3 min read

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 collect 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 and urine combined as they 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 all jobs. This is why they have transferred their partnering skills to all sports that are sheep-less.


Giant BUT.

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 doodahs 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 their 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.

The classic training protocols are too often about supressing the 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 for a day out at the Festival of Sheepballs. I’ve lived with 18 sheepdogs all of whom had individual collie needs, sheepdog skills of varying natures and no two were the same.

Dear Kay.
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 definately 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.


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When we train a dog it grows

Most training starts from necessity. Management is a necessity but it usually benefits all parties by a reduction of conflict. But does management training mean that the dog can grow? Are they expanding their skills to benefit us or for their benefit?

Heartbeat of Geek-land

I like to regard a “teacher of dogs” as someone who meets dogs in their world and teaches them how to be their best whilst living alongside us in our world.

The life of my Time

Time is my ninth generation of collies. He lives for being a collie and all that collies have done for generations – work in partnership and assist in what their Person likes to do. This ranges from collecting sheep off the mountain to toddling round the main ring at Crufts.

Treats for life?

The whole collective of rewards, or reinforcers, serves a purpose of ensuring that the tasks just completed keep getting completed. The task may tolerate a lapse of memory, but you will soon find that door smacked in your face if you stop acknowledging the courtesy offered to you by a stranger, friend or acquaintance.

One day you will love him again

The puppy that you adored, could do no wrong, is now a living horror story. We want to use positive reinforcement, and our mind focuses on the success of what is not happening. But reinforcement attaches itself to something happening, not an absence and cannot select for a multitude of different things that are being reinforced.

Construction or suppression

There are distinctive goals: Continual success, always travelling forwards ~ Each click to represent a moment of joy and not a moment of relief from the anxiety of not understanding. Looking at the way the behaviour is carried out is the most important element, and that is the product of all the considerations.

How do you know what you don’t know?

The age of trusting the professionals is fading fast. I am not sure anymore what exactly is a professional and the difference between genuine, self-styled and fake? With so much information freely available and shared when we open the gate to “looking for a xyz” we are struggling to recognise authenticity from smart marketing.

Which course, which conference?

This is a regular question when mixing with the trainers and professionals of tomorrow. There are more folk wanting to fullfil life goals to work with dogs and their people. Unfortunately the “make money whilst I sleep” crowd are seeding the market who can be parted from their time and money.

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