“Never Trust a Trainer Who Only Owns Border Collies”

Here’s a thing I’ve heard said, often by people who own Malinois, Shepherds, and other such breeds, and compete in protection sports, and for some reason seem to think themselves better than everyone else because they own “difficult” breeds and compete in “serious” sports: “never trust a trainer who only owns Border Collies.”

I hate everything that this argument implies.

First off, if looking for a trainer, my criteria would be based on a LOT of things besides what breed/s of dog their personal dog/s are. What kind of an education do they have, and where did they receive it? How much experience do they have? What exactly makes them qualified to instruct me in the training of my dog? “Do they only own Border Collies” would not even be on my list of questions.

But the thing that gets my goat is the implication that Border Collies are “easy” dogs, and that someone who owns only Border Collies is not qualified to work with “difficult” dogs.

This is like the argument about which musical instrument is the “hardest”to play. All instruments are different, and it takes a different set of skills to play each one. I am a pianist, and some would say I am pretty skilled at playing my chosen instrument. But put a flute in front of me, and, though I know how to read music and I know the basics of music theory, I wouldn’t be able to just pick it up and play it. That’s not because the flute is a “hard” and the piano is “easy,” it’s because I have learned the skills to be able to play the piano but not those necessary to play a flute.

Similarly, it would be foolish to say that certain breeds are “difficult” whereas other breeds are “easy.” If I gave a person who was used to working with Malinois a Beagle and said “here, take this dog and get the same amount of enthusiasm out of it that you get out of your Malinois,” they likely wouldn’t have a clue how to do that. And if I asked them to do the same thing with a Border Collie, they would likely have no idea how to work with a dog so much more sensitive than they are used to. But these are breeds that a cocky Malinois owner would likely call “easy” dogs compared to the ones they own. Being able to handle a Malinois is one skill. Being able to motivate a Beagle is another. I’d say the handler who can get their Beagle to run an agility course without stopping to sniff has just as hard a job as the person who can get their Malinois to exercise self-control in an exciting environment. It’s a different skill, but that doesn’t mean it’s “easy.”

Overall, I think that calling the breed they own “difficult” and other breeds “easy” is really just a way for a handler to boost their own ego. You can prattle on all day about how “difficult” your chosen breed is, but chances are, if asked to handle a different breed, you’d likely be stumped. The real skill is being able to work with a variety of different dogs, and the handlers who can do that are not the ones you’ll hear talking about “difficult” dogs and “easy” dogs.


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