash-out." That doesn't change the fact that if he had been a bit more socialized that he would have accepted urban life more readily. I also believe that if he had been raised around a cat he might not have killed mine, and that if he knew a man who had treated him kindly as a pup he wouldn't run in fear from Vertical Alan (he had almost all contact with women as a pup and the only man he knew wasn't very nice).

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As a pet owner, would you be willing to drive your pup to a farm 5 days a week for 5-15 min of work on stock for 6-12 months starting at 8-10 months of age?

I think you know that the answer to that question, which has sort of a "devil's advocate" feel to it rather than a true discussion point. For most people who have jobs and lives, that's simply not a fair request. Is there some schedule that is more reasonable and realistic to the pet owner that would allow the working breeder to adequately evaluate a young dog's potential? If there were a lesson schedule that a pet owner could realistically be asked to get on board with, I think most of the people who want to own a border collie would be absolutely delighted to comply. I sure would.

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Yes, I know the answer to the question. But there are realities in training young dogs.

 

Young dogs cannot mentally take long training sessions.

Dogs learn through the experiences of doing.

Young dogs not trained frequently are more excitable (a generalization) which means the beginning of each session is lost to their excitement.

Training to a sufficient level for evaluation will take longer in terms of the dog's age.

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I'd be curious in hearing from those of you who train dogs. How often do your students typically train? Five days a week? Twice?

 

I'd happily sign on if I could make it to the novice level by training twice a week - even if it meant an hour or two's drive each way.

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AH, but then situations change and what happens?

You are transferred to a night shift? Gas goes to $4 a gallon?

Does the dog go back to the breeder if it has shown any promise?

 

I think I have read that most dogs are not really even exposed to stock much before about 6 months old (please correct if I am mistaken) and maybe up to a year after that to truly evaluate. Do I really want to keep an unaltered dog that long and put up with heat cycles or marking.

 

I feel it is a "fish or cut bait" scenario unless you could place to a home that might have a future herding interest but by no means guaranteed. Of course I also think that a good breeder would not be breeding until they knew that most, if not all, of the litter had homes before it hit the ground whether they are working homes or not.

 

Getting back to Mark's OP, I would have to agree that at least statistically litter 1 seems the better match (assuming the 2 working dogs were of comparable talent in each litter and the talent was sufficient to justify a repeated breeding in the first place)

 

The other problem in either scenario is that there are too many variables present. Who is evaluating good and bad in litter 2? Who is training litter 2? Could it be a wrong dog / trainer combination? Are litter 1 workers mid open level whereas litter 2 are National finalist level?

I could be (and most likely am) wrong, but I think almost any breeder of good quality BC's that could produce a top 5 International finalist would consider a second breeding even if the other 7 could not tell a sheep from a rock.

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Yes, I know the answer to the question. But there are realities in training young dogs.

 

Young dogs cannot mentally take long training sessions.

Dogs learn through the experiences of doing.

Young dogs not trained frequently are more excitable (a generalization) which means the beginning of each session is lost to their excitement.

Training to a sufficient level for evaluation will take longer in terms of the dog's age.

 

Does this mean that you believe it is not possible realistically to evaluate dogs that have been placed in pet homes?

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Yes, that's what I did (do). Now that I have my own sheep, much less driving and wear and tear, but then I don't have the expert trainers. So, I still go to the trainer's place to learn more as often as I can (not twice a week, and not even every week). It also depends on the dog. Some dogs mature earlier than others.

 

I'd be curious in hearing from those of you who train dogs. How often do your students typically train? Five days a week? Twice?

 

I'd happily sign on if I could make it to the novice level by training twice a week - even if it meant an hour or two's drive each way.

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