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WHY THE COLLIE?
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November 12, 2016
ITALIANO
 
 

The Rough Collie, standing with impassive dignity. The Smooth Collie the consummate all round athlete. I look back to the days when the Collie was great in this country, days that I can remember … Champions from around the globe like Romsey of Rokeby, Eng CH Ingeledene Late Night Love, Ch Braeden Show Dancer, Ch & Eng CH Little Ceasar at Corydon, Ch & Eng Ch Corydon Handsome Hero, Eng CH Karava Kornishman, Eng CH Sylbecq Draught Guiness at Foxearth, Multi Ch Sandcastles Truth or Dare, Multi CH BellPeppers Datapen ... these are just a few of the greats that immediately come to mind when I think about Collies that represent to me, the correct, overall type that I find desirable in the breed.

Are there Collies being shown today that even remotely resemble this correct style of Collie? It would appear that they are in the minority or, are they just NOT being exhibited in the conformation ring at present. If this is the case, I would ask, why not? The Collie Rough and Smooth appears to be on a downward slide, this is most apparent in the past 10-20 Years. In that time, we have lost some of our cleverest and most influential breeders like Zora Mitchell (Braeden), Glad Osbourne (Glendallo) and Maureen Rollason (Maurville), these are names that all Australian Collie enthusiast’s should be familiar with, these woman and numerous other’s had the breed at heart and consistently bred some stunning dog’s and all went out of their way to mentor others. Also during this period, there has be governmental changes with regards to the keeping of animals. For this reason we have far fewer and almost non-existent large scale breeders these days, for the most part, breeders are small scale hobby breeders.

As a breeder and judge I admit I am worried. I will suggest that there is an apparent lack of knowledge in the all-rounders education program. Given our judges training scheme is essentially a self-education program, is every judge as diligent as they perhaps need to be. At what point do we stop saying in true Aussie fashion ‘It will do’? The Challenge Certificate clearly states that ‘this exhibit is of outstanding merit’, surely we need to practice this. It is important to note here, that a student can only learn what is being taught. If the quality of dog’s we show fail to meet the ideals of the standard, then what are we as breeders/exhibitor’s teaching judges? Who corrects those who get it wrong? I am confident some judges will take offense to this, I don’t apologize, I just hope to raise every judges awareness of what there action’s are doing to my breed and no doubt others.

Onto today’s exhibitor, new or old. How often do you take the breed standard in hand, look at your dog both stacked and on the move and pull them apart? This to me is an integral part of showing a dog, being honest about what is in front of you. We all know dogs have faults and there isn’t a perfect dog in existence. The challenge of breeding and exhibiting for me is to provide the best example of the breed to the judge that I can and to know how and if those attributes compare to the breed standard. Do the virtues out way the faults? Do you have a picture of your favourite Collie, the one that you perhaps never saw in real life but has been touted by specialists as being an outstanding Collie? Find a photo of that dog, a photo of your dog and look at them, is the shape and make there? If you can answer yes, that’s great. If you answer no, then maybe you need to think about why you still show this dog? The acceptance of mediocrity will never improve the breed. If non breeder exhibitors are willing to show substandard examples of the breed, some will keep breeding them and passing them on to unsuspecting enthusiasts. It pays to be thorough when doing your homework.

To exhibitors, new or old, please be demanding of you breeder. If you don’t feel the quality of the animal you have been sold as a show prospect fits the standard, speak to you breeder or anyone else you believe to be knowledgeable. A successful exhibitor will never accept a second rate dog to campaign, it’s just as expensive to feed a good dog as a pet. I’m not saying don’t love the ones who lack quality, I am saying don’t show them, instead learn from them. Every time you walk into the ring, you are putting yourself and your breeders kennel on show, why not make it a great show?

The breeder is at the centre of the deterioration of a breed. As the caretaker of the breed and its standard, breeding should incorporate a continuous improvement program. The knowledge of the breed is paramount! Anyone can own a dog and bitch allow them to produce puppies with no thought to what they may produce, does this make a breeder? What is a breeder? A breeder is passionate, studies the breed standard and the pedigrees, and gathers any and all information they can on the breed. A breeder looks at the qualities of the dogs they own and evaluates the positives and negatives of each and every animal. Endless thought is put into the next generation. I could keep stating the importance of the breeder however there is a wealth of knowledge available on the internet.

I am so disappointed at the overall quality in our breed. I feel the Smooth is probably in a better place than the Rough, mainly because of the lack of numbers being bred. How long this will stand is anyone’s guess as a lack of numbers is a problem in itself. I am sure to some this will come across as being one eyed and biased however, think about what I am writing, before making any assumption’s. What I am trying to get through to breeders, exhibitors and judges alike is that, the Rough Collie has and will continue to deteriorate as a breed until we all start to be honest with ourselves. Mediocrity seems to be a disease spreading through the dog world.

I think here I will add, I am NOT talking about a ‘style’ of Collie, as those who know me are aware, I have and love my English/European lines, other’s prefer American lines however a true quality Collie, that is sound in both body and mind, will always be the most important goal.

I often hear touted the saying: Form follows function. The Collie is a working dog, therefore it should be sound in movement typical for the breed, with the ability to move effortlessly with no exaggeration, however I can pick up a dog at the pound that is sound. A Sound dog and a dog that moves typically for a Collie are not necessarily the same thing, however Collie’s who move with a light effortless action will be sound and typical. Breed type is paramount. A Collie instantly appeals as a dog of great beauty. So many collies I see in the ring today lack the essence of what used to be known as ‘The Most Beautiful’ of all breeds. Head qualities and body shape are what makes a Collie. Be clear on what makes up a quality head, after all, the Standard is quite clear on head properties. The stand out to me is ‘NEVER coarse’, this does not mean we should be breeding or showing fine boned, slightly built dog’s either, balance is essential. Never as defined in the dictionary means: never; at no time; to no extent or degree. Can we apply those definitions to the current breed standard? To me ‘Never’ reads the same a fault, a coarse Collie is automatically NOT typical. A slight but perceptible stop, it say’s Stop, not eyebrows, and as a judge I shouldn’t have to study the head up close and personal to find the stop, it should be apparent from the centre of the ring however it should not be such a dramatic part of the head that my eye is instantly drawn to it. Parallel planes, the word parallel is defined as: side by side and having the same distance continuously between them. The eyes combined with correct ear placement contribute greatly to the ‘all important’ Collie expression, which as per the standard is described as ‘Sweet’.

Body shape, I find many people struggle with body length. The Collie standard states: ‘slightly longer then tall’. This often gives reference to the body proportions of 9:10. Body length is measured from the point of shoulder to the rump, be clear, we are measuring body length, not length of back. A well angulated animal may well appear to be shorter in back then some animals who appear longer and lack angulation, and I should hope so. Let’s be clear, the topline is made up of the three section’s, the back, loin and croup. Body length is measured from the point of shoulder to the rump, yes I know I repeated myself but I want this to be very clear as this seems to confuse some. Strength of body equals a firm topline, this comes about because the animal that is well ribbed back and short in loin has the essential support systems in place to be a strong working dog. Moderate angles fore and aft are called for, more angulation is NOT better and just as incorrect as a lack of angulation. A moderate length of neck is created by a well laid shoulder blade. An upright shoulder will shorten the neck, the neckline of the Collie is essential for a breed who stands with impassive dignity. I implore all breeders to study basic canine anatomy, again there are many articles and books written on the subject.

The question of size. If stating the obvious regarding type, now campaigned are up to size and oversize and even occasionally undersized Collies. The standard states Bitches should be 20”-22” and Dog’s 22”-24”. A well renowned all breeds judge once said to me after I questioned a decision he made (I was a steward that day and curious) a dog that is not within the height standard is just as big an issue from a breeding perspective as any other fault. Size is the least subjective point of the standard. Think about it, if you are prepared to accept an animal who is over or under size into you breeding program, what issues do you think are going to occur in the following generations? Size is not open to interpretation.

So I have taken what are to me some KEY elements on what makes a quality Collie. In this article I am trying to make judges, exhibitors and most importantly BREEDERS think about the quality of the dogs they are awarding/showing/breeding. I for one am sick and tired of hearing how my lifelong beloved breed is lacking in consistent quality and deteriorating quickly. As a guardian of my breed, I can no longer stay silent. To Judges, I want to say, “STOP awarding dogs of insufficient quality and be honest in your assessments.” Too many of us are accused these days as being dishonest or un-knowledgeable, stand up for what we do and keep learning. We don’t know everything.

To breeders, STOP being so precious. I am so sick of hearing how another breeder has made derogatory remarks about a dog. So what, take a look at the dog, are the comments true or are they sour grapes. Being open to criticism can be an important learning experience, if you choose to think about it. STOP breeding from obvious issues unless it is in an effort to improve your current stock. I admit there are some conformational faults that I can’t live with. I have had them and I am sure I will have again. Learn from the ones who don’t become the swan’s we hoped for.

I want anyone who reads this to open their minds and think about what the long term consequences for the breed are going to be. These are only my thoughts on the current state of our breed in Australia. As a caretaker of the Collie, I want to see our breed improve. So many times I thought about walking away from the breed, a lot easier said then done. Instead I will fight on, I will NOT accept mediocrity and despite feeling like I am wasting my time, money and effort more often then not, I will keep going. Are you a caretaker?