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Bill Fosher

The latest from Mr. Katz

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Jon Katz now has a regular monthly gig (first Monday) on WAMC, public radio out of Albany, NY. The show is called Vox Pop, and its a call-in format with a host and a guest who takes questions on a given topic.

 

Katz on Dogs.

 

Our hero was waxing rhapsodic about spending the morning watching the sun rise from the hill at the back of his sheep farm, and marveling at the wonderful relationship he has with his three border collies.

 

Then he went on to rave about his five month old pup, Rose, who is working with him every day, holding sheep of feed, shifting donkeys, etc. I grimmaced, but thought, hey, a guy needs a farm dog and can get a pup to serve his needs, I suppose there are worse things.

 

I was right, and he was about to broadcast one of them. He said he is in touch with some "great" Irish trainers of Border collies (I know some folks who would question whether such a thing exists -- when was the last time an Irishman won the International Supreme?) who had advised him to allow Rose to have "a few hours a day alone with the sheep."

 

If there has ever been a worse piece of advice about how to train a Border collie puppy, I haven't heard it. He is fortunate that Rose apparently isn't too keen, because he said she just sits and watches the sheep and occasionally goes after the ram, whom he doesn't like.

 

Again, ignorant, potentially lethal advice dispensed in a public forum as if it's the best thing in the world.

 

I had to turn the radio off and go draw breeding groups of ewes, so I don't know what other wonderful tidbits he had for his radio audience.

 

The thing that scares me is that WAMC syndicates a lot of its shows. I'm seriously hoping that Vox Pop is local only, so at least this particular piece of wisdom will only be spread to a smallish audience. However, it had the ring of something he was used to talking about -- I suspect it's going to be repeated regularly.

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Bill - is there a contact for your radio station because I know *I* sure would love to write in and complain about this guy. I've seen some articles of his posted around and I personally think he is doing way more harm than good for the breed.

 

And I don't own stock. But I have worked my dog on stock, know a bit about it and I sure as hell know that one wouldn't toss a pup in with sheep - ALONE.

 

The fact that it's on the radio and he's acting like he knows more than poop about working Border Collies bugs me. But of course, we have folks like Rush Limbaugh, etc...so I guess he's in the right league. :mad:

 

Denise

 

Update: I looked it up on the web. WMAC say it's a show called "Dog Talk" with the host "Joe Donahue." So maybe this was just a 1 time thing. I could not find a "contact" button on the web. Also - VOX-pops is supposed to have various topics. The Dog Talk was just for today. Still would like to voice an opinion.

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The subject matter changes on Vox Pop, but there is something of a schedule to it. The first Monday of every month is Jon Katz talking about dogs. They also have a regular person on home repair, etc.

 

In another thread, someone posted an e-mail address that Katz gave out in 2002. Here is the text of an e-mail I sent to him earlier this evening.

 

To: [email protected]

From: Bill Fosher

Subject: rose

Cc:

Bcc:

X-Attachments:

 

Dear Jon,

 

I almost choked today when I heard you on WAMC saying that you give a five month old pup a couple of hours a day unsupervised in with the sheep. That's perhaps the worst piece of advice I've heard about the upbringing of a working sheepdog I've heard in the 12 years I've been around them.

 

How can this lead to anything other than bad habits that have to be corrected later -- or worse, harm to the dog or sheep? You're very lucky that Rose hasn't been kicked by a donkey. I have a friend with a one-eyed, three-legged dog (who still is a contender in the national finals despite his handicaps) as the result of a tangle with a donkey at a farm where she was shearing.

 

I thought of calling in but I had to get back to work sorting out groups of ewes for breeding, which I will start tomorrow. I am a sheep farmer and shepherd, currently tending a flock of roughly 600 ewes and 300 lambs. I use Border collies every day, and when I can get the time I get to a trial or two a year. I have made a point of getting training from some of the top handlers in this country and Scotland because the proper training and handling of sheepdogs is a matter of vital economic importance to me. I need good dogs to do this job.

 

I have been to training clinics and private lessons with about eight different trainers, and have worked with many fellow shepherds who have more experience with dogs than I do. Not one of them has recommended letting a Border collie pup have unsupervised time to do anything other than sleep -- particularly not time with sheep.

 

In fact, most of them discourage the common practice of allowing pups to watch other dogs work, or watch sheep through the fence, except in the case of a pup that is not keen to go to sheep. Sometimes the action and commotion of watching other dogs work can sharpen a pup's interest, but even then most trainers would recommend waiting a bit until the pup grows up and becomes keener on its own.

 

I am currently starting my fifth pup in 12 years, and have found that waiting until they are older to really start training them on sheep makes them a thousand times easier to train. I take younger pups to sheep just to let them have a chance to work a little and develop some confidence, but I don't really start training until the dog is nearly a year old -- even older in some cases.

 

Of course, you're free to do as you choose with Rose, and to listen to whomever you'd like for your training advice. However, I think you're doing a disservice to owners of Border collies by sharing your experiences as if they are standard, accepted practice for the training of working sheepdogs, or even as if they were anything other than horrible mistakes from which you were lucky to emerge with a live dog.

 

I'm still gobsmacked by your accounts in _A Dog Year_ of allowing Devon to chase traffic from the other side of the fence. That's another potentially-lethal game that does nothing to teach a dog anything useful.

 

Please, don't get onto subjects that are over your head. People are listening to you, and think you're an expert because you've published books and are on the radio. If you want to talk about your Border collies as working sheepdogs, that's fine, but please stop dispensing bad advice about how to train them.

 

I fear some poor 4H kid who just bought her pup at Rhinebeck two weeks ago is going to be out there letting him run wild with her sheep while she's away at school because Jon Katz said that's the way to do it. And when the pup is killed by a ram or kills a sheep, the dog (or the breed) will get blamed, not Jon Katz. If you love Border collies as much as you say you do, I hope you will realize that you can do a great deal of harm to them out of ignorance.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bill Fosher

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Not that I've been following this guy's career or anything. I haven't, and the posts on this board about him are a bit more than I care to know, but when he did an interview on public radio, on the Diane Rehm show, he had his 2 border collies with him. At that time he was exalting a conformation breeder, in fact of one of his dogs, as the ultimate border collie expert. Just curious if she still is and if that's where he got his new pup from.

 

Do you mean to tell me, he no longer just takes lessons? He's got his own operation to work his dogs? The royalties must be paying off.

 

Vicki----with some 1/2 Irish dogs, who have never won the International, but I still think they're pretty swell.

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Well put, Bill. Do let us know if you get a response, although I suspect what you say might go straight over Mr Katz's head.

 

BTW at dog school on Sunday - a Border Collie (pet) owner asking "How do I stop him trying to chase cars?" Maybe I should have said - "Oh, put him on the other side of a fence and just let him go - Jon Katz says it's OK." I don't think so.

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I've heard Katz on WAMC a couple of times. He's a writer, not a dog trainer. The real problem I see is that people call in asking for advice- and he gives it. WAMC also has a regular guest , Sue Sternberg, who is a dog trainer and behaviorist and who, I think, gives very good answers to people with dog problems- any dog not any specific breed. I think the listeners are used to calling her for reliable info, and assume they get it from Katz as well. WAMC ought to direct the Katz shows to stories and writing, not advice.

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The Irish, who make up at least a quarter of my ancestry, are known to enjoy a joke at an American's expense from time to time. I wonder if that's what's going on here? Yanking o' the shillalegh.

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I e-mailed WAMC with the same comments I made in my last post here. Here's their response:

 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I will pass your comments on to Jon as well. The show is designed to be more about dog owners and ownership than just dogs. We try not to tread on the ground Sue handles so wonderfully. However, we deal with the calls that come in and often training issues can not be avoided. Again, thanks for writing.

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