Once non-instinct training has begun, the handler must confine the dog whenever it’s not being supervised. Never allow the dog to work on its own. The dog will not understand its purpose and can cause a great deal of damage to the livestock. A well-trained, non- instinct dog will work quite effectively in simple herding tasks, but will never develop the field maneuverability of a working breed.
Studying the breeds of working dogs and their bloodlines as well as your personality and needs is the first step toward selection.
Next is an extremely important factor, the environment of the dog before and after purchase. A well- socialized puppy with constant human companionship will show the purchaser an honest picture of the type of personality it may have at maturity. The pup or young dog deprived of human companionship may be shy and uninterested or behave over-aggressively as a result of its environment, never giving a clue to its true personality.
The purchaser must be aware of both the environment the dog came from and the environment in which it will be placed. If you purchase a shy or uninterested dog that has working bloodlines and place it in an environ- ment of constant socialization and no competition with other dogs, it’s likely to develop into an eager and faithful working companion.
Purchase a well-adjusted pup, give it constant affection, and
continually bolster its confidence. When a dog has confidence in itself, it will have the power to move the animal wherever its handler requests, and will know that its master will assist in a calm manner when difficulties arise. Power is two-staged; power to move the animals is hereditary, but that power will not develop to its potential unless the dog has confidence.
Basic Training Methods and Tips
A highlight in family life is bringing home the new puppy. Contrary to popular belief, family socialization is a very good start toward training a working dog. Socialization bolsters confidence. Many professional handlers with grown families farm out a young pup (similar to the guide dog program) to a child to raise until it’s approximately 11 2 years old. During that time, the young dog will discover itself, learn basic obedience (“come,” “sit,” and how to behave), and mature. This early training makes it easier for the young dog to accept the strenuous training re- quired to become a working dog.
If a handler starts with a puppy, socializes it, and completely trains it to a mature working dog, the handler will find the dog much more dedi- cated and willing to work than the handler who purchases a started dog or hires the training done. A dog with more than one owner during its early years requires more time to develop allegiance to its handler, and it will continue to worry about
changing handlers again. These dogs, especially the Border Collie, are highly intelligent animals with very long memories.
Throughout the life of your working dog, you must maintain firm control. Because of their intelligence, working dogs will take matters into their own hands and ignore the handler if given the chance. This becomes especially true during the teenage months, usually from 6 months to 11 2 years. The younger dogs often are called delinquents! The handler will start with an eager pup, which will accept and understand commands in a very short training time. All of a sudden, the young dog will ignore the commands, especially “come” and “sit,” and the handlers will wonder if someone switched dogs overnight.
Don’t be alarmed; this is usually the time when the working instinct starts developing and the dog’s legs begin to realize their full mobility. It’s a very trying time for the handler, and requires patience with firm training. Many experi- enced handlers who maintain slow, firm training eliminate or reduce the teenage stage. It’s important that dogs respond to the commands “come,” “sit,” and “that will do” (see “Common Commands,” page 10) when you give them. Reinforce or retrain the commands any time the dog does not respond. The most common error in the field, or at trials, is that the dog does not respond to the first stop command. This can cause havoc when working livestock.