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The joy ofbeing a working Border Collie

Got Moves? ( herding sheep and chasing geese moves?)

My Family and I have lived and worked with Border Collies for now over 25 years. Each Border Collie has his or her own way of working, but there are similar patterns of course. Border Collies like other herding breeds are breed to do a particular type of work, herding, but they are all individuals. I am talking about “working line” Border Collies, as part of the “dog world” which are breeds that retain their instincts to live lives were individual dogs can participate in a collaborative, “making a living” with their humans. I find nothing wrong with well-cared pet dogs, breeds, breeding, but I just love to be involved with this age-old way of how humans and dogs, and in our case, farm animals have lived together. Each dog and human has their individual way of moving, thinking and being part of a team. With Wild Goose Chase NE we turn the farm-oriented activity “herding” into herd/chase, in this case, geese away from a clients property without harm to the geese.

So, now to the “moves” thing. Actually, herding is a very mental activity involving a strong relationship between handler and dog as well as deep understanding of the animal being herded, usually sheep, but also cattle, pig or poultry. And this, of course, is as variable as humans and their brains and personalities are.But even as variable as the dogs are, I have yet to meet or work with a Border Collie who is just like another.

Consider of our female BorderCollie, Skye. She has characteristics of her dad and as her mom as well. In the case of the pup pictured here, Tara, her litter mates are all pretty similar I am told, which is unusual, but you can parse out differences too.That is important for a handler to understand about dogs, see both sides of the same coin. Then you can understand how your dog’s brain moves. Which of course gets to how its body moves.

Every one of our five dogs got different unique moves when working, playing, eating or even sleeping which means, of course, individual perception of the world around him or her. Tara is calm and precise with her moves when herding. Our three-year-old Blade,( see “Our Dogs” page of this site), is athletic but can rush too much. Jim, our rehomed older male is a bit award unfortunately and get on the wrong side of the sheep when working, as he never started learning much until he was six years old.

Were a herding dog places his or her self in relation to whatever is being herded ( herded/chased for goose control) and in relationship to the handler is all important. Communication is key, and knowledge and practice of “moves” lead to success.  A pup that begins with poor perception or “moves” can work on  “that” with his or her human. A pup with excellent or amazing talent can be a stunningly good worker, exhibiting ease and care of getting the job done without harm and be the natural wonder these dogs are. It is up to the human to get the moves down too, so the partnership can be a good team.

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“Circles”

“Circles”
Or the different ways we live.
I don’t think I will tire of being with these dogs. Looking at the relationships between my son Sam, in this photo, and the dogs, you can see the depth of their care and connections. It comes from years of Sam “living and working” with dogs, and it is the very interesting nature of the individual dogs.
Its funny, but when I was younger I never thought I would spend so much of my days with dogs, working and living. I was a shy youth who at one time was really into horses. But here we are on a homestead with sheep, poultry, and dogs, mostly Border Collies. That all takes time away from time with Family and friends and doing other activities. Farm type living is intensive as is running your own business. Recently my circles got moved or changed. I gave up my part-time mail delivery work for substitute teaching at the local elementary school. My circle, or one of them, was moved from the old mail route to a building were lots of little kids and their educator’s intensively “live”, Monday through Friday.
I think back to a few years ago when a colleague gave me a New Yorker article on ” Circles”. It was written by an NYC dog owner and it talked about how people go between different social networks or don’t. That article made an impression on me. It made me aware of how I love to visit the different communities we do goose control in. It expands my ” world.” The article got me interested to see what different people find important in their lives. For some, Family is all, others it all about dogs, others sports, others it’s about the relationships they have in their Town. But more to the reality of the thing, it’s about how different people move in and out of social circles, which ones they spend the most time in, which circles are kept at a distance. It’s easy to feel someone who operates differently from you is somehow wrong. That farmer are social recluse, that dog or horse people are nuts or that people who spend most of their time with Family are tribal. But actually, maybe most people want to move in a variety of circles, we just only have so much time and care to give. I would be interested in how much of this is ” wiring” or learned behavior, experience, or how we individuals make different choices or follow different passions. Maybe, in the end, its that we find our own way, to be, happy, fulfilled, or just make every day happen.

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Lessons Learned

Our dogs go to many goose control visits each week and participate in sheepdog trials and herding demos throughout the year.Therefore, understanding their work is very important, but just as important is understanding how to behave and interact with the sheep and the geese they are working, as well as the people and dogs we encounter.

I have to say, I try to learn things as we go along too, as in, how each dog differently relates to things like problem sheep, or loud noises or being tired. I try to refine and grow my handling skills as time goes on and take a realistic, evenhanded approach to each job, each dog, each situation. That's not always easy in a long day or difficult situation. But I find one thing learned from the farm very important, that each dog, sheep, or even chicken, each animal, person, can come off as good sometimes and not so, at other times.

Dogs tend not usually to take those swings from good to bad to heart, as many people do.It's important to try to do your best for the animals' and the operations' sake every step of the way, but it's important not to get upset or stay that way when something doesn't go the way you want it to. Being patient is key. Teaching your dogs to respect all the life that they work with, very important, that is actually the whole thing right there. But understand that your dogs, your sheep, chickens and so on, can do good things as well as bad, and forgiving and moving on to the best, keeps you from going down a rabbit hole.

These can be hard lessons, that it is not all nicey-nice, sheep, calves, lamb, bunnies lying down together, maybe what some think we should aim for, but you are actually working with predator and prey animals after all. You have to understand, learn, grow and be realistic and all the hard work can be very rewarding. Often I think, if we accepted each other's flaws and worked with each other with respect we would be better off. After all the number one rule of sheep herding is, be kind to sheep.