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The Collies Dilemma

The Collie is a loyal Breed

His greatest mission is to serve.

He seeks to understand our need,

to give us what we must deserve.

So when we ask the worst of him,

to go against his natural need.

He tries to satisfy our whim.

Our vanity he seeks to feed.


In all mankind's most selfish dreams,

when seeking slaves to honour us.

For some the Collie is the means,

but are the reasons good enough?

Why should we wish this noble breed

to change it's ways and give to man,

a means to satisfy our needs,

in all the ways we think he can?


Why is it not enough to gaze

upon the Collie in the field,

to let his trade and skills amaze

and to temptation never yield?

We make demands, we ask of him

to sacrifice his purpose true,

to let us get the best of him.

He'll always try, but think - would you?


We are very aware that in the UK - the home and origin of this breed - commercial exploitation has led to a great deal of
confusion and misleading information about the Border Collie, as people who profit from such a situation seek to ensure that
their income and influence remains constant.    The needs of the dogs are not the priority of such people.    Their motives are self serving.
As one manager of a rescue centre in the North of England once said about a well known local 'dodgy' dog breeder and trainer -

"Everyone has the right to make a living"

No doubt, what was meant by this statement was, if the law is not being broken people can do what they want.

In the UK we have powerful organisations who look out for the welfare of animals and guard against abuse and exploitation - but we have weak laws, full of loopholes that makes their job very difficult and allows so many to get away with - literally - murder.

Here is a summary of the problems we have identified.

Problem - Many farm bred border collies and pups from working lines, that should be working, are ending up in pet homes. They are frequently unhappy and present a variety of problems to their owners. They are suffering and, frequently,  their owners are blind to the stress the dog is going through.

We would ask people to be more selective when they go looking for a dog - there are 'horses for courses', as the saying goes.  The background and breeding of a Border Collie has a lot to do with its suitability for particular applications or disciplines.  Because of the huge variation in the breed, some will make happier pets and others will make happier working dogs.    Do more research and seek a dog from a background / bloodline that will be suitable for your needs and circumstances.   If you want a dog as a pet, never buy a puppy from a farm.    Farmers - if you have got a litter of pups - be fair to them and pass them on or sell them to someone who can train or re-home them to be sheepdogs - there is a bit of a shortage of good working dogs out there according to the hundreds of stockmen who phone us each year in their search for one.

Problem - Commercial breeding of BC’s is also placing a lot of dogs into pet homes that are not temperamentally suited to domestic life and are often genetically substandard. They are often unsuited to working life as well.

We would like to encourage people to stop buying puppies from pet shops, commercial breeders and dealers, who see animals as 'commodities' -  'stock in trade'.  If you are buying a puppy, you would be best advised to buy direct from the breeder.  If you are buying a pedigree puppy, you should not part with your money until you have all the appropriate paperwork / certificates in your possession.  It's an old scam to boost value and too many people have paid premium price for a dog they believed was a pedigree, to be told the paperwork would be sent on later - it wasn't.

Watch out for puppies being sold through newspapers adverts.  The free papers and small ad' sections are often outlets for puppy farms and their agents.    Watch out for the 'old chestnut' - Will make a good Working dog or Pet.  There is no logic to that at all and, if you think about it, how could anyone know how much herding instinct a young puppy will develop as it matures?   Unless they believe that because the parents are good working dogs, the pups, through inherited traits, will also be good workers.  In which case, they will be very frustrated as domestic pets!  Don't buy pups from these sources.  Don't buy any pup unless you are dealing directly with the breeder and are able to see both the parents of the pups and get all the paperwork BEFORE you pass over the money..

Problem - Bad breeding practices and lack of forethought has led to an increase in hereditary problems that are affecting our bloodlines and the capabilities of the dogs being bred.

This issue is squarely in the hands of the breeders and the organisations (if any) they belong to, but people can encourage the good ones and discourage the bad ones by choosing who they buy from and support.  There are many reputable breeding clubs / organisations who breed for particular applications or disciplines - and we would urge you to approach breeders who are registered with one of these groups.  The I.S.D.S for a working sheepdog.  The Kennel Club if you are seeking a pet.  These groups are working for the betterment of the breed - not just to sell you a 'product'.   If you have a problem with a member of a breeders club you can go to the club for satisfaction.  A good club will bar a persistent offender.

If you buy any puppy from someone who has had a litter from their 'pet' - deliberate or accidental - you are risking taking on a big problem.   Dogs used for breeding should be screened against hereditary diseases to ensure the offspring are free of such problems. Breeders who are registered with clubs or societies have to apply certain standards and their dogs have to be screened against hereditary problems.    It is not enough to simply put two dogs together because they both have nice temperaments.   What about the temperament of the previous generations - the parents and grandparents of the breeding pair?    There is a saying in breeding circles  "you will get what you had, not what you've got" and this refers to the qualities of previous generations coming out in the next.  

Problem – Many farmers cannot train a dog to work stock – if they have the skill and inclination, they do not often have the time. Many people rest on the good breeding of their dogs and the natural instinct that the dog had is allowed to shape its training. This is still true for many clean and well-bred lines, but for the average farm bred dog these days, it seems more understanding in training is needed. It’s a specialised skill.

More could be done to help those involved in agriculture to gain the skills they need to carry out their work.    People can send their dogs away to be trained, but if they do not have a basis of understanding they cannot keep the dog up to the standard that a professional trainer may achieve and in the majority of cases, the dog will loose most of its abilities within a few weeks of being returned.    Good sheepdog trainers will train people as well as dogs - after all it is a partnership - teamwork - man and dog.   If one partner doesn't know what he is doing the teamwork will fall apart.

We would encourage agricultural colleges to run more courses on sheepdog training, make them affordable and time them so that busy farmers are able to attend.    It's no good running a course through the Haymaking season.   Courses should include some understanding of the breed, it's background, it's needs and welfare.   There are many good and decent sheepdog trainers out there who would love to pass on their skills to new generations and share the passion they feel for the breed.    The best interests of the Shepherds Dog are also the best interests of the Shepherd!

Problem – There is a lot of myth and misinformation about the breed. Much of this originates from people with commercial interests in selling dogs, but some is propagated by animal rescue organisations with hidden agenda’s.

It is wise to understand where people are coming from before you accept what they say to be true.  Many are simply after your money and they thrive on confusion and misinformation, so look more closely at what you are told and examine motives behind the sources of information.    If you are looking for a good book on the breed, buy one that has been written by someone who has direct experience of a wide range of BC's, rather than one written by a journalist who is compiling 'second hand' information.   There truly is some rubbish in print these days.

There are some rather 'eccentric' people out there with odd ideas, promoting their ability to de-sheep working dogs and make them happy pets.   They can solve your dogs behavioural problems.   Root out the 'demon'  herding instinct and neutralise it.    If true this would solve so many problems, but it seems all these problems still persist.     To us, it seems that we should not expect a dog to live a stress free life if we oblige it to live in circumstances that go against its nature.   In most cases, something snaps.   A more Holistic approach is called for.  There is no 'magic' solution - sorry.

A well known example of misinformation - some rescue organisation seek to perpetuate the myth that farmers are dumping huge numbers of unwanted dogs on them - some even say that farmers are killing unwanted pups in cruel and callous ways.   Why should they spread such rumours - sympathy, support and funds is the answer.   We animal lovers in the UK will always respond to a tale of woe.   But the BC is in popular demand and lots of farmers will sell unwanted dogs to unsuspecting members of the public.  In the sheepdog world there is a shortage and demand for good working dogs.  You don't throw out something you can sell - do you?

Problem – Animal rescue organisations use different methods to re-home BC’s coming into their care and there is no real co-operation in dealing with the roots of this problem or applying common re-homing practices.

Rescue groups could co-operate more closely with each other and evolve some common re-homing policies that will identify the participants as responsible organisations who can be relied on to make sure that as much as is possible is done to ensure that the right dog is going into the right home where the owner and dog will be happy together.    After all, we are not in competition with each other, are we?

We need to examine our criteria for re-homing this breed and accept that it is not that easy to get it right. There are blatantly obvious situations and environments that the BC should never be placed in. If we all preached the same message and applied the same rules, it would be more effective and people would be less confused and likely to make mistakes - see misinformation above.

If a rescue group does not assess its BC's around livestock - how will they ever know what lies beneath the surface of the dogs they are handling.   If they do not carry out home checks and assess the applicants, how could they possibly know that a potential owner is suitable to take on a particular dog.    If they refuse to re-home BC's into working environments, what are they going to do with all the dogs that would be happy in such homes and are obviously unhappy being kept as pets?  Force a round peg into a square hole?   That is why so many have ended up in their rescue centres to start with.

Examples of bad re-homing practices are easy to identify.  The rescue groups that allow a dog to go straight from one home into the new one without coming in for assessment are simply shooting in the dark.   It's pot luck if the dog fits in.    What they are doing is no better than what the average dog dealer is doing - many breeders take more care of where their dogs end up than that.

Rescue groups that do not carry out home visits are also shooting in the dark.   How do they know the dog is going to a good home if they haven't been there and seen for themselves.   If you are allowed to take a Border Collie from a rescue group without a home visit you are taking a great risk. Rescue groups that work in this loose and haphazard fashion put the rest of us to shame.   As a member of the public who is seeking a BC you should expect to be checked and home visited.    You should expect a dog you are offered to be suitable to live in your circumstances and environment.

Some people involved in rescue have told us that the situation is too grave and urgent for proper procedure to be carried through in every case - they have to cut corners because there are too many dogs needing rescue.     Well a surprisingly high number of dogs that need rescue have already been 'rescued' by people who cut corners.    Some unfortunate BC's will have been re-homed several times before they find themselves in a situation they can cope with.   Some people call these dogs 'Boomerangs'  because they are always coming back.   Boomerangs can provide a good income for some - a 'donation' is made and the dog re-homed.   It comes back in and the 'donation' is not returned.   The dog goes back out and another donation comes in.  This is one reason why there are so many dogs out there needing re-homing.   Get it right in the first place and part of the problem will go away - leaving us all more time and resources to deal with the rest.   The loop can be broken.   So our message to these 'rescues' is - If you can't do the job properly - please don't do it at all.  They are not providing a solution, they are part of the problem.


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