Publisher: Barron's Educational Series, 1997
104 pages, paperback, 56 color photos, 50 black and white line drawing illustrations (by David Wenzel)
Retail price = $6.95 (US)
Table of contents
Michael DeVine's new book on Border Collies is a very good basic primer for those that either want to learn more about Border Collies or for first-time owners that need a basic book on all aspects of Border Collies. You certainly can't beat the information available in this book (for the price) and though it has its flaws and weaknesses, it is overall a very good book (on the basics of Border Collies and their care). If you're looking for in-depth information on Border Collies and their activities, this is probably not the book for you. Though it covers all aspects of Border Collies and their care, with only 100 pages it is difficult to cover any subject in much detail. However I would recommend it highly for first-time owners and even those that have had Border Collies for a long time might find some small tidbits of important information that they were unfamiliar with (or minimally you will enjoy the color photos and drawings).
If you know nothing about Border Collies this would be a great investment and for a purchase price of only 7 dollars, it should really be a part of any Border Collie owner's library. DeVine carefully covers almost all aspects of Border Collie care and the Border Collie lifestyle (and does so with a decent sense of humor too). This would probably be a very good book to hand out with all new puppy purchases or rescue dog adoptions as it covers just about every aspect of living with a Border Collie. Though the author obviously enjoys and owns Border Collies, he does not paint them with the overly broad stroke of "Oh what perfect creatures Border Collies are" that a lot of other authors tend to use. DeVine rightfully points out many of the strengths of Border Collies but also make sure to include the weaknesses and problems associated with owning a Border Collie. This is not a sales pitch for owning a Border Collie nor is it a sales pitch for any particular product (like some basic Border Collie books are).
The book also flows very well and covers materials in an appropriate manner and order. The first chapter is a very brief introduction to Border Collies, including a look at their history and where they fit in in today's society. DeVine also pulls no punches when he discusses the dangers of breeding solely for color and briefly mentions the war on AKC recognition in the Border Collie community. He does include the AKC standard for Border Collies but makes sure to temper it with a sprinkling of counterpoints as the standard features relate to working ability. His next chapter, "Are You Border Collie Material?", is a frank and candid look at the positive and negative aspects of living with a Border Collie. Though there is nothing new in DeVine's approach and mild warning on the choice of Border Collie ownership, he does make sure to include most of the concerns associated with living with an intense working dog. It is very similar to the information available in my article "Do I Really Want a Border Collie?" (in fact much of the information in his book is equally available on this Web site, though as it is in printed form, it is much easier to use as a reference) and April Quist's article on Border Collies.
The next chapter goes over the nature of Border Collies and discusses their unique features such as high intelligence, herding instincts, high energy levels, and all the problems and off-shoots associated with these characteristics. The next chapter, "Border Collie Care", is a generalized chapter on grooming and caring for your Border Collie that would be appropriate for almost any breed of dog. There's nothing special in the chapter that necessarily relates to Border Collies but it is probably necessary in a basic book on dogs. The next chapter goes over activities associated with Border Collies and includes just about every one that you can think of. He covers sheepdog trials in both American stockdog trials and the AKC herding program as well as obedience, Frisbee, flyball, tracking, agility, and quite a few other activities not normally covered in most books about Border Collies. The next chapter is a simple approach to Border Collie training and though unimpressive, it is at least a humane approach to training (this is not always true in books on Border Collies). Though the chapter will not win any awards for obedience techniques, it is the same sort of materials covered in most basic training books. The section on training stockdogs however for herding sheep is truly a simplistic outline of the basics and not of much use for anybody seriously interested in working with their dog. It is a good basic coverage of sheepdog work for those that are completely unfamiliar with the subject and it serves as a nice starting point for learning more about the subject. If you're looking for a book on herding training to any degree however, you need to look elsewhere. Obviously it was not the author's intention to encompass the subject of herding training, though one could get that impression as some training techniques are included in the text.
The next chapters on nutrition and health are ones that could be included in just about any dog breed book and due to the lack of space and detail, they aren't really much help to the reader other than as a basic understanding of the principles. The final chapter covers breeding, and though DeVine talks about the manner in which to breed a Border Collie, he begins the chapter with a very important section about the reasons behind breeding. Under the heading of "Should You Breed Your Border Collie?", DeVine asks a series of very important questions that one must answer before breeding their dog. He is open and honest and comes to the correct conclusions, especially when he asks whether or not your dog is truly exceptional and whether it is the perfect genetic specimen. In no uncertain terms he declares that if you cannot answer both questions with a resounding "YES", then you have no business breeding your dog. This is an important issue and one that needs to be told, but is so rarely covered in basic books about any breed of dog. Kudos to Mr. DeVine.
There are some weaknesses in the book and much of his contact information and addresses is out of date (understandable with the publishing schedule of a book) but overall it is a very good book. His "How-to" sections are really out of place in the book, not really relevant to Border Collie ownership, and could have easily been deleted without much loss of important information. I'm not sure why they were included in the book and they certainly don't add to the strength of his text. As with just about any publication that encompasses such a wide scope of information, I also have problems with several of his conclusions and some of his basic information. However, this is to be expected with any discourse on a subject matter that one is very familiar with and there are no glaring errors that I would really take exception to. Most I would just attribute to a difference of opinion and can certainly respect his approach.
In comparison to other books about Border Collies, including ones by Joan Bray, Barbara Swann, Janet Larson, and Virgil Holland, it certainly doesn't reach as high of a mark due to its lack of detail. However as a basic book on Border Collies, in the same guild as the TFH books and similar ones, it far outclasses them. For what it is, it can't be much better.
I'd give it an A-/B+.
Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
Border Collies by Michael DeVine
The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson