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Dalesman Dog Psychology

The Guild of Dog Trainers

The Guild
of Dog Trainers

Member of Canine Behaviour Centre

Border Collies The Einstein of the dog world


   Part 1                            Border Collies the Einstein of the dog world

As a child I remember Dad reading the Daily Paper in the cartoon section was a super dog called

“Black Bob”.

He was the classic black and white “Working Collie “who was  my hero and I was determined when I grew up that was the dog I was going to have.

The paper depicted “Black Bob”as having human thoughts and his adventures were enthralling and to me as a child I imagined him being my protector and friend

Guess what my first sheep dog was called?  “Bobby”a big loping type of dog tri -colour a good working dog and a fantastic example of the breed.

 I do not want to write an article about the Origin,History,or Working ability of the “Border Collie” who is  known as the “Einstein “of the dog world .

There are many books and articles about the breed.

There are also  many talented, caring farmers and trainers who give this dog what it was bred to do “Work and Herd Sheep.”.

The people who specialise in this task have my admiration and deserve any accolades and monetary gain that they are awarded.

My view is the ability to spot the right dog for what ever you are trying to do with it is equally as important as the ability to teach it.

This ability is what makes top dogs and trainers in ANY discipline.

Although I am capable of training a sheep dog for farm work my interest lies in behavioural problems caused by mishandling.

The breed of dog I see  most for behavioural problems is the “Collie”

The purpose of this article is to highlight the plight of many of these dogs who are kept in the wrong environment.

This can happen  on a  farm  and  in a pet dog situation

So what is wrong with the Working Collie?

Nothing apart from the fact that the trainers and breeders of this magnificent dog.

Have over centuries  just been too successful in breeding a dog with.

Obsessive herding and chase instinct.

 Unrivalled Stamina

 Intelligence .

 Mental toughness and strong  will to with- stand challenges from the sheep

 An athletic robust  body built for a heavy exercise load.

 They come in a range of colours and sizes

The No1 criteria is can it be trained to herd sheep?

Unfortunately these very attributes can make it an absolute nightmare for an unsuspecting and naïve potential owner.

Most of the problems I see are NOT behavioural problems but just instinctive behaviour patterns that have surfaced in response to the handler not being able to fulfil the dogs natural herding and chase instincts.

Why is it the majority of “Working Collies” go down half a mile away to a sharp whistle as though someone has shot them and most pet “Border Collies” can not do this 2 feet from their owners.

That -el-do sends a farm dog flying back to the handlers side yet in a park the same type of dog needs half a chicken to recall.

It all boils down to not having the right dog to owner relationship and not living in the right environment.

But unless you understand how a dog learns it will be difficult to teach it.

Even someone who just has a few sheep can get a shock when getting a young dog who is desperate for work and does not get it.

For a farmer who is not really a dog man they can just be too much to handle and become a liability

I personally have first hand experience having been given a little Red and White bitch who had become a “Nightmare” for a friend of mine killing hens ,impossible to stop,gripping sheep and lambs at any opportunity,and running off when called.

She just did not get enough work to fulfil her instincts and when she went off the rails  she spent ever increasing time inside which only increased her problems.

Many people have told me that once a dog has killed they can never be trusted,well “KI”definitely disproves this statement,

It took many months and she was 7yrs old by the time I got her.

I was feeling very down at this time but seeing the little dog recover certainly helped me and proves what good therapy dogs can be.

She has full freedom around the hens ,she does a demo where corn is thrown around and even on her for the hens to peck off with no problems (photo)hens

With more work,freedom,and training and a different dog to owner relationship she does her job well.(photo)herding

She will only ever be a” Paddock dog” But is very useful none the less.

 The little dog is an important part of my dog team dealing with aggressive dogs of all breeds and demonstrating  an Electric Recall” and “Shot Dead Down.”

To be continued? And explaining the reasons why “Collies2 end up in unsuitable homes.

Part 2

Many owners underestimate the mental stimulation that working gives a dog and just how intense and tiring it is for them.

The ultimate look of fulfilment after completing their work is a joy to see ,The release of“

  Endorphins is the thing which then gives way to total relaxation.

This is something that a “Pet Dog “will struggle to feel.

A recent case study was a cracking 9mths old bitch with tremendous EYE and strong herding instinct.

I was informed very proudly that the dogs great-grand-sire won a heat of “One Man and His Dog”

and there were champions on the dams side.

When I asked what they were going to do with her?They replied “Just a pet to take for walks every week end at their caravan site”.

They were then surprised that she was obsessed with movement ,Cars,Bikes,wheelbarrow wheels,

etc barking and doing the classic crouch and stare.

What they were trying to do was cancel out centuries of breeding in one dogs life time.

A pretty difficult task

I wish I had a pound for every person who said their pet collie was obsessed with moving objects 

This couple are genuinely nice people but their kindness and love is actually hurting this dog badly

They paid good money for a dog that was advertised as “Well Bred,Good Temperament,Good with kids,Suitable for Pet or Work.

Well it certainly was for possibly trialling and farm work.

If the couple were much more energetic and perhaps involved in Agility,Search and Rescue,Obedience trials,etc.

If they understood the fundamentals of Leadership and Dog Training Psychology.

They could perhaps have a chance.

As it stands with the best will in the world the dog will struggle to conform to a pet who gets a steady walk on a lead twice a day

Who is to blame for this problem? Certainly not the dog.

It is just displaying instinctive behaviour.

The breeder?

I do not know how much info they were given by the breeder? and you could say these dogs are part of his income from the farm.

So therefore he is entitled to sell to the highest bidder.

However the dog is bred for work and the breeder knows where it is suited and in my opinion has a responsibility to inform any potential pet owner what these dogs require.

The buyer should have researched the breed and realised their lifestyle would not suit a dog with such strong working ability.

In affect all the breeding within that dog has been wasted.

Is every Border Collie destined for a miserable life as a pet ?The answer to that is NO there are many Collies who lead a happy life as a pet I personally know a lady who is a dog groomer  who has two Working Bred Collies in a flat of all places.

The difference with her is she has good owner /handling skills and competes at agility all over the country and is a very energetic person.

She is able to substitute the working with the agility and training.

I have also seen collies from working strain who just do not possess the hard wired instincts and have made lovely family dogs.

These however are unusual.

 I do believe that there are now two distinct types of collie that have evolved.

One pure and simple Working ( these in my opinion will usually be more athletic and  active )

Then the Show and Pet  strain that is usually heavier and less able to fulfill the role it was bred for

but more suited to a Pet lifestyle.

This dog has been selected for looks and a less obsessive nature ,will generally survive and be happier on less exercise,but never the less is an extremely active dog.

Many would say this is ruining the breed and they may well be right.

 Many breeds have been changed by a show judge with authority and influence who decides a  dog should look a certain way and before long the breed characteristics are lost forever.

But if people are captivated by these wonderful dogs perhaps it is in their best interests to have some of that herd and chase reduced especially if wanted as a pet.

I am of the opinion there is room for both types as long as people are aware of what they may be getting.

But to work and command a dog with sheep is a great thrill no matter how many times you do it

the classic crouch and stare and the ultimate gather ,a quad bike will never replace these dogs especially on rough land.

“Long may they reign over the hills and fells”.

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