Question: . . . . I was giving a print out of your Introduction to my Stockdog Methods a while ago and after reading it, I’m thinking I went about my training the wrong way. I have a 9 month old boarder collie pup and he’s got lots of heart to work however I’m having trouble getting him to circle the stock. He will bunch a group up, but once bunched he is wanting to drive them away rather than bring them to me. I realize this is me that caused him to do this. My question for you is how can I get him to bring the stock to me. I’ve taken your advice as to trying to keep the cattle between me and him, but he’ll split the herd trying to get to my side of the cattle. I’m thinking at this age he should still be very impressionable and it shouldn’t be that hard of a fix, but I’m stumped. Not sure if you have any suggestions and if so I’d appreciate your input.
Answer: It isn’t his age that will make the pup easier, or harder to change his habits. It’s the fact that a Border Collie is so darn smart and so eager to please that if you have (inadvertently) taught him that this is what you want it’s hard to get them to change their mind. It’s a whole lot easier to work with a “less smart” dog because if, while you are trying to get them to do one thing, you are accidently causing them to do something that you don’t want, and if it takes 20 repetitions before the pup “gets it”, chances are that you won’t cause them to do the “bad” thing 20 times in a row. If they pick up on it after only a couple of repetitions . . . . you can see where I’m going with this.
Whatever you do, you must never cause the pup to think that you don’t want him to work. Calling him off, making him “down,” showing displeasure at what he is doing with the cattle, etc., are things that can make a “smart” pup think this. After they are working well is plenty of time to make them work under control.
Bud and I talked about this a lot today. The pup obviously thinks he should be with, or close to you. I’d just take him to the stock. Don’t say ANYTHING. Just walk at your dog and push him away. Like I say, keep your mouth closed and ignore him. You’re just “taking the spot” where he is. As he gets used to this – nothing interesting, or threatening, his attention should go to the stock. Even if he is moving the stock away from you, you should be able to figure a way to cut across, or take advantage of a fence corner and keep “pushing” him. This will make being close to you less appealing, and also give him plenty of time to “think” without doing anything that he might interpret as you not wanting him to work. You are just “taking the spot” where he is, but letting him go work somewhere else.