October 9, 2010

Sweet Jeebus on a dinosaur [with Finals vids and Dewi Tweed goodness]

Because actual scientists are just big old snobs. jesus horses by wullagaru for threadless.

For decade after weary decade there have been chuckleheads claiming that working border collies aren't all that, and who needs a real stockdog nowadays, anyway, and oh — remember to buy a pup from my non-working kennel! It's such an unoriginal, predictable sort of background noise that by now most people with working stockdogs simply tune it out.

Retrieverman is the latest to troll these waters, with a post entitled, of all things, Intellectual honesty on the effects of trials and shows. [H/T: For the Pit Bulls.] The one bit of intellectual honesty you'll find in his post is this admission: "I know next to nothing about actual herding trials."

And I'll be darned if he doesn't proceed to write paragraph after paragraph demonstrating just how little he knows about working stockdogs and actual herding trials. Seriously, I can't wait for his "Don't know much about geology" post.

A few points. First: nice to know that the press coverage of the USBCHA Finals has made an impact. Working border collies are amazing dogs, and it can't be repeated often enough that the border collie's brains and biddability and athleticism are a direct result of rigorous selection for stockwork, as opposed to rigorous selection for a pronounced stop.

Point Two: if you think the following comment by BC Board moderator Eileen Stein is "the funniest bullshit [you've] ever seen," you might be as ignorant of working stockdogs as Retriever Man:
[Border collies] are like Alaskan Huskies in that they are bred to a working standard rather than an appearance standard, and they are a breed rather than a type in that they have been bred to that working standard long enough that they almost always meet that working standard better than any other kind of dog.
Alaskan Huskies don't have a registry and border collies do -- that's the only significant difference.
I think the part he missed is that working sheepdogs and racing huskies are bred for different purposes, but who the hell knows. And not that racing husky people concern themselves with bloodlines or anything like that.

Point Three: there is nothing esoteric about a USBCHA sheepdog trial. Any stockdog remotely deserving of the description should be able to gather stock, drive the stock to specific areas, and help sort and pen the stock. This isn't rocket science: I've seen Lhasa Apsos manage it in a small corral with tame sheep — which, I should emphasize, doesn't mean that Lhasa Apsos represent the gold standard of stock work, however proud of their efforts you may be. A really good stockdog will be able to accomplish those tasks in wide-open, unfamiliar terrain, in an efficient manner, with unfamiliar stock. That's what a USBCHA sheepdog trial tests, and if that's hard to understand, I'm Lady Gaga.

Finally, if you'd like to see some of the best stockdogs in North America demonstrating their prowess in September's 2010 National Sheepdog Finals [and I would dearly love to watch some of those runs again], head over to the Finals Web Cast page and sign up for their pay-per-view. As Heather Nadelman reports, "You can skip around in the video and watch it in chunks at your leisure — the clock only ticks against your purchased hours if you're logged into the player." At 400-some yards the Belle Grove trial field was smallish [to this westerner], but the sheep were plenty challenging and the best work was awesome. Yes, I'm looking at you, Riggs and Patrick Shanahan :~)))


This isn't from our Finals, but what a nice vid it is: Richard Millichap's most awesome Dewi Tweed gathers sheep in the Welsh mountains. Enjoy! [For those interested in the border collie's "genetic bottleneck," Kinloch has a link to Tweed's pedigree, with the inbreeding coefficient numbers listed for his ISDS parents and grandparents.]


CyborgSuzy said...

I think there might be a difference between pointing out hypocrisy between and within different types of dog breeders and saying the world doesn't need working stock dogs at all.

Heather Houlahan said...

I didn't notice "Retrieverman" or Katz or Christopher Whatever on the bleachers at Belle Grove last month. (They must have stayed in the handlers' tent, right?)

On Saturday I looked over the description of the double-lift finals, a feat I have never witnessed, and questions formed in my feverish noggin.

So I located my informant (who knows miles away from nothing about actual herding trials) and began the barrage.

And it turns out, yes, very much, the double-lift finals drastically favor dogs who do hours of daily chores involving large numbers of their owners' sheep.

More so than other trial tasks, but, I was cautioned, a matter of degree rather than kind.

Further, the owner's stockmanship is severely tested by the international shed.

Stockmanship that might both come in handy for and be developed via the management of commercial herds of stock. Something done by a person who needs a real stockdog.

The notion that working border collies are inbred has been easily disproven by an examination of their COI's, which are quite low. But don't let the data get in the way of repeating some vague chestnut that seems useful.

My captcha word is froping, which has made me smile.

Luisa said...

@CyborgSuzy: Call me the False Equivalency Police.

@Heather: Patrick Shanahan & Riggs — that shed... ye gods. I was watching the streaming video at home and totally froped.

Seriously, their shed was one for the ages.

Rinalia said...

Thanks for this, I like to read both sides.

I've only met one working BC so my n=1 isn't all that impressive. But he was poetry in motion, bred from stock who could work sheep well.

I did say it was a provocative post...those generally open up some form of dialogue or debate. :)

Luisa said...

It's tough to debate a dancing straw man, and props to Donald McCaig for giving it a shot.

As I wrote, these particular straw men have been around for as long as there have been breeders of show, pet, obedience, agility and "versatility" border collies. Their signal to noise ratio is not high.

For those who'd like to learn more about border collies and border collie health and genetics, please check the links that have been in my sidebar since, like, forever. One is Teun van den Dool's terrific ISDS database, recently cited by Retriever Man and his friend Christopher. OMG, I must inform the border collie community about this wonderful database at once.

EmilyS said...

well, I don't have a dog in this fight. ahem

Except that: if working sheepdog owners assert they don't have to do any genetic/health tests because their dogs can work all day... well, that's happens to be exactly what the dogmen (fighting dog breeders) and their acolytes claim.

Working dogs are known for working past pain. Today's APBTs and ASTs, descendents of these "we don't have to test them because they couldn't fight if they were dysplastic" ancestors are rife with dysplasia

The only way to know a dog doesn't have any genetic diseases/conditions is to do the tests that test for them. Which is not pit fighting. Or herding.

That's actually the point I thought retrieverman was trying to make.

Luisa said...

Emily: take a look at this. Read the whole thread, if you want. I'll wait ;~)

You wrote: "if working sheepdog owners assert they don't have to do any genetic/health tests because their dogs can work all day..."

The thing is, I don't assert that. I never have. And in nearly 30 years with working border collies, I've never known a dog worth breeding that didn't have his hips and eyes checked. We, as a group, as an organization, as a community of stockdog owners, have never asserted that health tests are meaningless or unnecessary. You can look it up — border collie health isn't classified information. [Feel free to check the border collie links in the sidebar.] But as long as anyone can make a dime off border collie pups from non-working lines, the trolls will keep repeating: "Those working sheepdog owners don't do health tests. They don't care about genetics. They're in denial." After a few decades, it gets old.

Trust me when I say that working border collie owners — even owners who don't ask for CERF info or OFA scores when they buy a new working dog — know more and care more about border collie health and genetics than the trolls can possibly imagine.

But also believe me when I say that nothing I write here will ever stop the trolling. When you're an advocate of breeding border collies that can't work, the "working sheepdog owners don't care about genetics" straw man is the best card you've got, and you'll play it over and over.

Heather Houlahan said...

You mean like the CERF eye tests that they had a vet there to do at the actual trial?

Those kind of genetic tests?

Or the genetic problems for which there are no medical phenotypic or genetic "tests," such as epilepsy, early cancers, or stupidity and uselessness?

One thing I'll say about a "standard" that encourages people to trial with this kind of intensity -- the dogs aren't bred young. Too busy learning and practicing their craft.

There's time for health flaws to show up before the animal has great-grandpuppies spread far and wide.

I'm not in favor of a system of trials for my own breed, for a variety of reasons, but one point in their favor for me is that it would cut down some on the "farmer-breeders" who decide based on godknowswhat that Miracle Studpuppy is a Shining Example of the Breed and start tossing him onto bitches at ten months of age -- then do the same with his sons, and their sons, and the daughters as well.

When this decision is based on Miracle Studpuppy having been declared a jenyoowine champeen show dawg at the same age, it invites other kool-aid connoisseurs to jump on the bandwagon and spread those dodgy genes even further.

I don't see that happening with dogs who compete in working trials -- including hunting, retriever, schutzhund.

Luisa said...

Heather: Yes yes yes.

It's so hard to explain this to people who have never made the effort to attend a USBCHA trial and who [needless to say] have never run a dog in Open, but you generally don't know what you've got until a sheepdog is four and running in USBCHA Open trials.

Which, as you point out, allows more time for health and other problems to show up, if they're there.

During the first round of statewide mandatory spay/neuter weirdness here in Cali, in fact, I spent a fair amount of time trying to explain this to Someone on the Inside. Time very well spent, I'm happy to say.

[Christopher: If you believe Teun van den Dool's figures are incorrect, please discuss it with him.]

EmilyS said...

meh, Luisa.
If border collie breeders all do health tests and they know because of doing actual tests that there are no health problems in border collies:
then that's your beef with retrieverman, not whether or not he's ever attended a herding trial.

Rinalia said...

I think the point being made in the article (after re-reading it a few times) is that "working" dogs can suffer from the same inbreeding depression and most used sire problems as "conformation" dogs.

I don't think it's a condemnation of trialing.

It's hard for me, because while I have basic knowledge of genetics, I have no insider experience with breeding or working dogs.

You've probably already read this post, but Christopher over at Border Wars responds with some COI numbers re Dewi tweed: http://www.astraean.com/borderwars/2010/10/the-bc-bottleneck.html.

Christopher said...

None of my analysis disagrees with Teun's at all. My numbers for COI6 match his. I ran a full COI.

Luisa said...

The point is that Christopher has non-working pups to sell, and Retriever Man is a convenient mouthpiece.

This sort of thing isn't new — it's been going on for as long as people have intentionally bred border collies that can't work. A number of these people feel the need to make sweeping and generally pig-ignorant declarations about working dogs and working dog owners, and as I said, after a few decades it gets old.

Christopher said...

I'm selling an idea, Luisa, not dogs. Is it so hard to actually address the facts and the points I bring up?

And I've been saying the same thing since before I even bought Dublin and Celeste, let alone bred them.

I've only ever asked 4 human beings to buy a dog from me. That's less than one per year that I've been existentially a breeder. That others have requested to use my males as studs is an honor, but it's not anything I've advertised or marketed.

Those 4 puppies sold so fast I didn't even get a chance to finish the website I put up to provide information.

So really, trying to paint me as a breeder pushing dogs for a profit is entirely misleading. If this were a business, I'd be deep in the red. The cost of selling 4 puppies didn't cover the expense of the health testing I did, let alone the cost of the sire, dam, flyball, agility, and yes, even herding classes.

I won't hold my breath for you to criticize people like Jack Knox or Alasdair MacRae, or any of the other numerous people who have a vested financial interest in supporting the concept of sheep dog trials, let alone selling dogs.

And why should we criticize them? And why should you criticize me? I think that's a distraction and a tangent to what I am saying.

And Heather, maybe I'll see you next year in CO for the finals. I'm sure that my mere presence will undo my observations about the BC gene pool. Because you know "my dogs have never seen sheep and I've never attended a trial" (both lies).

Anonymous said...

Dear All,

Ms. Luisa is too generous when she wrote: "It's tough to debate a dancing straw man, and props to Donald McCaig for giving it a shot."

I thought Retrieverman made uniformed errors of fact. I've never met nor conversed with the gentleman and have no opinion about him.

I neither read nor debate the 'dancing straw men". Life is short, dogs need training and all.

Donald McCaig

Luisa said...

@Christopher: Jack Knox and Alasdair MacRae breed excellent working dogs.

@Donald: Yes, and thanks.

And finally, for anyone interested in reading more about the finest working stockdog on the planet: this.

FrogDogz said...

When I read statements about how owners of working BCs don't bother testing their dogs, I'm reminded of reading Donald McCaig's wonderful book, "Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men", and his account of getting Gael's testing done before he committed to purchasing her.

Janeen said...

I just want to (somewhat belatedly) point out that I am a scientist *and* a big old snob.

And, of course, proud of it.

Rob said...

Seriously, I can't wait for his "Don't know much about geology" post.

Two words (only distantly related to this post, mainly by the disconnect from reality): Thomas Gold, specifically abiotic petroleum.

Rob said...

Also, FWIW, the vid of Dewi Tweed got our ES and ES-y running at the whistles.

Bill Fosher said...

Luisa wrote ...

"if that's hard to understand, I'm Lady Gaga."

Oddly, that is how I've always pictured you.

Luisa said...

It's the old "lowing flocks"/"flowing locks" thing — happens all the time.