Barbie Collies Can Herd, Really

reprinted, slightly revised (anonymized) from orignal post 9/14/07

** Some Names and Images Changed to Protect the Innocent **

The end is nigh. The apocalypse is upon is. Pigs are flying and they are playing hockey in hell. A “barbie” collie won a USBCHA Open sheep herding trial with 99 out of 100 points. And her coat looked marvelous, absolutely marvelous.

Barbie collies are fluffy, conformation-bred, AKC-registered “border collies” that don’t work stock because they can’t.
Luisa, Lassie Get Help: Barbie collies, bandana collies and the Unexpected Pit Bull

As fellow dogblogger and Border Collie ‘expert’ Luisa points out, “Barbie Collie” is the name that petty sheep people (shall I call them sheeple?) have cleverly given to AKC (read:conformation) border collies to demean them en masse as being hollow headed, shallow, and callow…or at least victims of people who are. Famed Border Collie author and anti-AKC crusader Donald McCaig agrees:

I am happy to say that the AKC’s virtual Border Collie is widely and popularly known as the “Barbie Collie.”
– Donald McCaig, The Dog Wars p.154

Apparently, the sheeple forgot that Barbie comes in a Stanford model. And in case you’re not familiar with my alma mater, it’s the premier academic and athletic university in the nation and there’s an oft told anecdote that Playboy rated Stanford “Top 10” in their beautiful undergrad survey. Apparently you can be brainy, brawny, and beautiful.

I can forgive Donald McCaig and the trialing community for the slight, since I’ve never really believed that anyone can “love the sinner, hate the sin.” In this case, sheeple hate the sinner (AKC), hate the sin (breeding for looks) and so why shouldn’t they belittle the spawn of such evilness? I know he has a Scottish name, and I know he has Scottish dogs, but you really can’t expect all Scots to be Rob Roy and embrace the bastard child of your aristocratic arch nemesis after he raped your wife and raise the little cuss as your own. Plus, I don’t think very many sheeple made it to the movies to see Rob Roy in 1995 to be inspired by Liam Neeson’s magnanimity, they were too busy protesting Babe.

Donald McCaig forgot to mention in his recent Dog Wars that he and his two dogs were soundly beaten by the barbie collie at the *National Finals* last year. That’s right, a barbie collie qualified for the National Finals and beat 95 of the 144 dogs there. Don’t expect to read about it in McCaig’s next book, “If (Good) Looks Can Kill” either.

The National Double Lift Finals are run tournament style with the Open Draw of 140+ dogs cut down to the Semi Finals with 40 dogs, and the Finals with 17 dogs. These are the best dogs and handlers in the nation and they have to qualify to be invited by scoring a minimum number of points during eligible trials throughout the year.

The 2006 USBCHA National Finals were held in Klamath Falls, Oregon and all the “big hats” were there. During the first round, where only the top 40 scores out of 140 dogs advance, a full fledged “Barbie” Collie named “Davidson(who didn’t want to be identified by name for this story) finished in the top 50 dogs only 2 points out of breaking with a score of 131. Davidson’s owner and trainer Andi Sandersen(who also didn’t want to be identified by name for this story) was also running another dog, who came in 27th and broke to the semis with a score of 142.
Given their very respectable finish, it’s no surprise that “Andi” and “Davidson” beat out some of the top teams in the nation, including both of Donald McCaig’s dogs, and top teams like Derek Fisher and Heidi, Beverly Lambert and Bill, and Alasdair MacRae and Don. Her number 2 dog beat their number 2 dogs.

Davidson and both of his parents are conformation champions in the AKC and thus his line will never be allowed in the ABCA genepool, regardless of their merit. Not even if Andi went through the brutal Register On Merit program:

A video of the dog working livestock must be supplied to each member of the ROM Committee. That Committee will make a recommendation whether to refer to the full Board of Directors or not. If referred to the full Board, a video of the dog working livestock must be supplied to the rest of the Directors unless some of them have seen the dog and do not need a video.

A. Written proof that the dog seeking registration on merit has placed in the top 10% of three open, advertised National style and size trials judged under ISDS or USBCHA rules.

B. To pass the working qualifications, the dog must demonstrate outstanding abilities in outrun, lift, fetch, driving, and must satisfy the Directors as to his good balance, power, and eye. At least three of the Directors must see the dog in person working livestock at a place other than his home on livestock that he is not used to.

In all cases, at least three Directors must see the dog seeking registration on merit and 11 of the 12 Directors must vote to approve the dog for registration.

The objective requirements are strict, but perfectly reasonable if you’re willing to accept the mantra that a good trialing dog is the exact same thing as a good working dog. I submit that trialing is a game, not work. Think of the difference between shooters and hunters, boxers and street fighters, NASCAR and real bootleggers. When work is elevated to sport, fundamental things change, and little things that are unimportant in the field become critical in the arena.

But I’ll let that slide for now, no one would disagree that even though trialing might not be true work, it’s magnitudes more relevant to assessing working dogs than a beauty contest is.

The reason the ABCA ROM program is a brick wall is not so much the high standards for trialing (it does say any USBCHA trial, not just the National Finals) but the 11 out of 12 vote. Getting 91.7% of any group to agree on anything is a nearly impossible task, and the ABCA couldn’t even get all three Border Collie registries on board to fight the AKC.

Again, not that it matters because an AKC dog could win every major trial in the world and still be ineligible, and all of his offspring ineligible, for ABCA registration.

Davidson didn’t win last year’s National Finals, but she did come in first out of a field of 18 dogs in August at the USBCHA sanctioned California State Fair trial. Andi and her dogs took first and second in that trial last year, along with several other first place wins at USBCHA trials.

Now, Andi is not a sheep insider. Quite the opposite. She got into sheep trialing because of an AKC breeder:

“[Davidson]” was a gift to “[Andi’s]” daughter as she wanted a Border Collie to show in conformation shows. As per the co-ownership contract, “Davidson” was brought to sheep one day to see what herding capabilities she had. “Davidson” showed lots of potential. From that day on “Andi” got bit by the herding bug! Together, “Andi” and “Davidson” have achieved amazing wins in both AKC, AHBA and USBCHA sanctioned herding trials! Besides earning her breed championship and herding championship titles, “Andi” and “Davidson” have garnered several wins at the Pro Novice level and now compete at the Open level in USBCHA trials many times placing in the top ten!
“Danice JeMello,” “Nob Hob Border Collies”

An AKC breeder who makes her Barbie Collie buyers take their dogs out to work sheep? Simply mind blowing. Impossible. The sky must be falling and the oceans drying up. The unthinkable has happened and the only explanation is a fundamental disconnect between space and time, cause and effect, and the separation of good and evil.

Or the simple observation that demeaning a large group of varied dogs and breeders with a single shallow phrase is pointless. The sheeple could simply allow merit to show through without all the insults, but they can’t. They’ve even stipulated that the ABCA’s prize money only be given to ABCA registered dogs. Sure, come and compete, but you won’t get a cent of our money even if your Barbie Collie can herd.

I can tell you now that this won’t be the last time a Barbie Collie wins a sheep trial, but it will be the last time that the sheeple can pretend that it will never happen. Barbie Collies can herd? Yes, Barbie Collies can herd.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.