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prosperia

sport/conformation vs. herding ability

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Originally posted by tessa_s212:

Going back to the Vizsla- I believe the reason some breeders truly can breed versatile Vizslas is because you don't see, for the most part, ALL those politics in the Vizsla breed. You also don't have colors to choose from...only one color, really-red.

Tessa - Nothing against Viszlas, but they also are not sought after as anything but hunting dogs, for the most part. This is because they simply aren't "GREAT" at much else and their temperaments, size, hard-headedness and activity level isn't conducive to making wonderful all-around, trainable housepets for average folks. The ones I know (and they are "versatility bred") are pretty difficult to live with, and they are trained by people with extensive dog training experience. And of course, there isn't hair to fluff up to build them into a show dog - what you see is what you get in a Viszla.

Unfortunately for the Border Collie, most of the attributes that make them the Premier Herding Dog also makes them attractive to a lot of people who want them for other reasons (and end up breeding for other reasons). :rolleyes:

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Lauri, you are correct when you say the Vizsla is not for your average dog owner. As for them not being great at anything besides hunting--tell that to a Vizsla owner! :rolleyes: I've seen many Vizslas that excell in agility and obedience. They can also make great pets--that is, if they fit your lifestyle.

 

Couldn't you agree that the true working border collie, equally so with many other breeds, doesn't make an excellent couch potato, house pet?

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I wasn't talking about "pretty", but more about soundness/conformation. A dog that has good structure--not cowhocked, etc, etc, etc.
Show ring conformation doesn't screen for soundness. It screens for conformation to someone's opinion of what makes a good dog - usually a generalized standard across the board of a canine ideal. Have you considered the fact that the work the Border collie was developed for may actually select FOR characteristics that are unattractive in the show ring?

 

Or, even more subtle, is it possible that some characteristics that are less desireable in the show ring are connected to VITAL characteristics needed to do the work Border collies were originally bred to do? Consider that.

 

This is also potentially true for any characteristic that would get in the way of the dog being a good sport dog. For instance, selecting for dogs that are ideal jumpers could possibly be also selecting against some crucial working characteristic. Genetics are a tricky thing. This is why we say if you want to produce a dog that is good at X and will do it for a long time (ie, is structurally sound), you must use parents that DO x and HAVE done it for a long time. Evne that is no guarantee but it's better than some judge eyeballing the dog's structure while doing something unrelated to what it's bred to do.

 

This would mean that the more you select against things that get in the way of your non-herding breeding goals, the more things you'd be weeding out that the dog will need to work livestock.

 

I can't even estimate the number of individual skills, inbred tendencies, personality traits, physical characteristics, mental capacities and more, that all come together in even the most basic interaction with livestock.

 

To reach a level where the dog is competant in the work that shaped the breed, you are reaching into every nook and cranny of that dog. No part of the dog can fail to respond or the job can't get done. We can't afford to go out with dogs bred for flyball/conformation/obedience/agility/"herding" and hope against hope that the pieces are going to be there, that we need today to bring up the ewes and newborns from the lower pasture before the ice storm hits. When lives depend on EVERY PART being at maximum competency, not just "good enough" - this is why we get a smidge up in arms at the notion of compromise in future generations.

 

Alluding to something Melanie mentioned, I'd hate to see a time find a new breed to do what I need done. I'm not sure it exists. I'm not myself going to live long enough - and I'm not smart enough anyway - to reproduce what the original breeders of the Border collie did when they produced this breed out of the gene pool of a bunch of ragtag hill sheepdogs. Are you?

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Originally posted by tessa_s212:

Couldn't you agree that the true working border collie, equally so with many other breeds, doesn't make an excellent couch potato, house pet?

Absolutely! But how many people watch Agility on Animal Planet, and say "Wow, I'm gonna get me one of those Viszlas! They are so smart, fast, athletic, cool, pretty, etc... etc... "

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Many Border collies, no matter what their breeding, make lousy couch potatoes. And some well-bred dogs from working parents make terrific family companions. Working breeding does NOT exclude the ability to hang out with the family if there is no livestock work. The family just has to be flexible and accept the possibility that the dog will most likely require a notch of interaction above your average dog.

 

My Ben is one of these. As long as there is consistency in his life and he knows his place in the family, he's perfectly happy to chill until it's time to do something. I've found that both my pups, who are related to him, are getting to be like this too, even at their young age.

 

This line gets this from their ancestors' lives as hill workers - long days of walking quietly while master "kent" the flocks - then bursts of activity ranging from searching for a lost individual to intense almost continuous work during lambing, shearing, or weaning.

 

You might be able to breed calmness in, but how could you make sure you retain the work ethic? Conversely, if you assume that the inability to be calm is a desireable trait (a dog that's "on" all the time), will you end up with a dog that's so wound up you can't trust it around stock? The balance comes from the work that selects the most well-rounded dogs.

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Couldn't you agree that the true working border collie, equally so with many other breeds, doesn't make an excellent couch potato, house pet?
I don't agree. While I think a working bred dog NEEDS to work to be happy. I think working bred dogs can make good housedogs. All 4 of my dogs work, they also are great in the house. If I let them all will climb on the couch with me. My most hyper dog who has excellent working lines is still good in the house. Outside he never quits, never settles down, yet he's great riding in the car and great in the house. But maybe its because they work that they are so well behaved. I still don't like that people view working bred Border Collies as hyper and/or uncontrollable in the house. Some of the best mannered and sociable dogs I've ever been around are working Border Collies.

JES

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I still don't like that people view working bred Border Collies as hyper and/or uncontrollable in the house. Some of the best mannered and sociable dogs I've ever been around are working Border Collies.
Amen to that.

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tessa s212 wrote:

 

I wasn't talking about "pretty", but more about soundness/conformation. A dog that has good structure--not cowhocked, etc, etc, etc.
What's wrong with a cowhocked dog? I've heard some thinking that the stuctural "fault" described by this term may actually allow a dog to have faster lateral acceleration and deceleration -- they can corner like they're on rails, so to speak.

 

This is the problem when conformation thinking enters the equation. It brings with it a series of assumptions, such as "cowhocked is bad." From there it's not a long jourey to "the length to height ratio should be X." There was one famous versatility breeder who spend a great deal of effort trying to have her idea of X (and I don't remember what X was, sorry) enshrined in the AKC standard because she was sure that it was a good way to retain working ability in the breed.

 

I believe, although I don't know, that she was trying to guard against the showring tendancy with Border collies to breed for dogs that are relatively short in length -- built more like an Australian shepherd perhaps. I guess the logic ran something like this: keeping them longer would encourage breeding from working lines, which tended to be longer than show lines, so the working instinct would be kept in the breed.

 

Internally logical, I suppose, but it misses the point that others have made here. Breeding from working lines isn't enough. You must breed for working ability, and that can only be evaluated in dogs that are working. Another vocabulary problem is that sport people have co-opted the term "working" to include everything from tracking and schutzhund to therapy and SAR to flyball and freestyle dance. When I use the term working, I mean livestock work. I don't pass judgment against those other activities, but they are not what I mean when I talk about working ability.

 

The only meaningful way to evaluate soundness and structure in a working Border collie is on the farm, ranch, or trial field. A dog can be well put together, but if it is lame every other day, its working ability is compromised. Conversely, if a cow-hocked dog can gather the lambs off the range, load them onto a semi, and get up the next day raring to go again, please send her my way. I have a dog I'd like to breed her to.

 

I also think that hyper Border collies are the product of owners who encourage them to be hyper. If you don't spend two hours a day throwing sticks and balls and frisbees, your dog won't bug you to do it. If you don't talk to it in excited, hyper tones, it won't get keyed up. And if you don't feed it dog food with 30 percent protein, it won't have a ton of extra energy to burn off.

 

I have some pretty high-strung dogs, but they all know when it's time to take a break. They are all good about spending time in the truck (they have to be, as my rounds can involve as much as 150 miles of driving in a day), and they are all capable of settling down in the house. Perhaps this is because they get some work almost every day, but perhaps it's because I have taught them that's what's expected of them.

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And I agree with that post about good working BC's being good in the house. I have met several just like that. Trials dogs who work on farms, and in the house. Perfect gentlemen and ladies in the house, (well, almost) and then outside, it is work time. That is what folks a century ago bred for- a good companion and a very intelligent and biddable worker. Not something bouncing off the walls when inside for a day for some reason.

Julie

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Originally posted by laurie etc:

quote:
Originally posted by tessa_s212:

Couldn't you agree that the true working border collie, equally so with many other breeds, doesn't make an excellent couch potato, house pet?

Absolutely! Guess what I meant to say (but it didn't come out that way)was that I wouldn't go buy a working BC pup with the intent of having a couch potato. I don't think its appropriate for a dog like that to be relegated to a life of boredom - with no job to do. Border Collies are very good (for the most part) at figuring out(or learning) when its time to "chill" and relax, and when its time to put their all into something. Mine are all house dogs and absolutely have learned the difference. (Unlike the Viszlas I know, who were over the top 24/7 until they got to be about 5 years old).

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I'm new to this list (just joined TODAY), but was able to see the previous thread - the one that started this one - because I'm FRIENDS (and a flyball teammate! ) with the evil Laura Slusher.

 

Now, I don't own a BC - I own working bred aussies (yes, they DO exist) - and I joined this list to see how the "extremeist" BC people feel about breeding as I'm an "extremeist" aussie person.

 

And I agree with everything that has been written on this topic so far. I really feel that if the breed is not bred to do as it was intended - over time, it will become a completely different breed. That's happened in the aussie world (which is why I'm such an extremist for the working aussie and there ARE people like me out there, we're just a minority, unfortunately) and I see it happening in the BC world as well.

 

However, I don't blame AKC for it - it was happening in the aussie world long before we became AKC registered and I'm sure it was in the BC world as well, because I remember seeing a BC that I *thought* was a show-bred aussie that was imported from England (I *think*) before AKC recognition of BC's.

 

Anyway, it's sad that people are breeding BC's entirely as sports dogs b/c Laura's working bred BC kicks booty in both flyall and agility - even beating the sports bred puppers. I really don't see ANY need for breeding for sports - breed for the dogs original intent, and the rest will follow.

 

Pamela Christian

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(Unlike the Viszlas I know, who were over the top 24/7 until they got to be about 5 years old).
What does the Viszlas have to do with WORKING Border Collies? The best hunting dog we ever owned was a Border Collie. Grab a gun and head for the woods and she was ready to hunt. Squirrel, coon, rabbits or anything. They truly are the most intelligent breed. Yet, we never had any arguments out of our cattle. We did have a stray bull :mad: from across the river decide to disagree with Priss once. The discussion took about 2 seconds and the bull lost. What would we do if the working ability was bred out of the Border Collie? This was a 2000# polled hereford bull. Sure glad it was not a "barbie" :cool: border collie we had with us. Otherwise it would have been me having the "disagreement" :confused: with the bull. So lets keep the working insticts in the Border Collie. The only way to do this is to only breed from livestock working parents. If they don't work, spay/neture them and get them out of the gene pool.

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I am dissapointed, but i guess not really suprised that the rest of the original thread chose not to stick around and argue a valid point. Perhaps this type of discussion doesn't interest them.

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Any responsible breeder will already be volunteering in rescue. I have a resuce page on my website. Not very many stockdogs needing rescue in my area, but the local rescue folks know to contact me if they find any. We have successfully placed several stockdog rescues this past year. One was within two hours of death in a kill shelter. He is now at a local farm being the best friend to a retired farmer. Will not work but was only needed to be a companion. We should all do our part to rescue stockdogs. But the first thing is to be a responsible breeder. If all we breed are working stockdogs there will be fewer dogs in rescues.

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I understand there are still some *complete* breeds out there - the Belgian Tervern and the Flatcoated Retriever are also hanging on to their heritage while pursuing other goals. This is due only to a strong core of breeders who care about the whole dog and truly understand that form follows function. Their breed standards take into consideration what is needed to have a working breed. While these breeds might not *kick butt* like border collies (who can? :D ), those who love those breeds are ok with that (and those that want to just *kick butt* get a border collie! :D ).

 

On the other end of the scale, sad to say, the last dual-championed springer (champion in the hunting field & show ring) was in 1940. :rolleyes: Unfortunately for that breed, its breeders became split and today the hunting and the show springer look nothing alike and their temperaments while similar are different. While some springer breeders would like nothing more than to bring the breed back to where it could produce a dual champion, the politics and fads in the springer show ring and the time that has passed since the last dual champion makes this dream almost an impossible one.

 

One thing I'll say about breeding for working (herding) ability (I'm all for it but I may stir up a hornet's nest here :eek: ) is IMHO we need to be careful we're not producing working dogs who can't work because of health issues like Bill referred to in his post. Bcs that can't hear by the age of 4, bcs going blind at an early age, bcs chronically lame, are useless, sad to say, as a working dog.

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Originally posted by prosperia:

I am dissapointed, but i guess not really suprised that the rest of the original thread chose not to stick around and argue a valid point. Perhaps this type of discussion doesn't interest them.

If you will start the personal attack of their "friend" I am sure they will all return. Most of them had just joined to support her anyway. (This is not intended as an attack). Anyway, at least this thread is interesting. Probably not resolve anything, but interesting.

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The practices that will produce an all-around sound working breed are simple but unfortunately you'll find many going outside these bounds.

 

Breed only fully mature dogs (ie, not until the dogs are fully trained and have proven their worth, the rule of thumb being "as many years as they have paws").

 

Don't repeat breedings that have produced unsound dogs.

 

Be honest about whether the work your dog is doing is truly challenging enough to screen for things like exercise or heat intolerance, spine problems, and of course weaknesses of structure. Likewise has the dog been exposed to a wide range of tempermental challenges in the course of his daily work and/or competition?

 

Clinically screen for defects that are generally accepted to affect the gene pool, not to mention the next generation. Ie, screening for CEA is now almost a no brainer. Additionally screen for health issues before assuming that a problem is a training problem.

 

We have a dog who was a "slow starter" and then had a good two years after his growth plates closed and stopped putting pressure on his very mildly dysplastic hip. You'd still have a hard time telling the difference between a painful hip and reluctance to take a command. I'll take any dog I have in the future with a similiar starting pattern for a preliminary evaluation.

 

I might mention that I have no illusions that this list of practices would eliminate the possibility of producing an unsound pup. If we keep our priorities straight, recessive defects will continue to pop up. But if we continue to select for a dog that is sound enough to do the work, we'll have a breed as a whole sound enough to do the work.

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What I expected and hoped for are two completely different things. I had hoped we could discuss this issue with people who have a different view than ourselves, rather than arguing a one sided discussion. We know our stand on the issue, I just wish the other side would have stuck around and gotten something useful out of the whole incident. *shrug*

 

Thanks to everybody who took the time to add to this thread. I realize this gets discussed all the time around here and we find ourselves repeating a lot of things. The opportunity was provided and we didnt get any response from the people I had hoped to hear from. Of course everybody is welcome to continue, I just dont want anyone thinking they have to keep it up for the sake of the old thread.

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Hi all, I'm back from 8 days at the finals where I had no internet access. I gather not everything went smoothly while I was gone, but from what I can see y'all cleaned up whatever went awry without any help from me, and I thank you for it. I'll try to get some comments and pix from the finals posted when I get a chance.

 

>

 

Where AKC is to blame is in providing powerful incentives to encourage this type of bad breeding. You may have seen an imported show-bred BC in the US before AKC recognized the border collie, but if so it was probably imported in anticipation of recognition. It was only after AKC recognized the border collie that there was any point to importing show-bred BCs, or breeding them for show, because it was only then that they could become conformation champions. ASCA has had conformation classes for Aussies for a long time, but there was no meaningful conformation showing of border collies in the US until after AKC recognition. It's AKC that encourages breeding to a conformation standard, and it's the AKC parent club that encourages breeding for versatility (i.e., titles for looks and titles for performance, including minimal "herding instinct," to produce a jack of all trades and master of none). And because of their dominance of the dog world, AKC and its minions have had such impact in promoting the breeding of border collies with little or no regard for livestock-working ability that it's now respectable in many circles to do it, whereas before it was disreputable. That's what I blame them for.

 

As for arguments from the other side, I've never heard any that didn't boil down to "I wanna."

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I understand there are still some *complete* breeds out there - the Belgian Tervern and the Flatcoated Retriever are also hanging on to their heritage while pursuing other goals.

 

I like Tervs and Flat-Coats and all, but I have to admit I had a good out-loud guffaw when I read this sentence.

 

Belgians are beautiful and when you find a good one, it's a really good one. I know two good ones, and they're both dogs I'd be willing to own. But you couldn't hand me the others in a solid gold crate. Very few of them will work (many are quite dangerous around stock) and as far as I can tell, sound temperaments are extremely rare in the breed.

 

Flat-Coat breeders do try for an all-around dog, but when was the last time you saw one that was actually a useful hunting dog? If you are a serious hunter, you don't hunt with a Flat-Coat. You have a Lab or MAYBE a Chessie (if you are a glutton for punishment). Like many of the other "herding" breeds, you CAN work a Flat-Coat if you are bound and determined to do it, but if you actually want to hunt, you get another breed.

 

I actually think these two breeds are excellent examples of what happens when you only pay lip service to the breed's heritage and settle for "meh" working ability when making breeding decisions. Maybe "meh" is better than nothing, but "meh" is still "meh."

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