Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Understanding a Border Collie

Playing with Tangle on Argentine Pass

I was sent this article today and thought that it was worth sharing.  There is a lot of wisdom in this article.

Somehow, I also felt compelled to share my "two cents".  I am not the expert on border collies, no one will ever be.  But, I know them fairly well and have worked my way through many of the issues outlined in the article.  Also, I wanted to comment specifically on a couple of points in the article.

"Without intensive and sensitive socialisation as puppies, they are often wary of people, intolerant of unfamiliar dogs and anxious about anything new or changing"

All puppies regardless of breed should be socialized and in a sensitive manner.  If dogs were left to live in packs in the wild I am going to guess they would all have brilliant social skills in their pack.  When dogs are asked to live in the human world with many strange things being introduced, they need exposure and help figuring out how to navigate those things in the polite and proper way. 

Take a leash for instance.  If human's walked around on leashes and were constantly asked to just deal with people coming into our faces  and into our bubbles (the leash is keeping us from keeping our bubble intact) we would all be very grumpy and probably biting each other.  :)

Dogs are the same way.

I have a contract with all my dogs. " I will always protect you, guard your space, and listen/watch your signals to make sure that you are comfortable in the situation I am putting you in.  If you are not comfortable, I immediately resolve the situation"

Here is a great article by Turid Rugaas,  I would also highly recommend her DVD so you can get a good visual of the behaviors.

Learning your puppy/dog's language so that you can learn what he is saying.  If he is uncomfortable, it is your job to get him out of the situation and then help him learn those skills in a gradual and gentle way.

"Border Collies are prone to being affected by a single bad experience and have poor 'bounce back' when something goes wrong for them."

I have learned through the years that shaping of tricks is a great way to help the dog learn to be resilient and bounce back.  In shaping, they are constantly failing (in a gentle way) and are asked to try again.  My dogs gradually get better and better about bouncing back and trying again.  Now they are ridiculously insane when they see a clicker :)

"When a working sheepdog is not working alongside the shepherd he is shut away in a quiet, non-stimulating place to rest and recover and to keep him out of mischief!"

I agree that the dogs need their downtime.  Caution to those new to the breed.  This does not mean play with them for 30 minutes and then kennel them for the remainder of the day.  You will get exactly what you don't want (a wild and crazy BC). 

Border collies need a good work/rest balance in their day, every day.  You are much better off working them for 10 minutes 3 times a day then a single 30 minute session once a day.  Take them for a walk, do a quick "stupid pet trick" training session, take them to home depot, have them ride in the car when you go get the kids from school, play fetch with them while you drink your morning coffee.  Find something that works for both of you.  They need exercise and stimulation, with quality rest in between.  Sleeping under your desk while you are working, resting on the coach in a calm room, or even in a kennel for reasonable amounts of time all work well.

Enjoy your border collie.  They are amazing dogs!!

BTW, I was playing with Tangle on Argentine pass to help him learn that he can play anywhere, not just the agility field!