Question: I’ve been training a rider this summer who’s obtained a border collie female that’s less than a year old. The ranch he’s riding for breeds their own and gave him this one which was previously sold at 10-12 weeks old to a ranch that brought it back. They said it bites people. The ranch gave it to him because it gets ahead of moving stock all the time. Apparently it’s been yelled at or beat on when it gets ahead. Now that he’s got the dog, it’s real shy if you talk to it, reluctant to work, but when it did, it turned bulls and cows but ran to get ahead then laid down scared. Once it was really wanting to work and very tough, turning every animal and lots of bite. He asked for advice with the dog and I said I would be somewhat concerned about the dog being so submissive to him and insecure (rolls over and pees) when he commands it. Apparently in the house the previous owner clobbered it if it peed in the house. The dog apparently has great force and speed and desire to work (or did), so I said not to command it for a while, work it with another dog perhaps to gain confidence, push it when its wrong, like you folks taught etc., and certainly don’t pet it etc. when it’s too submissive or scared. I thought you might have some advice for this guy, I think he’s got a lot of potential for getting good at stockmanship and would like to help him do so. It’s great that he got a dog for free but not sure it will be worth it.
Answer: I certainly wouldn’t give up on a dog that young that has shown such interest in working. Your advice to him is good. She needs a lot of “matter-of fact” approval. I wouldn’t worry about not petting her when she is cowering, she isn’t going to think that you are approving of her behavior, just walk on, talking to her in a happy voice. Pet her under her chin instead of on top of her head. It is not unusual for pups (especially females) to leak urine when they are excited. This is something that they normally out-grow. A have a magazine cover picture of Bud petting one of our young Border Collies. She is setting on top of her dog house and I doubt if anyone noticed the streak of urine running down the roof from her.
I’d take her to the stock and not say anything to her. Don’t try to give her any commands (which seems to distract her from her instinctive response to the stock) but just encourage her to stay on the opposite side of the cattle like Bud says in the book. Try to keep things calm. Don’t try to get her excited thinking that will encourage her to work. Twenty or thirty head of cattle in a large pasture would be ideal. Make a LOT of direction changes. A heading dog gets the most satisfaction out of going to the lead of moving stock and stopping them.
That’s about all I can say without knowing more. Feel free to give your friend my phone number. I’d be glad to talk to him.