Greetings, I’m Christopher Landauer, the author behind Border-Wars and in this inaugural edition of the War Horn, a new podcast to accompany the articles published on border-wars.com, I’d like to answer the question: “Why Border Collies?” to give you insight in to how I got in to the breed and why I’m so passionate about them.
In up coming editions of the War Horn I will flesh out my personal dog breeding philosophy, discuss the most pressing issues in dog ownership, and introduce you to scientific tools that will help further your own interest, understanding, and investigation into dogs and dog culture.
So, why Border Collies?
Border Collies are in my blood, they are part of my birthright. A history of exceptional dogs with names like Bongo, Oreo, Sassy, Black Jack, and Bonnie Belle; a pedigree which stretches back over five decades to the early 60s when my father earned the nick-name “Pavlov” from his siblings for putting over 70 tricks on the family border collie whom his sister couldn’t even house break. The Landauers, who had always been dog people, were henceforth Border Collie people.
A deep love of dogs is a legacy from my mother’s family as well. My grandma Margie got me my first dog, Rags. She rescued the abandoned and near feral dog of indeterminate breed with a coat that appeared a mix of black and brown off of the streets of Chicago, washed and trimmed off years worth of road grime revealing a pearly white dog underneath all that neglect, and drove 900 miles to deliver him to me in Denver. I was still in diapers and just learning to walk, but to me Rags was as big as a horse. He couldn’t have weighed 20 pounds but I was convinced I could ride him like a Knight bestrides a Percheron.
In the decades since then, I have lived a life measured in dog years and taken to heart the lessons, joy, and sorrow of befriending animals that live their lives so much faster than we do. Over the decades we have bought, rescued, rehomed, bred and buried Border Collies; both with papers and without, from before the AKC recognized them, before the ABCA even existed, and before the movie Babe brought them international attention. As a toddler I was lulled to sleep by my father’s stories of his border collie adventures that transpired long before the two most notable modern Border Collie authors left the big city, bought farms, found Border Collies and filled bookshelves with stories of their dogs.
My roots in this breed run deep and I value them not for romantic notions that they are living fossils of a pastoral lifestyle that can be pantomimed through historical re-enactment on hobby farms. Nor do I value them as surrogate ego champions to compete for me in beauty pageants or contests of athletic skill. I value them for the depths of their souls and the profoundly rewarding relationship a man can forge with his Border Collie. Not as a tool to support the bottom line, not as labor saving device, not as an object of conspicuous consumption or vehicle for social climbing, and certainly not as a means to accrue virtues that I am unable or unwilling to cultivate within myself.
I don’t place any derivative value above the dogs themselves. They are not a means to an end, they are the end.
And this is why my voice is rather unconventional in the Border Collie world. My interest in and understanding of the breed far predates the work versus show debate that so deeply characterizes the current political landscape. You’ll notice that many enthusiasts in both of those groups place their hobby above the dogs. The work, show, or trial success is the end and the dogs are a means to that end. This is why you’ll see many trialists and pageant breeders trading dogs like sports teams trade players, breeding and starting many more dogs than will ever end up at a trial or in a ring. And regularly changing their roster of dogs.
“Sorry, Spot, it’s just business. I’m gunna have to let you go. No hard feelings, alright? But, uh, clean out your kennel by 11, the new guy will be here after lunch.”
This attitude places work and show breeders in the odd position of trying to sell their excess dogs and puppies to a public based upon the sales pitch of “well, these aren’t really what I want, but they’ll be great for you!”
I don’t have this conflict of interest. I value my dogs for the same reasons I want my puppy buyers to value them: because they’re charming, curious, clever, chipper, and will live long enriching lives, hopefully with just one family. Our interests are aligned and there’s nothing that I would sacrifice in pursuit of some other goal that would leave a puppy buyer with a problematic dog.
This isn’t the case with many work and show breeders. I see them sacrifice health, longevity and temperament because those things are not rewarded in the ring or on the field, there’s no value in a retired or unsuccessful working or show dog and without sentimental attachments, these dogs get sold on or put down. When you have a stable full of prospects you can afford to roll the dice on their hips and if one comes up dysplastic, it’s unfortunate but $8 thousand dollars is better spent training up a dozen more dogs versus patching up the one who is crippled at 2 years old.
“That’ll do, Moss. Sorry about your hips, but there’s no pain where you’re going.”
People like me don’t buy a stable full of prospect best-friends and then rehome the ones that don’t work out after a few months. Instead, I spent years tracking down just the right breeders and just the right dogs, meeting the dogs these breeders had produced before, being highly selective in the sort of puppy I wanted. Because it wasn’t just a puppy I wanted, it was a rock solid, sweet as pie dog that would stack the genetic deck in favor of producing future generations of family dogs, Landauer Dogs, that were a joy to live with and low maintenance.
I have zero interest in being best buds with a dog who is a jerk or a liability and I don’t want just five to seven years of companionship, I want twice that.
I only breed and stud my dogs out occasionally, I home-raise the puppies, and I don’t sacrifice health or personality to win ribbons, impress judges, or follow the herd. My dogs are family and my breeding stock was carefully chosen for uncompromising quality. My primary goal is to produce Border Collies with rock solid temperaments, dogs that will be welcomed with you wherever you go and which will leave an indelible impression. Dogs that will sleep in your bed and ride shotgun in your Jeep and which will have more friends than you on Facebook. My foundation dogs, Dublin and Celeste, know no strangers and are amazingly people oriented. Their offspring have proven to carry these traits as well and now Mercury has taken the reigns as my go to stud dog and his offspring are spectacular examples of the breed.
Over half the puppies bred and studded from my dogs are owned by professional dog handlers who earn a living with their canine companions. They are at work today in dog training centers, on cattle and horse ranches, excelling in all manner of dog sports; doing therapy work in hospitals and hospice and providing trained assistance for the disabled; one is a retail store ambassador; another is a mascot for a dog walking service, and several hobby herd sheep and goats. They have modeled in print and on film for The Bark Magazine, Kong, and others. The most humbling trait, however, is that all of my puppy buyers are return border collie customers. They’ve owned the breed before, know how amazing and challenging the breed is and chose my dogs to parent their next Border Collie. No matter how amazing these dogs are at their sport, work, therapy or modeling jobs, I know that their truly highest and best purpose is to be a well adjusted, interesting, and robust friend and pet. They don’t give awards for that job, and few breeders think it’s even something to brag about let alone breed for, but it’s by far the most important quality to me.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how I got into Border Collies and why I’m so passionate about the breed.
In up coming editions of the War Horn you will find more deep thoughts on dog breeding philosophy, strategies to tackle some of the big issues in dogdom, and explanations of scientific and biological tools that you can use to evaluate your own dogs, potential breeding stock, and the greater health of your favorite breeds.
In the next edition I’ll answer the question “Why Border-Wars?” and explain the reasoning behind the name and content of the articles I publish.
Thank you for listening to the inaugural edition of the WarHorn. Be sure to subscribe to the feed at border-wars.com for timely updates on new articles, like BorderWarsBlog on Facebook for more frequent musings and links of note, and if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard please share this podcast with your dog-savvy friends.
On behalf of Dublin, Celeste, Mercury and Gemma, this is Christopher Landauer… signing off.
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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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