Dog training for Border Collies revolves round one key element, CONTROL. This is particularly so for farm animals (which Mist is) with their natural instinct to chase, round up and herd. Fortunately they are probably the most intelligent of dogs and eager to learn. I have in the last couple of months been able to control Mist in sheep – one sharp command of STAY and she drops instantly to the ground, portraying that classic sheep dog pose. ‘Stay Close’ means she sticks like glue to me in a field of sheep – ears pinned back, alert but at least under control. Even when I can see no sheep and Mist is roaming a little further afield and she senses sheep nearby she does not ‘go after’ them but goes in to stalking mode. I can then get her back to me before she disturbs them. I have considered the ‘in with ewe’ treatment (where the poor dog is penned together with a ewe and young lamb and gets in essence beaten up) which is meant to scare them so they will ignore sheep in the future but I think not – hopefully over time her interest will wane but if not at least I have her under control.
You see I refuse to walk Mist (or Bracken before her) on a lead except in extreme circumstances when there is a full field of sheep or on a busy road (where sadly my efforts of controlling Mist are less successful). I think for a Border Collie a walk on a lead is a waste of time. I see many dog walkers on the hills with their dogs straining on a lead and to me it is a sad sight, particularly when they are approaching a summit and clearly have spent the hours before on a lead – no fun for owner or dog. Traditional puppy training has its uses (for stimulation as much as anything) but for active dogs they need to have the freedom to roam or become involved with something more energetic such as agility classes. Ultimately with Mist I may look at training for SARDA because she certainly has the intelligence but this is a major and serious commitment and at the present time I, as much as her, am not ready for the challenge.
Previous stories of Mist:
Pleasures & Problems. Jan 2011
Early Days of Mist, October 2010
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