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Educating people about working border collies

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I have been using Border Collies to assist me in managing my flock for 17 years. I have worked both cattle and sheep with dogs, mostly sheep. Learned a ton in that time. There are days I am still reminded I have more to learn but more often than not heading to the pasture with a couple dogs is a very pleasant experience. I love it all - sheep, good dogs, training the young ones, working with the experienced dogs that read my mind...


I have learned working bcs is not about obedience, it is a combination of great genetics and awesome relationship that makes it look effortless. In reality LOTs of work goes into the training and building that trust and confidence in each other. I enjoy dogs so even when we are not working or training they are with me inside and out. I feel this only adds to our relationship.


My problem is in trying to get across to livestock owners just how complicated, how many small details are involved in training and learning to work the dogs. All the things matter to them - tone, position, gestures, intent... it is not simple like just asking a dog to sit. People seem to assume buying a bc is the END POINT, They just need to take the dog to stock when there is work to do and the dog will do it then go back to the kennel or yard. They do not consider the training that it will take FOR THEM to learn how to use a bc or time daily for simple activity and building that relationship. Some are willing to spend the money for an older trained dog but when I tell them that is only part of the solution I do not think they believe me. They still seem to expect to treat the dog like a tractor, put it in the kennel get it out when needed.


I have been around plenty bc to have experience with those that spend the majority of their time alone and confined - they develop odd behaviors at best. Livestock folks often have full time jobs off the farm, family ect does a working bc really fit into that lifestyle?

This is rather long winded way of asking how do you convince people of the commitment of time and training and money involved in having a good working bc, even After one is purchased?

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You don't. If it feels like a forced issue chances are it won't happen. If they're willing to listen, open their mind, try, then you may have something to work with. Money will only buy you the dog. I don't know how long it'll take to get the mindset of this *equipment* purchase to understand, if they ever will.


My hay man, runs a couple hundred head. When I picked up some sheep from him I brought a dog. They'd never been worked. 15 minutes, loaded. I went back the next time and he had bought himself a pup. Uh oh...then he asked me for a place to get DVD's, a whistle, and what I recommend. 3 months later that pup is his right hand and he's happy as can be for the help. Dog is with him all day, working or not, and then in the kennel at night. He understands a lot, just not ready to let him be a house dog at night...He wanted help and knows stock and understood the commitment. Nothing forced. Nothing offered that wasn't asked for. And he's thrilled with what's he's taught him and how he's doing!

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I think that this question really comes down to something pretty basic, that is larger than dogs working stock specifically. I think it has to do with how far too many human beings still view animals, even today when everyone should know better.


People still fail to take into consideration that most sentient animals, and of course most especially those who are super-intelligent and bred to work with people such as border collies, have all of the same feelings and most of the same emotions that we have, although they may express them differently. Most people still fail to recognize that it is the relationship between the two beings, whether it be horse and person or dog and person, or other animal and human counterpart, that makes or breaks the work that team does together. And that this is true no matter what the work is, whether it be official work like stock dog work or something as unofficial as simply living peacefully and happily together in a home. In order for it to be good the relationship has to be strong.


Of course, many people don't even recognize that in their relationships with other people, so it is not surprising that they tend to treat animals like tractors as the OP said. Many people see other people, and certainly animals, as being there simply and only to serve them in some capacity, not recognizing the importance of give-and-take, mutual respect, and empathy. I see this over and over in people who ask for my help because they don't understand why they have problems with their dog(s). With some, the light goes on when I point out the ways in which they are failing the relationship with the dog. Sadly, others refuse to see it and will never change, and not only will their dog continue to suffer, the person will never know what they are missing.

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I've had the best luck just showing what a good dog can do and then offering to help them get going with a dog they get. Of course it helps if they're willing to lay out the money for a trained dog vs a puppy, but if their level of commitment is there, then they'll do what is necessary, no matter what kind of dog they get.


And if they're to type to view a dog as only a tool, then I'm not likely to encourage getting a dog in the first place.



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