STOCKDOG CORNER

By Terry Martin in the Aussie Times (date unknown)

In my last column I told you about some very interesting historical material I had received regarding the beginning of the ASCA Stockdog Program.  The score sheet below [WAS ed note: we don’t have the score sheet images] was included with the first program dated 1976 (when it went to the Affiliate clubs).  It is extremely interesting when compared to today’s score sheet and those that have been used in the years in between (there have been several revisions).  There was a possibility of 170 points at that time and the Finals were to be open to dogs who had scored 125 points or more.  I am going to put the score sheet below.  The bottom portion describing the dog was used for the judge to put a check mark on the description that best described the job done and then each section was worth 10 points and scored as the judge felt appropriate.  The traits deemed most desirable at the top and going down to least desirable.

I’d love some comment about this early score sheet.  It did not take long for it to be simplified, and perhaps you will chuckle at some of it today, but remember – this was a beginning.  It was the creation of something unique that has been refined to what it is today.  It is good (in my opinion) to know the history of what we are working with whether it is the dogs themselves or the programs we use to evaluate them with.   Back in the early days when I and others were critical of the score sheet being too complicated to use when watching a dog work, a judge told me it is intended to be something that you fill out after the dog has run based on the overall picture of what you have seen.  That makes sense to me.  It is interesting that the section to score GRIP only refers to grip on the rear and not on the head.  In those days the emphasis for a cattle dog was on a driving heeling dog and the score sheet reflects that – again a historical observation.

Several years after the program was in existence and being used a very novel and interesting idea was suggested.  At that time photos were taken with film cameras, often without fast speed or telephoto lenses and video had not been invented yet.  It was easy to describe a dog as having certain working traits and far less easy to prove it.  Trials were just beginning and in most areas were few and far between.  It did not take long to realize that trial titles did mean something, but they did nothing to tell someone perhaps thinking about using a stud dog or getting a pup from a specific bloodline as to how the dogs worked.  Thus a group of people came up with the idea of what they called an “Evaluation Day”.  This was used in some areas just to see how it would work and the concept was presented to the ASCA Stockdog Committee.  Other things were happening in this new program, and this was never picked up by the Committee although some were interested in it.  I think it is worth mentioning because it is a part of that time period and thus a part of history.  It is also an example of how so many were excited about this new program with what then was a very new breed (the ASCA registry was only a few years old).

The purpose of the concept was to enable the owner of a dog to have a sort of “proof” of how  their dog worked so that those interested in the dog or it’s offspring would have a better picture of the dog’s talent than simply the opinion of the owner.  Some of us actually used this from the fun days we held to test out how it would work.  Where I lived at the time (Utah) we all mostly worked cattle, but we commented after our testing that this particular form should be revised for traits that are desirable for sheep and two different forms would be used.

When this was presented to ASCA (and I do not have that material), it was suggested that it be done in an arena with an ASCA approved Judge doing the evaluation.  After having a well attended “evaluation day” in Salt Lake City with Cathy Jones from Colorado (Reddy Teddy’s person) being the “evaluator” since we did not have an ASCA Stockdog Judge there, we (mostly people from Utah and Colorado) made some suggestions based on what happened that day.  One thing we suggested was that there be no course.  It would be the owner’s responsibility to show the evaluator just what their dog could do.  We suggested that a space with each trait that said “no opportunity to evaluate this trait” be added.  It was a very long time ago so I am doing this from memory.  I am sure there were more suggestions!

Although this idea never came into being, I think it still has merit.  I personally do not care how many titles and wins a dog has if I do not know how it works.  I know I am not alone in this.  Our thought at the time was that it could be a way to bring more revenue into the Affiliate clubs.  A fun day of working dogs does not cost as much as a sanctioned trial.  Breeders particularly do not necessarily want to train and trial all of their breeding dogs.  It’s terribly expensive to go to numerous trials to earn titles.  A nice started dog that is under control could come away from one event with an informative evaluation by an official of ASCA, and that would be a nice thing to provide to future offspring of that dog or if the dog is to be sold.  I still think it is a great idea.

All that said, I can certainly see how times and knowledge has progressed from when a group over 30 years ago sat down and put this evaluation sheet together for a breed that was still virtually unknown.  There is nothing about the dog’s sense of group/keeping the stock together, whether his natural instinct is to drive or fetch (keep in mind there were lots of driving dogs back then and also we were not as advanced on terms to use.  To most of us back then, a heeler was a dog that drove, a header was a dog that fetched (or one of those darn dogs that would not stay behind – seriously) so we were barely starting into a learning experience that has of course been ongoing for decades.  But whether this idea ever came to fruition or not, it is a part of the history of those who were involved in the early ASCA Stockdog Program.  Many many people all across the country corresponding by telephone (and long distance was very expensive – you know, those telephones attached to the wall with a cord era) and our only other way of communication was the US mail or the infrequent ASCA events attended by people from several states.  But so many were deeply committed to the working Aussie and to finding ways to showcase our dogs and of course compete with each other.  Oh, and I might mention the correspondence was done with hand written letters or typewriters – the kind that were NOT electric and mistakes were corrected with white out and then typed over again.  I mention that because I recognize my little old typewriter’s work on this evaluation sheet!

I hope you enjoyed this bit of history and comments are always welcome.