Is herding the right hobby for your pet Border Collie?

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Herding as a hobby for pet Border Collies? Yes or No?

The answer is a tricky one, but I’m inclined to say NO. I know for a fact that herding is not for everyone.

First, not every collie will herd sheep, unless you expose them to the situation. It doesn’t matter if they herd a ball, other dogs or a car, it doesn’t automatically transfer to sheep. If you expose them multiple times and they eventually understand they have to work, you have turned an instinct on that you cannot switch off so your dog has the need to work every time they see sheep.

Are you prepared to have a dog that wants to work every time you are on a country walk? Some dogs have a natural desire to herd sheep so it doesn’t matter if you expose them or not they will want to work.

The problem is that to teach a Border Collie to stop, come away and direct the sheep places for you takes MONTHS of training and some dogs need regular training in order to be able to cope with listening to you while also fighting their instinct to just chase and work sheep for their own desire.

Training a dog is not about how much instinct they have, is going against their instinct in order to make them do what you need them doing and this implies using some pressure and having some kind of control of your dog. It’s a very self rewarding activity and most dogs want to do it for themselves at the beginning, rather than for you!

Some dogs will like to grip, some will chase, some will scatter sheep everywhere and only a few know exactly what they are supposed to do from the very beginning. So you may be lucky. But if you are not, expect lessons after lessons after lessons, in mud, sheep poo, rain and sloped fields.

If a dog grips, you need to ask yourself, is it worth it? To do it as an hobby when sheep can be injured? And if you have a dog that has too much engine and energy, going to training once a week or even less then that means that your dog will take a good 20 minutes to calm down, before they can even think and listen… it’s frustrating and doesn’t do you or the dog any good… or the sheep.

I have been there, I had a dog that was too difficult to train, even if I was going once a week and I decided to give up. I opted for easier to access activities that were safer and more satisfying for everyone.

I have dogs that allow me to train once a week or every other week now and being very respectful of sheep and my guidance, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. But I also have had 15 years of experience and I do so much more with my dogs!

If you have an energetic Border Collie that wants to chase the world, you can satisfy them with other activities:

hoopers, agility, competitive obedience, scentwork, fly-ball, disc dog, mantraling..

You can give your dog ” a job” where you can commit to every day training, giving your dog the right amount of mental and physical stimulation!

Get in touch if you want to start your dog on scentwork or another sport!

Martina Miradoli Border Coolie Expert Dog trainer

Hello, my name is Martina Miradoli and I specialise in training Border Collies.

I’ve owned Border Collies for many years and have trained them, along with other herding breeds in every sport and activity available.

This has allowed me to gain invaluable experience and an understanding of these unique dogs and the behavioural challenges that we may have to face as owners. 

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