Skip to content

Dog Breeding & Border Collies With Tammie From DarnFar Ranch

Breeding Business is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Sunday 19 July 2015
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
DarnFar Dog Breeder Border Collies
This page may contain affiliate links. We may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links.

This is an interview like we never had, and I seriously mean it. Tammie from DarnFar Ranch has a fascinating story tangling dog breeding, dog training, and even starting its own non-shedding crossbred Service Dog line. She mainly works by breeding Border Collies, and openly explains how dog breeding should be, how she makes it happen, and how she got to such a high level of expertise.

Just giving you a heads-up, this is a long interview but it really is packed with good pieces of advice and thought-provoking statements.

I am Tammie Rogers. Along with my husband, Robert, I own two dog-related businesses in Brownstown, Illinois, USA. DarnFar Ranch is dedicated to training dogs and their people through our Board/Train programs, workshops, and private instruction. We also raise pure-bred working Border Collies. Committed Canine is our business dedicated to the training and education of Service Dogs and their handlers.

I trained my first dog with an obedience club in Chicago in 1983. A couple of years later, I began volunteering with the club, helping beginner students. I took my first client, a woman who was struggling teaching her Bassett hound to negotiate a doggie-door, a year or so after that. From that point forward, I continued to grow my dog training hobby alongside developing a small side business while I maintained my full-time employment as a biologist in a medical diagnostics company.

Now, thirty years after training and competing with my first dog, I have spent the last fourteen years working full time as a professional dog trainer and instructor.

Why have you chosen to breed and work with Border Collies, what do you like in that (amazing) breed?

I acquired my first Border Collie in 1987 after meeting his breeder at an obedience trial where I was participating with my first competition dog, a Labrador Retriever. Purchasing Shamaron, that first Border Collie could be considered one of those pivotal, life changing moments that alter the trajectory of one’s existence.

Border Collie From DarnFar Ranch
Border Collie From DarnFar Ranch

He was 13 months old and I read it was important to build a bond with an older pup before beginning competitive training. I acquired a book about Border Collies which had a list of herding clubs in a reference section. I called the one closest to my location and set up a herding lesson. While the instructor was challenging, to say the least, she understood herding and I began to appreciate my dog’s passion to contain and control livestock. I suffered tears, boots full of mud, escapades on the ice, and outrageously hot summer days working that dog until I was able to beat my instructor at a herding trial.

Then, I bought him his own sheep before I had a farm on which to house them. While they outstayed their welcome at an acquaintance’s property, I sought to acquire my own place. At the time I was employed close to Chicago. The land prices exceeded my capacity to purchase anything very nearby, so I settled on a little seven-acre place over seventy miles from work. I called the farm DarnFar because it was so darn far from work.

Shamaron and my second Border Collie, a rescue dog named Laddie, continued to teach me the ways of a good shepherd. Sham, in particular, was patient beyond measure with my incompetence. He taught me about herding, but also about how to be a better person. I worked those dogs on my little farm and competed in trials until I felt proficient to offer lessons, and finally, I applied to judge trials. I trained Sham to the advanced level in AHBA, ASCA, and AKC trials as well as moving him into the Open level in USBCHA. In that time he was able to secure High In Trial honors many times.

It was when Sham turned eight years old that I decided to breed my first litter, which he sired. I did not breed another litter for ten years, and only after I had married and moved to a larger farm and was working, full-time, at the property. Then, I felt capable of giving the puppies what they required for early development.


To specifically answer why I chose to breed Border Collies, it is because they became my life and I wanted to breed to acquire a new dog for myself. That was my initial motivation.

How many people are working with you to run your dog businesses?

My husband and I, alone, run our businesses, including breeding and puppy raising.

How did you choose your founding stock when you started breeding dogs?

I didn’t actively say, “I want to breed dogs, so I should go get some dogs.” — I started out with a good dog and I trained him in the world of his genetic heritage to the point where I felt competent enough to assess that he was worthy of breeding.

I trained and trialed several other Border Collies that I acquired, including a couple of rescue dogs and I watched dogs at trials and during lessons that I offered. I observed until I realized that I wanted to recreate my first dog because, it became clear to me, that he was worthy of breeding.

Then, to my dismay, I felt as if I had failed miserably. His son was nothing like he was. The lesson that a perceived weakness could be a dog’s true strength took me a long while to comprehend. Sham’s son worked in a completely different style than his father and I thought that was his deficit. I had been attempting to train Breeze like his father for over two years (and feeling frustrated all the while) when I realized that the way he worked livestock, albeit different than Sham, was very clever.

Border Collie - Dog Breeding By Tammie
I think most well-bred herding-working Border Collies have something to offer in the way of high-quality herding work.

That lesson has helped me make decisions regarding dog breeding since that time. For me, breeding dogs was an organic sort of venture that happened slowly as I learned about this incredible breed and I felt that I could make decisions that would sustain all the work those good shepherds had done before me when creating this highly unique breed.

What Border Collie lines outside of yours do you find remarkable?

I think most well-bred herding-working Border Collies have something to offer in the way of high-quality herding work. However, they are not always partnered with the right job or the right handler for one to examine that potential.

A dog that is naturally talented at reading and adjusting to flighty sheep may struggle to work in chutes with hardened, belligerent ewes and the dogs that can handle cattle may lack the finesse to work ducks. In the years that I offered herding lessons, I often felt that a dog was handicapped by its human as much or more than the human became frustrated with the dog’s working ability.

That said, and the fact that oftentimes you cannot breed a dog and get a carbon copy of its parents, I have not really spent much time analyzing “lines.” Seeing a dog working at a trial (or on a farm) is not just a presentation of that dog’s genetic potential, but is also an illustration of the partnership it has forged with its handler and the handler’s skills at training the dog.

Trying to assess a “line”, therefore, is quite challenging.

What improvements is your breeding program focusing on for the breed? Health, temperament, physique, etc.

I think that the first question a breeder should ask is whether the breeding dogs are physically healthy. That includes checking for orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia, congenital eye problems (such as Collie Eye Anomaly), and structural defects that would make the dog handicapped performing the work for which it was bred, such as straight hocks or too short of a neck.

Then, the dog’s general temperament should be evaluated, as a social canine, and against the breed standard for typical or desired temperament in the breed. Those are not “improvements” as much as “must-haves” for any breed, and the evaluation should be based on the specific breed.

To me, the most important breeding criterion in the Border Collie is whether the dog can perform the work for which it was designed. That isn’t always as much of an improvement, as a commitment to avoid a diluting of those qualities that have already been developed in the working lines.


For example, I am opposed to breeding a herding-working line Border Collie to an import from Australia that has been conformation-show-line bred for generations without a review of the dogs’ herding ability. I am not opposed to showing in conformation. I just do not think that a show championship should be the exclusive benchmark for breeding a working dog.

If by improvement, you mean retaining the exceptional herding ability that well-bred working Border Collies already possesses, then I would say to maintain and improve the Border Collie each generation should be evaluated for herding work before passing the test to be reproduced.

What are the most common medical conditions and hereditary diseases Border Collies are the victims of? Are there any DNA tests to be able to spot them?

The most common evaluations performed on breeding Border Collies, in my experience, are hip conformation and congenital eye diseases (CEA/CH).

There is no DNA test for hip dysplasia, as far as I know. But, a breeder can have a professional organization, such as OFA, evaluate a radiograph for normal hip conformation. I do that with the dogs that I breed. Optigen offers a test for CEA/CH which I also use.

There are a couple of DNA tests for conditions that are less common in working lines than in the show lines, and for the Australian bred line dogs it is recommended to test for Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis.

How many dogs have you got in your different dog breeding activities and how many litters are you producing every year?

We breed one to two litters per year. I currently have two intact bitches and two breeding males.

What do you look for when planning a mating, could you guide us through your mating partners selection process? From finding the right stud to studying the pedigree, the traits, etc.

Because herding work is important to me, once the dog’s genetic health for heritable diseases has been evaluated, I look at my dog’s general skills with livestock.

There is no one way to move herd animals. Some dogs are natural at driving (moving livestock away from the handler), while others are heavily heading dogs that like to get to a balance point and fetch stock to their handler. Some handle lighter stock better, others are more skilled at working heavier animals. When breeding a herding dog, I think the goal should be to find the perfect balance between the dog’s desire to work autonomously and to work for a human authority figure.

Some herding breeds are skewed to the side of working autonomously and aren’t terribly good at taking orders from the shepherd. They can be useful, say, moving a huge lot of cattle up to summer pastures in the mountains working beside cowboys on horseback. Other herding breeds have been selected as good family companions for a long while, and they are very concerned about pleasing their people, so they are a bit more reluctant to take on a difficult herding task that may require some go-get-’em power. Border Collies should have that balance of biddability and work drive which sets them apart from most of the other herding working breeds.

Black & White Border Collie Puppy
“Border Collies became my life”, says Tammie

To me, along with an extraordinary level of mental intelligence, the balance between a very strong work ethic and a desire to please the human is one of the qualities that sets the Border Collie apart from the other breeds, and that should be at the forefront of any dog breeding and mating decision.

The remarkable thing about this breed is that, as long as breeders pay close attention to the qualities that make good herding partners (biddability vs. work drive ratio), I believe their pups will be well equipped to work in many different venues, such as Search and Rescue, Agility, competitive obedience, Flyball, Disc competitions, dock diving, you name it, a Border Collie can probably do it. That would include activities that were designed exclusively for other breed groups like Earth Dog tests, Lure Coursing, Hunting and Retrieving tests.

Are you favoring external blood when mating one of your bitches, or do you breed your own studs?

I prefer working male dogs, so I like to breed to my own studs. The two bitches that I currently have are from outside sources. That has not always been the case, but I made the decision to acquire them because I wanted to keep males to work, and perhaps eventually breed.

Through Committed Canine, you are also breeding and training service dogs for disabled people, what Border Collies have that Labradors don’t when it comes to being service dogs?

We don’t look at a breed and ask, “Will this breed do well as a Service Dog?” — We look at the partnership, first. Every Service Dog client is a different person. Some people can handle a strong-willed dog like a German Shepherd Dog. Other people are better suited to the disposition of a retriever. We actually often acquire retrievers to train as Service Dogs.

Some people are good fits for Border Collies, and we have been successful in placing our home-raised dogs into Service Dog work with children, adolescents, and adults. They are typically a sensitive breed that is concerned about their owner’s condition and make good choices in a short stint of an absent leader, and therefore they can make a great dog for a person with a psychiatric disability. They are also workaholics, so for someone who needs doors opened, socks pulled off, or items retrieved a Border Collie can be a great option. One of the best aspects of a Border Collie is its smaller size compared to a GSD or a Labrador Retriever. They fit into a smaller space better.

The breed is famous for being an extremely active breed, requiring a lot of physical and mental work. Others now argue that they become what they are trained to be. What is your take on this debate, do Border Collies have an off-switch, or are they constantly seeking things to do?

Only train a Border Collie to work with livestock to understand that a frantic, overly active dog that lacks self-restraint would not make a good herding dog. Livestock are incredibly perceptive of their surroundings, including the “energy” of a human shepherd and her dog. I recall watching my sheep react to a dog that jumped out of a vehicle that was located over 200 feet from the training pen. They can sense that dog’s demeanor and they will tell you what they think about it through snorting, stomping and ear twitching at a great distance.

I am disappointed when I see a Border Collie running an Agility course with its tail flying over its back, barking and yapping and spinning and spitting the whole way. That is not a Border Collie in working mode. That is a crazed animal that has been permitted to exist in that state of mind and body.

If one were to judge the breed based on dogs such as those seen at Agility trials, of course, one might think that the breed needs to be run for miles every day and that it cannot settle down and relax. However, anyone who truly knows the breed and has worked livestock successfully with a Border Collie quickly recognizes that it has a strong capacity to be self-restrained, highly obedient, relaxed, controlled, and can also be incredibly fast, even while remaining self-composed.

Dogs are a reflection of their relationship with their humans.

Your Intention Canine program is currently in progress, could you tell us more about it, and have you ever used inbreeding or linebreeding, if so, what were the results?

We have been training Service Dogs for nearly a decade and in that time we have mostly secured the dogs from outside sources.

Once we interview a client, we identify the breed(s) that would suit that individual and begin a search. We hope to find a nice, young adult (10-14 months old) so that we can begin formal training immediately. This eliminates the puppy rearing effort, reduces the turn-around time, and gives us the opportunity to assess the dog’s temperament and physical qualities, instead of getting a puppy and relying on the pup’s parents’ qualities to make a decision.

Very often, our clients ask for a non-shedding breed of dog. There are very few medium-large to large-sized dogs that are well suited to Service Dog work that are also non-shedding. We have acquired doodles (Labrador or Golden Retriever x St. Poodle crosses) to meet our clients’ needs, and we have been disappointed several times. So, after several years of deliberation and digesting the idea that we may be judged unkindly, we decided to produce a poodle crossbreed dog that swaps out the hunting retriever brain with a herding dog brain, in the way of the Old English Sheepdog.

Border Collie - From DarnFar Ranch Dog Breeding Kennel
Boon seems ready for some action!

The Old English Sheepdog has a non-shedding coat and therefore can produce non-shedding pups in the first generation. Our mission and intention are well described on our Intention Canine’s website, so additional questions about this venture may be more thoroughly described at that site. We are currently raising pups out of our first litter to train as Service Dogs.

What is your strategy to find new forever homes for your puppies? Through social media, classified ads, or they contact you on your website?

I have been raising herding-working Border Collies for long enough that I actually don’t have to advertise in any other venue than my DarnFar’s website. Folks contact me via my Puppy Application.

A lot of people support the “adopt, don’t shop” trend, and blame dog breeders for the overpopulation in shelters. What is your take on this?

My mantra is “Know Your Breeder”. If people would spend a bit of time researching the person from whom they are acquiring a dog and reject those that do not pass the test, the world would be a better place. There would be fewer poorly raised puppies in the world simply because of the concept of supply and demand. Sure, there will always be a small number of dogs that are truly displaced because their owners die or are otherwise, seriously unable to continue caring for the animal. But, people use “rescue” as a dumping ground for dogs that simply need proper training and socialization all too often, which has produced sufficient “rescue” dogs for the individuals who want to rescue a dog.

If most people demanded that the dogs they acquire come from reputable, high-quality breeders, then the demand for poorly bred dogs would reduce. It’s really quite simple – but, it gets muddle up when people feel compelled to “rescue” a dog because that is what they are told is the noble thing to do. I think that people may spend more time researching the next refrigerator that they plan to purchase than their next puppy.

Imagine if people knew what questions to ask and felt compelled to screen their breeder thoroughly before making a purchase. Imagine if people were empowered to be responsible for their own actions and purchases, instead of relying on ineffective and nearly-impossible-to-enforce laws to protect them from bad breeders.

No one seems to question whether “rescuing” is the right thing to do for the sake of dogs in the long run. They make impulse decisions based on what they are told is ‘good and right’ without truly thinking about it, and without assessing whether they are personally equipped to rehabilitate the rescue dog – since many of them do come with some amount of baggage. It provides my husband and me with a constant flow of business (about 80% of the dogs we receive for training are described by their owners as a “rescue”). But, I would rather find an alternate way to make money and support a system that would reduce the number of poorly produced/bred dogs.

On June 10, CDC’s Poxvirus and Rabies Branch confirmed the diagnosis of rabies in a dog imported from Cairo, Egypt. In total, 18 US citizens (Virginia residents) have been started on rabies post-exposure prophylaxis due to contact with the rabid dog. Human and animal exposure investigations have been completed at the state level. A review is underway to determine how this infected dog was able to enter the United States.

Centers For Disease Control’s website

Centers For Disease Control’s website

If so-called rescue groups cannot find sufficient dogs in the USA to offer “rescue” dogs to all the people who think that is what they are supposed to acquire, should we really put the American public in danger trying to fill that niche with dogs from Asia? Or, should we spend those resources on educating people on how to “Know Your Breeder” and how to select the right canine companion for their personal situation.

How important is it for a breeder to have a website and a social media presence nowadays?

I have a website but I am not active on social media. I think it saps too much valuable time. I understand that other people feel that their time spent on social media is very valuable. I am not interested in selling hundreds of puppies, so I don’t need to reach thousands of potential buyers.

What do you require from your potential clients before agreeing to a sale? Do you export your dogs all over the world?

I have an application that asks questions about the potential buyer’s home situation as it would relate to their capacity to raise a puppy and care for a dog.

Dog Breeding Results With Beautiful Border Collie
A stunning Border Collie — born and raised in DarnFar Ranch!

I want to know whether they plan to chain it out, allow it to run free, or provide a more appropriate form of outdoor confinement or management. I like to know how many other dogs and cats they have, how many kids are in the house, and whether they have owned a dog and specifically a Border Collie before. I want to know that they have experience with dogs and that they have thought about what they might do if they have to move from their current location or if their life changes in some way that would make owning a dog a challenge.

Folks come to get their puppy from our location, I do not ship puppies. Sometimes, we will meet a puppy buyer at or near the airport, if they have flown in and will be taking it back as carry-on luggage on the plane.

What diet do your dogs follow, any particular brand(s) you like to use?

I feed my dogs raw, bone-in chicken, and a high quality (no-grain) commercial dry dog food. If I lived in an area where I could gain access to other raw meat products that were easy to prepare, I would phase out the commercial food. But, I live in a country where I don’t have access to a reliable source of fresh, raw meats other than chicken, so I augment that with dry food.

Same for kennel cleaners, how do you keep everything clean and sanitized throughout the year?

My breeding dogs are all my house pets, they are not kennelled. We take on a small number of dogs for training, and we use standard cleaning practices that are mostly based on bleach for disinfecting.

What has been your most memorable sale?

Training and placing one of my home-raised Border Collies with a disabled child became very memorable when, after about 10 months, the child’s mother called to report that the dog had alerted to a seizure.

Any advice you would give to newcomers in this industry, who perhaps would like to breed Border Collies?

Personally, I think that one should have more of a reason than, “I want to breed dogs” before taking on such a huge responsibility. I feel equipped to take back any puppy that I produced, regardless of its age or how badly the dog’s behavior has become due to poor management or lack of training. I have the resources (space, time, skills) to rehabilitate that dog and rehome it or retain it, if necessary, for life.

The dog breeder's handbook wooden logo
Check out our best-selling handbook to know what dog breeding is about.

Anyone who considers dog breeding needs to feel assured that they can do the same before producing puppies that may require the breeder’s intervention at some point. I think that there should be a very clear intention behind breeding dogs, more than just to make money or experience a bitch whelping a litter.

I may be considered a snob, but I also think that a breeder should have experience with the breed in some type of competition or hobby that helps the breeder understand and become skilled at assessing the breed doing the work for which it was designed.

If it’s a breed that no longer has that job, in today’s world, then the would-be breeder should work with the dog in some fashion where he can learn about the dog’s temperament and physical attributes in another venue. For example, if there are no longer castles to guard, then perhaps the dog could be trained for carting work. In such a situation, a breeder can assess his dog’s attitude and attributes that may help him make good breeding and mating choices.

Last little question, what tools do you use to handle your accounting, calendar, and office work?

I use Microsoft Office products: Outlook, Access, Excel, etc…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *