The fine art of being objective. Aus. kelpie etc.

8 07 2011

Let’s face it, the dog world is huge! While adding new acquaintances ( believe me, had to google that spelling 😉 on facebook I get more and more pleased, and a bit surprised, of how many people are passionately engaged in dog training and competing in different sports. On the other hand it still worries me about how many that can’t be objective when it comes to their dogs or to its breed. You know how you say ”speak ill about me but never my dog” ? That kind of thing. Of course it is a positive thing aswell, it sure is better then continuesly down talk the dog when it really has a lot to do with training.

Take Australian kelpie ( one of my breeds ) for example. The breeders in Sweden are really involved and have a lot of experience and it’s sure to say they do a fantastic work. I think it is very important to keep your feet on the ground and be able to deal with criticism and questioning about the breed. And of course that goes for probably all breeds. Instead of trying to make people believe that Aus kelpie ( not WK ) for instance can compete with border collie when it comes to herding, tell people that you sure can use them in practical herding work but that it’s a different type of herder and that you probably have a lot more work ahead of you because you have to build and reinforce behaviours that sits more deep than within a border collie, where you have a lot of herding behaviours from the start without doing anything. And let’s face it, we are few that use our Australian kelpie for herding in this country. If you have sheep of your own, you most likely will buy a BC, even though the kelpie can be very good at it and are probably more stable mentally. I think we have to remember that people are lazy, we don’t really want to work our asses of to get a good herder, hence you buy a border collie.

Now the Australian kelpie has proven to be a very good allround worker with a lot of high placements in competing field work, agility and obedience. These are all sports where you have to put work into to get as good as you can. Of course there is more likely that certain qualities physically in the dog will benefit different sports. A dog that is composed in a special way might have an advantage in, say agility, like people are more built for certain sports. But there still has to do a LOT with training. This is also the big difference when it comes to thinking breeding in my world. Herding qualities is heritage, winning an obedience contest is not. Obedience is something we teach the dog, and the better teacher you are, the better the dog will be. Herding skills can of course be reinforced and there is a lot of training in this sport to, but that has more to do with how we want the dog to move the sheep etc. Basic skills like good natural handling sheep, motivation to move sheep, natural balancing. These are all things that is within the dog and that we can’t look away from but that is also basic natural ingredients for making that obedience star because it has to do with inner motivation. And here is where the breeders have a lot of responsibility. You can’t say to people that an Aus kelpie in general has as much natural herding instinct as BC for exemple, because that is simply not true. Sure, there is individuals with more than others but it’s not really representative. That fact is also proven by the other fact, that Sweden now sadly enough have separated the breed into two, Working kelpie that is bred on herding skills, and the Australian kelpie, which is not. And how could you still say that the Aus kelpie is a herding dog if you don’t pay attention to the herding skills?

Now I will probably never have a better dog than Mr F. He is THE dog with so many strong sides. He’s fantastic with the sheep even though we have a lot of training in front of us. He wants to work but he can relax when expected of him. He’s socially very skilled and has an inner peace. Of course I will take cred for this aswell because of our way of training him and handling him. A calm house with love gives calm loving dogs. As simple as that. BUT, I have a lot of work to do in the herding area, and I have to do it because we think it’s fun. We could probably get a merit but how high would he be able to go?

My point is, love the breed you’re breeding, but be realistic. Sure I’m not encouraging to be negative about the dogs, they ARE fantastic, as herders aswell. All I’m saying is, if you want to keep the herding skills and be able to compete in field, obedience or agility, you should take good care of the natural instincts and not just say they are great herders and then focus on the above merits only…

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