English team 1983
and the inspiration for MBCC
Anyone studying the pedigree sheets of the great Border Collies of this century will see a link back to the same foundation dogs. These dogs were the cream of the cream, not because they have won accolades (and not all did) but because their genetic make-up was strong enough to influence the future generations.
Breeding is not to be taken lightly; it is not simply a matter of mating two dogs and expecting the desired results because they are good looking, or one or both of them has won prizes. This method cannot only produce puppies with a less than desirable temperament but will also give the stud dog a bad name, bearing in mind that he may serve many ill matched bitches in six months, to one bitches bad litter.
Think very carefully before being tempted to breed as it is not as simple as putting a nice looking dog to a nice looking bitch. The genetics of at least seven generations of ancestors need to be studied, as breeding for compatibility is essential but breeding for looks is not. There are now problems arising within the breed that didn’t used to exist due to people breeding with their dogs without having sufficient knowledge of the line of ancestors they have used. Hips, eyes, shoulder and temperament problems are creeping into the lines of the present day Border Collie.
This is an elite breed that, despite what many may be led to believe, were bred not just for their working ability but also for their physical soundness and good temperament. If you really are committed to breeding with your dog or bitch please make sure you research your chosen line very carefully. Remember, if you are choosing a Border Collie from a line bred specifically for one of the modern disciplines there is a possibility that the herding instinct has been bred out of it. A Border Collie is a herding dog and this does not make it any less capable of being a good companion or a very versatile dog, as long as the breeding is compatible and includes shepherding lines.
Buying a puppy
The above advice also applies if you are looking for a puppy. You need to know as much as possible about the parents. If the stud dog is not available to be seen then you should be given contact details for the owner so you can either go to see it or find out more about it.
There are more genes influencing the litter than just the parents and grand parents; uncles and aunts also contribute to the gene pool, so information on the ancestors will help you have a better picture of the type of puppy you will be taking home with you. If you are buying a registered puppy it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are buying from compatible lines. The breeder should be able to show you the breed lines and even if you don’t know the dogs in the ancestry you will be able to see if one dog or bitch has been used too much causing inbreeding. If the breeder doesn’t know or understand the lines then they cannot be sure of compatible breeding. However, it is possible that an unregistered puppy could be of compatible lines if bred by someone who does know the line but hasn’t registered the parents. These are all points to be aware of when purchasing a puppy and although it can be very confusing it is better to take your time and do your research.
With regards to registration a dog can be dual registered with the KC (Kennel Club) and the ISDS (International Sheep Dog Society). Dogs registered with the KC only are not eligible for ISDS registration, but dogs registered with the ISDS may be registered with the KC. The ISDS recognises the Border Collie and Working Sheepdog as a Border Collie for their register. The KC recognises the Border Collie as a pure breed and that a Working Sheepdog may be a crossbreed.
Mainline Border Collie Centre does not breed commercially, we only breed to keep our own line going which is usually once in every three or five years. We are actively campaigning against puppy farming, both in farms and private homes, and we strongly believe that prolific breeding is detrimental to the future of the breed.
Readers of my book ‘Understanding Border Collies’ will be familiar with the closing lines of the last chapter.
‘You are a custodian for one of the noblest breeds of dog, enjoy every minute of living with your Border Collie’
As custodians of this remarkable breed we must think very carefully about what the future holds for it, as we may be in danger of losing the quality of breeding our ancestors have provided for us over the past century. A quality that is as precious as the very air this magnificent breed breathes if it is to retain its wonderful qualities.
Much is written about the collie and its working traits and most of it is unfavourable, the breed is accused of being hyperactive, of chasing, nipping and being destructive. Are all other breeds perfect? The Border Collie as a breed is not guilty of any of these ‘sins’, but incorrect diet, management and communication are, they can cause a collie to act in a manner that has become known as the BC Syndrome.
Understanding the breed helps in training and management, but with that knowledge must come an understanding of the breed’s ancestry and of the commitment of the shepherds who cared enough to only breed the best. For without them and their knowledge the Border Collie as we know it would not exist.
Take little notice of comments such as ‘only buy a puppy that’s been bred from pet lines’ and ‘don’t buy a working puppy’. The collie we all know and love is a sheepdog, this is what it was bred to do. Years of developing that wonderful brain, enabling these dogs to work on there own initiative, to solve problems and to give their all for man can be destroyed by careless, thoughtless breeding in a few very short years. A well bred working dog is also a wonderful companion and soul-mate.
Giving - this is what Border Collies do, this is when they are at their best, this is what 100 years of dedicated breeding has given us so please before you breed or even consider breeding look carefully to the future. When you hear people say there are not going to be enough sheep in the future to keep all the dogs working don’t be tempted to believe the working brain should be watered down. Collies are doing Search and Rescue, searching for drugs, they are detecting epilepsy in humans they are doing so much good that the number of sheep in the country is not the crisis as the number of sheepdogs that are being bred to ignore them. We must all play our parts as custodians to make sure this wonderful breed remains what the last century has made it and what the rest of the world is only just discovering, a friend, a soulmate, a workmate, a partner, a sheepdog.