Learning About Border Collies

A collection of resources for people sharing their lives with collies and working sheepdogs

 

FaceBook Group

If you are looking for some help with your collie please join the group. It is always useful to see videos if you are seeking answers…..

(The group is called “How about this for a title” …. just a FB thing, we wouldn’t want people just dropping in!)

Learning About Border Collies

If you would like to learn more about the collie heritage, sheep, their characteristics and best games to play, you can purchase the 6 lessons from the online course in pdf format (£15)

Welcome to Sheepballs!

A wonderful game particularly enjoyed by collies short of sheep, but fond of people.

They can get a buzz from practicing their special collies skills and keep people entertained for hours.

Training and living with collies

The Wrong Sheep

Walking along a busy street with traffic can cause the dog to lunge out. Any uncontrolled movement such as joggers, bikes, other dogs doing agility will trigger the reflex to control the movement.

Confused by Collies?

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.

dogs behaving like dogs

Zip Early Learning

She is a wild running, butterfly-working dog. Or more scientifically: a dog with a compulsive behaviours that responds very fast to arousal and movement in the environment.

Sheep are tricky beasts …..

I don’t know about your evening’s entertainment but it certainly is not on my TV. So after some wandering around U-Know-Who I found a really tension filled, exciting sport to watch

Behaviours can go out of balance

To be able to function as a sheepdog two behaviours need to work together: stalking (creeping up to the sheep) and flanking (going around or from side to side). Over-stalking behaviour is balanced by flanking and too much flanking, circling, is balanced by stalking.

When you begin to train a young dog you will not know which behaviours are their strongest and will work to develop equal skills in both behaviours. Often the behaviours do not emerge until the situation presents itself, and this may be 10-14 months old.

The behaviours can be misbalanced genetically where dogs have been selected for nonsheepdog criteria, such as coat, colour, ear set (aesthetic appearance), or another sport criteria.

They can also be misbalanced in training: sheepdogs are valued for their chase skills in flyball and agility. Chase is not an inherited skill we should be seeking. Sheepdogs do not cope well with continual chase or bite (tugging) behaviours and unless they find some balance by being able to enjoy their inherited behaviours their stress responses will build up.

These are commonly exhibited:

  • in agility or flyball where the dogs demonstrate high levels of frustration (aggression) towards other dogs, or bite their owner’s legs.
  • Scream and launch at passing traffic or people.
  • Uncontrollable spinning.

The build-up of frustration can also be revealed in other health issues, self-harming, breakdown of metabolic systems, diarrhoea etc. Sheepdogs should not be in a high level of arousal for any length of time, perhaps 3-4 minutes at most, and not on a regular basis throughout the day. They need lots of quiet time to adjust, and a balance of their natural behaviours to be able to find peace of mind.

The continual “challenging” presented by over arousal in training with bite and chase can push the dogs well beyond their coping mechanism.

We can measure the degree of compulsion – which translates to the degree of interrupter needed to break the focus. Some dogs can be easily “bought off” others not.

This page is for all the sheepdogs and collies who have dedicated their lives to companionship and activities with people. A  spotlight on seeing your mate bloom and flourish in all their collieness.

I would love to include your ideas on the page. An article from 5 to 5000 words would be very welcome, a quote that resonates with you, an experience that describes what connection between people and collies is for you.

Recommended reading about training

Training an Over-Aroused dog

by Jill Breitner

This article is about an Australian Shepherd, but the situation is very similar for living with a collie.

There is a widespread notion that the ideal way to manage hyperactive dogs is to try to tire them out, with treadmills, endless games of fetch, paid dog-runners, and so forth. I tend to disagree. I think less is more when it comes to dogs like Indy.

Highly recommended.

Normal is always changing

What was normal in training 20 or 40 years ago is not the same today. There are folk persistently maintaining the normal of 1976, but fortunately there are enough folk with a deeper understanding of the processes that have moved normal forwards.

Confused by Collies?

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.

A Cue or not a cue?

With thoughtful planning and a good understanding of the relevance of antecedent selection we can teach the dog the skills of sorting the wheat from the chaff, finding the bones of the exercise. This skill is critical to being able to distinguish between distractions, which are just cues for an alternative reward opportunity, and cues which signify a guarantee of success.

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.

Shaping by rewards

When I see a dog showing a behaviour that is heading towards potential conflict, my first question is “what rewards are available?”

Pleasure for the dog?

If we seek to teach, then we need to be skilled in the process of reinforcement. It should encompass pleasure for the dog not just convenience for us

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