Friday, March 28, 2014

Statistics, Statistics, Statistics

Statistics, Statistics, Statistics

Not all dog magazines, but a lot of them, seem to owe their existence to statistics.  They have pages and pages devoted to these numbers games many of which are meaningless and boring as well.  Do I care who is the tenth highest dog in breed or all-breed points?  Do I care who is the breeder who bred the tenth highest total of champions let alone the color, sex or coat type of these animals.  All this material is filler in place of good articles that might be helpful and of serious interest.  What a waste!  Those of you who are CC of A members can notice it in the yearbook as well.  Cease and desist already!!

On a more serious topic, I’d like to clarify something I’ve said, but which may have been misunderstood.  As a judge and breeder (some years ago) I’ve always thought that the whole dog and overall way the parts fit together must be more important than any one of those parts.  This includes the head properties which though extremely important should not, in my opinion, trump the overall picture.

Years ago I remember some very respected judges making comments like, “give me a good head and I can get the rest from mutts,” or “give me a good head and if the dog can get across the ring, he’s sound enough.”  Both of the statements may seem extreme, but they were opinions expressed by people who felt strongly and had a sound background in our breed.  Getting all of this sorted out and into proper focus is important to any serious breeder/exhibitor/judge of Collies.

I stick by my statement that the whole is of more value than any of the parts including head, coat, soundness or any other part.  To be a really good Collie a dog or bitch must be good in all of these areas, but the key is how they fit together to form a good specimen.  When we judge the first look at the dogs often gives an indication of who will win the class.  We must do further examination to be sure our eyes aren’t being fooled by grooming techniques or some other trick of the trade.  We must handle and move the animals so “our hands can verify what our eyes think they see.”  This along with knowing the breed, is the basis for judging.  Years ago I judged the North Jersey Specialty and most of my male classes were just average.  My last male class, Open Tricolor, had a truly spectacular looking dog who “filled the eye.”  After going over him I told his handler ”I’m going to be very disappointed if he can’t move!”  Well he could and did and was a shoo-in for Winners Dog.

Now if this dog had a magnificent head, but didn’t stand or move well, he still might have gone Winners depending on the competition, but he wouldn’t have put a real smile on my face.  To do that we need the whole package.

Based on our standard and my sixty-some years of study the Collie head is the “index of the breed.”  Though some other breeds may have heads with some similarities to the Collie’s our breed is unique in that area.  The parts of the head such as muzzle, backskull, eyes, and ears go together to create the expression which is the product of these parts.  There are other breeds which may have similar coats, movement, or other parts which resemble our Collies, but the way all the parts including the head fit together make a good specimen.

The first paragraph of our standard makes very clear to me what a Collie should be, but it only does so if you have a mental picture gleaned from years of observation.  Years of watching puppies grow, seeing dogs from various lines with the faults and virtues they’re known for, and comparing dogs in your own breeding program and others.  Being confident that you understand what our standard means based on discussions with mentors and personal observation over time is when the standard really comes to life.  Don’t be in a rush to show how much you know.  Steve Field once told me that as he got older and learned more, he stopped writing articles because he realized how much he had to learn.  Steve was obviously much smarter than I since I’m still writing.

If my wife, Phyllis, hadn’t prodded me a bit, I probably would be done writing, too.  Behind every good man, there’s a better woman prodding him along.

Think about it!


  1. thank you Phyllis

  2. Enjoyed the article as the longer I observe and study the collie it is the balance of all parts that first fills my eye. Balance in structure produces the real beauty of that breath taking movement of our Herding Collie Breed.