Sunday, June 23, 2013

Breed 'em and Weep

Breed ‘em and Weep

Pat Merrill in her 2012 yearbook president’s message brought up a good point.  Why do Collies continue to fall from favor in AKC popularity records?  Size won’t fly as an answer because there are other large dogs in the top ten where Collies were for years.  Coat would certainly seem relevant when you consider the effort it takes to “properly” groom a Collie.  As with many other coated breeds some seem to continually think that “more is better.”  Proper fit and texture seem to be forgotten since we can sculpt the outline and doctor the texture with spray.

We will not get Albert Payson Terhune back again and Lassie in movies or on TV has been replaced by a sad collection of nightmarish special effects creations.  No point in dwelling on things we can’t change, so we’d better address the ones we can.  The public wants a pretty dog, a healthy dog, a dog with a good stable disposition, and one that the average Joe Public can care for himself.

Years ago back in the days of the dinosaur you still had to work to be successful at shows.  I worked like crazy and learned to groom and train dogs to compete.  I went to shows to see what good dogs looked like and absorbed the advice of successful breeders like a sponge.  I read books and articles and attended symposiums to learn and it worked!  I also never used anything to groom but chalk (Foo-Foo), water, and elbow grease.  Oh yes, and the dogs had proper coats of proper colors and didn’t need faking.

In addition to going crazy on coats we shot ourselves in the foot with eye problems.  Some folks not content with working on the problems quietly and sanely, advertised puppies and studs as “clear of eye problems” instead of just saying “good health guaranteed.”  The public and the vets jumped on that and the breed soon became suspect to almost everyone.  Who wants to buy a family pet that’s blind or may go blind?

In addition to Pati’s President’s message I noticed something else in the yearbook, which is amazingly once again on time.  My compliments to Michelle Esch Brooks on this extraordinary feat.  Having known her dad and late mother for many years I would say the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

The other feature which I noticed is the color inheritance chart, which I’m sure is very concise and correct.  Over the years I’ve seen many such charts, but don’t remember any of them being accompanied by a warning as to what problems some breedings can be expected to produce.  The warning at the end of this chart should be taken seriously.  Even back when I was breeding and showing some people bred some things that most of us shied away from but they were generally experienced and had a plan in mind.  Any defective pups were generally put down not put with the public.  Nowadays you get the impression that some folks do some weird breeding just to prove they can.  Some would alter the standard to make it more acceptable forgetting that attractive dogs can win without any changes to our standard.

This is not a plea to abolish the breeding of sables to blues if it’s necessary to get what you need in your breeding program.  Just remember that many sable-merles look like sables to Joe Public.  If he wants a litter of pups and breeds to the “sable” belonging to his friend, which also happens to be a sable-merle, we could have some problems.  Over the years I bred, showed, and put up as a judge many blue merle Collies.  I tell you in all honesty that the merle color is one to be used with utmost care or you’ll regret it.  You can breed any color combinations you wish.  This is the land of the free, but don’t bemoan the long range outcome.

When you speak to people about Collies many recall one from their childhood.  Most were sables with sweet dispositions who loved kids above all else.  If we continue down the road of artificial dogs that need artificial aids to look good and make breedings that are fraught with possible disastrous side effects just because we can do it, don’t expect to have a popular breed.  The AKC won’t stop you and the ethics committee won’t stop you so you can breed anything together including blind dogs.

Entries at most shows are pathetic with only a handful of dogs needed for a major.  The National still draws well because of the social aspect and “the something for everyone” aspect.  If we want what we’re getting please don’t change a thing.  If, on the other hand, you think the Collie deserves better it’s not too late.  Start thinking of the breed we’re supposed to want to improve not your next “major”.  If we don’t, you can just continue to “breed ‘em and weep!” 

Think about it!


  1. I was just posting about this today in my own blog. We were at an event in St. Paul yesterday, and were surprised to see a few other collies come up to the booth (a rare thing, as you said). We get so many comments from people who say they had a collie as a kid. I think that a lot of people don't see a collie as a city dog, to which I say, any dog can be a city dog - it's all about exercise and training.

  2. Your last two paragraphs are outstanding showing you still are a Guardian of the Collie Breed. Hope you are an inspiration to more new breeders of collies. Thank you..