Last time we touched on the standard and we’ll look a bit further just for fun. It’s not my intent to dissect the whole standard, but rather to comment about some issues as I see them. Just for the record I do recognize the importance of head qualities to having a good Collie, but don’t think that more important than the whole dog. I remember back when I was starting in Collies hearing “give me a good head and I can get the rest from mutts!” That sentiment is as full of holes as a piece of Swiss cheese. When we’re actively breeding the difficulty of maintaining many head qualities may make them more weighty than when we become a judge.
As mentioned before the first paragraph on general character carries many worthwhile hints to what a correct Collie should seem. First sentence shows the word “responsive” and it’s hard to equate that with a dog that doesn’t show. Standing “naturally” straight and firm certainly makes me question the practice of setting Collies up like pointers. The paragraph on legs plainly specifies letting a dog come to a natural stop and also that excessive posing is undesirable. On what planet do we expect junior handlers to show as we teach them to stack their dogs.
Dorothy Long of Noranda was a master at teaching her Collies to show on a loose lead out in front of her. I’ve been told she was one of the first Collie people to use this technique. Whether or not that is accurate no one did it better and few as well as she. I remember her showing a bitch named Ch. Noranda Discretion (I believe the dam of CC of A winner Daily Double) and I’m sure Mrs. Long could have taken a nap without the bitch missing a beat.
Understanding our standard and having a picture of the animal it paints in ones head is a labor of love to be undertaken over time with many examples, both correct and incorrect, being observed. It is not enough to look up the words in Webster’s Dictionary and say “aha, I know what the standard means!” As the skills and knowledge of a budding fancier increase the hazy picture should become more and more clear. Admittedly for some it never seems to, but we all learn at a different pace so be patient. If Collies become too frustrating, one can always switch one’s efforts to guppies where you can flush the failures away.
As you work to get a clear picture of what the standard means in flesh and blood, be sure to pick up on key words. There are the ones that have real impact and are not just fillers hooking the sentences together. They are the ones that are very descriptive and tell the true story of the dog we wish to portray. As mentioned earlier in the first paragraph one could point to “responsive” as such a key word. Certainly there are many others. Scattered throughout the standard are references to things that one might relate to Collie temperament or character. Because of this sometimes we forget its importance to what we wish to create.
I’ve often thought a paragraph on correct temperament in the standard might serve the breed well. The Collie stems from a shepherd’s helper who had enormous contact with people. He might herd during the day, play with the children in the evening, and guard the house and yard at night. He was tuned to the needs of his whole family and dedicated to doing their wishes. This temperament and Collie character resulted in many people remembering a Collie in their childhood. All this can also certainly affect our picture of a show dog.
We have all seen dogs which stand and pose with ears up like a statue and that’s much better than one who doesn’t want to show. I have a picture in my old dinosaur memory of the most “responsive” dog I ever showed and it wasn’t Ch. Jadene’s Breezalong or Ch. Gingeor’s Indelibly Blue, who both went BB at the CC of A.
Years ago I bought a tricolor male puppy by Breezalong out of a daughter of Crescent Bright Image (by Bold Venture) who came from the Soellner’s breeding. His name was Wayside Bodee Night Breeze and he lived to show. From the time his feet hit the floor after grooming his tail was wagging and his head was up and his “natural” ears on top of his head. Oh sure he had faults, but he made you want to forget them, because he was such a joy to be around.
He finished without great difficulty and along the way I showed him under Stella Richardson from Virginia who was judging a major at the National Capital show. His sire Breezalong was entered in specials and Peter Knoop who liked Breezy was doing the group. Zorro (Nite Breeze) took the major and BW and I sent him in with friend Carl Andrews for the breed where I had Breezy ready to go.
Unfortunately for Carl he ran out of bait before the judging for BB was over. Zorro stood in front of him and barked and fairly vibrated with anticipation and I was embarrassed trying to slip Carl some more bait while the judge was convulsed at Zorro’s antics. To make a long story short Zorro took BB over his sire and didn’t place in the group. Was he responsive? Did he want to please? He was everything good Collie temperament should reflect. At the time I had three good young tri males and couldn’t keep them all. Zorro went to live with the Bells in Pittsburgh where he sired a grand blue bitch Ch. Regaline’s Blue Intuition. He was a Collie to me.
I always tell people that when building a solid breeding program you must have good health and good temperament. To that obviously you wish to add correct type, but health and temperament are the building blocks that all your puppies need. That includes show prospects and pets as well. If you’re one of those breeders who doesn’t produce any pets then you’re not only extremely fortunate, but also a first class phony who can’t admit the truth.
Think About It!