I was on a thread this week in regards to what makes a perfect collie in relation to structure and movement. Much importance was placed on how the dog trotted in the show ring under the leash of a handler. While the general opinion was that only 10% of collies move correctly in the show ring, discussion was solely focused on the gait of many of today's collies at the shows. They even seemed to feel they could accurately access a dog's drive by a single photo. This intrigued me as none of the persons involved in the thread except a friend of mine, seem to care about the collies ability to perform outside of the ring. When my friend mentioned the importance of the dog which originated as a herding breed, have the ability to work with livestock or compete in sporting venues, no one seemed to think that was important. It was how the dog looked in the ring. This is evident in many of today's collies as very few are truly competitive in athletic or sporting programs.
I am disappointed but not surprised by that thread. When breeding a dog the focus should be on the whole dog not just a section of the dog. While gait is very important and structure critical, they do not alone define how well a dog represents the breed. Every breed was created for a purpose. If a dog does not have the ability to perform the task it's bred for, how can that dog truly be a great representative of the breed? Yet, time and time again dogs are placed as best in show solely on how they look and move with no regard to their ability to actually perform the role they were bred for. These dogs are than bred over and over again as champion lines. This has created generations of lines that have robbed many breeds of the solid temperaments, working ability and drive, which were so carefully bred into them when the breed was originally created. It has formed a glut of beautiful dogs who are otherwise lacking in basic skills required to do their jobs well.
Most breeders tend to list dogs as show quality or pet quality. When you mention working lines, breeders tend to argue that show lines are automatically working lines. This is simply not the case. Many show quality dogs do not possess the ability to work as their ancestors did a hundred years ago. Of course there are those who can, but those are more the exception than the standard in my observation. A collie who goes in the arena and herds three sheep for four minutes in a set pattern and into a gate may have herding ability but does not necessarily possess the ability to work all day as a shepherd's assistant moving large flocks of sheep over long distances over difficult terrain. It is alarming how many collies are actually too timid and lack the confidence to even work with sheep let alone go out in public with their owners and encounter new places and people confidently.
Working lines place a lot of emphasis on the dog's ability to perform the tasks they were bred to do. At SCPS we are focused on breeding collies who are capable of working in the capacity of a farm collie as demonstrated back in the 1800's. SCPS does not focus so much on coat color, whether the ears tip perfectly or the need to remove dew claws for a clean look (they serve an important purpose as a functioning joint). SCPS focuses on breeding confident dogs who are versatile and have the ability to perform in many venues as needed for the environment they live in. The collie was bred to be a fluid mover, light on the feet, with a graceful ground covering trot to cover large areas of uneven terrain. The collie was also bred with a solid working drive, even temperament with the instinct to guard those in their care as needed. Scottish Collies are independent problem solvers who have the ability to assess a situation and act accordingly once they determine a best course of action. They are excellent family dogs who are often very nurturing with children and small animals and extremely loyal to their family. Scottish Collies have a sense of order and will alert you when they sense something is not right. Due to their nurturing nature they often excel as therapy and service dogs.
At SCPS we have implemented the Versatility Program that allows a dog to earn titles based on their demonstrated ability to perform in a multitude of tasks that collies are capable of doing.
When breeding dogs, a breeder needs to breed for the whole dog, not just select traits. A working dog is more than a just a pretty face or graceful mover. A working dog is the whole package. It requires selective breeding to create a true working line that encompasses structure, temperament and the ability to work.
At SCPS our goal is to breed a true working collie reminiscent of the original Scottish Collie. Thank you for supporting us.
DENISE MAHER I reside in the Black Hills of South Dakota, with my husband and three children. I am a founding member and current President of the Scottish Collie Preservation Society. I live on acreage with horses, barn cats and three dogs. I have been a dog trainer for our local county 4-H chapter and have served as an agility judge for our local county dog shows. Titus is my first Scottish Collie, although I have owned other herding breeds and I am continually impressed with this breed. I have worked with Titus in a wide range of activities to include agility, hobby farming, herding, trick training, barn hunt and promotional visits to the local youth communities. I have challenged him to test the versatility of this breed and he has performed well in every aspect. I am looking forward to a second Scottish Collie next year. My knowledge of SCPS is extensive as a founding member. I hope you will find my blogs educational and worth reading.