Dog World Feature

The May 2009 issue of Dog World, available now, features the Border Collie in their “Meet the Breed” section.  Along with several big wigs in the Border Collie world, I was asked to fill out a survey about the breed. The article is actually pretty good and they did quote me in the article (the former having nothing to do with the later).

Here’re my answers  to the questionaire. The first paragraph of question 2 was included in the article.
DOG WORLD Border Collie Questionaire
1. What is the temperament of the breed?
Driven, intuitive, highly intelligent, and eager to please. 
2. What do you love about this breed?  And hate?
The Border Collie is so aware, it’s not like living with a pet, it’s like living with a precocious teenager. They are adept at reading your emotions, anticipating what you want from them, and carrying through until they get it right.
Newcomers to the breed are often overcome by the obligation to keep their minds active. It’s not just that they need daily exercise, it’s that they need mental stimulation. If that means eating your leather couch or raiding your refrigerator (and closing the door after) instead of playing with a ball or chasing some sheep around, they’ll find a way to entertain themselves.
A Border Collie can finish a 4 mile walk and still want more, but a 15 minute training session on sheep is enough to knock them out for hours. It’s really about keeping their brains active.
3. What is your experience on the interaction of the Border Collie with other pets in the home – dogs, cats, small pets, etc?
At the dog park, most other breeds don’t understand the Border Collies. They look at them running around intently “working” to bring back the ball and wonder what the big deal is. In the same light, the Border Collies often look at the lower energy dogs meandering around as wayward sheep that need to be told what to do.
 4. What is your experience on the interaction of the Border Collie with children?
They make great companion animals for children, several of the top Disc Dog teams in the country are Border Collie x Preteen kids. 
I don’t have experience with the breed and toddlers.
5. What do you see as the main problems with or threats to the breed today?
The greatest threat to the breed today is the declining diversity in the gene pool as the most active breeders in the trialing world and show world select only a few male dogs each generation to sire the majority of new puppies. The next big champion is almost guaranteed to be related to the current champions as the top breeders/competitors typically select only the progeny of the last champion to compete at the top levels. 
Cutting off the working gene pool from the show gene pool is a moot point if the majority of genetic influence in each pool comes from only a handful of dogs each generation anyway.
6.  What is the usual lifespan of the breed?
~14 years 
7. Where do you think the breed currently excels, and where is improvement needed?
It’s no secret that Border Collies are widely considered the smartest breed, and second place isn’t close. They learn faster, retain more, and apply logical reasoning better than any other breed. Studies involving Border Collies are rewriting the book on what scientists think dogs as a whole are capable of. 
The amazing thing is that they are also the most athletic breed. They consistently top the winner’s podium in Agility, Flyball, and Frisbee competitions. 
Like many purebred dogs, the breed is susceptible to shrinking genetic diversity due to the popular sire effect. Because sheep dog trials in the UK and America have been the predominant proving ground for this breed for over 135 years, a handful top trialing dogs have had a major influence on the gene pool.  This has created the preeminent herding dog, but it has also resulted in a gene pool that is “effectively the genomes of 8 dogs.”
The most significant diseases are hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and eye conditions common the the collie breeds.
8.  I understand from my preliminary research that there is some controversy regarding the show-bred Border Collie and the working Border Collie, and that there are several BC registries, some of which do not permit dogs to be shown in conformation.  I would be grateful if you could give me a short overview of this situation, and your opinion regarding this apparent split in the breed.
Of the articles I’ve written, this one is the best place to start:
It explains the registry situation and goes on to show what problems the entire debate is missing. Here are the bullet points:
Concerning the ABCA vs. AKC:
* Neither registry requires any sort of health testing to register dogs from current stock.
* Neither registry requires reporting or publication of any health test results.
* Neither registry prevents in-breeding or line breeding to any degree.
* Neither registry keeps any sort of health information database.
* Neither registry has any criteria for membership other than payment.
* Neither registry requires registered dogs to meet any performance standard or physical standard or any standard at all, written or implied.
* Neither registry offers much protection against puppy millers.
Finding information on history, grooming, etc, is not difficult, but I particularly need some personal anecdotes, stories, and observations that illustrate unique points of the breed’s character, particularly those naming specific dogs.  I would be m
ost grateful if you could supply any.  Dog World loves these in their Meet The Breed features!
Interesting History:
Queen Victoria’s Border Collies (then called “Collies of the Cheviot Breed”
1872 – “Noble” –
1866 – “Sharp” – memorial to “Sharp, the favorite and faithful Collie of Queen Victoria from 1866 to 1879. died now 1879 aged 15 years” at Windsor. 
Aficionados of the “Lassie” collie often trace their dogs back to Queen Victoria, but as you can see from the pictures on the websites above, Queen Victoria’s favorite dog was a Border Collie, not a Lassie Collie. It’s true that in her old age her young cousin the Czar of Russia sent her some Borzois and the Royal Kennels eventually bred these dogs with the sable colored progenitors to the Lassie collie, but we have very little evidence of the Queens involvement in that branch of the collie family. 
From her writings, pictures, and the memorial to Sharp, we can see that the “Cheviot breed” of collie, later to be called the Border Collie, was the dog closest to the Queen’s heart. The Cheviot Hills are the pasture land between England and Scotland, specifically the border region from which the dogs would take their name.
Personal annecdote:

My father’s border collie Bongo was an amazing specimen who knew over 70 commands and was quite the showman. He also had a sweet-tooth. On weekends, my father would take him down to the corner ice cream store where Bongo would entertain the kids by dancing, doing back flips, walking on his front legs, and singing. The children would “pay” Bongo with a share of their ice cream cones: sometimes intentionally but mostly because they were so enthralled with the show they’d accidentally drop their cones on the ground. His favorite flavor was pistachio.

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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.