Starting the dog on livestock you intend to work requires careful planning. Begin with easy and free-moving stock in a confined but spacious pen, where you can have control of the situation at all times and the dog can gain confi- dence in its ability to work the stock as you command. Never use pet stock such as bummer lambs, because they tend to ignore any dog and do not react as a normal herd of stock would.
We urge you to read the three
top training manuals: Anybody Can Do It; A Lifetime ith The Working Collie, Their Training and History;
and A Farmer’s Dog.
Anybody Can Do It describes each step of training and assumes the dog to have a good working instinct. It is by far the best pictorial of each training step, but the reader must read every word to completely understand what the author intends to say. It does not waste words, and is considered to be top of the line for training a Border Collie.
A Lifetime with the Working Collie, Their Training and History is written by one of the grandfa- thers of the American Border Collie Breeders. It has excellent training methods, different from Anybody Can Do It, and very good history of some famous Border Collies along with some interesting tales of the author’s dogs.
A Farmer’s Dog is a much older publication than the others and can be used in training all working breeds. It offers slightly different training methods.
These three books offer excel- lent advice and each should be reviewed on its own merit.
Starting with a well-bred, working breed pup and training the dog yourself is the best investment toward a good working dog. Some handlers prefer to purchase a started or fully-trained working dog. If you purchase a started or trained dog, selection is more critical, but often less research is required than when buying a puppy.
Not only should you view the dog’s ability in a given situation, but if at all possible, visit a few times with the breeder and dog prior to purchase. It’s common for a professional handler purchasing a trained dog in Great Britain to travel overseas and spend up to a month with the original owner and the dog. This helps the trainer learn about the dog’s environment, its temperament, the original handlers, stage of training, and hereditary factors. An imported dog comes with a tape of commands, both whistle and voice, because the dog understands the command with the accent used. If you purchase a dog from a different part of the country, be aware of the original handler’s accent, since you must imitate any accent in the commands to obtain the correct response.
If the dog is well bred and well trained, you’ll be investing a lot of money in its purchase. You should be prepared to invest a lot of time and patience after the dog arrives at its new home, too. Remember, your dog is your employee, and you do not expect a new employee of the farm to work perfectly after a week on the job. Why should you expect that of a new dog? The dog must accept the new environment and attach confidence and compan- ionship to the new handler. Be- sides, the dog did not ask for the job; you took the dog away from its master.
Making a difficult decision is something handlers often face. Sometimes, because of handler error, improper breed selection, incompatibility between dog and handler, or between the dog’s working ability and the job, a handler must decide how to eliminate a family member (the dog) and start over. This is extremely difficult if the dog is a child’s pet, and it may be impos- sible. Only the owner can know how to proceed.
If there is room to house more than one dog, it may be practical to purchase another. However, if the dog has killed or maliciously attacked livestock, it must be destroyed, because there is no cure and the behavior will happen again. If you’re a 4-H leader, and you and the parents agree the dog will go no further, decide on a united strategy to inform the 4-H’er, who often will already have realized the problem.