If you follow me on Facebook and are in my free training group, The Border Collie Geek Learning Hub, you might have seen this interesting post. One of my members asked me a very interesting question!
“When your collie is given increased access to other herding activities, do you find that it increases or decreases the desire for them to herd cats?”
What we usually suggest as dog trainers and herding specialist is to give your dog an outlet for herding and chasing behaviours as part of the plan to reduce “unwanted” herding or chasing behaviours, life for example car and traffic stalking, cat chasing in the house, children controlling and nipping behaviour.
We need to take a step back and think first where unwanted herding behaviours come from. Traffic stalking can come from need to control and chase but also from the noise and the fear of the car itself. It’s never a black and white answer, as fear can lead to breed behaviours as a consequence, the dog feels better after practising an innate behaviour. Frustration can also generate stalking, chasing and herding behaviours as a consequence of not being able to run, be free and use some energies or because there is too much pressure from the owner when asking not to full on the lead or to pay attention.
Herding and stalking behaviours are innate in Border Collies and other herding breeds BUT they also come out in pet dogs as a consequence. Sure, there are a lot of Border Collies that have such a strong need to work that anything will do, even a bee; There are even a lot of farm dogs that even if exercised and worked regularly will still chase the car running past the farm gate or the birds flying into the barn. Sometimes the need to stalk, chase and herd objects or animals or people is also predisposition, some dogs will never develop it even if you do everything wrong!
Going back to the original question that inspired this blog and to the need for herding breeds to use their traits, one way or another I’ll give you my answer.
Yes, practising herding behaviours in other context CAN increase the need to herd. This is how sheepdogs are brought up and trained, the more their work the stronger their herding instinct gets and even a dog that doesn’t have a lot of drive for herding and chasing sheep once worked enough and exposed enough will increase that desire. The desire increases with age, experience and exposure.
So, why are we suggesting substitute herding activities for your already stalky and herdy Border Collie?
Because they can’t help what they are. They are bred to do that, they need it to be happy, healthy and fulfilled and there is no way to switch that off or take it away from them. If they are already showing herding and stalking behaviours you can embrace it, provide it as a hobby and outlet in a controlled way and teach them to stop that behaviour when needed.
Training.. control on the behaviour.. obedience. Hard work sometimes, but inevitable! Don’t think that training dogs to work sheep or cattle is an easy ride, it’s not. Yes they have it naturally as selected for generation but there is so much skill that goes into a properly trained sheepdog, they have to learn to work and listen at the same time, to push and gather, to stop and come away from sheep when asked and to lie down and stand still even while sheep are running off through the gate you just opened to send them grazing in another field.
It takes time, training, skills and knowledge.
The same it takes to teach your dog that even if they want to herd the cat or the dog with the ball at the park or yourself swiping the floor, they have to learn to listen a stop. Management when you cannot control them, training and listening skills when you need to listen and breed appropriate outlet to make sure their brain and their body have the enrichment that they are selected to have.
You can’t take the herdiness away from a Border Collie, you can only embrace it.
If you have a Border Collie that wants to chase, nip, control, herd and stalk:
`Get in touch and I can help you understanding their brain, how to teach them to control their emotion and how to have a better life with your super special Border Collie!
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