Capturing the Spoils

Although the Border Wars are appropriately framed as a fight between the ABCA and the AKC, the Wars are wrongly categorized as a fight over Border Collies or “the future of the breed.” The true spoils of war aren’t dogs, but people. The numerous people who buy Border Collie puppies and who are mostly unaware or disinterested in BC politik, ethos, and theory but who still buy “purebred” dogs with papers. Papers that cost money.

The elite in the ABCA and the AKC fight for those people because the lifeblood of both registries is the money they make from puppies who are registered and sold to pet homes. The AKC could not survive off of Conformation puppies alone, nor could the ABCA off of trialing puppies alone. Both groups must milk the massive Fourth Estate pet buyers for their sustenance. Conformation dogs and Trialing dogs are loss leaders for the two registries, the registries spend and lose money facilitating shows and trials, even with sizable volunteerism and sponsorships.

The Fourth Estate is, ironically, the group that should place the least value in herding or conformation, pedigrees, and breeding philosophies. They don’t herd and they don’t need dogs with good conformation (cute is more desirable, and really, all puppies are cute even if they grow up to be ugly). The trialers are not lying when they say that dogs suitable for working do not make good pets and a laymen would have a horrible time trying to figure out how their dog differs from the breed standard as written or why any of that matters for what they value in a dog.

The Fourth Estate doesn’t have a clue about what the names on a pedigree mean (and none of those names are there because they were good pets), and most breeding practices of the show and trialing elite are repulsive to pet buyers (inbreeding, ikh! gross!). So with all that going against them, the show people and the trialing people have to sell their dogs to the masses with romantic (and often false) histories, nostalgia, and kitsch…. and the belief that being “purebred” and “papered” is inherently good. They literally have to speak out of both sides of their mouth to accomplish this: ‘if you’re going to get a border collie, then you should get one from real working lines even though working dogs don’t make good pets’ … and … ‘these rosettes are proof that my lines meet the highest ideal in structure and movement for the Border Collie but you’ll still have to pay the premium for this, ahem, pet-quality puppy.’

The First and Second Estates have to be diplomatic because they want and need to sell you their culls without making you feel like you’re getting the rejects.

The Third Estate of the Border Collie doesn’t need to be sold on romantic stories, they are much more prone to buy on merit. If you are a successful Obedience/Agility trainer with dogs that have lots of titles, you have buyers in the Third Estate. If you are a successful trialer with dogs that win trials, you have buyers in the Third Estate. The Third Estate doesn’t need to be as diplomatic with the puppies they sell, because their activities are inclusive and inviting and accessible. Puppy buyers need not feel inferior or subject to a lower “pet” quality dog because dog sports allow for all levels of participation.

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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.