… but it must be easy to handle from puppyhood and onwards!
«Oh?!» I respond.
I get such mails all the time, and I believe that we have a bit different conception of what a dog that has «everything» actually is, if one also requires it be easy to handle from the start. But then again, we have different experiences that define what we mean with an «easy» puppy. I rarely find puppies and young dogs demanding, being what they are, i.e. puppy or young dog. Exasperating, tiresome, pain-in-the-ass etc yes, but not «demanding».
And then one recieves all these referrals from people whom want high hunting/chasing drive, the will to grab and hold, enormous object interest, high intensity and eagerness and stamina to work hard. But they also want a dog already adapted to everyday life, which effortlessly settles down in any environment and which does so all by itself from day 1. This does not make sense in my mind. A such intense and aware dog is actually intense and aware, so one simply must be prepared to invest some effort and work in finding the famous off-switch.
And yes, I do see bred AKs that are switched, for 2 reasons. You have the dog whose owner says «No, I have to play a bit with it before we can start training». Ok? Your dog is actually not ready to work before you have spent 5-10 minutes to get it sufficiently fired up before it finds any training interesting.. Or the dog that is actually so affected by the surroundings that it capitulates. No, they do not have to exhibit any fear to be affected by the surroundings, but there are many AKs that I think are very good at closing down into themselves, and refusing to relate to the surroundings is a very easy way out from any pressure. Of course, more adult and mature dogs are better at relaxing in any environment, but having to «turn them on and finding the on-switch» – I don’t think that is logical for any working dog according to my heart.
I feel that the dog with descriptions like «high prey drive, high will to grab and hold, high intensity etc», is disappearing in the breed. I seem to see more and more Shelpies (no offence to Sheltie owners!). But the Kelpie is becoming a breed for «everyone». There is a production of dogs that are social, secure, do good mental tests and so forth, but they are not working dogs. They are like potatoes, can be used a little for this and a little for that, they can run a bit, they can do a spot of Obedience but they do not WORK. They are not working dogs, they are not a work. One has a secure and good dog with average endurance. Just like many-many other breeds.There are many fine dogs amongst the kelpies, but it is harder and harder to find the true Kelpie.
Ok, so I have had AKs only 11 years, but I have been above average engaged in the breed these 11 years. I have worked professionally with working dog breeds – German Shepherd, Malinois, Working Springer Spaniel, Working Labrador etc and I expect the kelpie to have the same interest and eagerness to work, and I expect the same stamina and endurance, but the Kelpie seems to be becoming more and more similar to «average German Shepherds, normal Springer Spaniel, normal Labrador». The AK is becoming more and more show bred which one often can observe in kelpie discussions in various fora. I follow several International groups and when questions about height, eye colour, heaviness of build is more engaging than discussing working properties, then there is a wrong focus. When one then uses breeding stock from countries where there is close to zero focus on work ability, and then you breed that for generation after generation, then one knows where it will end. One will get the «mediocre» Kelpie that is very good looking, like so many other breeds. And when the body is very good looking in dog shows, then I often see that the dogs that are heavily built, though nicely constructed, often are the dogs that suffer from injuries. I often look at both AKs and ACDs at shows, either in person or on films from the large international shows, and the AK is actually becoming a heavier built dog with more substance than even ACD’s in countries where ACDs are numerous.
One does not need to look further than to the horse world or to sports, to observe that appearnce is closely connected to how well functioning the individual is in the corresponding field/sport. No the Kelpie should not be a whippet, nor should it be a Bull dog in appearance. It is supposed to be a moderate dog (though there will always be extremes).
So where am I going with all this? No, I don’t really know .. It is probably just a load of nonsense for may. But I think I have begun to understand which route I’ll choose to preserve the Kelpie as a Working Dog as I think it should be. An AK can have as many Champion Titles as may be, but if it barely can make it through a class 2 Obedience program and must struggle through an A-program or Elite Obedience, then what are the titles worth? Work motivation should not be an issue with an AK!! And yes it is harder to find suitable puppy buyers when dogs have that will to work and intensity, and of course it has some consequences when the dogs are so high in intensity, but come on: we are breeding working dogs that function in families, not family dogs that can be trained a little once a weekin the local dog club while the owners drink coffee. To me it is becoming more and more difficult to find the Kelpie I want – so we’ll see what the future brings..»