Lilly, watching intently to see where I want her to go.

Lilly going where she is told.
(I am trying to catch a goat to trim hooves.)

Biddability is an important aspect of farmcollie character. A biddable dog- as illustrated by Lilly in the above photos, is never in the way and never out of the way.
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Sheryl writes:

It is very important to me that a Farmcollie be biddable. I use the dogs for gathering livestock or poultry and helping in catching an errant animal. If they look to me and I can communicate what I want done, the work goes so much faster.

With the picture of Lilly with the goat- I could have caught the goat myself with no help but it would have taken longer, the goat would have been stressed, and I would be very tired. Lilly was able to get the goats attention

and once my hands were on the goat it was all over. Less stress on the livestock is a sure way to hold down stress related disease in a herd. This translates to more sell-able and calm animals.


July 24, 2002
Amy writes:

A biddable dog is very desirable as far as I'm concerned. A dog that will do anything for you even if it means going against their own desire or comfort zone is a real asset. I don't like arguing with a dog. And in the case of farm work, you can't afford the time it wastes. Some people equate biddability with a dog that is too soft or not able to think on its own. I don't believe that to be the case. I think its indicative of a dog that looks to you as leader and respect the rules you have put in place.

Sarah asked:

I am wondering if the biddability characteristic is in any way in conflict with the ability for a dog to think for himself.

Elaine replied:

This question goes to the heart of why AWFA members must stick together and select these dogs for farm use! Biddability is easy to select for- herding trials, agility, search and rescue; dogs that have been selected for farm use excel at these activities, so it often happens that in an association where breed enthusiasts join together, they fail to grasp that just because a dog that is selected for farm use is good at agility, those selected for agility are not necessarily good farm dogs. If this were true, then poodles and labs would be just as good as farm collies!

Independent thinking ability and intelligence are also key components of a top notch farm collie, these aspects can be selected for independently. So just selecting for one area- (such as trials and agility) will not retain the proper balance of working character!

The ideal farmcollie has a very strong sense of pack and territory, what happens if such a dog does not have biddability? These dogs must be selected for adherance to rules, and you must be the one to lay out the rules!

I see two different aspects of biddability- obeying commands- (agility and trial selection favors this) and learning rules- (dogs selected for staying home on the farm with the territory, pack and routine are selected for this)

Don't let a young dog get out of hand. Perhaps he has a good reason for what he is doing, but he must learn that your Commands take precedence over the Rules and the Rules take precedence over his independent thinking. He will make a wonderful dog if you are the alpha in the situation, but if you allow him to be, or even push him into such a dominant position before he has the rules down and knows when to tattle and when to enforce, it could have very bad consequences.

I mean-if a dog is really biddable, does that indicate more strength in herding?

Not necessarily. Biddable dogs may be very responsive to your commands, yet lack any inclination to cause another animal to move. However, herding dogs must be selected for biddability, or they will move the animals the wrong way!

And if a dog is more stubborn/thinks he knows best, if that indicates a stronger guardian dog?

Not at all- it indicates that if he is wrong in his judgement of someone (someone who is out of the ordinary -from a different race than you, perhaps) and does not respect your rules, it could be a very bad thing.

Judah and Lilly and Lassie instinctively knowing that the ducks belong together - where would stubbornness be beneficial? Lilly and Micki reacting to the cries of a young animal, and alerting us to the situation-where does the stubbornness come in?

May 10, 2003

Sometimes I think that people get "biddability" and "soft" confused. A "soft" dog is easily discouraged and easily corrected.

A biddable dog will actively try to help you. (As J R McDuffie said " A good dog will try to help you.")

If this good dog that is trying to help you is smart and independent thinking this dog will come up with ways to help all by himself.

Case in point- Shadow the farmshepherd/ terrier/aussie that was subsequently registered as a Border Collie-

She didn't weigh more than 30-35 lbs, but she was fearless! When she came in heat she would whip dogs twice her size and run them plumb off! As a pup she would focus so hard on what you were doing if you were cleaning stalls and stopped for a minute she would sit on the times of the apple picker and study it carefully , she knew every step to changing a flat, when my ex was on the barn roof and the horses knocked the ladder down she heard him calling for help and climbed into the barn loft. She started on her own guarding the gate of the front paddock so that I could drive the pickup to the barn to unload the feed without letting the horses escape...

She was not biddable because she was afraid to displease you, she actively wanted to help from the innermost depths of her being...

Elaine Reynolds

For our purposes we really should define biddability as a dog with self confidence and independent thinking that has an overriding desire to please his owner even when it conflicts with his own desires. Sheryl's description of Lily and Elaine's description of her farmshepherd/terrier/aussie are great examples of this.


I'm only now beginning to really understand and fully appreciate biddability in the ES. Tish and I have talked about Starbuck's assertive nature and her never say die attitude but I've been also saying that I see a lot of self restraint and a lot of biddability in her.

Today I had the chicks in a laundry basket while I cleaned out their tub and Starbuck was there with me watching every move the chicks made. She had chased the adult chickens earlier when she realized they would run from her but over the past two evenings she's been easily called off with a "Starbuck Leave it!"

And with the chicks today she was very keen but restrained and when she did put her mouth on one of them (actually had it's whole head in her mouth) I held my breath for a second but then said, "Eeeeeeeaaasy." in a really calm soft voice and she put the chick down softly. Not even ruffled fluff.

I know this will be something we'll have to keep an eye on but I think I'm finally getting to understand biddable. It isn't softness it's willingness to listen and respond. Am I getting it?

Starbuck - I love those little cheepers!
Belle - me too, with hollandaise.
Robin - Don't look at the chickens, don't look at the chickens, don't look at the chickens......

Good Shepherd's Ellie
Good Shepherd's Jack
Susie Q

Other aspects of the farmcollie working character:


American Working Farmcollie Association

Erin Hischke, Registrar