Sheep Dog Days

| 10/30/2011 9:32:56 AM

Tags: border collie, dog training, Ellen Skillings, sheep dog, Callie Murphy,


Last weekend we skipped selling lamb and beef at the farmer's market in order to attend a day of border collie school with Ellen Skillings, a skilled trainer. Border collies are energy filled, work oriented dogs. They have been bred over the past several hundred years to subdue their wolf-ancestors kill instinct and to gather flocks of sheep towards their handler (called fetching); most other breeds of dogs will drive flocks away.


Border collies control sheep with what is called "eye," essentially an intimidating stare straight at the animal as well as a lowered stance – a dog with a strong eye can get stock turned around and moving without any other force. If the eye isn’t working on a particularly stubborn sheep, the dog will escalate its use of force by nipping at the sheep's heels, and a confident dog will “grip” the sheep, giving it a bite on its nose to get it moving. It takes a lot more confidence to grip a sheep head on, rather than go for an easy bite on the flank!

 BC Puppies 

Border collie puppies aren't necessarily very interested in stock – as they get older most will "turn on" to stock and enjoy chasing, scattering and herding animals with out any direction from their handler. This is the point that training really starts, in short sessions once or twice a day. They will eventually learn commands like "come by" (go left to fetch the sheep),  "away" or "away to me" (go right to fetch the sheep), "walk on" (move slowly straight ahead) and "lie down" (meaning stop right there).

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