Sunday, August 2, 2015

Doing It Naturally - What a novel idea!

Doing It Naturally – What a novel idea!

The Collie, like all dogs, descends from the wolf.  Albert Payson Terhune often credited the Collie with wolf like characteristics and said they were more wolf like than other breeds.  I suppose we could prove or disprove that with DNA testing, but that’s not my point.  We have modified the wolf to create the Collie and many other breeds of various shapes and sizes.  The further we get from nature’s ideal canine, the wolf, the more we have an animal that is completely dependant on man for it’s existence.  If that’s what you want I suppose it’s ok, but I, for one, don’t lean toward dogs that can’t breathe, walk, or have puppies without caesarians.

I’m not advocating raising wolves or wolf-hybrids, neither of which makes a really safe and loyal pet in spite of Jack London’s “White Fang.”  I know there are folks who love and/or raise the dependent type dogs.  My concern is that our Collies not become another of these dependent creatures.  The more we keep sliding toward artificiality, the more difficult and expensive it gets to raise Collies.  It also diminishes their appeal to the public.

The veterinarians that we use form an important link in our ability to have healthy dogs.  When we have a health problem and don’t know how to deal with it, they form the first line of defense.  Some vets love the little dependent dogs who need constant care.  That doesn’t mean they all fall into that category just cause it makes them more income.

Years ago I heard a vet at a seminar give a talk on the topic of reproduction.  He was supposedly a dog breeder as well.   He had shots to get bitches ready to breed and stud dogs just as ready to do their part.  Finally I couldn’t stand it and asked him how he considered himself a breeder if he forgave animals with so many issues as fit to breed.  There was never a good answer forthcoming.

On the other hand I heard a vet at Acconeus Collie College talk about ways to avoid problems when breeding coated dogs like Collies.  He mentioned trimming britches and tail to avoid seasonal secretions from picking up dirt.  The bitch will shed them anyhow, whether bred or not.  He stressed exercise for bitches in heat since under natural conditions the bitch is pursued until she’s ready to stand.  Likewise the constant running would help make her lean.  Fat bitches have trouble getting in whelp and trouble whelping as well.  We need to think in terms of natural not artificial.

Kenneling is an area where what we can do can affect our dogs quite a bit.  My preference was always for large runs where dogs could play and exercise their bodies normally.  My vet favored cement runs as more sanitary, but cement is hot is summer, cold in winter, and tough on the bones of growing puppies.  Ideally I ran two bitches and one male in each group and it worked well.  The dogs were housed in an unheated building with cedar bedding which helped deep them clean and repelled fleas.

Feeding is another topic that can lead in many directions.  Self feeders never appealed to me.  Your dogs may be kennel dogs, but individual feeding allows human to dog contact as does regular grooming.  We cannot realistically feed our Collies what wolves eat, but I always tried to pick a good brand made by a reputable company with facilities to test the results of their diets.  Meat is fine, but if you use a well balanced ration its only use is to increase palatability.  Beware of dogs that need special diets in your breeding program.

When breeding and exhibiting with a kennel of ten to twelve grown dogs I mixed dog food in a big tub.  Dry dog feed, a can of meat or cooked scraps, perhaps some lard melted in hot water, and they all got the same thing.  The dogs put their noses in and kept them there until they were done.  Finicky eaters are not a good idea in a breeding population.  Since dogs were thoroughly groomed every week, including teeth, nails and trimming I knew if anyone needed to have their food increased or decreased.

Breeding dogs can be a real chore.  By choosing to fight what’s natural we can make it harder.  We know Collies don’t look like wolves any more and our standard tells us what our goals in conformation should be.  In addition to the goals outlined in our standard we can make it harder or more pleasurable depending on how much we fight the dog’s natural instincts.  The more we know about the wolf, the better we can understand about dogs.

It’s been interesting over the years I’ve been in dogs to watch new folks come on the scene.  Some have the gift and it shows rather quickly.  Others with all good intentions never seem to grasp the basics no matter how many years they’re involved.  We all have different gifts and should come to grips with that.  After all if you raise guppies and they don’t turn out, you can flush them.  If you raise beef cattle likewise you can enjoy steak.  Neither method works for Collies, so we need to do our best to find what works and if we can’t do that find another hobby.

Think about it!

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