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What are your opinions of herding breeds that are bred for show?

Of course there are breeds where many breeders seem to be trying to balance conformation and working ability (Australian Shepherds come to mind). There are also breeds that seem to completely reject the idea of conformation and breed solely for working ability (Border Collies are a prime example). And yet there are also herding breeds that might have worked regularly in the past, but nowadays are rarely tested for there working ability, instead breeders only focus on show dog/pet qualities (Like Shetland Sheepdogs, perhaps).

Do you think that breeding for conformation is detrimental towards herding instinct in any way? Are dogs of a particular breed who have been bred solely for working purposes necessarily better herders or have a higher chance of producing offspring with herding instinct than dogs with show champions in their pedigree?

If one was to try to herd with a dog that is a member of a breed that belongs to the herding group, however it was a breed that puts little emphasis on working ability and focuses on conformation, would they have a hard time finding a pup with sufficient herding ability, or do many breeds still retain instinct even though it hasn't been extensively selected for? Would it be a "lucky chance" to get a pup with herding instinct in this situation, or would it be fairly likely to get a pup with decent instinct?

Depending on the breed, what is your opinion of the ethics involved with selecting breeding stock for herding instinct vs. proper conformation? For instance, some Border Collie people find it to be extremely unethical to breed BCs for conformation. But what about breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs or Collies for instance? Would a breeder's peers and fellow breeders generally find it to be unethical if say a Shetland Sheepdog breeder was to lean away from conformation and try to breed dogs with lots of working ability? Is it even ethical to breed ANY herding breed for any other reason besides working ability?

I think this could be an interesting discussion, I'd be glad to hear your input.
 

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I am very pro working bred for the real working breeds that are left. Border collies, aussies, kelpies, etc. I want to see the working lines preserved as that is how the breed has always been bred. I think in those breeds preserving the working ability should be the most important thing when breeding those breeds. Keep those breeds special, imo.

Shelties in their modern form were never a working breed, they were always a show breed. The 'shelties' that worked on the shetland islands were a totally different type of dog that was more akin to a herding spitz that had some working type collies brought over and crossed in. The modern sheltie came about when the breed was crossed to toy type breeds and show type collies in the effort to create a miniature show collie dog.

Most herding breeds are pet/show/sports dogs nowadays. That's not a bad thing but call it what it is... Trey was not from 'working lines' even though his mom had a herding title on her. He was show/sport bred. All shelties are.

I personally would rather a sheltie from performance lines rather than one from major conformation lines. I am not a fan of the way the sheltie is going in the conformation ring these days. Even in the past 18 years since we got our first, they've changed quite a bit in appearance. Love the breed but doubt I'll have another for that reason.

As for specific questions:

Do you think that breeding for conformation is detrimental towards herding instinct in any way? Are dogs of a particular breed who have been bred solely for working purposes necessarily better herders or have a higher chance of producing offspring with herding instinct than dogs with show champions in their pedigree?
In my experience with BCs there are no real show line dogs that are participating at the highest levels of herding trials. Now trials are not the same thing as a working farm dog.

If one was to try to herd with a dog that is a member of a breed that belongs to the herding group, however it was a breed that puts little emphasis on working ability and focuses on conformation, would they have a hard time finding a pup with sufficient herding ability, or do many breeds still retain instinct even though it hasn't been extensively selected for? Would it be a "lucky chance" to get a pup with herding instinct in this situation, or would it be fairly likely to get a pup with decent instinct?
What do you mean by 'doing herding'? Most people that need serious herding dogs for a living would go with a proven breed. They wouldn't go get a sheltie or a corgi, they stick to cattle dogs and border collies. Sure people play in herding with these breeds in some of the trials. But pushing a few sheep around a pen is a whole other ballgame than real working or even the harder trials.

The only herding trials I have been to are USBCHA and those are all working border collie and kelpies. They're made for strong eyed breeds so you don't see much variety.
 

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I don't have much to add to the discussion but I will be sticking around to see what everybody has to say.

As a future puppy buyer, I have put thought into what I want from a breeder. My focus is on Border Collies and Australian Cattle Dogs.

Do you think that breeding for conformation is detrimental towards herding instinct in any way?
Yes...if that's the only thing the breeder is working toward. I don't think it's impossible for a dog to work stock one day and kick butt in the show ring the next if the breeder started with solid foundation dogs and breeds with that in mind.

Are dogs of a particular breed who have been bred solely for working purposes necessarily better herders or have a higher chance of producing offspring with herding instinct than dogs with show champions in their pedigree?
I can't answer that because I don't have any experience in the matter. I only know what I've read and that includes a ton of bias(border collie politics...). There's a lot of BC snobs saying that AKC herding trials are a joke and none of those "barbie collies" could actually handle a hard day's work. But Patricia McConnell had a BC from a solid working line that turned out to be a dud. Wash outs happen in working lines too.

I have noticed that many ACD breeders still own working ranches. It often seems that breeding for conformation and herding is like trying to have your cake and eat it too, a false dichotomy... I'm not sure that's the case. Anywho... I'm more inclined to buy an ACD pup because it's easier to find a breeder that I can support, one breeding healthy, tempermentally sound, gorgeous dogs.

Plus, who's going to sell a working line BC to a city girl? I've met too many AKC Border Collies that are better couch warmers than herders to be inspired to try harder on that front. I'd rather find a BC in a shelter or rescue than take the gamble with a pup.

That's just my two bits.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for your input :)

What do you mean by 'doing herding'? Most people that need serious herding dogs for a living would go with a proven breed. They wouldn't go get a sheltie or a corgi, they stick to cattle dogs and border collies. Sure people play in herding with these breeds in some of the trials. But pushing a few sheep around a pen is a whole other ballgame than real working or even the harder trials.

The only herding trials I have been to are USBCHA and those are all working border collie and kelpies. They're made for strong eyed breeds so you don't see much variety.
I guess one thing I'm curious about is what are the differences between various real life working situations and trials? Also I'm curious about why strong eyed breeds tend to be so heavily favored in the situations where they are favored (and are there any applications that favor loose eyed breeds?).
 

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What are your opinions of herding breeds that are bred for show?
Do you think that breeding for conformation is detrimental towards herding instinct in any way? Are dogs of a particular breed who have been bred solely for working purposes necessarily better herders or have a higher chance of producing offspring with herding instinct than dogs with show champions in their pedigree?

If one was to try to herd with a dog that is a member of a breed that belongs to the herding group, however it was a breed that puts little emphasis on working ability and focuses on conformation, would they have a hard time finding a pup with sufficient herding ability, or do many breeds still retain instinct even though it hasn't been extensively selected for? Would it be a "lucky chance" to get a pup with herding instinct in this situation, or would it be fairly likely to get a pup with decent instinct?

Depending on the breed, what is your opinion of the ethics involved with selecting breeding stock for herding instinct vs. proper conformation? For instance, some Border Collie people find it to be extremely unethical to breed BCs for conformation. But what about breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs or Collies for instance? Would a breeder's peers and fellow breeders generally find it to be unethical if say a Shetland Sheepdog breeder was to lean away from conformation and try to breed dogs with lots of working ability? Is it even ethical to breed ANY herding breed for any other reason besides working ability?

I think this could be an interesting discussion, I'd be glad to hear your input.
If dogs are selected for work, they are more likely to work than dogs not selected for it. Herding ability is pretty complicated. I'm not sure what you mean by proper conformation. Do you mean what functions best, or what wins in dog shows? According to the theory of the Coppingers, physical appearance is very tied to instinctual preferences. So, the thick boned, thick muzzled, low eared Aussies with a ton of white trim often favored in the show ring are by physical type more neotenous than the wirey, shorter muzzled, higher eared plain little dogs one often sees in the stock arena or on the ranch. They are also less likely to have the full range of behavior that makes a great herding dog, and more likely to have "holes" in their instinct. That doesn't mean that talent can't occur in show lines, or that all working line dogs have talent. As for breeding for things other than herding ability? I don't think breeding for other things is necessarily unethical, if there are people who want those qualities. I just won't be buying one.
 

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Thanks for your input :)



I guess one thing I'm curious about is what are the differences between various real life working situations and trials? Also I'm curious about why strong eyed breeds tend to be so heavily favored in the situations where they are favored (and are there any applications that favor loose eyed breeds?).
Border collies are specialists. They read stock very well (so do some Aussies) But I think other breeds (Aussies for one) are better at close work, and unless a BC is bred from cattle working lines, well, I've seen a few find out the hard way that staring a cow down doesn't work. And when a BC is bred from cattle working lines, they tend to lose some of the finesse you see in the sheep specialists.
 

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To be fair the USBCHA trials are made for border collies and to test them specifically. BCs as a breed really developed with the advent of the sheepdog trial. They're very specialized as opposed to English shepherds, farm collies, Aussies, etc which were more general working dogs that were often also guardians or hunters as well.

You'd be surprised if you put in some effort with the BC folk, Kafka. I've had a couple trial bred BCs (stock work duds) offered to me that I had to turn them down, sadly :( One day I will have a lifestyle that will support owning a working bred border collie. There is absolutely nothing in the world quite like them. I'd HIGHLY encourage people attend a USBCHA trial. It brought me to tears the first time I watched a border collie work sheep. It's just absolutely beautiful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBZSpDvcIMM

I guess one thing I'm curious about is what are the differences between various real life working situations and trials? Also I'm curious about why strong eyed breeds tend to be so heavily favored in the situations where they are favored (and are there any applications that favor loose eyed breeds?).

From what I understand from the people I've talked (which by no means makes me an expert just as a caveat) trials often ask for more from a dog than a real working situation would. There's overlap for sure but there's a lot of people that breed for dogs that are useful to them and might not do all that well in a working trial but they work for their farm. My great uncle breeds BCs for his farm and his dogs are not registered and not trialed at all but they do the job he needs which is push his cows around. Would any of these dogs do well at USBCHA trials? No way to really know imo.

You'll probably need to ask someone else for specifics. I don't have that kind of experience.

I know PawzK9 has done some stock work with Alice so hopefully she'll chime in.

ETA: Too slow. :p
 

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I know PawzK9 has done some stock work with Alice so hopefully she'll chime in.
Yah. But I'm just a city girl with a weekend warrior. I don't doubt that she would make a nice working little cow dog, but is too pushy to be a good sheep dog without a lot of work. But most of the dogs in her pedigree were bred for cattle work. Were the USBCHA trials you attended at Ft. Reno? They've had a couple of Nationals there, and it is very impressive to watch.
 

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We don't herd, but have herders as working dogs. They have been specially bred for drives, ability, function, and form. Most could register, many breeders don't keep up with registries because it doesn't benefit them. If the dog is three inches too tall, well it doesn't matter if his hunt, prey, and fight is awesome.

Every dog here wants to herd, its bred in them. Whether they would be good I'm not sure. I know they excel in the work we ask of them.

The show lines I have seen are weak nerved. But they sure are pretty. If I was looking at a working prospect, I want to see parents working, older litters working, and see what the pup has to offer now. I wouldn't even ask to see papers. Jmo.
 

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I cannot speak for Aussies. But I know some show line BC's that are great herding dogs.
I also know some Trial line BCs that are so AMPED up you can hardly do anything with them.

The number of ACD's that will pass and HIT or PT on their first go round is very high.

If you want an example of a breed in which the majority of breeders have kept true and avoided a split.... ACDs are it. Out of all the herding breeds they remain versatile.


But as Paws said herding is a complicated thing. Different breeds herd differently.
How good or bad your herding dog is depends alot on what type of stock you are working and the temperament of that stock.

ACD's get a bad rap in some herding circles. They are rough, aggressive, hard on stock, etc I have heard it all. Well they are SUPPOSED to be. If you are a sheep farmer, an ACD is a terrible choice. If you want to run sheep trials, it is not the best choice, if you have a small dairy, also a bad choice.

But..... You have beef cattle on large acreage that you have to move long distances, ACDs are your man.

I grew up in the cattle business in Florida.... My family had land and cattle, I ran a cow calf operation, and I have done business with ranchers (selling equipment) I don't remember ever seeing a BC on a Florida Ranch. A few Aussies but not many. The predominant breeds are Catahoulas, ACDs, and our home grown varieties. Florida Curs and Arcadia Curs. Our cattle graze in what is called broken pasture. Meaning a mix of woods and pasture. The get in the bayheads and palmetto thickets. Throughout the year they encounter bears, panthers in some places, alligators, and coyotes...... Dogs don't impress them too much. They have been stared at by coyotes, worried by feral dogs, etc. To root these woods cattle out of those bayheads and thickets. (you would be surprised how well a cow can hide) You have to have a dog that is willing to get physical. ACDs play that role pretty well.

And this is no offense to anyone's dogs.... But if I was cornered by a ticked off woods cow, I have never met a BC or an Aussie that I would bet my life on. (this happened to me in 1983, four broken ribs, broken collar bone, broken bones in my right hand, my right ring finger is a little crooked to this day, a severe concussion, bruised heart, cuts and bruises all over my body) My Catahoula and my collie (rough collie) broke speed records getting to me or I would be dead.

That being said, I don't trust Merlin with sheep. I have run him on sheep. But if he did not have a great out, I would have bought a couple
 

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From what I understand from the people I've talked (which by no means makes me an expert just as a caveat) trials often ask for more from a dog than a real working situation would. There's overlap for sure but there's a lot of people that breed for dogs that are useful to them and might not do all that well in a working trial but they work for their farm. My great uncle breeds BCs for his farm and his dogs are not registered and not trialed at all but they do the job he needs which is push his cows around. Would any of these dogs do well at USBCHA trials? No way to really know imo.

You'll probably need to ask someone else for specifics. I don't have that kind of experience.

I know PawzK9 has done some stock work with Alice so hopefully she'll chime in.

ETA: Too slow. :p
Yes there is a huge difference in trialing and working.
A lot of real life workers will make terrible trial dogs and vice versa. Some can swing it both....
 

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And this is no offense to anyone's dogs.... But if I was cornered by a ticked off woods cow, I have never met a BC or an Aussie that I would bet my life on. (this happened to me in 1983, four broken ribs, broken collar bone, broken bones in my right hand, my right ring finger is a little crooked to this day, a severe concussion, bruised heart, cuts and bruises all over my body) My Catahoula and my collie (rough collie) broke speed records getting to me or I would be dead.
And yet, I know people who owe their lives to an Aussie when they were downed by a bad bull.
 

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Yah. But I'm just a city girl with a weekend warrior. I don't doubt that she would make a nice working little cow dog, but is too pushy to be a good sheep dog without a lot of work. But most of the dogs in her pedigree were bred for cattle work. Were the USBCHA trials you attended at Ft. Reno? They've had a couple of Nationals there, and it is very impressive to watch.
No, they actually hold quite a few in central TX where I used to live. The closest was in the A&M horse center that was about 1/4th a mile behind my apartment which they held every year. It's very neat to watch. I'd love to go to nationals one day. I wanted to at least get to the arena trial at the state fair this year but couldn't make it.

Johnny I've talked to some ranchers and many seem to use crosses or curs. One used kelpie/BCs. My uncle used ACDs and ACD/BC on the ranches. Both said BCs were too soft for cows. I do also remember his wife's rottweiler take on a cow when we came to visit once and she charged protecting a dead calf. He worked up here in Oklahoma and then down around San Antionio where he is now. They tend to have more hunting dogs than herders though. Plotts and pointers mostly. The uncle with the BCs has his ranch up in northern Texas.

For now it's just been a passion of mine to read as much as possible and talk to as many people as possible. I miss having herding type dogs... now that I'm out of an apartment it won't be long, I hope. I'm definitely a city girl, though, unlike my ancestors and relatives. Both my parents grew up on farms and both sides of the family still have farms. My stepmom also grew up on a farm and her father is still farming at nearly 80. He has 3000 acres up in Kansas mostly wheat and some cattle. We are almost the only city folk in our family (sometimes i wish I wasn't).
 

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Do you think that breeding for conformation is detrimental towards herding instinct in any way?
In a word, yes. You can't work for two masters. Start breeding for looks, and you'll lose function. Start breeding for function, and you'll lose looks. That's why border collies still have so much physical variation between them in terms of size, coat type, color, ears, etc. You can try to ride the fence by doing a little of both, but you'll be making compromises on one side or the other.

But what about breeds like Shetland Sheepdogs or Collies for instance? Would a breeder's peers and fellow breeders generally find it to be unethical if say a Shetland Sheepdog breeder was to lean away from conformation and try to breed dogs with lots of working ability?
Interestingly, a friend of mine who I know thru agility recently bred her sheltie bitch. She was breeding, in part, for working ability. The pups were all evaluated on ducks, and three of them went to hobby herding homes.

Is it even ethical to breed ANY herding breed for any other reason besides working ability?
IMO, no. But I've got major ethical problems with decisions surrounding the breeding of almost any dog, so I'm probably not with the majority here.
 

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IMHO- there is no point in getting into a herding breed if you have no intention on preserving herding instinct. I know pembroke breeders who actively work to breed out the driving/heeling instinct in their corgis, and it annoys me.


In my breed, MOST (probably 95%) of cardigans have herding instinct of some kind, regardless of for what they were bred. However, it's such a variety of instinct...

My dog is a gatherer, like a border collie, and she works best counter clockwise. My mentor's dog (who incidentally was bred specifically so she would have a show special) gives eye and also gathers and heads. Most cardigans are thought to drive stock, not gather.

Most of the sheltie people I know are in agility, and some people say that for a dog to be truly sucessful in agility, they have to have some herding instinct. As Border Collies rule agility courses, I'd say they might have a point. Can't say for sure, though. I don't have a BC.

Aussies normally can also herd well, even if bred for the show ring.
 

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It would be interesting to find out if any working farms ranches etc had any actual show stock puppies doing real life every day stock work. Of course then it would be interesting to find out if pups from actual real life working stock fared well in the show ring. I think not in both cases.
 

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One thing to think about--there are not a lot of homes who need or want a dog with a strong herding drive. Most people don't want that kind of dog. If breeders weren't breeding lower-drive dogs and "watering down" the breeds, there would be a lot fewer of them being bred at all. Which might have a bad effect on genetic diversity. Would it be any more ethical to be producing an excess of dogs who are too drivey to go to a pet home?
 

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Most of the sheltie people I know are in agility, and some people say that for a dog to be truly sucessful in agility, they have to have some herding instinct. As Border Collies rule agility courses, I'd say they might have a point. Can't say for sure, though. I don't have a BC.
How in the world is that true? If that were true then you'd never see breeds being successful in agility that were not herding dogs. Papillons are very successful agility dogs and have been on the US world team more than about any breed other than border collies and shelties. I have heard several people say that breeding for agility is preserving working ability- I call bogus on that one. There is no need to have stock sense on an agility course. Being fast and athletic and handler oriented, yeah, but you can breed for that outside of breeding for stock work.

All my shelties have shown some desire to control motion. They've all been motion sensitive and all have heeled. That's a world away from making them useful farm dogs. In fact I'd bet that the dog most apt to nip and heel and try to control moving objects would have made a lousy working dog. He was way too sensitive.
 

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One thing to think about--there are not a lot of homes who need or want a dog with a strong herding drive. Most people don't want that kind of dog. If breeders weren't breeding lower-drive dogs and "watering down" the breeds, there would be a lot fewer of them being bred at all. Which might have a bad effect on genetic diversity. Would it be any more ethical to be producing an excess of dogs who are too drivey to go to a pet home?
If you don't want to deal with herding behavior, don't get a herding breed. I doubt it would affect genetic diversity in the working lines anyways. I know in border collies they have done research into the genetics and shown that between the show ANKC style dogs and the American working border collies that there is as large a gap between the two as found in between two different breeds. They're already kept fairly separate plus working people generally care less about breed purity. Cross breeding is not a problem to them. You can ROM in a dog to the ABCA if the dog proves itself. An example would be Turnbull Blue who was a bearded collie and was registered as a border collie. It is rare but it happens. That's not even talking about the non registered working dogs out there, which I would bet are cross bred a lot more frequently. I could see segregating the two hurting the show line's genetic diversity but any time you completely close off a stud book that will happen any ways. It's a predicament of pretty much any show breed these days. Shelties in particular have an incredibly high inbreeding coefficient.

I think you'd be surprised at how many people still need stock dogs.
 
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