Confused by Collies?
Collies, sheepdogs and all their cousins have become one of the most popular breeds today. I am a lifetime member of their fan club, mostly because I love their behaviours, love to see them in the classic working stance, doing what they love to do. They are listed as No. 13 in popular breeds on the Pets4Homes website, which probably focuses on pets, not working dogs. Collies are sheepdogs, but not all sheepdogs are collies.
Do they make “good pets”? I know many farmers who regards their sheepdog as their favourite tractor-riding partner, which includes confidante, advisor, guarder of sandwiches and radio listener. They make great companions.
Sheepdogs have been bred to gather sheep, assist with general movement and every day tasks. They get to be scolded by fresh-mums concerned for their lambs, rammed by horny rams and regularly spattered in the delights of sheep poo-urine combo as they faithfully follow the flock.
What is common, and what is at the heart of a sheepdog, is the pleasure in working as our partners. They are the ultimate “other half”. They bring a no-questions-asked attitude when work is suggested, rolling up their sleeves and putting all their heart into the jobs. This is why they have transferred their partnering skills to all sports that are sheep-less.
Urban life and sports activities can often clash with their heritage putting their souls into conflict. Sheep should rarely feel the teeth of a dog – not only does in scare the doodah out of the sheep, it can cause injury and infections. This is not good for sheep or their value.
But I see all too often a collies asked to bite and bite again on a faux-fleece toy in the name of “drive”.
I see their arousal taken so far outside their range of self-management that there seems to be no time to relax and enjoy watching the hens potter about.
I see their frustration at not being able to control wild movement of growling cars, skateboards and agility runners.
Too often the classic training protocols are about supressing annoying behaviours without realising that a sheepdog can no more stop being a sheepdog than you can stop being a human and become a hamster.
We need to allow for their souls to Be Sheep Dog, at the right time, in the right activity and with regular opportunities. To live with a collie is to empathise with their needs.
If you find yourself confused by collies, please listen to their call. I’ve shaed my life 18 sheepdogs all of whom had individual collie needs, sheepdog skills of varying natures and no two were the same.
I just wanted to drop you a note to say how Flo and I have gone from strength to strength since taking your collie workshop 3 years ago. She has gone from a unsure rescue to a confident dog and I’ve used your guides daily.
The biggest thing was eye contact and reward. We are now able to enjoy playing games when out in the field as she is able to put her concentration to me and what’s even better is she is still able to enjoy a good sniff about.
We spent 18months in Scotland and stayed on a farm and this was great for her training as she got to see and be around livestock and understand how to leave. The farmers there were very impressed. I will definitely be looking at your courses and books to continue her with as she is thriving. We never have to use anything negative and thus just makes life great for the two of us. We are a great team. Thank you so much for giving us this foundation!
Laura and Flo
The word “quirks” was invented for sheepdogs.
If you are interested in learning more about their history and some understanding of what gather-herding is you can enrol on the Learning About Border Collies course.
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