This was a quote taken off Sheepdog-L the other day. I kept it anonymous. This is in the context of trialing.
"he (pro) thinks too much emphasis is placed on tightness and tidiness and straight lines and such. He also believes, relatedly, that too much emphasis is being placed on the handler instead of the dog—that the trend is to see how well the handler can place his dog rather than how well the dog can think and make decisions"
I would agree with the above (if) I was out working on the ranch. I don't give a hootenanny about straight lines. I like to let my dogs have full rein to think about what I am asking them to do. They normally do a much better job without me interfering once they know what I want.
Competing is a whole 'nother story. It is "teamwork." No matter whether you want to be like a well known handler and whistle every step of the course or whistle as little as possible; you are all being judged to the same standard. An outrun that doesn't upset the sheep. A gentle lift, a straight fetch through the fetch panels, a tight come around the post, and straight lines through your triangular drive going through the panels, etc. I think it would be impossible for a judge to score on how well he feels the dog is doing his work on his own.
We have all had a dog "save our ass" and when that happens you say "Thank-you God, Good dog"...., but I don't think a judge could score anything but lines and a smooth flow to the course work. That's what makes competing exciting. Day one you might look like a train wreck and day two you might look like a National contender and win the class. We all strive for consistency and "numbers." But, we all know it isn't always that easy; new terrain, different obstacles, plus "the sheep." There is a bit of luck in what sheep you draw up. Get one stinker and you may have a fight the whole run.
I think when you add up all the variables, it's what makes it so intriguing to all of us sheep doggers. I know my dogs can think and make decisions for themselves. Just watch my husband work our sheep on 3 acres with 3 yr. old Yoko. He has mountains and a busy canyon road to avoid. Yoko saves his butt innumerable times. :0) If he were to trial her, he would be lucky to get a score. If I trial her, I'm lucky to be in the 60's, if a pro trialed her, she would probably be in the 80's. It's all about experience. With experience, comes timing, reading livestock, and knowing when to be quiet and when to have input. What else can a (judge) score other than straight lines and flow?