Newhope - Crossfire
Forty + Years with Border Collies
Forty-some years later, I can look back on many changes within this breed that I love, some good, and some less so.
The old type farm Border Collie, for years largely unknown outside of farming circles, was often shy of new things and strangers. They were, in my experience, a more placid dog than is evident today, and had less drive. They had substance and heavier bone. They worked stock when necessary, and baby-sat the kids, and just hung out on the farm.
Discovered by the obedience and flyball fraternity in the 80's and 90's, the breed began to change: more focus, more drive, smaller, lighter boned, more intensity. More recently, after being accepted into the show ring, more changes are evident - smaller, more squarely built dogs, many of which have lost the smooth and fluid movement of their predecessors, and gait with higher step like miniature Hackneys.
It seems to me that the breed has now split into four types (of course, with much crossover): the old farm type of dog, the high (hyper) energy sports dogs, the intense trial dog and now the pretty little show collies. While the best of them now show a more stable nature, there are still far too many that are nervous and even nasty, dogs with fragile bone structure, dogs with no "off" switch, and many tiny little dogs that any self respecting sheep would laugh at. Far too many are not friendly with kids or strangers, and are high strung and difficult for people to live with. Many have obsessive-compulsive behaviours, a trait I never saw 40 years ago.
One of the improvements I have seen is the increased use and acceptance of health testing, with the goal of ensuring that breeding stock is sound and healthy. There are still challenges to meet, disease issues to overcome, but the best breeders and owners are aware and working towards this goal.
Another welcome change is increased socialization and mental stimulation of puppies, as breeders learn more about canine behaviour and development, resulting in puppies that are better prepared to leave their birth home and succeed in life with a new family.
As to the future, I can only hope that the old style dog - the great old all-rounders - will continue to be produced by dedicated and knowledgeable breeders, as this, in my opinion, is the true Border Collie.
Website created by Alice Guthrie (c) 2017
All photos by Alice Guthrie unless otherwise indicated.