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Talent in a pup that isn't well bred. Possible?

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I have recently discovered my pup's pedigree is filled on one side by what could charitably be called Barbie collies. They are still ABCA registered, but I don't believe for a minute that any of them were working dogs. The ones on the sire's side, though, are all top notch working dogs from well known breeders.

 

So, where does that leave my little girl? I am planning on taking her out to see sheep for the first time this weekend so I'll have a better idea soon. But I'm just curious whether a dog with inconsistent breeding can be a good herding dog or if they'll always be 'missing' key components? I'm guessing (based on my reading of BC genetics) that she'll always be missing some of the necessary heritable instincts/traits required by a good sheepdog, no matter what.

 

That's my hypothesis anyway. If she decides she likes herding, I'll give it a try even if she's not a natural at it. If she doesn't like it, no big deal either. We still have hiking, running, swimming, and frisbee.

 

Worst case scenario is she decides she hates it, but I fall in love with it. Then I have a dilemma.

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Just as you can get a "dud" from the best of breeding, you can also get a really good one from the worst of breeding - but the odds will not be in your favor. Breeding is not a guarantee but it does vastly affect your chances of getting a certain type. Give it a try and see how it goes.

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As Sue says..

 

But also don't loose heart in your pup if your first time with sheep isn't what you want/ expect/hope.

 

Some dogs (even those with an 'excellent' working pedigree) still take time to get turned on to sheep and may take even longer to show their natural talent.

 

ETA Patience is everything, although a pup may be physically ready for sheep, she may not yet be sufficiently mature mentally to deal with the situation.

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Since stockwork includes a wide range of different behaviors, it is likely that something will be missing in a poorly bred pup, but maybe it will be something that you and she can live without and you can still learn a ton about working stock. Your dog might not be great, but good enough to learn from is often good enough. That is assuming she turns on to sheep, of course.

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I know a Big Hat who loved a dog with 3/4 show breeding (I didn't see it IMHO) so it can happen. Even in some (Lassie)Collies you can find the 'instinct' which can be quite good (hindered by horrible bodies unfortunately) and some Shelties still have talent coming through down the generations. I've seen some big handlers impressed with GSD and PWC too so it can happen, but it is the oddity instead of the 'norm'

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Of course.

 

None of our working dogs could be considered "well bred" even though they are all descendents [1] of Imp Moss. That was too many generations ago. None of our dogs are trialled so ... yeah ...

 

But I would stack any single one of them up against any "well bred" (meaning trial winning ancestors, I assume) dog in a heartbeat.

 

Pedigree is but one of the aspects of a working dog.

 

 

[1] this was the last "outside" dog of note that was made part of our breeding program and it worked so well that pretty much all the dogs currently used as breeding stock have some of that in them.

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Cmp, I think you are mistaking well bred (working bred) with papers. A dog without any famous ancestors on the papers can be more well bred than a dog with papers full of them.

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@Liz P

 

The OP's query was framed around pedigree. I think we are saying the same thing, no? In any case, since it was not clear:

 

A good dog with talent can be found with and without papers and with and without illustrious ancestors on those papers.

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Given that the sire was of good working heritage, it's entirely possible (though not a given) that your pup will take after him instead of the mother's line.

 

As others have said, there can be throwbacks, even on other breeds where the herding instinct is generally accepted as having been lost.

 

Also as others have said, don't write her off completely if she doesn't turn on the first, or even the first few times she sees sheep. Some pups turn on young, others later. I kept a pup from one of the two litters I bred. He was keen on geese at 5 weeks old, which is why we chose to keep him. A few months later we were sure we'd made the wrong choice; he had no interest in sheep. A few more months and he was rarin' to go. He so impressed the sire's owner that he bought him when my ex and I split up, trained him and sold him on to a cattle farmer.

 

So you've got to assess your girl on her own terms and in her own time.

 

Best wishes, and I hope it turns out well for both of you.

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Is it really necessary in every thread to puff up farm-bred dogs vs. those who have presumably competed successfully in trials? The OP said one side wasn't well bred because she believes they weren't working dogs. She didn't say they weren't trial dogs. She said the other side was full of top notch working dogs from well known breeders. She didn't mention trial dogs anywhere in her post. I think we can agree that dogs who do not work are not going to be proven workers (did I really just have to say that?). Ergo, she is worried that half of her dog's genetics--those coming from the ones who don't work at all and thus are unproven--will be lacking key components that make up the complex package that is a talented working dog.

 

SoHo, I agree completely with what Sue said above.

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And as a person who is training a dog who is only so-so on the talent scale, we still learn a lot and he is learning useful tasks. Its been great for him (who can be insecure and fearful) to tap into his genetics and be successful and more confident, and its a great learning experience for me about reading the livestock and teaching him stuff (working through his lack of innate skills). You won't see us on an Open field anytime soon but we could probably do some lower level AHBA stuff well enough some day.

 

So long as your dog is not a threat to the livestock, enjoy the journey with your current partner.

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I was not trying to make anything a "versus" situation. I was using dogs without papers/pedigrees to indicate that yes, indeed, good working dogs can come from virtually any corner of the breed's little world.

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SoHo, I interpret your post to be asking whether a pup that comes from a line of non-working Barbie collies on the dam's side will be missing components necessary for good working ability, even though the dogs from the sire's side were selected and proven for work. I basically agree with what Sue wrote above: it is definitely not impossible for an individual dog from such breeding to be a talented worker, even though the odds would be much better if there had been selection for working ability on both sides.

 

But I really want to encourage you not to obsess about this. You own the dog now, and you're happy with her. As you say, whether or not she works out as a sheepdog, you and she will have a good life together. So don't give up on her in advance. Just relax, give her a chance with no preconceptions, and find out that way whether she's talented enough to continue on working with. And if she's not, but you find you're drawn to it, then you can always pick your second dog more knowledgeably. Lots of us do have second dogs, you know. :)

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I had several dogs before I got one that could really work. When you first start out you just don't know enough but you learn really fast just by getting out there and trying. If the dog works, great. If it doesn't, you can still have a lot of fun. Watch, ask questions. Takes time but it's a really fun trip.

 

If the dog isn't interested well, you still have a great dog and a great companion and that's what really matters most for you and your dog.

 

It would be different if you were running a couple hundred head of sheep and needed a dog to work them. Then getting a good working dog is vital. Most of us don't really need a dog to take care of our sheep.

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I have a question. Can you think of any wild animals that have droopy ears? Right now I can't think of a single one. It's so strange that droopy ears and curly tails come with domestication.

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I have a question. Can you think of any wild animals that have droopy ears? Right now I can't think of a single one. It's so strange that droopy ears and curly tails come with domestication.

http://theconversation.com/why-so-many-domesticated-mammals-have-floppy-ears-29141

 

There are quite a few actual scientific articles out there, but basically no. Floppy ears are associated with domestication.

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Laurae,

I have been thinking the same thing. It can certainly be tiresome. But if you think of it as one person's need to be defensive about dogs they neither work nor trial, then it's easy enough to dismiss.

 

CMP,

The OP didn't ask about pedigree vs no pedigree; she asked about working bred vs non-working bred or, more specifically, conformation bred. Unless your family is pulling its breeding stock from show border collies, whether or not they're registered is immaterial to the OPs question.

 

J.

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@juliepoudrier

 

Right. I see that now after reading it more carefully. My bad. Apologies.

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Julie: I am trying to think of any wild animals with droop over ears. I was out looking at the wild dogs of Africa and they have huge stand up ears. I think all the wild cats and wild canines have stand up ears. Rodents? Wild Horses? I can't think of any of the herbivores that have folded over ears. Musk Ox and buffalo have stand up ears but the domesticated varieties may have fold over ears.

 

It just seems like droop over ears set the animal up for ear problems, infections, mites. The ear canals are too moist. But you find them with domesticated animals. Maybe the wild populations cull out the more docile animals because they just don't survive as well as the more competitive animals. Since they don't survive the mutation dies with them?

 

I just think its a very curious thing. Maxi has to be right in that it must be a mutation.

 

If you get a mutation and it is carried thru to following generations is it still considered a mutation?

 

The thing that is interesting about the silver foxes is that they apparently didn't introduce any new outside animals. They were just using the animals that they had bred probably for many generations. And still a whole lot of genetic variations showed up. The only factor that they really tried to control was docility because they wanted animals that were easier to handle. Being less fearful and less aggressive would not be an advantage in the wild. They may just get wiped out.

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Below are the links of Ruby's (my 7 month old pup) introduction to sheep. She had zero interest while we waited for the other dogs to take their turn. She just sniffed around and ate sheep poop then either laid down or tried to climb in my lap.

 

Then she had her turn and really liked it. Not sure how much of it was just play for her or working.

 

She went nuts when the next dog got its turn, pulling and trying to get in there with the sheep. It was the total opposite of how she acted before.

 

Any thoughts? Any natural talent or shortcomings? About what you'd expect for a dog her age? Any potential here?

 

&index=3

 

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pretty much within the realm of what could be expected for a youngster, mostly play and adrenaline to chase. She wants to engage livestock so that is a bonus, would like to see her show some desire to balance, control, but she really wasn't give the opportunity and often times you may not see that the very first time, especially with older energetic pups.

 

There is something to work with, as far as talent, can't say either way and a lot has to do with what your expectation is. Consider that some feel that anyone that can play a musical instrument is talented or do you want talent to be based on those that are above average and exhibit more of a gift?

 

So the fact that she wants to be engaged could be considered talent, but too early to tell if she is a child prodigy

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She looks like she has the interest and she was trying to get the animal to go a certain way (as opposed to just chasing blindly for the sheer joy of chasing something). So, as noted, she looks like a youngster most stock people would tick off as a "potential".

 

I know it was her first time and she did observe and have to sit while other dogs worked (which can skew things) but I suppose if there was any one thing I might pick out and work on - which can be worked on without stock to move - it would be the portion of the process maybe best described as stalking.

 

I know here that a down-stay (or at least a solid down) has to be in place before work on stock actually takes place - the theory is that it forces the dog to think for a moment and often the pause gives them a chance to work out a smarter way to move that animal where they wanted it to go. I believe it is considered the "proof" that a dog is mature enough to learn good habits before bad ones and thus training goes faster.

 

I have seen them work younger dogs without a down but with a very solid "easy" (some dogs never get the down-stay and prefer to crouch and we let them) but that is a rarity and only happens after it seems very obvious that this is a croucher dog and not a down dog.

 

That all said, we don't trial, so form is not important which definitely affects training schedules and processes.

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Honestly, I don't make any judgments on the basis of the first exposure (or two) to stock. Puppies who look like superstars can "fade fast," and those who look hopeless can turn into the superstars over time (and the old chestnut "one step forward and two steps back" applies more often than not). (For example, I have had the pleasure of watching and participating as four littermates have been introduced to stock. All of them were very different on first exposure. The one who seemed to have the most talent later went through a stage where his owner despaired of him getting his act together, but lately he's been looking very thoughtful and is clearly trying to figure out how best to control stock. His littermates were across the spectrum. Ultimately, they are all working stock at a very beginner level, but where they go from here will depend on their minds and the training they receive.) If the pup is trying to control the stock, then the next thing I encourage is some thoughtfulness. I want the pup to start feeling its effect on stock. I'm not big on a lie down--anything like that taught off stock may not carry over well in the excitement of the early days. You can always use the stock and your own body pressure to encourage a pup to stop.

 

In answer to your question, you pup is clearly interested in working. Where it goes from there depends largely on how it's shaped through training experiences. And training experiences should be based on the pup's aptitude, ability to take training (mentally and physically), and your ultimate goal for the dog--the timeline depends entirely on the individual dog. Only time will tell if real talent exists.

 

J.

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I'm not big on a lie down--anything like that taught off stock may not carry over well in the excitement of the early days.

 

Good point.

 

I believe our process involves a lot of proximity active training (sheep are close by, in view but not accessible) and actual exposure with only passive training. So, there's a desensitization process involved and the down/easy off stock biddability gradually proofs itself as it moves closer to the stock, literally.

 

Also, to OP, others may have other takes - it's a wide world, but I heard you ask about when her tail was going to go down so she had more of a working look. You answered yourself :) When she thinks it is work and not play.

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