Breeding For the AKC

I just don't get all this arguing over the recognition of Border Collies by the AKC. Why get your knickers in a twist because someone develops a breed standard and suggests what the ideal physical appearance should be? You don't have to forego working ability for this. There will be dogs that gain OB CH/SH CH status, there will be herding dogs who are SH, CH, etc. Being correct and beautiful will not prevent these dogs gaining other titles if their owners wish it....

I'll tell you why my knickers would be in a twist (by the way, is this the English equivalent of a wedgie? :-). Because breeding for conformation limits the genetic pool. Limiting the genetic pool in that way, NECESSARILY limits the genetic pool for any other set of characteristics. There may be a whole swarm of beautiful and "correct" Border Collies but I wouldn't want to match them up against the non-limited group on the whole. To make an analogy, this is like saying "Why can't we have an NBA team where all the players are blonde and have curly hair?" Well..... you can. In fact you can probably put together a team of pretty decent basketball players that fit this description. But I'd rather have a team that is selected solely for their playing ability, regardless of their hair style, skin color, or any other physical trait. And I can promise you that I could put together a better team than the curly blonde squad. Heck, my team may even have a blonde or two, but I didn't pick them based on that. If I think basketball players are for playing basketball, then I pick based on that. If I think basketball players are for looking pretty, I'll pick for that. In my eyes however, Border Collies are for playing basketball (herding), not for looking pretty. If you want a mediocre team, go with the standard. If you want a great team, just pick the best and to heck with their looks (aka the Boston Celtics - man... what an ugly team they were).

But wait, you say. We can pick basketball players based on certain types of looks and KNOW they will be great players. It's those looks that would make them good. Great basketball players are, let's say, over 6'5", have well defined calves and thighs, etc. Just like a Border Collie in conformation. Conformation standards are there to help define great physical specimens. There are two responses to this: 1) What in the heck does eye color or a gay tail have to do with being a great physical specimen (or great herder)? 2) Why limit your choices? There are countless remarkable basketball players that don't "fit the mold" and would not be allowed in your league. I'm also sure that a good proportion of the herding champs would flunk the conformation standards. Some breeders may prefer physical "types" but there is no set standard. You may think mostly white dogs don't make great herders because they don't command the respect from the sheep etc. but there are some whiz-bang, mostly white, herding Border Collies out there.

Do I care if there is a conformation standard? In the abstract, no. Physical "ideals" are nice things to consider. But what I have a problem with is the way those standards play out in the real world. Conformation breeders cull their litters immediately, eliminating those that don't match the standard (and DON'T tell me it doesn't happen). How many grand champions might go undiscovered? Because AKC standards *do* mean something to a lot of people. Otherwise, they would only be AKC "suggestions" - and they aren't that. If you want a prize-winning Border Collie, you sure the heck don't breed non-conforming dogs, even if they are the best herders on the planet. Yeah, I, myslef, don't have to breed to the standards (and won't) but there are a lot of people out there that will begin to. Looks first, ability second, intelligence somewhere else down the line. To me, this is completely backwards. If all we want is pretty Border Collies, then this will get us exactly that. If we want supreme herding dogs, then it is counterproductive.

Untwisting my knickers....

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