Questions & Concerns
How can ASCA write a Working Description when there is no single working style of Aussie?
No breed of stock dog can be categorized as having a "single working style". There will always be acceptable variations among individual dogs. However, each breed does have a recognizable set of traits that set it apart from other breeds. A working description can be broad enough to include all of the typical inherited traits of the Australian Shepherd, which are exhibited as the breed's "working style". There are many documented descriptions of the natural working style of the breed.
Is there any trialing system that takes into account a certain set of breed specific style criteria?
ASCA created its Stock Dog Program specifically to preserve the Aussie's natural inherited ability. All-breed trialing systems do not acknowledge breed-specific traits. Border collie trials are designed to reward the inherited traits of Border Collies. ASCA's trialing program may be unique, in that it was developed by single breed club to promote the working ability of that specific breed.
There were two objectives for the 1994 score
sheet revision. The first was to simplify the scoring by taking out all
the small "boxes" - each of which had to be assigned a numerical
score. The second objective was the concern at the time that handlers
were doing the work instead of the dog showing he could handle the
stock, hence the terminology "Dog's Ability to Control Livestock."
No. Any competition that involves performance
and livestock will always be influenced by stock, field/arena
conditions, challenge or lack of challenge, and will be more subjective
than judging appearance standing and moving.
The very reason
for having purebred breeds is to maintain a predictable gene pool of
traits that make one breed identifiable when compared to others. If one
prefers the traits of another breed one can simply get a dog of that
breed. There is no evidence that the traits that were present and
desired in Australian Shepherds have been "lost" since ASCA began
keeping a verified registry. ASCA has always had conscientious breeders
of stock dogs, who have selected for the typical traits that make the
Aussie uniquely valuable.
Agility, obedience and tracking are not competitions unique to the Australian Shepherd nor to a herding breed. None of the performance events utilize breed-specific INSTINCTUAL ABILITY...the Stockdog Program is unique in that regard. The ASCA Stock Dog Program is not considered a "performance venue". It was created to preserve the natural inherited stock handling ability of our breed, and to provide information about individual dog's ablilities, for the purpose of helping breeders make informed choices. The Stock Dog Program is integral to ASCA's duty as Parent Club and breed custodian.read more
Judges in any venue may not penalize or reward a dog because of its pedigree, handler, trainer, or owner. We trust all ASCA judges to abide by the spirit and the letter of the Program Rules and Judges Codes of Ethics. If a judge in any venue appears to be prejudiced for or against a particular bloodline, it is up to contestants to withhold entries from the judge.
A Working Description, like a Breed Standard, has no power to stifle breeders from their own interpretations and preferences. An ideal simply states the traits most desirable. Traits outside that description will of course occur and be weighed with the total dog. The typical is thus preserved even though individuals who are outside of typical may still compete successfully.
Australian Shepherd was developed to be a "loose eyed breed of stockdog".
This does not mean the Aussie never uses "eye". There have always been
Australian Shepherds who work with some eye. The Aussie has
historically been described
as having loose to moderate eye. Some individual dogs have been noted
for being "strong-eyed for an Aussie". However, the breed as a whole
cannot accurately be described as "a strong-eyed breed".
Of course not.
Many people who do not trial dogs firmly believe that ASCA should have a
written description of the working style of the Australian Shepherd.
Over the years, as some breeders have intensively selected toward more
extreme traits, dogs have been noted at trials that deviate from what is
readily recognized as "Aussie", both in their general appearance and in
how they handle their stock (please
to read documents from the early 1990s). The reaction of observers at
stock dog trials is no different from a concern over lack of type when
they see conformation show dogs who do not look like Aussies. A standard
does not solve any problem alone, but it does describe what ASCA has a
Bylaw responsibility to preserve.
If a dog from a specific line works like a breed other than an Aussie, it is going to be noted. If many dogs from a specific line exhibit traits more typical of another breed, it does become a concern to those who value the uniqueness of the Aussie, and strive to maintain the breed's integrity. The same reaction would be expected if a bloodline emerged that had long noses, wedge-shaped heads, small triangular eyes, high tulip ears and produced an unusual percentage of sables. Concern over breed preservation should not be confused with a desire to penalize.
Can't any breed - even Dalmatians - be trained to work the way the Description says?
That would depend on what the description says, and one has not been written yet. Just as our Breed Standard specifies some traits that are not limited to Aussies (scissors bite, straight legs, moderate turn of stifle, correct angulation, etc.) there will be some traits in the Working Description that can be applied to many other breeds. A well-written Description will emphasize traits that are inherited and cannot be reliably trained for.
loose-to-moderate amount of eye in an Aussie can be enhanced by
training. An Aussie can be trained to appear to have "natural crouch"
in certain situations by repeatedly downing him during training. This
is not an inherited trait, but anticipation of the command. However,
when the situation requires the dog to get out, do something and do it
fast, the dog will rely on inherited reflexes and behaviors, and revert
to what is naturally comfortable for him. In other words, a dog will
automatically go to his "default behaviour" when the chips are down!
Crouching and strong eye are NOT "default behaviour" for an Aussie.
The ASCA Stock
Dog Program was not created to guarantee that Aussies always win top
honors at our trials. It was created to preserve the natural working
ability of our breed, and to improve the overall level of usefulness by
helping breeders choose from dogs that exhibit the combination of
desired traits unique to Aussies. If the only aim of Stock Dog Trial
participants is to turn the Aussie into the greatest trial dog of all
times, then intensively breeding for Border Collie traits, which are not
typical of Aussies, might be considered a valid pursuit. If we still
want the Australian Shepherd to continue to be the great to live with
companion, guardian of the property and children and ideal farm/ranch
dog, who will go all day whether working or not, then we need to
preserve that which makes him an Aussie.
Read an article about breed differences relating
ASCA has not
stated, as an objective of the Stock Dog Program, the need to preserve
the natural inherited working ability of every breed of dog. The ASCA
Stockdog Program was explicitly created for the Australian Shepherd and
the other breeds are welcomed guests in the ASCA program. ASCA Stockdog
Judges are expected to have enough general knowledge of the differing
traits among various breeds to judge them accordingly. However, every
ASCA Stock Dog judge is required by ASCA to have trialed and worked
Australian Shepherds. It is of the essence that judges understand the
specific traits of our breed, in order to reward the best individual
Aussies at any given trial.
Description will not make it easier or harder for Aussies to win trials
against any other particular breed. The goal of the Working Description
is to help preserve what is best in our Aussie stock dogs and improve
the level of usefulness across the gene pool. It has no bearing on
which dogs go High in Trial at a given show.
They don't need to. They never have had to do this and have no obligation to other breeds to protect or preserve their inherited working style. Several times over history it has been suggested that experienced stockdog trialers from other breeds be allowed to become ASCA Stockdog Judges. Each time it has been denied for one simple reason. The ASCA tockdog Program is for the Australian Shepherd. If ASCA only cared about "work accomplished"they would have allowed judges from other breeds into the program long ago.
Shouldn't a working description or standard be part of the breed
Shouldn't a working description or standard be part of the breed