The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brains before beauty

There is a new thread on Sheepdog-L, a border collie forum I read, that made me think about my dog related to beauty. This article, titled Pedigree dogs are becoming stupid as we breed them for looks, not brains is the genesis for the thread. Written for the UK Telegraph, it's based on a Swiss study by Kenth Svartberg who tested 13,000 dogs and rated 31 different breeds. In his report, Dr. Svartberg makes an ominous conclusion; The worst affected working breeds were smooth collies, once a herding dog, and Rhodesian ridgebacks, which were used for hunting even dangerous game.

Once a herding dog?

Price has a white head. As if that weren't what some consider "bad enough," he has one blue eye and lop (or what I call "helicopter") ears. The black lines around his eyes that are considered "good" in white-headed dogs are only partial and, I swear, it makes me dizzy sometimes to look at him straight on. It's kind of like looking at one of those swirling spirals used to hypnotize or trigger a seizure.

A ewe was harrassed, chased and bitten all the way down the fetch line at a trial I once attended. Not surprisingly, she ended up fleeing into a wide, shallow creek that ran alongside the field. I took Price and waded in to get her.

In one spot alongside the creek, someone had piled a huge mound of loose, sandy soil. Oh course, that's where she went next. The ground was deep, so it was hard for her, but she was still trying to escape. When I flanked my dog to block her, it put him dug into the steep downhill side of the sand pile with the ewe between us. I was trying to get my hands on her without falling into the creek and she was trying to jump.

Every time she started, Price took one, big, determined and perfectly lateral step to block her. Without ever coming forward, his eyes never left hers while he stopped her again, and again, and again. To this day, it remains one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

The argument has already been won by those far more intelligent than I am, and I'm not going to touch on the detrimental effects of breeding to an arbitrary standard. But I know beauty when I see it.


  1. My wife’s grandpa had a saying I have never forgotten when we were talking horses…pretty is as pretty does. I am now a firm believer in doers rather than lookers. Another saying I like is, it costs the same to feed a good hors as a bad one.

  2. Thank you Karl, and then there's my personal favorite; "The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse."