I'm such a hardcore little fact-checker.
Went to Los Angeles on Friday and wound up in the Grove Barnes & Noble, rereading everything by J... by J... [shudders]. Honestly, I can hardly bring myself to
Jon Katz has parlayed inept stockmanship and mismanagement of his dogs into a Slate column, a movie deal, the odd radio appearance and a string of books, and there's a website, too, but I won't link to it. [Oh, all right, dammit: here.] He is a willfully ignorant, patronizing author who wants you to believe everything he tells you about dogs in general and border collies in particular even though, gosh, he's never claimed to be an expert or anything. And besides, experts are just big old snobs, ha ha ha! He is like that man who wrote The Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California back in 1845 with directions to a new route he'd never actually traveled himself and when a group of settlers took his "shortcut," they wound up struggling across the Wasatch Range and the salt flats of western Utah and were trapped in the snows in the High Sierra, where they ran out of food and resorted to cannibalism.
On second thought, he's much worse than that.
Here's sheep farmer and border collie handler [and owner/moderator of the Sheep Production Forums] Bill Fosher, in response to a complaint that those mean old border collie snobs "spew venom" at poor Jon Katz:
I spew venom at him because of some of the horrible things he has talked about on a local public radio call-in show, such as letting a five month old Border collie puppy "have a couple of hours of unsupervised time" with the sheep to "let her get to know them." He also claims that highly-trained Border collies are trained with clickers and treats and that poses and postures are trained, rather than actual stock work. He says things like this as if he knows what he's talking about, and in fact he doesn't know sh!t from shinola about sheepdogs, sheep [or] farming [...]Katz arranged for Orson, his first border collie, to be euthanized after the dog developed severe behavior problems and bit three people. Orson, or Devon, as he was originally called, was given to Katz by a woman who breeds conformation border collies from New Zealand/Australian lines. And would that breeder and importer of show champions be the same woman who called authentic, working border collies "needlessly hostile, undomesticated dogs"?
In the end, I really almost don't care about what he did to Devon/Orson. I care about what other people might do to their dogs if they emulate him.
According to Katz, any dog that "violates the fundamental contract between humans and canines" [have your dogs signed that contract? Neither have mine] should be killed sooner rather than later, unless you care more about dogs than you care about children, you sicko. From Nathan Winograd's blog:
[F]ear mongering at HSUS has taken a new turn with the publication of an interview with best-selling author Jon Katz, author of “A Good Dog,” in the current issue of Animal Sheltering entitled: “I Chose a Child’s Face Over My Dog.” The question and answer format with Katz does nothing to illuminate the truth about aggression or dangerous dogs, and in fact, only serves to heighten stereotypes and perpetuate myths. That Katz killed his dog because of what he considered severe aggression is not what one takes from the article. That would have been a very different piece, a tragedy for all involved—Jon Katz, his dog, and the people his dog hurt. And maybe, just maybe, our hearts would have hurt for all of them.And speaking of deeply flawed and deeply offensive, here are excerpts from an online chat last summer:
Instead, HSUS asks a series of very deliberate questions which not only globalize the tragedy that occurred in the Katz family, but appear to assume the worst in dogs, and the worst in people who want to see less of them killed. Opposition is dismissed as irresponsible. Dog lovers are pitted against children. It’s the type of either-or, you-are-with-us-or-against-us, your-dog-or-your-child hysteria most of us, especially those of us who love both our dogs and our kids, dismissed long ago. In fact, the parallel to attacks the nascent animal welfare movement was subjected to from industries which hurt animals is stark. Our movement’s history is littered with these sorts of unfair accusations by those who profit from animal exploitation.
And the tenor of the article—which is merely restated as Katz' viewpoint giving HSUS “plausible deniability” about the viewpoints advanced—results in the following conclusions:
* Killing dogs becomes unacceptable only when people inappropriately “humaniz[e] dogs.”
* “Millions of people are bitten by dogs every year, many tens of thousands of children.”
* If you do not believe in killing dogs, you have made them “quasi-religious objects of veneration.”
* “Millions of Americans seek medical attention every year for animal bites or attacks.”
* “[F]or every troubled or aggressive animal kept alive for months or years, healthy and adoptable animals go wanting for homes and often lose their lives.”
* “Insurance companies are paying out billions of dollars to people bitten by dogs.”
* As a result of dog bites, “lawyers [are] injected into the human-animal relationship” and this is exacerbated by people who want to see dog killing end.
* Adopting a Pit Bull appears to be more trouble than it is worth.
Every one of these conclusions is deeply flawed and deeply offensive.
Question: One other question, our new border collie is extremely sensitive to loud noises. If there is thunder is the far distance, she will cower and go hide under the bed. As you can imagine 7/4 was very difficult for her. is there a way to desensitize her to loud noises?Sweet Jebus. This just in.
Jon Katz: Desensitizing is possible,but difficult and time consuming. I don't know any border collies who are sensitive to noise -- partly why they are such great herders. I put mine in crates when I leave the house or when storms approach.
Question: Hi Jon -- do you know of someplace near Boston where I could see a herding trial? I've seen the kind held in a ring, but would love to see the type held in a large, open space (my dream vacation is to go to Scotland and watch Border collie trials, but it's not going to happen any time soon. --- Thank you!
Jon Katz: Hey Keely, Izzy and I were just herding geese along Storrow Drive. You can go to the akc dot org website for lists of AKC sponsored herding trials. I am sure there are many in N.H. and Massachusetts.
Sigh. To the left is a scene from an AKC "herding trial." There is a dog back there in the dust of this small arena, and the run was given a qualifying score. Three runs like this, and your dog receives an AKC "herding title."
The photo below shows the Open field at Zamora, CA. This is a USBCHA trial. The AKC has never, and will never put on a sheep dog trial as challenging as Zamora. Click here to find the next real trial near you. Your dog won't win a "herding title" by doing well on a course like this, but everyone will know what he's made of.
Of course I'm just a snobby old elitist to bring any of this up. Katz again:
[Border collie snobs] tend not to favor a variety of approaches to training their dogs but adopt uniform--and very rigid--methods. Those dogs you see winning ribbons on TV don't get there by relaxing and finding their own way. Every move they make--the way they sit, at what distance from the sheep, how they hold their heads--results from intense, almost relentless training. I used to watch in amazement as trainers waited until a dog's head was pointed in precisely the right direction, then click a clicker, over and over again.Where does he get this?
NO ONE trains a working border collie with a clicker. [I suppose a clicker could be used for training "obedience on stock" — but that is not the same thing as stock work.] Check out the YouTube video in the left sidebar to see a top handler at work with a good young dog, and read the terrific new book Top Trainers Talk about Starting a Sheepdog to learn more about the real nature of "summoning the dog's genetics," as Donald McCaig puts it.
Katz writes that border collie snobs are "annoyed" with him
because I have border collies in the first place (they think people like me shouldn't), because I don't take them to competitions (too many uptight people shouting at their dogs), and because I've homeschooled them, avoiding the pros and adapting their training to life on the farm. My methods are admittedly unconventional. Rose is a true heroine, but there will be no championship ribbons in her future. The snobs won't approve of my new technique with Izzy, either.Oh, please. This is such absolute, self-serving nonsense.
Katz bothers me because I hate to see livestock stressed, because I hate to see dogs put in dangerous situations, and because I believe writers have an obligation to do thorough research and tell the truth.
And what Bill said: "I care about what other people might do to their dogs if they emulate him."
DoG help us. This may be a very bad year for border collies.