In the world of denim jeans, there are heavy cotton workhorse jeans with rugged threads woven for durability, with rivets at stress points, a zipper that won’t fail, and belt-loops that could stop a steer in its tracks. There are also jeans made from stretch material, jeans that have embossed pockets, and jeans with a forgiving elastic waist. One brand might appear on the runway during Fashion Week, while another brand might appear in a calf-roping competition. Both are referred to as “jeans.” There was a time, a long time, when jeans meant only one thing: the heavy-duty cotton, dark blue variety worn by hard-working people outdoors. Only two companies made them, for something like 100 years.
In the world of purebred dogs, it is useful to know what brand someone is selling, and what brand you’re looking for. In Border Collies, you might be looking for an independent-thinking dog that will happily make a 500-yard outrun to find a flock of ewes over a hill in your pasture. Or you might aspire to have a conformation special that could finish a championship and go on to excel in Best of Breed. You might seek a family dog that loves to go hiking and swimming, or you might seek a dog with the potential to excel at dog sports. As with blue jeans, the brand with sequins and bling might not be suitable for bringing the sheep back to the barn, and the brand with reinforced pockets might not be suitable for an evening out at a fancy restaurant.
Brands are also distinguished by quality of construction and price. I notice some brands where breeders have puppies available almost on demand, and their Internet ads look almost like pop-ups. These puppies are usually less expensive. You don’t necessarily know what you’re getting, and you don’t know much about the specific background of the pup you’re getting or its temperament. And I notice brands where puppies are coveted, but almost never available. The litter has been spoken for in advance, and puppies are placed based on structure, drive, and temperament for a given job. Their placement also has a lot to do with maintaining the consistency of the breeder’s brand.
There are breeder brands with extensive, transparent genetic testing appropriate for eliminating health issues in the breed. There are brands where the sire and dam belong to the same person, and the breeding is frequently repeated to spare a stud fee. Some brands cut corners and offer discounts; other brands spare almost no expense to promote quality.
Brand is conveyed through titles offspring earn, the breeder’s website, Facebook exchanges, breeding stock chosen for each generation, level of attention to health and structure, and the frequency of litters. The brand is discussed ringside at conformation events, at the gate at herding events, and in the seats alongside agility venues. Those discussions carry over to hotels and restaurants, on long car rides to events, via email, Internet groups, and dog training classes with peers. The discussions are international, traversing oceans and continents, and information and opinions spread rapidly, whether accurate or not. Every photograph and Facebook share and like become part of a marketing record and longstanding review. The words people choose reflect their brand, their intentions, and their human temperament and they become part of an extensive Internet footprint.
What’s your brand? How do you convey it? How do others review it? What do you seek, and what tools do you use in pursuing it? — M.F.A. Border Collie Society of America