How a Border Collie's herding instincts differ from that of an English Shepherd

It seems to me everyone is losing sight of what an ES was origanlly bred to do which from what I have seen is as much a guardian nature as a herding nature. I believe whatever herding instinct they have comes more from their guardian and control nature as much as from their herding instinct. I have raised and trained BCís for neigh on 35 years and a ES has no eye at all and resembles a BC only in general appearance. They tend to use their nose a lot like a hound when predators are around but hunt by sight when prey is spotted. They can be used to do some hunting by the way when need arises.

I am training some young ESís now to work on my farm and already I have seen helpful traits I would not have seen in a BC ie; The other day a sheep got into one of the smaller horse paddocks and my wife could not for the life of her get the silly thing through the gate without the two stallions wanting to charge through the gate first. I said let me see if Coire and I can do it . Well 6mo. old Keira , a young ES, was with us and darned if she wasnít a huge help. While I held the gate open for Coire who ran wide around the sheep using the fence as an additional aid ran the sheep along the fence line right out through the gate. What was Keira doing you might ask? Here was a 23lb. pup barking and standing off two pawing 1000lb. stallions until we got the job done . BCís couldnít do that maneuver.

Bye the bye Keira is a neice of Coireís a pup out of one of Coireís sisters.

W. David Heron
My Suzy was originally purchased from her breeder by folks who kept her in a large pen/yard for much of the time because they worked full time and were not available to let her follow them around the farm throughout the day. They'd had Border Collies before and raised/kept them this way without a problem, so thought Suzy was useless because when she was loosed, all she did was blast around like a crazy thing and blow off steam, sometimes running thru the chickens just to see them squawk and scatter. She didn't approach their sheep in crouching, strong-eyed prey drive as they'd seen their BCs do from early puppyhood, so they assumed she didn't have the instinct to herd in a puposeful way. She was desperate for human contact and attention but had not closely bonded to them, so had not attuned herself to understanding what they wanted from her and doing their bidding. They gave up on her when she was ten month old. These were not "bad" owners, just didn't understand how the breed is wired and weren't in a position to be able to work with Suzy in the way she needed. Their loss was my gain ;-)

Had they given her the things she needed to develop into a good farmdog- the opportunity to bond to and follow them throughout the day learning the rules of their farm, liberty enough (while being closely supervised) to look for and find opportuntities to help while making the occasional mistake and being corrected, as well as offering the occasional useful behavior and being rewarded for it, so that she could come to understand her place on the farm and what was expected of her, they would have ended up with a very different dog. I know this, because *I* have that different dog ;-)

The ES is a dominance herder, as upright dogs they herd out of bossiness and a sense of order rather than out of inhibited prey drive. They are hard-wired to attach themselves to their master and act as their right hand in whatever needs doing on the farm. Their skills grow over time and with exposure.

The prey drive dog pretty much "comes out of the box" tuned into/obsessed with following and controlling moving objects and mostly just needs to be taught directional commands and a recall. BC breeders recommend keeping these dogs away from the stock in a kennel or crate when the owner isn't looking, because they *expect* them to get into trouble unsupervised. They have been selected/bred for generations to be that driven/obsessive to herd-herd-herd.

The dominance herder needs to develop a level of confidence- confidence in and respect for his master, confidence in his role as the enforcer of the master's rules, and confiedence stemming from his prior experience observing and participating in the regular workings of the farm- in order to be useful. His lack of obsessive prey drive, patiently taught understanding of what is appropriate and what is not, respect for the master and the rules, and a nurturing and/or managerial attitude toward the livestock prevent him from harassing or injuring them.

It is much more challenging for someone who works fulltime and is not available to bond/train their pup in the traditional way to raise an ES and end up with a dog that works to his potential. You can take an ES and keep it away from the stock and workings of the farm and then "turn it on" and teach it to herd as one would a BC (in prey/chase drive), lots of people who do not live with livestock are able to get their ES to work stock at lessons, clinics, even trials. But the problem for farmers who train their dogs this way is, then they're left with a dog that may have great difficulty ever learning to coexist peacably with their livestock and not view them as prey or herding toys. Some people have done this successfully, but it is my understanding, based on situations Ive read about on the lists and/or been asked to assist with, that even if the dog eventually reaches its full potential as a working dog (or at least is adequate) the length of time and level of difficulty involved can be significant.

Tish Toren
Blacksheep Homestead


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