Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is style at a Border Collie trial?

Earlier this week I read through all the USBCHA rules. I was specifically looking for the rules on Nursery age since Jude will be entering this class this year but I ended up getting sucked into reading the rulebook for all competition, and judging and so forth. 

As I was reading through the different sections of the rule book, I came across section 29 regarding style. This is how the USBCHA defines style:

Style maybe otherwise defined as a dog’s attitude to his work and his method of doing it. His attention should be on his master’s commands. Inattention, turning away from his sheep, unsteadiness or rashness all amount to poor style and should be penalized. As with command, style is included in the points allowed for each phase of the work.

Now, I always thought style was the way the dog looked when it was working stock. That is, the physical traits displayed during the application of herding methods, specifically focused on a dog's overall movement (the 'creep' or the dog's 'eye', its overall intensity, "flash," etc). I understand that USBCHA is not a beauty pageant for dogs - I know it should all come down to the quality of work (overall efficiency, sheep safety and task completion). But, this definition from the USBCHA leaves me with questions. And, in the event a winner of a big trial is being decided by one or two "style" points, I want to know!

I suppose if the dog's attitude is poor, then that will show physically on the field. For example, dog won't listen to lie down, dog loses sheep around the panel. However, I have seen some very flashy, lovely looking dogs who were not honest dogs at all on the field yet they do not seem to be dinged in "style" points. And then, I have seen some steadfast, strong, thoughtful but ugly (think Mack Truck) dogs with a positive attitude who have accomplished the same level of work on the trial field yet receive comments about them not being stylish-enough.  This, as you can see, has led to my confusion. Both dogs are getting sheep around the course but the "prettier" dog receives a higher score based on its "style."

So, what exactly is style in a border collie trial???  The USBCHA says it MAY BE defined as attitude toward the work. Is this what you see or have you understood stlye to be something different?

1 comment:

  1. very good question!! I was a scribe for a judge at our state finals, and he talked a little bit about style (subjective judging), but generally in a sheepdog field trial it probably (in his opinion) would not come into play, because the objective points carried more weight. I think style is personal preference. We all like a dog to "work" in a certain way. Food for thought!