February 9, 2008

The soft bigotry of low expectations suits the BCSA just fine

Action at an AKC "herding trial." There's a dog back there in that dust cloud, and this run earned a qualifying score: one leg towards an AKC "herding title." Identities protected, because honestly.

Back in 2006 the parent club of the AKC border collie announced a new title: Stockdog of Distinction. To qualify for this honor, an AKC-registered border collie had to earn herding championships from the AKC and either ASCA or the AHBA, as well as five points accumulated by placing in the top 20% at USBCHA Open trials. [That last requirement was quickly amended to read "an ISDS-style trial."]

From a BCSA Board Announcement dated January 14, 2008:
In the last few weeks, several questions have been raised about BCSA’s Stockdog Of Distinction (SOD) and SOD-Excellent awards; as well as on BCSA’s support of some USBCHA-sanctioned open field trials. A few members have contacted the BCSA board to express concern over or disagreement with these policies, and we are aware that there has been recent conversation on some email discussion lists about this topic.
Read the whole announcement here. Tragicomical gems:
3. What is the purpose of the SOD and SOD-X Award?
Because one of BCSA’s primary missions is to preserve the working heritage of our breed, the SOD award system is intended to highlight excellence in this area. It is meant to inspire BCSA members get out and compete in herding trials, which are a good metric to compare your breeding stock with that developed by other breeders. For many centuries, dog breeders have used shows and trials as a means for evaluating breeding stock and sharing knowledge.

4. Why does the SOD award require placement in Open classes at ISDS-style trials?
It was important that one component of the award be to require that a dog is proven in the open field, versus only competing in arena trials. The Border Collie is a highly developed working dog for this particular purpose, and the skill and instinct required to control livestock in a large area without the benefit of a fence line is very different from working in a small farm arena. Though AKC offers such style of work in the B course, AKC B courses are still relatively few and far between, and very small in scale as compared to ISDS-style trials. So, they are still not the best test of good Border Collie-style work. Thus, it was felt that to declare a dog truly a “Stockdog of Distinction”, it must prove its mettle in the traditional forum in which Border Collies have been tested for more than 100 years, the ISDS-style trial.
The fact that any of this has to be spelled out for members of a border collie club says more than I ever could about the AKC worldview. Ay Chihuahua.

More BCSA insights:
6. I’m concerned that BCSA is “promoting” USBCHA by encouraging members to compete in ISDS-style trials, when some prominent USBCHA members have expressed “anti-AKC” sentiments. Should BCSA be supporting an organization that does not offer reciprocal support back to us?
It is true that some USBCHA members are not supportive of our organization and do not feel that we share the same goals. But we beg to differ, we feel that the goals of both organizations are the same—to preserve and protect our breed, and to inspire Border Collie breeders to continue to develop excellence in the field, and sound, healthy, well-constructed dogs. And, not all USBCHA members and competitors are in disagreement with our club. So, it’s not fair to stigmatize an entire organization’s membership based upon a few outspoken individuals, and declare that we won’t cooperate with any of them.
No, no... go right ahead, stigmatize! All the USBCHA members I know think the AKC is worse than useless. And here, let me fix that for you: The goals of both organizations are the same??!!

Here are the objectives of the USBCHA:
to collect and preserve the history of the Border Collie dog, to promote the breed through obtaining, maintaining and disseminating information pertaining to their breeding and training as working dogs; to promote dog trials, exhibitions, publicity for the breed, and to work specifically for the improvement and preservation of Border Collies as working dogs.
The BCSA, on the other hand, promotes "a spirit of encouragement and learning for the membership in all Border Collie activities, including but not limited to: herding, obedience, agility, conformation, tracking, companion dogs, flyball, and therapy dogs," with "support and education offered to all in their equally worthy endeavors" -- which is lovely, but as different from the USBCHA's goals as chalk from cheese.

Either people breed their dogs for stockwork or they don't, and if they don't, you are going to have to keep the bar lower than dirt and keep your "herding trials" dumbed way down and make titles possible for dogs that aren't interested in stock unless you rub peanut butter on the ewes' tails, and yes, that's been done.

Doesn't perseverance count for anything? Isn't it terribly unfair to demand such a high level of, well, actual ability?

No. There won't always be fences.

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