Border Collie Training

Training a Sheep Dog

Believing that some instruction as to the methods employed in the training a working collie will be helpful to those who desire to bring out the best gifts with which nature has endowed this king of all utility dogs, we append a few suggestions from the curriculum of Mr. T. P. Brown, of Qxton, Berwickshire, Scotland, than whom no one is more qualified to speak on this important subject.

"Before training begins. Work on your dogs focus, get it totally focused on you. Work on that bonding."

Sheep Dog Glossary of Terms

In the first place, it must be acknowledged that unless the master has himself studied :the subject with the utmost care and keen perception, success in teaching a Border Collie to work sheep will not fall to his lot.

Many a good Border Collie has been spoiled in the hands of an unthinking and unsympathetic would-be trainer, and, conversely, many a vicious, timid, or "wild" Border Collie has been converted by the master hand into a brainy, intelligent servant.

With few exceptions, any collie can be taught to work sheep; therefore, as a general proposition, it is the man who makes or mars the Border Collie's natural bent.

To achieve the greatest measure of success the sooner one starts the elementary first lessons /the better. The Border Collie puppy should be taken in hand when three or four months old.

The very first step is to teach him to run up to you. Use a thin, low whistle with the lips, and pat and make a fuss of him when he comes up.

The second lesson is to get him .to go down quickly. This is best done by a hiss. If he does not put his head down, press it gently down with your hand.

This has generally to be repeated a good many times before he does it nicely.

Some pups go down of their own accord when they see the sheep.

This is no real drawback, but as a rule they require a little more training to go down when commanded, instead of waiting till they get to a place where they want to go down.

After the pup has learned to go down nicely, put him down and walk away, and see if he will lie still until you give him the whistle to come up, and don't rest satisfied until he does so with alacrity.

When he has learned to do this to please you, begin to stop him half-way up, and always see that he puts his head in the proper position.

He should be proficient in this before he is ever taken to the sheep. No pup should ever be taken to the sheep until he is under complete control in the run up and lay down.

To introduce him to sheep until he has thoroughly mastered these simple but highly-important commands has a tendency to spoil him and get him into bad habits.

No matter how fast he is running, if you give him the hiss to stop he should drop like a stone ; and, on the other hand, he should obey the command to come on quickly and without the least hesitation, and on no account should he rise until told to do so.

To fall and rise when commanded, and only when commanded, is the most important point in the training of a collie. Having progressed so far, the pup should now be taken to the sheep.

If he is off a good working strain, he will either circle away round his "quarry" or he will "set" and crawl forward.

If he circles round anjl goes down, and the sheep do not come away, he is apt to lie still, but if you use the call whistle and bring him a little forward, then drop him.

The sheep will most likely come away, and you must take care that he comes straight behind them, and not too quickly.

Don't use the call whistle very long at first, just a little to get him to understand to start the sheep. Get him used to start either with a sheep or a short whistle.

If in running up to the sheep he does not go right round, you must go up to the sheep and move them in the direction you want them to go. Then use the whistle, sound or words by which you want to shift him (some trainers say "Keep wide" or"Keep wide, away out," but it is better to use only distinctive whistles).

You should thus keep the sheep moving about, making him move to what spot you want. Others use a combination of whistles and signs (motions of the arms).

This latter method has its advantages when working at a distance and under certain climatic conditions.

When the Border Collie has become expert in moving about, teach him to "run out." Don't try him too far away at first, and if possible let him see the sheep.

A perfect run out should be in the form of a good wide circle all the way until he gets well behind the sheep. Then he should double back behind the sheep when he sees he has them all rounded up, and he should be allowed to move them a little before you put him down.

In "haulding" them he should come straight behind the sheep, and not too near them. If they come steadily, he should be allowed to follow them in.

When "haulding" a few sheep, say five, he should bring them in straight ; but with a large number he should "flank" them from side to side in half-moon circles, as by this means he gets them forward in better time.

By this time the Border Collie should have learned to go down at a distance from the shepherd, a distance which is only restricted by the impossibility of hearing the whistle.

In all these processes one requires four different kinds of whistles one for the"call," one to go out, one to stop and lie down, and one to hauld.

To teach a Border Collie "to shed," get the sheep to pass quietly between yourself and the Border Collie several times ; the Border Collie during this time must lie down.

Then divide the sheep and give him the call whistle to come in to you, and drop him when he is in between the two lots. Then go behind one of the lots and press them on to the Border Collie and get him "to wear" and turn them to you.

Repeat this several times, and in giving the call whistle make sure that he never rises until commanded, for a Border Collie that moves about as the sheep move will never be a good "shedder," as he always mixes the sheep up when you are preparing for a "cut."

Be sure also that he shifts every time you ask him, and that he turns the sheep in to you, instead of flying off them.

At this stage in his education the Border Collie should be approaching his complete training.

To teach him to come in front of the sheep, draw him to you by the call whistle.

He will think at first that he is to come in to you, but when you see he is far enough past the sheep to give him plenty of room to work, give him the whistle to go to the sheep.

He will then turn and face the sheep, and as he does so drop him there. After being several times repeated he will do this as readily as he has learned to go round behind the sheep.

The next lesson is to teach him to go from one side to the other, passing between you and the sheep.

Let him go half round the sheep, then get him to go forward on the sheep from any point he is stopped, by either driving straight from you or from the left side to the right side. This feat is most necessary for driving away or for pole work at a trial.

The art of wearing a single sheep has not been touched on, because unless the Border Collie is naturally gifted with this it is almost impossible to make him proficient at it, though one can help him a little.

Much depends on the nerve and compelling power of the Border Collie's eye. Leave him pretty well to his own resources until he has the sheep stopped before you drop him.

Some pups are naturally born with tendencies to wearing single sheep, including to run too wide or too near, and, worst of all, stopping before they go round the sheep. Be guarded to immediately check these faults, and remember that command is the most important lesson of all.

One hears a great deal about bad-tempered Border Collies and soft-tempered ones, but it is not so much a display of temper as nervousness.

If a Border Collie keeps his eye on the sheep, no matter how soft he is in the temper, any capable trainer can make him a good Border Collie, but the one who won't keep his eye on the sheep can never become proficient in his service to his lord and master.