Revisiting endurance

Red Oliver is a member of Sheepdog-L. He has been into stock dogs for many, many years and always posts some very thought-provoking e-mails to the Sheepdog-L list. The topic of “endurance” is still on-going.

An individual asked Red if you had a good dog that had a tendency to burn too much energy mentally so that it had problems related to endurance, was there any mental training or desensitizing that might be useful.

Red wrote back a longish post that you can read in its entirety here, but what particularly caught my eye was the last paragraph wherein Red tells of the dogs of his youth. They got no formal training except not to run the cows. They did not put up with nervous dogs who were always trying to get to the stock. They bred for calmness. The Border Collie was developed under totally different conditions than were the American farm dog. Border Collies were tied up so they wouldn’t bother the stock. American farmers never tied their dogs up. If they were at the heads of the cattle or sheep all the time, the dog would be shot.

That is the primary thing that turned me off about Josey. The CONSTANT need to get at stock and work it. She wouldn’t stop. It was extremely aggravating. Gel was that way as a young dog, not so much wanting to work stock (I didn’t have any when he was younger) but wanting to do something all the time. Early on, I would crate him to make him stop; now I tell him to stop and he does, the same with Fern. I don’t put up with that constant pacing, worrying stock, running fences, etc. I don’t think anyone should have to put up with that. A dog should be balanced enough so that it can settle when not being asked to work, yet at the same time, work hard when asked to do so.

One other thing that caught my attention was Red’s statement that those people who are trialing do not want a dog that on the outrun lopes along. That whether we admit it or not, we breed that kind of dog for trialing. For some time now I’ve thought breeding a dog for trialing is to the detriment of the breed in general. If a dog is not stable in all or close to all respects, what good is it in the long run?