|We're considering getting a Border Collie but I've always heard they should be placed in a working home. What is a working home? Should we get a puppy or a rescue? I've always heard there are so many dogs in rescue and many folks claim they are great dogs. If they're so great, why are they in rescue?|
My definition has always been that a working home was one where the dogs were asked/required to herd stock for a living. There is no value judgment in this, as I am more than happy to place rescues in non-working households. It is simply a way of differentiating the two forms of homes. Not to say that pet homes don't ask their dogs to work - in Agility, Frisbee, etc. - or that dogs with working families can't be spoiled to death. There are two obvious features that are required in either situation - care and concern for the animals and an outlet for the Border Collie endless energy source. Neither situation is an excuse for lack of one or the other. Dogs in working homes, in my opinion, shouldn't be treated like pieces of machinery. Just because they are worked is no excuse for treating them without concern or respect. I work for a boss but I still demand that I am treated with dignity, respect, and concern for my welfare. The same goes for a working dog. And pet homes should not be excused for failing to provide the physical and mental stimulation required by these dogs just because they love and spoil them. This is not to say that you need to herd sheep or compete in Agility competitions to adequately provide for these dogs. But simply putting them out in the backyard every day just will not do.
Rescue dog vs. a bred puppy
The greatest thing about rescue dogs is that almost inevitably, they are out of the puppy stage. Yeah, puppies are cute and all, but they are also a lot of work and assuredly will get into some kind of trouble, no matter the upbringing. Not only do you avoid this with a rescue dog, but most importantly, we already know what the dog is like. If you have children, are looking for a dog to do something particular, or have some idea of what you would like in a dog, rescue is the way to go. If I give you a pup, I cannot tell you exactly what that pup will grow up to be like, personality, working ability, etc. With a rescue, I can tell you exactly what to expect from any particular dog. You want one to play Frisbee, we got it. You need one that is great with kids, we got it. You want one that is ball crazy - got it. With so many available across the country (though I wish we couldn't say this), you can almost custom order your particular dog, right down to the weight, sex, color, and paw size. You may have to wait a bit or ship it in from several states away, but what a bargain. For a rescue fee and shipping costs, you get the exact dog you want. No guesswork and no uncertainties as to how it will grow up. Some come with papers, most are perfectly healthy. The nightmares that have been described are out there (and we don't even try to place them) but there are TONS of perfectly wonderful dogs waiting in rescue right now. With a pup, you have to raise, train, and housebreak the dog yourself. With a rescue, I can teach them basic obedience in two to three days before handing them over to you. Lots of them are already housebroken. What a great deal - each dog can come with basic obedience and fully housetrained - and loaded with options (do I sound like a car dealer here?) The thought that you are getting someone else's nightmare is probably off base as far as most rescue dogs are concerned. If you have kids, you don't pick one that nips at children. If you can't handle a hyper, intense, or dominant dog, pick one a little more your style. There are certainly enough to go around. The original owners never had that luxury - they were stuck with what they got. And if you need one to herd sheep, we got those too. And some are excellent at it already. What more could you ask for?
Who to blame?
Who should we blame for the dogs in rescue? The breeders or those that get the dogs? I put the blame solely on the breeders (or pet shops, or shelter placements). Most people who turn their dogs over to rescue are well-intentioned and caring people. The breed turns out to be too much for them to handle, or the dog winds up being incompatible with their lifestyle. They agonize over turning in the dog, but simply cannot take the situation any longer. What about those people that turn in their dogs because they are lazy and simply can't handle the dog or don't want to - the so-called "loser" owners? Aren't they to blame? No. If the breeders had done their job - informing potential buyers, screening out those that are incompatible with owning Border Collies, or warning them of hazards of owning a Border Collie, then these people wouldn't have gotten the dogs in the first place. And where should every dog that doesn't work out go? To rescue? No. Straight back to their breeder. If breeders were willing to stick by their "product" and take back faulty or incompatible dogs, then we would be out of a job in Border Collie rescue. Since many see the old dollar sign at the end of the rainbow, I don't foresee that happening any time in the near future. Foregoing breeding a dog (whether genetically, temperamentally, or physically faulty) or refunding the purchase price of a returned dog does little help in making a profit. Depends on what you are truly interested in, I guess. This becomes very evident with your actions.
And just a last Public Service Announcement and reminder:
Rescue Border Collies, just like any other Border Collie, can ....
1) Win trials
2) Give kisses
3) Win Frisbee World Finals
4) Be trained to do tricks
5) Save lives
6) Comfort the sick or elderly
7) Herd sheep, cats, or geese on a golf course
8) Win Obedience competitions
9) Act in television commercials
10) Love their owners
Save a life and make a new friend - rescue a Border Collie.