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Donald McCaig

How to Become a Border Collie Breeder

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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.

Further Disclaimer:
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.

Donald McCaig

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Funny recipe, first look at a couple of trials, then invest 10 to 20 thousand (?!) in a couple of dogs, then even more to get some sheep, then learn to trial.

Rather topsy turvy if you ask me.

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I'm not qualified to comment on this other than to say that it would seem there would be very few border collies with this criteria

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Hot damn, I only have 2 more years of USBCHA trialing and I, too, will be a Big Hat. :ph34r:

I suspect there is a fair bit of satire or irony, here, that is inaudible in print.

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Might be Gloria, the text seems serious though. If it is meant to be satiric or ironic I don't really see any humour that would explain it.

Would not have pegged Mr. Donald McCaig for a hipster.

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Not a hipster?! Clearly, you havent read his non-fiction :lol::D

 

Might be Gloria, the text seems serious though. If it is meant to be satiric or ironic I don't really see any humour that would explain it.
Would not have pegged Mr. Donald McCaig for a hipster.

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Dear Doggers,

 

I hoped those seeking a Border Collie "Breeder" might consider what it would take for a doggy person w/o stock or stockdog experience might need to invest and achieve to become the breeder they're looking for. Alas, my notion was ill conceived and muddled. I apologize.

 

Donald McCaig

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Why would those seeking a border collie breeder think they need to find someone with stock experience since the dog breed experts are telling them one only needs select for appearance in order for the dog to be capable of the job.

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Gosh, I'm sorry, Donald, if you were being serious and I misread. It just seemed such a prodigious set of requirements that I didn't know it was meant entirely seriously. I don't know of anyone who could meet them all - or who would want to.Some people just own a nice dog they stand at stud, others have a nice bitch they decide to bring to other another person's stud. Some own both sire and dam but don't have any regionals to attend or a mentor they can work with so religiously. And so forth.

Anyhow, if you mean to illustrate the responsibilities of breeding so as to deter those who might think they could just buy a couple dogs and breed frivolously, I'd say you succeeded - it certainly scared me away! :P

~ Gloria

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I took Donald's original post as a cautionary tale about what it takes to have the experience and judgment to be an excellent breeder of working border collies. As I thought it through, I realized that the people who have achieved at the highest level, those people whose pups you'd drive hours and hours for, those people -- the Amandas, Scotts, Patricks -- they have made that kind of commitment. They aren't thick on the ground, but gosh, we really must appreciate the value they bring!!

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1 - Good advice to attend as many trials as possible.

 

2 - Many people will learn well from working a trained dog. It can help them to see the big picture. However, others learn better by training a pup start to finish.

 

3 - Clinics are great. Training is great. Why tell people to have pups in the winter though? In some parts of the country, winter is trial season. In others, it's training season. Mother Nature (when a bitch goes into heat) and people's schedules are going to dictate when they have pups.

 

4 - Breeding your stud to anyone who asks seems downright irresponsible to me. Better to screen bitch owners and make sure they are in it for the right reasons and their bitches work without any major flaws. No issue with evaluating the pups prior to breeding a bitch again, but how long you wait between litters will vary quite a bit. If you got those pups outrunning a few hundred yards, driving, shedding, etc by 1.5 years old I would say you know what she produced.

Now, personally I think that the time between litters should be dictated by when the bitch owner needs/wants another pup to bring along. That brings up another point. I don't buy from a litter if the breeder is not keeping a pup for themselves. I want to see that they are invested in the breeding and have done it for the right reasons. I also don't think bitches should be bred over and over and over and over again.

 

5 - Why are we breeding dogs before becoming an experience trainer and handler???? Seems you have put the cart before the horse. Now, plenty of farmers/shepherds breed good dogs who never trial, but the good ones have been working dogs for many, many years.

 

7 - (what happened to 6?) I think you can get a reputation for being a good breeder a lot faster, if you put out a couple of quality litters. They have to be quality though.

 

My opinion is that what makes a great breeder is knowledge:

 

What traits are key in a good dog?

 

How do traits get passed down? Dominant? Recessive? Incomplete dominant?

 

Which traits tend to run in which lines? (Good breeders will have an extensive knowledge of a wide variety of lines.)

 

How have certain lines crossed together in the past?

 

What traits are training vs natural to the dogs you see working?

 

Some people will have a knack for being a good breeder. Some, no matter how much work they put into learning this information, will never get it right.

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Most good breeders have the work. They need the dogs for the work.

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If you're repeating a breeding because the pups trained up quickly you're risking genetic diseases that show up later. Not saying to never breed young but breeder and pup buyers need to be aware that some issues won't necessarily crop up till later, and no one is immune from those problems.

 

J.

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And with the way EOAD is popping like popcorn.. breeding a bitch before she's maybe 5 is getting riskier with every day..

 

However, I like the impression I got from Donald's words...it's not easy, quick, or guaranteed!

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I would not repeat the same breeding necessarily, but look for another male. After seeing all the issues popping up with certain litters, I decided it wiser to use a variety of unrelated mates rather than putting all my eggs in one basket. I certainly agree that with EOD and epilepsy, waiting until a bitch is older can be a huge advantage. I've got a nearly 8 year old bitch and her pups are not yet 3 and not yet 1 year old.

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I took Donald's original post as a cautionary tale about what it takes to have the experience and judgment to be an excellent breeder of working border collies. As I thought it through, I realized that the people who have achieved at the highest level, those people whose pups you'd drive hours and hours for, those people -- the Amandas, Scotts, Patricks -- they have made that kind of commitment. They aren't thick on the ground, but gosh, we really must appreciate the value they bring!!

 

 

Absolutely! I agree! But by the same token, I don't think we should limit breeding to the Amandas, Scotts and Patricks, or the gene pool would get pretty shallow pretty quick.

 

We're kind of interesting in the way we do things here in the US as opposed to the UK, I reckon. One thing they have that we don't is a lot of people who still use their dogs in their farm work, who also trial their dogs. I'd wager that the number of sheepdog trialers in the US who are full time working farmers is a minority compared to the UK. Or at least that's my impression.

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The number of farmers who work and trial their dogs in the UK is dropping I'm told. Most of the ones who still do are older, the younger ones have their quad bikes.

 

The hobbyist side is growing to support the sport even here.

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To put things into a dollar perspective for only a few things Donald mentioned:

Going to all regional trials within a five hour driving distance would get you exactly one trial/year where I live. When I trial, it's a minimum of a 10 and more likely 12 hour drive one way. I always plan on spending 650-800 dollars for the weekend. And I've had border collies for 36 years. Like Donald, I have bred 3 litters. Pasture planting costs for winter grazing: $1100. That will last Nov. til mid March, when my improved permanent pasturestarts to bloom, at which time that will be another $700 for fertilizer. Add in fencing, shearing, worming, dog crates, kennels, the actual farm, of course...You'll notice I haven't even talked about dog costs- those are ultimately, when placed against all the costs associated with just raising working border collies, too cheap to mention.

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Dear Aspriing Sheepdoggers,

 

Our vet and dog food costs for three Border Collies and two sheep guarding dogs are less than our medical/insurance/doc//Rx costs. $6500 last year.

 

Donald McCaig

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